Monday, January 28, 2013

Yes, I am

I got some mail from concerned parties that perhaps I should try to date Americans, followed by questions as to why do I have such a prejudice against America and Americans and "what are you - a Moslem?"  WTF - I AM American.  My preference is just not to date Americans.  Not my flavor.  I think I have stated this emphatically.    

I get to complain on here because it's my blog and that's why I started it; not to try to please others to try to conform to what they think I should or should not do.  Thought I would have a little rant-chat about it here and in the usual Desert Girl-fashion, tell it like it is, baybee.

I was asked once by a family member (in reference to why I choose to live in Kuwait), "What's wrong with America?  Why don't you love your country?  What's wrong with our religion?"

Oh, okay, so we're going to go there...

I love the States.  If I had my druthers, I would spend 6 months in Kuwait and 6 months in the US.  But alas, I am not that wealthy.  I love both Kuwait and the US for different reasons.  I just choose to live here now.  If that changes one day, then so be it.  Am I chained?  I can move anywhere.

So the woman who asked the questions me is a lovely person, very docile and serene and even-tempered.  I draw positive energy from her and loved the few times that I attended church with her.  But when she asked me this question, it was as if it had been bothering her for a very long time.  She could have sat me down and asked me.  I would have told her...

In 1989, I walked into the Grand Mosque in Washington, DC wearing hejab (as one should do when entering a mosque) and told them I wanted to change my religion.  I walked in alone.  No one pushed me to go there.  No one knew  Not my family.  Not my friends.  I didn't have a boyfriend/love/friend who told me I had to do it.  I made a conscious, well-informed, well-educated decision to convert to Islam.  Yes, I am an American.  Yes, I believe in Jesus as do all Moslems.  And yes, I like to go to church services too.  It calms me.  I have both Saudi and Kuwaiti Moslem friends who like to go to church while they are in Western countries also.

And yes, I love Christianity and Judaism and I respect all people who love God  (through whatever religion they choose) and show compassion towards their fellow humans and towards animals/living things.

Why did I choose to convert?  Because after studying comparative religion (both in school and through independant study), Islam made sense to me.  My Kuwaiti friend and neighbor in DC, Adnan, used to bring me books about Islam in English and just handed them to me - never said a word.  He taught me more about faithful Moslems than anyone ever did.  Islam is a religion that encompasses both Christianity and Judaism. It is also (at its purist) color blind.  There are no religious statues/symbols of white guys with blue eyes.  We are people of the world.

Do I tell people that I am a Moslem?  No.  Noneyor business.  For the same reason I walked into the mosque alone, I choose not to make it public (oops - ok this is an exception, but whatever and supposedly I'm still anonymous).  It is ALL between myself and God.   I'm not a "good" Moslem.  I don't believe in labels.  Who am I to judge who is "good" and who is not?   People can judge me if they want (and they have consistently and as recently as this week); I don't care.  Your actions are between you and God.

Do I feel hatred against those who might judge me or give me their opinion?  No way.  Why should I?  God made us all different for a reason.  (He has a reason for everything.)  Everyone is entitled to an opinion and a perspective.  I've got my own, but I try not to send out e-mails to people to tell them how I think they should live their lives.  If I have a question, I try to be polite about it and ask in a non-accusatory manner.

How did my family take it when they found out that I had converted?  I told my mother right away.  She's so open-minded and kind that she told me, "Whatever makes you happy."  I told my father 4 years later at dinner with my step-monster.  She was going on and on about "them" and "that religion of theirs" (in reference to my friends/Moslems).  I don't have a good temper and sometimes I have a hard time putting a cork in it.  'I AM one of 'them'  (My father put his fork down.)  Step-Monster:  "Well honey, you didn't actually con-vert, did you?"  (Said with her fake Southern accent.  God rest her soul.)  'Yes, I did.'  (My father picked his fork back up and started eating again - probably osso bucco because it was his favorite - without any response.)  That year, my dad gave me an antique mother-of-pearl encased Quran as a Christmas present.  I couldn't stop crying.  It was one of the biggest gestures of my life.

Yes, we are a diverse family and we celebrate a lot of holidays as we do.

My family probably thought that I was finding myself - as many younger people do and often change their religion/spiritual beliefs looking for God/answers.  I have definitely found myself since then.  I'm very very content with who I am (but of course, with all things, there is room for improvement and I'm still a work-in-progress, as anyone who reads this knows!)  Have I found God?  Was He ever gone?  He's everywhere.

Whippin' out the "Moslem card" can score me points over here.  I think I probably got my first job in Kuwait just because they knew I was "a sister."   I don't do it.  Seems like it sets you apart from "all those other ajaaneb."    When I do mention it (usually because somebody is up-in-my-face demanding to know what religion I am and I won't lie), I usually feel like I've been granted access to some special club - which just totally weirds me out.  "Oh, Mashallah!  You're Moslem?"  (Big smiles like I've known their family for years.)     Or well-intentioned friends telling other people or their families that I'm Moslem and then it seems to be a game-changer.  Puhleeze.  Was I any different 10 minutes ago?

So, yes I am.  I don't hate anybody.  If you want to judge me, I get it. That's your call.  I just don't need to engage other than stating all the above.  However, should anyone send me comments with labels and judgement  ("You're not a Moslem, blah blah blah blah...."), I'm only going to delete them.  Go look in a mirror.


RobW said...

Apologies if this is too personal, but I'm curious - since converting to Islam, do you consciously choose/limit yourself to dating only Moslem men, or is that just the way it worked out (due to lack of eligible expat bachelors / expats sans le beergut, etc.)?

Nostalgia said...

thats amazing! ive always been a silent reader but i couldnt help myself amd i had to leave a comment, i admire your courage :)

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Anonymous said...

Never thought you were a muslim. I do hope that you start taking religion a bit more seriously and try to learn a bit more about it. I'm not judging you, just saying ... All the best!

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 11:45 - Uh yeah, judgmental. Between myself and God. And who says I don't know "religion" and/or take religion seriously?


Anonymous said...

Sorry you found yourself offended by my words. It is between you and God. I assumed that you don't know much about it as what you write about yourself on this blog is quite contrary to the teaching of Islam. But as you said it's between you and God. I pray that He guides you and returns to you what took you to that Washington Mosque in the first place.

Valerie said...

I really enjoyed reading this; it's beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.
Your dad's gift!! Wow. What an amazing man.
I also admire your courage, and I know you hold the true meaning of Islam (peace,compassion and love for others) in your heart. This is clear. Wish you the best and every happiness.

Anonymous said...

This may be too personal but I was wondering if you've ever dated a Muslim who's grown up/lived in America for an extended period of time?

Anonymous said...

That was very inspiring:)