Saturday, September 26, 2015

Faith Above Constitution

Asalamu Alaykom,

Lots of talk after GOP hopeful Dr. Ben Carson dissed Muslims as being ineligible for President of the United States.  It came on the heels of another GOP hopeful, TRUMP, neglecting to right the wrongs that spewed from the mouth of a bigot in his crowd of followers.

A Muslim President of the United States?  No, don't tell me about the one about Barak Obama.   Obama is not Muslim.

It's not that I want to become the next POTUS---unlike Yusuf Dayur.  You can watch his video as he declares his candidacy at the age twelve (so get ready for the 2038 race).

My youngest son, as a dual-citizen, can't hold office unless he denounces the Egyptian half of his identity.  I'm not sure I want or need that for him.  I'd rather he become a business manager.

Why do I care?

Even if I don't live in America, I still love the principles on which it was founded.  Those Founding Fathers set up a system which could withstand the ages and fight off tyranny.  Basically, the Constitution is full of universal truths.  None of them go against Islam.

Ben Carson's eventual backtrack became that maaaaaybe a Muslim-American could participate in the running of his or her country if  they ascribed to a watered down version of faith.  Protestants have perfected this once-a-week, perfunctory attempt of keeping up of appearances.  They don't just have separation of church and state but separation of faith and life.

Muslims do not live in this fractured way.  I myself am not "Islam Lite".

My faith is interwoven throughout my days.  To only bring God into my life on a limited basis is to severely limit who I am and who I aspire to be.

When someone I respect in the Muslim community, Dean Obeidallah, agrees with Carson that every elected official in the U.S. needs to place the Constitution above their faith, I have to respectfully disagree.  It appeases the non-Muslim masses to hear us throw away our identities for White House passes but it is unnecessary.

As Muslims, we have to be law-abiding citizens.  Whatever the law of the land is, even if it is not a Muslim majority country, we have to agree to follow the rules.  The only time we are allowed to stop adhering to public policy is when it contradicts our faith.  Since I've already stated that the Constitution does NOT contradict Islam, then you (and every GOP candidate) can rest assured that any elected Muslim official will be able to uphold the Constitution.

As for Sharia Law, it is unnecessary in the U.S. because the Constitution itself is so close to it already!  Many Muslim countries, like the one I'm living in, don't even have Sharia Law, but rather the French or British court systems (as leftovers from colonial times).  American law is actually closer to sharia than the law here in Egypt!  The fear of "creeping sharia" is without any basis.

The real fear in the U.S. should be for hatred against "the other".  This is the reoccurring epidemic which needs to be eradicated.  Whoever is the least understood in America becomes the most hated:  blacks, Asians, Irish, Communists, Catholics, gays, Muslims, and the list will go on unless we stop ourselves.  If you don't know what a group of people is all about, then start with the basic info that each member of that group is a human being worthy of respect.

John F. Kennedy, one of our most respected presidents (Allah yerhamo), was running for president when he had to stop talking about policy and give a speech about himself.  People were afraid that if he were elected that he would answer to the Pope.

He had to set the record straight.   Listen to his delivery of the truth.  Remember that he was elected and not because he threw away his Catholicism.  No, he held on to it and even said,

"But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same."

Do you understand what I'm getting at?  He left that slight possibility open that he might someday be at odds between his life as president and his life as a Catholic.  If he had to choose, he would leave office AND HOLD ON TO HIS FAITH.

Muslims, don't be convinced that the only good Muslim is a mainstream one.  Hold on to that interwoven fabric of faith inside you and don't let go.  Be active in both the mosque and the political realm.  Be at peace with who you are and pray that America will find a way to accept you as much as it came to accept President Kennedy.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

After 13 Years

Asalamu Alaykom,

After thirteen years since I took my shahaddah, I am now a teenager in Islam.  I hope I don't break out in acne and need braces.  Inshahallah, it will be less of a major shift and more of an impending arrival.

I do need a place to simply "be".

The place isn't outside of me so much as inside me.

I need this year to be at peace.

One of the reasons I was so eager to accept Islam is that I was searching for peace.  Like most of life, I didn't need more; I needed less.  That's why "revert" truly does make more sense than "convert" because I went have been going back to my original state of being.


This week, my mom and I talked over what it meant for me to have taken this path.

"Don't you think my life is better for having done this?"  I asked her.

"We'll never know will we," she replied.

She's right.

At the same time, I know that there wasn't any other way for me to go.

It's like when my husband asks me, "Do you love Islam?" and I answer, "Do I love breathing?"

I can't NOT be Muslim.  It's how I stay alive.

I felt very alive the morning I woke to begin my thirteenth year in Islam.  I'm praying at 4:30 and it's working for me.  Somehow I do find the way to pray fajr and it's normal now.  The fact that it's an integral part of my daily routine means that I have achieved a level that I didn't have before.  It has been a process and I have advanced from 2002's  "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" to "It makes total sense."

Turning on the radio and listening to Quran is another part of my day that I need.  It centers me and calms me.  It's funny to remember how in America I used to wake to rock n' roll and DJs talking over current events.

Yes, as I get ready I need my hijab.  It's been hot and humid with scattered sandstorms so I can't say that I love to wear hijab.  However, I need it.  I feel the power of it and know that there's protection in it for me.

There is also a protection from my husband.  He is by my side when we leave.  Before, I would be so independent and go, do and say ANYTHING.  I don't now.  I realize the very real limits here in Egypt and I am safer with a husband.  In many ways, my life is improved by having him.  Alhumdulillah.

We headed out to the bus stop.  While waiting there, I saw these beautiful jewel-like shapes coming towards me.  It was patterned marble on the back of a truck.  It was for a new mosque.  My husband told me how the biggest piece was the mihrab which shows the direction of Mecca. How wonderful!  I felt very special to have witnessed its journey.

Once on board the bus, my son and I could do our remembrance of Allah on our fingers and we could listen through headphones to our surahs we've been trying to remember.  We can, in other words, be Muslim in our daily life.  This hasn't always been an easy possibility for me and it isn't a possibility at all for some believers.  I'm grateful that I can openly be Muslim in this country.

What's great is that so many others are quietly (but not secretly) following their faith around me.  While we were heading down the road, my eyes looked out ahead at the pick-up truck in front of us.  There was this beautiful young girl all in purple.  When her family's cargo on top of the truck shifted,  she crawled out of the truck bed and sat on the tailgate to fix the problem.  She had no idea that I could see her and no clue that I was praying for her safety and well being.  I breathed a sigh of relief when she sat back down and we took a turn for the Ring Road.

As we sped down the road, our bus was neck and neck with another bus.  The workers in the bus next to ours were obviously headed for manual labor.  Maybe it was factory work because there are a lot of factories in the suburbs.  I realized that while some were asleep, others had a small Quran out and were reading it as if their life depended on it.  I loved that.

It's been thirteen years.  It's been a long journey.  I'm grateful for the moments along the way when I have found joy, beauty, comfort, companionship, knowledge, and inspiration.  Unlike my trip to school, I haven't arrived at the end yet.  I pray most sincerely to not be done until I've reached the highest level of faith possible for me.

Wherever you are on your path, know that you are not alone.

Monday, September 7, 2015

1st Day Back to School Party

Asalamu Alaykom,

You know how tired kids are the first day back to school?  Well, I've got an exhausted 5th grader.  It's 9:30 at night and there's a one-night disco right under his window.  No joke!  Someone is having a wedding and they needed to make some noise. 

This is how loud it sounds in my living room.  

The party is going until 11 pm.  We've both got to be ready by 6:30 am.  I'm not that good at math but I don't think we're getting a lot of sleep.

Only in Egypt.

My husband just walked in like a dancing fool.  He knows I'm mad at this crazy amount of decibels.  He tells me the Egyptian cure-all, "Malish."  

Then he tells me it's only one day and it will be over at 12.  

What?!  12?!!!!!