Don’t Hide Your Islam My Muslim Sister

And the turmoil still continues here in North America and around the world, unfortunately.  And like many Muslims, I too say when there’s breaking news, “Please don’t let it be a Muslim.  Please don’t let it be a Muslim.” Sometimes, I struggle between being informed and maintaining my sanity.

12347794_10153897144140572_5147819454704333641_nTo read the news, or not to read the news – that is the question.
Whether tis nobler in the heart and mind, to suffer the slings and arrows of the media,
or to be misinformed and stay in la-la land.

And not just my sanity, my heart aches every time I see a senseless loss of a life.  It doesn’t matter where that person’s from, where they live, what social class they’re from, their religion, their ethnicity – it hurts all the same.

I can stick my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening and ignore it all, but ultimately, I also want to be informed.

So now we have, yet again, another Muslim backlash after the San Bernardino shooting due to all the media hysteria.  And now, unfortunately, many Muslim women are being told to hide they’re Muslim, put on hoodies, hats, beanies, etc. instead, not to be out alone, not to be out late at night, and not to be out unnecessarily.

Sorry, but that’s bollocks.  It’s enough already that the media and politicians are telling us to denounce the acts of terrorism of people we don’t even know nor relate to, etc. but now Muslims are telling other Muslims how to dress and behave?   This is outrageous.  Why?  Because by telling a Muslim woman to cover her hijab, you’re giving in to fear and hysteria and playing in the hands of bigots.

It’s kind of like non-Muslim Westerners not eating out at restaurants or going to concerts anymore because they’re afraid of possible terrorist attacks.

Or black men either hiding their blackness or just not walking anywhere where police officers are.

Will some Muslim women be targeted?  Yes, it’s the unfortunately reality.  But don’t give in to this fear mongering.

While Muslim women should be told to be vigilant and exercise precautions, please and I say again, please don’t tell Muslim women to cover their hijab out of fear with hats, beanies, hoodies and whatever else.

But instead, tell them to be themselves, the same person they were before all these hate crimes against Muslims were happening. Tell them not to stop living their lives and allow fear to overtake them. Tell them to take pride in their religion, not hide it, and be unapologetically Muslim.

By hiding our Islam, we’re giving into bigots, by letting them take pieces of us. If we do that, then they win. Don’t allow these ignorant people filled with hatred intimidate us and instil fear in our hearts. We should put our trust and faith in God and remember that nothing can harm us unless it was already written to happen.

If anything, we should be better Muslims and reach out to our neighbours and communities. Show them what Islam is. Be a part of our greater community and show them that Islam is not what the media portrays it to be, but truly a religion of justice, tolerance, acceptance and peace. Show them through our actions.

Don’t hide your Islam.

And if you’re experience of being a ‘hijabi’ is like mine, then you know that wearing a hijab is actually one of the best ways to outreach to others. Because yes, they see the hijab as a symbol of Islam and come and ask questions. You might be talking to one person. But that person has a family, they have colleagues, they have friends. This is how to win over people and stop prejudice; through education. Don’t give into fear and be proud of the Muslimah you are.

Stand up tall my sister, and don’t let hate and fear stop you from being you, and wearing your hijab.

 

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My Experience at the Allenby Border Crossing into Palestine/Israel

waiting area.. Rahma and Danielle in the picture

Allenby Border Crossing waiting area

So for my writing task today, I had to pick a day to write about (all 24 hours 😉 ).  Didn’t really know which one to pick.  I guess there are many days that I can focus on, but then I decided to pick a day that I’d never want to repeat.

In all of my travels, the most interesting experience that I’ve had with customs was four years ago. Never had I ever experienced such interrogations and counter interrogations in my life. But hey, it is these life experiences that give us great anecdotes at parties.

So, my day began quite early Thursday morning, April 14, 2011. I had to be ready by 7:00am to catch my ride with my friend Rahma and her nephew, Ali, to head to the airport.

Once we reached Dubai International Airport, we met up with our friend Danielle, and we all checked in. We weren’t sure what to expect from this trip, but we were just as equally excited as we were apprehensive. It was going to be our first time going to Palestine (to the rest of the world, known as Israel).

The easiest way to get into Palestine would be to catch a flight into Tel Aviv. But due to the political situation in the Middle East, there aren’t any direct flights from Dubai. Moreover, the UAE restricts entry into its country if you have visited Israel. So, the best way for us to get in would be to catch a flight to Amman, take a taxi from the airport there to take us to the Allenby border crossing between Amman, Jordan and Palestine/Israel. And once the Israeli border officials clear us to be able to enter, then we’ d have to request for the entry stamp not to be placed in our passports but on a piece of paper, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get back into Dubai, and thus jeopardized our jobs there.

The Allenby Border Crossing isn’t the best place to enter, as many people are turned away on a daily basis or held at the border for hours on end. As a Westerner, your best bet is to get in from Tel Aviv. Well, on the plus side, at least we get to see what Palestinians and other Arab countries have to go through to get into Palestine.

On the flight, we discussed our travel itinerary. We were heading there to go see Masjid Al-Aqsa (one of the three holiest mosques in Islam), Masjid Al-Quds, Jerusalem and the Old Souq (market), Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, Ramallah, Hebron, and see first hand how the refugee camps were. We were also going to attend TedX Ramallah, first of it’s kind there with Alice Walker – the author of The Color Purple – as one of the key note speakers. We decided not to mention to the border officials that we were going to TedX Ramallah as well as the refugee camps, but just to say that we were going sightseeing, to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa (one of the three holiest mosques for Muslims), and the cities we were going to visit. We had already booked the hotels we were staying in, and done all our due diligence, so we figured, it shouldn’t be bad at the border. Should be pretty much straightforward.

We arrived at Queen Alia International Airport just after 11am. Once we paid for our Jordanian visas and picked up our checked-in bags, we headed out of the airport and got a taxi from the taxi stand. Luckily, we didn’t have to negotiate since it was a fixed fee and off we went to the Allenby Border Crossing.

The drive to the border took about 45 minutes through the Jordanian desert. It was quite harsh yet a beautiful landscape.

When the driver dropped us off at the Jordanian side of the Bridge, we entered this building to go through Jordanian customs. We found it quite interesting that we didn’t have to get an exit visa, as apparently, the Jordanian side does not officially recognize Allenby as a border crossing. It was good for us though, since we wouldn’t have to pay for another visa upon our return. Once we all went through Jordanian customs, which was a quick and easy process, they had us board a bus to cross the bridge on to the “Israeli” side of the border.

Now this is where all the delays tend to take place, especially if you are a Palestinian, an Arab, a Westerner who has visited the Middle East, or a human rights activist of any sorts. Upon arriving at the building, there were about three different lines beginning at the doors and extending all the way to the side of the building. The best way to describe the lines was Black Friday, except people were lugging their bags with them and surrounded by fully armed IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers.

They say it can take a minimum of 35 – 45 minutes. Looking at the lines, we figured it may take an hour, give or take. After all, they usually give a hard time to Arabs, and none of us were Arabs, by passport nor ethnicity. We figured they wouldn’t make much of a fuss with two Canadian and two American tourists.

So my friends and I joined one of the lines and waited. As we were queuing, Israeli border authorities with their AK-47 were walking through the lines examining everyone. As they approached our line, they pulled Ali aside and asked him for his passport, which he gave them. Then, they pulled my friend Danielle out of the line demanding to see her passport as well. The soldiers then told them to walk to the front of the building, with their passports in hand. My friend Rahma and I are now looking at each other with an expression of both amusement and concern, wondering what was gong on. As she’s being walked to the front of the building, Danielle looks back at us with a puzzled look on her face.

I shrugged my shoulders and told her we’d meet her inside. At that point, another IDF soldier asked us if we were with them, and when we replied in the affirmative, they ordered us to step out of the line as well, took our passports from us, and told us to go join our friends.

We were ushered inside the building and told to go through the security check. We weren’t told why we were asked to leave the line, but we figured, hey, we no longer have to wait in those long lines, so it’s all good. Or so we thought. We put our bags on the belt and walked through the metal detector. All was good. As we were picking up our bags, they told us to put them back down and to give them any cellphones/mobile phones that we were carrying which we complied to.

The IDF soldiers separated us and put us in different holding areas where we were individually interrogated by officers who looked no older than 22. They asked us the usual questions, who we were, were we lived, what we did, etc. and a whole bunch of mundane, repetitive and irrelevant questions like if I thought my friend Danielle converted to Islam because of her husband, or why out of all the countries in the world that I could travel to, I wanted to come here, etc. So for the first question, I informed them that Dani became Muslim before she met her husband, then got married years after, then got divorced, and now, even after the divorce a year later, she’s still Muslim.  So hopefully, that answered their question.  But then again, tourism didn’t satisfy the officer’s queries about the purpose of my visit. With my fully-stamped passport in his hand (and by then, I had at lest 15 different countries stamped on my passport), I advised him to check my passport and see all the other countries I’ve visited, 8 within the last year alone; he finally conceded.

I was asked to leave the holding room, and was given my passport phone and bag and told to go sit in the waiting area. One by one, my friends joined me. Two hours passed, and we’re still sitting in the waiting area. By this time, we’ve seen loads of people come and go. There were others also in the same predicament we were in. To pass time, we munched on the snacks that we brought, thankfully paying heed to the suggestion of one lady who told us to have some snacks and refreshments just in case they held us, as they didn’t have any place to buy any refreshments there.

One by one, people were being called up. The fortunate ones were given a paper clearing them, ending this useless wait. They called my friend Rahma, and just when we thought it was all over, they took her back into the holding room to be further interrogated. She was gone for a good 30 minutes. When she came back, we asked her what they were asking her, and she said, “The same questions as before. What’s your grandfather’s name? Are you a Muslim? How do you and your friends know each other? Etc.”

Honestly, all we could do was laugh at the sheer stupidity of the situation. Clearly, we were being held for no reason at all. We weren’t posing any threat. They’ve already called the hotels we said we were staying at and verified everything, so why keep us here still?  It was already 5 pm now, and we figured we wouldn’t be able to get much sightseeing done on our first day anymore, which was quite upsetting considering we only had 5 days including our travel days.  But then it got me thinking. We were just coming here to visit. What about all those who live here and have family here who have to go through this every single time?  Like the mother and daughter who were sitting across from us, Palestinians, who were going through this just to get back home. I definitely started to count my blessings and started to make light of the whole situation.  I would hate to have to go through this every time I was going home.

Another half hour passed and then Danielle was called in again to be further interrogated. She took longer than Rahma. Ali and I figured we’d be called in next so we braced ourselves. Danielle finally came back, and it seemed that her interrogation was focused on her conversion, as a Canadian, why she would want to become a Muslim, who inspired her, and why she wore the hijab.

Time continued to pass. At one point, the alarms went off and the whole place went on high alert. Apparently there was a bomb threat so they shut the whole place down. We were told to stay put and just watched as they closed everything off and went running – walked actually – around the facility. When it was cleared, they opened it back up and were back in business. Personally, I think it was more of a drill than a real threat, as we would’ve been asked to leave the building if it was. It helped pass time though.

Ali and I were wondering which one of us they’d call first. They called Rahma and Danielle in again (separately of course) for further interrogations, while Ali and I sat there counting the tiles. I started to clap every time someone received that piece of paper, and then it became a thing we all did in the waiting room. The IDF soldiers weren’t too pleased with it, but hey, with not knowing how long we’d be there and whether we’d even get in anymore, we had to have something to look forward to and make the time passing a little more enjoyable.

It seems like the whole purpose of these interrogations was to kill time really, demoralize and intimidate us in the hopes of us not wanting to return to Palestine. If it was something serious, I’m sorry, but you’d have older and more experienced officials interrogating us, not 18 – 22 year old kids who have yet to experience life.

Nine tedious hours and three rounds of cross-examinations later, we were finally permitted to enter Palestine.  We were the last ones to be let through, and by then, it was 11pm. We nearly missed the last bus into the city, and had to run for it.

When the bus dropped us off, we hired a taxi to take us to our hotel, and crashed in our rooms. What an end to a long and tiring day.  But thankfully, I will never have to go through this again, unlike the many Palestinians who do.

“I’m insecure because I have to think of what I look like everyday.”

Video

I came across this video today and thought I’d share it and my thoughts after watching it. I found the model’s earnest revelations quite interesting. But the one that hit me the most is Cameron Russell’s statement, “I’m insecure because I have to think of what I look like everyday.”

You see, this is why I love my hijab. I don’t have to worry about how I look. I don’t have to worry about being objectified or have people treat me a certain way because of my image.

Alhamdullilah, I never had issues with insecurities with my looks. I LOVE me, I’ve always LOVED me, and I still LOVE me. I really feel that wearing the hijab has given me this strength to not care about what others think of me, especially pertaining to beauty.

I started wearing the hijab when I was 11 years old in Richmond Hill, Ont. No one told me to do it. I just woke up one morning, and put it on, and haven’t gone out without it since. Because of this, I never went through that stage were you’re plastering a whole bunch of make-up on your face as a tween or teen, trying to look more appealing thinking that if I looked better boys would like me or girls would say I was pretty (and then envy me, and then backstab, etc. :p), or spent hours in front of the mirror before I heading out of the house. Why? Because I didn’t care what others thought of me. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips, and I still do. I might not be the pretties girl out there, but alhamdullilah, I’m beautiful I’m not claiming anything here – as I didn’t create me – God did, and I’m happy in my own skin. You can thank him, or my parents for selecting eachother. That’s my legacy. :p

Moreover, because I wore a hijab, I never really did get sleezy guys making cat calls or coming up to me with their sleezy pick up lines. The men who approached me where men of character; men who came up to me right and were respectful, not tryna tap no @$$ or treat me like an object. They were men who understand that you don’t have to put your beauty on display to be someone. They were men who saw through the scarf on my head and the clothes I wore, and saw what was inside – ME. Now that’s real beauty and those are real men.

Islam is a religion of reason and truth

Image

Islam is a religion of reason and truthI came across this meme today and couldn’t help but think how unfortunately, as an ummah (society), we have retracted from one of the glories of Islam, that Islam is a religion of reason and truth. As Muslims, we are supposed to be a nation of people who think and contemplate.

We are encouraged to seek knowledge, think at a higher level, and always taught to question things and not just to accept them as is without any proofs and reasoning. Allah tells us in Ar- Rum (chapter 30: verse 8): “Do they not reflect within themselves…” and in Al-Anfaal (chapter 8, verse 22): “Verily! The worst of (moving) living creatures with Allah are the deaf and the dumb, those who do not use their reason to understand…

So let us question what we are being taught and told, my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, and seek knowledge. Indeed, knowledge is empowering! For instance, if someone tells you you’re praying the wrong way, ask them for their proof. Don’t just accept it! It doesn’t matter who they are, whether they are our parents or a teacher. More importantly, study and read about why you’re praying and why you pray the way you do. Open the Qur’an, read the hadiths from Sahih Al Bukhaari and Muslim, go to the local mosque and attend the classes there. It’s not just enough to be a Muslim and just do as you see and are told. Understand what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Reflect within yourself! And this doesn’t only apply to aspects of our religion, but everything! That is when you’ll be upon the truth.

I’m Sexy and I know it – Burkini Version

When I walk on by, all the guys wonderin’ if I be fly,
I walk to my beat, strolling on the street in my buriqini, yeah
This is how I roll, floral print, hijab outta control,
It’s the girl with the smooth flow,
And like Mary – yeah – I got the glow.saqueena

Ah, can’t look at my body
Ah, can’t look at my body
Ah, can’t look at my body,
Ya I work out!

When I hit the spot, this is what I see (ok)
Everybody stops and they staring at me,
I got passion under my material and I ain’t gonna show it, show it, show it
I’m sexy and I know it

Yeah,
When I’m at the pool, I don’t care nor bother to make grown men drool,
When I’m at the beach, all the girls be looking at me like I’m a freak, (what)
This is how I roll, come on ladies it’s time to go
We headed to the shop, girl don’t be nervous,
More material, less skin – get the respect you deserve (watch)

Ah.. Girl respect that body
Ah, Girl respect that body
Ah, Girl respect that body
Ah, and work out! 😉