I was five years old when I realized that I was different from the kids around me. This was in the 80s when there weren’t a whole lot of Muslims, especially in the small Northern Californian neighborhood where I grew up. I was placed in a Spanish/ESL class on the first day of school because of my dark hair and dark eyes. I was placed in a room with children who looked more like me than the blonde haired, blue eyed ones.
I sat through class staring blankly at the teacher, terrified because I had no idea what she was saying. In a language that I had never heard before, the teacher commanded the children to do something and they all stood up. I followed suit. She sang out some more instructions and the children walked in different directions. I didn’t know where to go. I held my cold hands in front of me and my eyes stung with embarrassment. I stared at the teacher and wished I knew what she was saying.
She finally pulled me to the side, gave me a piece of paper and crayons, and sat me next to a teaching assistant where I quietly colored until my mother came to pick me up. The teacher smiled when Mama walked in. Mama later told me that the school thought I was a Spanish speaking Latina until the teacher saw her dressed in her colorful partoog kamees and saadar on her head.
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Two months ago, sitting in a Turkish restaurant packed to capacity on a Saturday night, one of my oldest friends told me he had found someone.
We’ve known each other longer than either of us can remember, and were partners in crime long before we ever fully realized it. In recent years, as we’ve both been searching for that elusive part of our future, the partner-in-crime thing had been thrown into even starker contrast: we’d meet for dinner or coffee and grouse about the people we’d been meeting, the “almosts” and the “snowball’s chance in hell”, and about the Jane Austen-level lamentations of our parents, who seemed to have all but given up on us while insistently wringing their hands.
Conversation moved forward: from mutual celebration of his good fortune, to my latest backfire (a wonderful man who had lasted two months), to a spirited discussion about partnerships vs. solitude as a life choice.
This slam poetry video is making the rounds and is too moving not to share.
There is nothing like a Muslim girl and a Jewish girl collectively breaking it down, powerfully explaining that the two identities have more in common than most realize.
We also take this opportunity to send our Jewish friends warm Passover greetings, and we are holding a good thought for the slain in Kansas City. May Allah (swt) fill our hearts with peace so that we go out into the world and be a source of light. Ameen.
We originally spotted this at Upworthy. Go give them a visit!
There is so much buzz in the Muslim community right now between #hashtag activism and the emergence of several vibrant online communities.
We want to introduce you to some digital conversations that which we feel are taking the narrative of Islamic identity and Muslim experience to a new level (even to offline potential).
MuslimARC.org is the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative that highlights issues of race (and its construction) within the Muslim community by focusing on education, outreach, and advocacy. In February, MuslimARC sponsored Twitter discussions on
The Wednesday, April 2nd Twitter campaign celebrated MENA identities (Middle East North African) and May will focus on Asian heritage. Although MuslimARC seeks to go beyond social media organizing, their efforts embrace postcolonial online activism in exciting ways.
I am not always strong.
There are times that I experience steep slopes of sadness. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, the sorrow arrives as crude, impolite explosions.
I don’t have everything together, no matter what type of confidence seeps out of my writing. I spend most of my time struggling from paycheck-to-paycheck, too poor to actually date should anyone ever ask me out. I’m always in a suspended state of fear that this is all my life is going to be: a lonely existence with a salary that is barely livable. I feel like I’m stuck, and inertia is a type of sin in my world.
Sometimes, I feel like I should just give up and claim my rural White heritage. I will move to some small Southern town and live in a trailer park. Forget my complicated identity. Screw my vast life experience. I am nothing special.
There are days I feel like low hanging fruit.
I write this not because I want sympathy, but because I know everyone else feels powerless and hopeless at times. I need you to know that you are not alone.