I am a Muslim convert though some Muslims prefer the term ‘revert’ as they say you are reverting back to the religion you were born in. Muslims believe everyone is born Muslim, yet it is the parents who make the child a Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Hindu, Agnostic, Christian, etc. Anyway I have been a Muslim for nine years now. Nine years as of October 1, 2015. Mostly I have problems with my family who do not like Muslims or myself being Muslim. I try not to go out on September 11th because of how things are in the world and the anti-Muslim people who, to me, always seem to target Muslims and the poor Sikh men, whenever something that centers from ISIS happens. It feels like Islam itself is a target for hatred and that whenever the person is Muslim they are labeled a terrorist but if a homegrown domestic non-Muslim terrorist act occurs, the person or people responsible are referred to as mentally ill by the media and the general public.
My family doesn’t like a lot of things about my being Muslim. Wearing hijab (the head scarf), dressing in sweat shirts and long sleeve shirts with sweat pants in the summer though I was this way before becoming Muslim, my diet of not eating pork which is why I am attempting to learn to cook for myself and buying my own food on food stamps, praying five times a day, fasting for an entire month which my grandmother does not know about as she would complain about that as well. It does not help how I am the only Muslim in my county it seems like and I know I am the only Muslim in my immediate area.
Sometimes I get scared of being an American Muslim, especially when I am the only one around. With the attack on Paris, the hostages being held in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali, the almost second attack in Paris, the Muslims being attacked in some parts of Canada and the United States…it scares me to go out of the house. Well I never go out of the house anyway but it still scares me to go outside when things like this happen. I was out at the movie theaters watching The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 and was worried as it was a week after the attack in Paris that someone would say something to me or do something to me but thankfully nothing happened.
Donald Trump says that all American Muslims should be put into camps like what happened to the German-Americans and Italian-Americans in WW1 and the Japanese-Americans in WW2. That all Muslims should have to wear identification like the Nazis did to the Jews in WW2 and we all know how that ended. Six million Jews and other people that Hitler and the Third Reich hated, killed. That we should close down mosques in the USA to be on the ‘safe side’ and sadly there are those in the United States who support Donald Trump’s ideas concerning Muslims. I thought I had to worry about Sara Palin when she was running for office and now there is Donald Trump and his ideals of getting rid of Muslims from the public eye. Is this not history repeating itself if we go down that path as a nation and as a people? To treat American Muslims…any visiting Muslim…as criminals like we have done in the past during WW2 and WW1?
I know that one of the presidents after FDR signed something that said we no longer deter people in camps but if you look at Guantanamo Bay, there were many ‘suspected terrorists’ held there for years without a trial where they were abused by American soldiers. It was the same thing in Abu Gharaib in Iraq where you had Muslim women killing themselves because they were being raped by some American and British soldiers and being abused by them. Qur’ans were being torn up, they were being subjected to inhumane methods of torture, they were paraded around naked on leashes with black hoods over their faces like dogs with smiling American soldiers of men and women in pictures.
I do not know what the Japanese-Americans faced in these camps but I know their businesses and homes were taken from them when they were detained in these camps for years. I am not sure on how the German-Americans and Italian-Americans fared in WW1 when they were also put into camps. But this is the American Government we are talking about. If we were to get someone that hated Muslims like Donald Trump in office then how easy would it be to bypass this law and declare it legal again to happen to Muslims and how many ‘patriotic Americans’ would support this? It scares me, the thought of being thrown into a camp because I am a Muslim. We know the Jews and others were experimented on and some of the prisoners were forced to sleep with Nazi soldiers. We know they suffered from lack of medical care and starvation, how the children were separated from their parents and killed. How mines were planted outside the camps to prevent any escapes, dogs were set loose on them, and they were shot if they tried to escape the camps.
I think it was a couple of days ago that I was in Walmart with my grandmother and got a compliment. The lady cashier said that my hijab was pretty and she liked it. A few years ago an elderly lady also said she liked my hijab and that it was beautiful after we had a brief discussion about the Virgin Mary wearing hijab in all the pictures of her. I told the elderly woman that Muslim women were trying to emulate the Virgin Mary and that is why they wore the headscarf. I don’t remember what exactly she said but it was something about how my hijab and I were beautiful and that I shouldn’t let others put me down for my faith. But I have gotten stares as well by children and adults. Shortly after becoming Muslim I was in Krogers and someone said I should go back to my country. People staring at me for wearing hijab makes me self-conscious and I have always suffered from low self-esteem. Even the Muslims in my university pretty much avoided me which hurt.
Halal food (halal is to Muslims what Kosher is to Jews I guess you could say) is impossible to find here but I make do with what is available by avoiding the pork section altogether. When I was buying prepacked foods I would read the ingredients list to make sure nothing I was buying had alcohol or pork in it as we cannot consume alcohol or pork. Even eating out is a bit of a struggle sometimes as I have to take a guess at some things and if I am not sure I avoid the foods altogether. I have a folder of recipes and anything that may originally be cooked in alcohol I find substitutions for such as broth or apple juice in place of the alcohol ingredients.
But buying meat is sometimes difficult. When I lived in Toledo we had the Middle Eastern Market where we got our meats and then just got bread, milk, eggs, dry good stuff like spaghetti at Krogers. Our meat wasn’t bloody and yucky looking. In KS there was a butcher that would make sure our meat wasn’t bloody, the place was called Ron’s and we’d get hamburger and sometimes chicken from them. Part of halal diet is that we cannot consume blood. Meat is slaughtered in a way that drains the majority of the blood from the animal compared to some factory slaughter houses in the States that bludgeon, bullets, or shock the poor creatures to death. I tend to do my best to avoid meat where I can see blood in the packaging as well as meats that have fat still on them. Personally I do not like animal fat being on my meats and pull it off if I do happen to get meats that have fat on the edges.
Another frustrating thing for me is that the Muslims at school are all from Somalia and Kenya and I never heard them speak Arabic. I am trying to learn Arabic but it is not easy when there are no mosques and no Muslims. My school does not offer Arabic as a foreign language. I would need to register at the main campus in order to take Arabic and that is only offered on certain days but since I do not drive that is not feasible. My husband and I are separated and so that is a struggle in and of itself but we manage to make do since it is out of our hands. My family doesn’t like my husband and that is just because he’s Black, a Muslim, and from the Middle East. If I can ever manage to have children this is why I will never allow my children around my family, so they aren’t discriminated against for being half-black.
If I can ever manage to learn how to drive I might see about going to a mosque or Islamic Center and seeing if I can manage to make some friends who speak Arabic and can teach me as well as learning more of my religion. Right now I do a lot of self study out of necessity and am learning about the Djjin or trying to anyway. But mosques…they need to create more things for women and girls. That is a big thing that irks me about mosques. There always seems to be something for men and boys but very little to nothing for girls and women. And less for those like me who have converted to Islam.