The Question of Redemption

The Question of Redemption

#Realtalk: I was going to see the movie regardless because the movie is NOT about Nate Parker. The movie was made by a TEAM of people. It speaks to a COMMUNITY of people whose narrative needs to be re-told. I might even see it twice 🙂

With that said: I have been reading lots of opinion articles and comments about the Nate Parker Rape “Allegations”. But what struck me most was THIS interview shared with me last week (I have read more than once.) But The Ebony Magazine’s interview By Britni Danielle is one of a man who has sought redemption through his actions, even when he wasn’t sure what he did wrong. He has grown and still seeks to raise himself up. I admire what he said, how he said it and I look forward to his advocacy.

Sometimes you are placed on the most unlikely pulpit:

Director, writer, and actor Nate Parker poses for a portrait to promote the film, "The Birth of a Nation", at the Toyota Mirai Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Director, writer, and actor Nate Parker poses for a portrait to promote the film, “The Birth of a Nation”, at the Toyota Mirai Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

**A former gang member volunteering to keep kids out of gangs.
**A former sex worker working to save girls from that life.

Even “IF” he is guilty that is more a reason to hear his voice.
And it begs the question?
“Is there a such thing as Redemption?”
“What does it take to be forgiven?”

I ask these question because I see so many people damning him to hell. If one bad decision condemned us, we are all condemned to hell. If we can not compensate for shortcoming with our good deeds then we shall never attain salvation.

I am NOT a “rapist sympathiser”. (Yes I was called that in an anonymous post – the ones posted after your commented but the person doesn’t say your name 🙂 )

I am a realist. I am a sinner. I have shortcomings. I am the mother of black men, the wife and sister of black men. And they have all screwed up at some point in their lives. Guilty of various acts of cultural and legal transgression. From stealing gum to being accused of Murder. And I have had a lot of personal struggle with the questions of forgiveness, redemption and unconditional love.

As Gabrielle Union said in her open letter – Not even after reading the 700 page trial transcript is it clear if it was rape or not. and no one but the two of them know the truth of what happen –

But again. I say, hats off to you Nate Parker. I look forward to watching your journey.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil : Update on School Lunch Issue

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil : Update on School Lunch Issue

This is an update from my previous blog post EAT MEAT OR STARVE.  Please read that post first then continue to this one.

Yesterday my husband received an email, commenting on the wonderful article written on me in the New Haven Register.  We were unaware of which day the article was going to run since I had done the interview before school break, in December.  So immediately I pulled the article up on my phone and read it out load as he drove to work.

(Read the New Haven Register Article here)


 Later after dropping my daughter at choir practice I decided to pick up a paper to see how big the article (and of course my picture J) was in the paper.  I grabbed a paper from the vending machine in front of Starbucks and immediately turned to the local section. It wasn’t there.  So I took each section out and looked through the pages, and without success I couldn’t find it.

“They must have just run it as an online story” I though.  So I gathered my paper that I just paid a dollar for, (Geeze it use to be .50) put it together and sat it on the table, just to discover my picture on the front cover, second lead story. LOL. I am not sure why I didn’t expect this IMPORTANT story to make front cover.

So today, I am pleased to update that I received a call from Marc Michelson Regional Superintendent of Amistad Academy.  He informed me that he has spent time researching and going over the issue and this month they will start to offer 4 different salads “based” alternative for students each week.

This includes Garden Salad, Pasta and Vegetable Salad, Hummus and Pita and a Chicken Salad OR an American Cheese Sandwich.  In addition they explored the current menu and asked the lunch service to alter some meals to be served without meat.  For example when they have a beef burritos, they will make burritos without the meat and just serve it with cheese, beans and rice.

This is wonderful news and I am very pleased with this outcome.  I always had confidence that the school has both the resources and ability to give suitable alternatives for vegetarian lunches without it being a financial or personnel strain.

Okay, this is MY blog so I can rant and rave. Right?

To be honest this is the solution I was looking for from the beginning.  This is the solution that a good administrator/leader should seek, rather than just trying to present a united front.  Which was the impression I got from the staff originally as they in parrot for told me the same thing the previous person said.

When you tell me,  “I am a rules, person and I do things strictly by the book”  I think, “then you are NOT leadership materials.  A leader must have the ability to bend without breaking, to compromise without cowering and to find solutions where others thought there were none.  Nothing in life is black and white, and there are always exceptions to rules.  Compromising for the greater good is not wavering on your principles, it’s evolutionary thinking, and results driven action.

Despite the unmerciful comments of the New Haven Register Online readers :(, I was not looking for special treatment just for my kids.  This is truly an issue that effects a larger population than just Muslim kids.  This affects observant Jewish kids, Seven Day Adventist, Vegetarians and Vegan Families as well.

Since when do we as American punish people for practicing the second amendment?  And don’t give me the Separation of Church and State Crap.  That’s a falicy spoken in rhetorical claims to give us the illusion that we are independent thinkers.  When in reality every government legislative body opens with prayer and every politician running for office has to in someway declare a religious affiliation to be critiqued and criticized. (Okay, done with my political off topic rant)

I still believe that we should push for legislative policy on this issue.  According to the New Haven Register Article New Haven schools Food Services Director Tim Cipriano said New Haven Public Schools voluntarily offer vegetarian alternatives for school lunches.  This means it is a practice that is already in place and works, we just need a policy that do not allow other schools (charter or otherwise) to skip around this important issue because they just don’t feel like dealing with it.

“Nutrition is the foundation of learning” 

Thank you for reading and supporting mw, now I can go back to just being a lunch packing mom . . . for now 🙂

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”

“The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend”

Let me begin by saying the title of this blog in no way indicated that I believe Christians, extremist or not is my Boycott Lowesenemy. In fact in Islam we believe the closest non-Muslim brethren we have are Christian. So Much Love people 😉

But I had to weigh in on the Lowe’s pulling their ad debate. After all I started my blog based on responding to the misconceptions the show puts out about Muslims.
I have not changed my opinion about the show. It is a bitter-sweet time for me every time I sit down to watch it, but there is always a silver lining in the cloud.

Although I berate the misconceptions I think the show portrays I also recognize that there is a greater good on just having the show on the air. This Lowes fiasco is proof of that. Just by having a show about Muslims (practicing or not) on a major network television station, it begins to remove the “us and them” perception. America is a land of inclusion and Muslim have long been excluded from being considered a part of the “American Fabric” even before September 11th. And since the attrocities of that day, not only has that perception continued but also it has been exacerbated by lies and misconceptions which leads to hate and bigotry. Research shows that 62 percent of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim. This is one of the reasons I live such an open, transparent life. Yeah, I tell all my clients and Facebook Friends/Fans all my business. I figure after exposing you life on the Oprah Winfrey Show, no need to act shy now.

(Consider me you Muslim friend and when someone says do you know any Muslims. Say Yes, I know Mubarakah… even if you live in Kalamazoo and only read my blog and watch my youtube videos ☺ )

So if you haven’t heard, some extremist Christian group contacted a list of companies telling them to pull their ads from the All American Muslim Show because it was propaganda and Muslims were really bomb carrying terrorist who believe in female mutilation, honor killings and terrorism. And the stupid Ad Execs at Lowes listened. So the backlash and boycott started.

The Florida Family Association, which has spearheaded a campaign to urge companies to pull its advertising from the TLC show since November, claims 65 companies have already done so. Although many of the companies they mentioned denies it. I presume they wrote 65 companies and when they didn’t see an ad, they assumed the company pulled out because of their letter, even though the company never intended on advertising in the first place.

By pulling its ad from All American Muslim show, Lowes aligned itself with Christian extremist, and in fact gave in to propaganda instead of rejecting it. Although companies have a right to spend their money where they want, when a company back peddles based on bigotry and prejudice then it is in fact supporting and aligning itself with hatred.

The decision of Lowes to pull out of All American Muslim definitely was not based on smart financial decisions. It apparently did not know that they were pushing away 7 million American Muslim consumers with an estimated spending power of more than $170 billion. Maybe they should have consulted with Whole Foods who increased sales by 300 percent by selling Saffron Road Halal product starting last Ramadan despite the “un-American” complaints it got from people. Or Electronic retailer Best Buy, who last year Last year, prompted a backlash when it referenced the Muslim festival of Eid in a holiday flyer. Best Buy stood by its decision, winning the support of Muslim consumers in the process, and we too put our money where out mouth is.

I was of the many people who as of last week stop shopping at Lowes. Although I am most know internationally as a fitness trainer, I own multiple businesses (my son call me and my husband “serial entrepreneurs”). One of those businesses is a construction company, Eco-Urban Pioneers llc , which spent nearly $10K at Lowes this year. And they have lost my business. And a half-*** apology isn’t enough to win it back. I want to see a Lowe’s ad when I sit down and watch All American Muslim on Sunday nights.
It’s okay we all make mistake @lowes But grownups recognize them, make amends and move on.

I applaud Russell Simmons for not just giving lip service but also actually putting his money where his mouth is. He tweeted that he purchased all remaining ad space on the show. Now I am calling on multi-million dollar Muslim owned businesses like Edible Arrangements and CEOs to do the same.

We can give you 170 Billion reasons why we as Muslims will respect and show loyalty to companied that support us. The events of the last year indicate that companies will need to demonstrate courage in embracing the American Muslim Consumer. And we as Muslim consumers will recognize this reward them in loyalty and public devotion.

Now go by me a flat screen from Best Buy to support our friends ☺

Updated: 7:42pm

Join the campaign against Islamaphobia and let your voice be heard by signing the petition against Lowes.

Recently, Congressmen Chris Murphy and Keith Ellison sent a letter to the CEO of Lowe’s calling on them to reconsider their decision to pull advertising from the TLC show All-American Muslim. Please join us by signing on to the letter below….Click Hear

“Eat Meat or Starve”

“Eat Meat or Starve”

As a Muslim American parent I expect certain challenges in raising Muslim children in American society.  I expect that I have to
explain, to my children disappointment, that they cannot attend school dances because we do not intermingle boys and girls in a social setting.  I expected that I have to come to their class to explain why my daughter wear a hijab to stop her from being bullied and isolated by other children, which I did for her 6th grade class.  I even expect and pre-wrote a letter explaining fasting to her teachers and principle and ask that she be excused from the lunchroom during the month of Ramadan.  However, I never thought I would have to beg for my child to be fed.

 As an observant Muslim family we follow the religious restriction of a halal diet.  In addition to the well-known restriction that does not allow us to eat pork, we also only eat meat that has been raised and slaughter in a permissible manner.  Besides halal meat raised and slaughtered by Muslims we can also eat kosher meat, which has almost identical to halal laws on slaughtering, although we do not require the kosher cooking and serving restrictions.

 Recently my daughter came home on several consecutive days dropping her book bag and heading straight for the fridge.  Saying how hungry she was because she either ate nothing in school all day or was given only a bowl of cereal for lunch.  So that began my series of emails, letters, meeting and phone calls  (read my letter to administrators here) to school administration to find out that children who do not eat the school meat based meals are basically expected to starve. Okay maybe starve is a strong word, they aren’t exactly starving them but the lack luster alternative of salad on a daily basis, which the children do not eat is not really an alternative.  Asking for a bowl of froot loops instead has been the preferred alternative for my children, which the lunch staff has been kind enough to oblige.

I was extremely disappointed after speaking to several administrators that in fact the school only offers salad to its students as alternatives to the regular school lunch.  I teach nutrition as a part of my job as a fitness trainer and I can tell you that even adults don’t want to eat salad every single day.  So I am quite puzzled indeed how anyone sitting down planning an “alternative” meal can even think that would be a suitable DAILY meal for children.

As stated in my letter to administrators:

It is our position that giving children Tuna Salad everyday of the school year is not a suitable daily alternative when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that Women of childbearing years and young children not to eat tuna more than once a week.  In addition when other children’s lunch consist of “oven fried chicken, peas and carrots, Whole wheat dinner roll, Butter, and fresh or children fruit” and non-meat eating students are given according to Ms. Roundtree and Ms. White, “A Salad, Roll and Fruit” we can not consider that a suitable daily alternative for children who are expected to preform with academic excellence in a demanding educational and behavioral environment of a 10 hours school day, neither is a daily alternative of salad nutritionally nor categorically equivalent to lunches provided to other student.  The exact same alternative each day lacks any variety in micro or macronutrients for children nor any similitude of a balance diet, unlike the 8 different lunch options and varieties offered to other children throughout each month.

I challenged the administrator; the Principle and its Dean of Operations to have only the school salad everyday for lunch and just see how they feel.  Let’s see how their job performance is affected; let’s notice their behavior difference.  And I am sure they will lose a few extra pounds, which may be the best part of the challenge.

There are many studies that have recorded the significant academic decline in children who have poor diet quality.   So it is baffling that my children are given donuts for breakfast at least 2 days a week, followed by either cereal or a salad for lunch and some cheese-it crackers for a snack and are expected to perform above and beyond their public school counterparts.  (Read “Diet Quality and Academic Performance“)

The Achievement First Charter School is extremely academically and behaviorally demanding.  It is a 10-hour school day that gives demerits for students not sitting up straight or not “tracking” the teacher (following the teacher with their eyes and attention).  Achievement First is in fact A, B, C, F grading system.  It does not even allow students to earn a D.  They believe in holding students and it’s teacher’s to high standards, not allowing just mediocre or bare minimal performance in any aspects of the educational environment.  In fact that is why I send my children there.  Yet it does not hold itself to the same standard, offering only a bare minimal meal and its administrators basically saying something is better than nothing.

The implications of this are far reaching beyond my Muslim family and me.  It affects observant Jewish
Families, 7-Day Adventist, and even vegetarians all of who must be aware that when choosing a school like Achievement First their child’s nutrition is not a priority for the school.  I am fortunate that I can afford to send my children with lunch (on the days they remember to bring it), but what about families who have no food to send with their children and choose religious or ethical dietary observance?  Are they just left to fend for themselves?  The entire point of offering school lunch is to fight against child hunger but schools that offer little more than a salad as an alternative are obviously not in the fight. The question I ponder at this point “Is this ‘eat meat or starve attitude’ discriminatory to these families?   Are families who choose alternate diets excluded from consideration because of this choice?   This is a far-reaching question that has to be answered by policy and lawmakers who govern both public and charter schools like the one my children attend.

So here is the unexpected dilemma I find myself in as a Muslim American family.

Letter: Alternative for Student with Religious and Dietary Restrictions.

Letter: Alternative for Student with Religious and Dietary Restrictions.

To:  Marc Michaelson

Regional SuperintendentAchievement First

403 James Street | New Haven, CT 06513
  O: 203-773-3223 x17206|   M: 203-668-4838

MarcMichaelson@achievementfirst.org

Re: Alternative for Student with Religious and Dietary Restrictions.

We have four children who attend Achievement First Amistad Academy (AFAA) Schools. We are an observant Muslim family, who eat only Halal Meat.  This dietary restriction does not allow our children to eat many lunches provided by the school.  As an alternative in previous years we had been given permission to send “factory sealed” protein alternatives to be stored in the school kitchen at Amistad Academy Middle School and used as a substitute protein for my children lunch.

In November of 2011 I purchased and sent factory sealed Kosher Hotdogs and Chicken Nuggets to the school to be served to my children.  After being given this alternative for several days the children was informed by the cafeteria worker that he was told by his boss not to give them their alternative anymore.

I sent Mr. White, Principal of Amistad Academy Middle School an email letter to this fact, which she forwarded to Mr. Roundtree, Director of Operations.  I informed Ms. Roundtree we were willing to supply the children with halal protein alternatives to be served with their lunches to substitute the school meat.  In a phone conversation Ms. Roundtree informed me that the lunch supervisor did not want to be responsible for storing the food because the kosher hot dogs I sent was “expensive” and she could not guarantee t

hey would not be taken or used for other purposes, however they would be willing to heat up their lunches on a daily basis if I sent it with them.  I explained to Ms. Roundtree that although we try to supply the children with lunch each morning, some days they forget their lunches and go the entire day without eating anything and come home at 5:30PM extremely hungry.

Ms. Roundtree restated via emails that they can bring their lunch daily then informed me that the school was
not legally responsible for giving children who did not have medical dietary restrictions a lunch alternative. Although I recognize that according to the “United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in the School Nutrition Programs: Guidance for School Food Service Staff” which Ms. Roundtree provided us via email AFAA does not have the legal obligation to make accommodations for children who do not have medical dietary restriction, the same documents states that the school can make substitutions at their discretion on a case by case basis on other dietary restrictions, for which has been made by previous administration for our children in the Middle school.

In effort to come to an agreeable solution to this issue my husband and I met with Mr. White and Ms. Roundtree on Wednesday December 7th to reiterate our concern about the children not being supplied a suitable alternative by the school nor we being allowed to supply an alternative protein source for our children.  Ms. Roundtree stated that the company who supplies lunch to Achievement First did not allow outside foods and they supply a robust salad with tuna and chickpeas as a daily alternative even though they did not have to.

It is our position that giving children Tuna Salad everyday of the school year is not a suitable daily alternative when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that Women of childbearing years and young children not to eat tuna more than once a week.  In addition when other children’s lunch consist of “oven fried chicken, peas and carrots, Whole wheat dinner roll, Butter, and fresh or children fruit” and non-meat eating students are given according to Ms. Roundtree and Ms. White, “A Salad, Roll and Fruit” we can not consider that a suitable daily alternative for children who are expected to preform with academic excellence in a demanding educational and behavioral environment of a 10 hours school day, neither is a daily alternative of salad nutritionally nor categorically equivalent to lunches provided to other student.  The exact same alternative each day lacks any variety in micro or macro-nutrients for children nor any similitude of a balance diet, unlike the 8 different lunch options and varieties offered to other children throughout each month.

I informed Ms. White that I would be taking the issue further as it appears her hands were tied to do anything.  Ms. White said to us that her hands were not tied but rather she was not “willing” to do anything different.

It is our position that when the administration of Amistad Academy Middle School is “unwilling” to either makes accommodations for us to neither supply the school with a protein alternative for our children nor give adequate alternatives speaks volumes to the environment that the school fosters. These actions are in direct opposition to creating an environment of multi-culturalism and acceptance.  It show a lack for consideration for families that do not eat “traditional” meat, including observant Muslims, Jews, 7 day Advantest, and even vegetarians families in creating a healthy learning environment for its student.

Although this issue was bought to our attention by our middle school students, the same issue exist with our high school students who daily are given either a salad or eat nothing  at all on days they do not bring their own lunch.

We are requesting that Achievement First as an organization ensures that students who do not eat meat are given at least five nutritionally equivalent lunch option by it’s food providers to ensure all it’s students are provided a healthy learning environment.  And until such time allow families to supply the school with protein alternatives to be stored in the kitchen and served to their children.

We look forward to your response and resolution to this issue as soon as possible.

Episode 5 – “The Quran doesn’t say wear hijab”….????

Episode 5 – “The Quran doesn’t say wear hijab”….????

Okay, I think I am going to enjoy writing this post because most of the topics on this week’s episode are topics I can personally relate to.  Parenting, hijab (the headscarf) and young girls wearing the headscarf.

This week “coach’s families dealt with the American Muslim dilemma of having your girls wear hijab.  Apparently they have had their girls wear hijab since 3rd grade.  I whole heartedly support their decision and whole-heartedly disagree with Nina.  Let me explain from an Islamic point of view as well as from a Muslim American point of view.

The Islamic Point of view.

It is OBLIGATORY for Muslim women who are in puberty and sane to wear hijab. BUT Nina was right; it’s not in the Quran, just as the Quran does not tell us how to pray.  Let me explain.  Muslim takes direction on what is obligatory and what is optional in Islam from two sources.  The Quran (The holy book) and the Hadith (The sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad).  The Quran often only gives Muslims general instructions and the details and clarification comes from the hadith.  So sometimes God gave directions in the revelation of a verse of Quran but then pointed the people to learn the details of that direction from the Prophet (peace be upon him) directly.  An example of that is the prayer.  The Quran commands us to pray 5 times a day and it tells us which direction to pray BUT it does not tell us how to pray.  To learn this we had to turn to the actions and saying of the Prophet.

When the verse commanding the prayer was revealed the companions of the Prophet asked the Prophet how they should pray and he responded “pray as you have seen me pray” and he lead them and taught them the manner and details of the prayer.  Every professed Muslim will attest to the fact that the Prayer in certain manner is obligatory upon every Muslim, yet the details of the prayer was not revealed in the Quran but rather instructed by the Prophet.

The Hijab hold the same status in Islam.  The Clearest verse in the Quran about Hijab states in Chapter 24:  Verses 30–31.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. (Quran 24:31) 

The strongest evidence in the Hadith comes from the story of Asma the sister-in-law of the prophet.  “Aisha (the wife of the Prophet) reported that Asmaa, the daughter of Abu Bakr, entered into the presence of the Messenger of Allaah wearing thin transparent clothing, So the Messenger of Allaah turned away from her saying : ‘O’ Asmaa, when a women reaches the age of menstruation, it is not allowed that any of her should be seen except this’ – and he pointed to his face and two hands.” (Sahih, reported from Abu Dawud and Al-Bayhaqee.)

 

Although there are many different evidence presented for different levels of Hijab, from wearing complete face veil to wearing a jilbab (over garment).  The MINIMAL accepted among scholars of Islam is that a Muslim woman must have 3 rules of dress.

  1. She must cover everything but her face and her hands
  2. Her clothes must be loose enough that it does not show her shape
  3. Her clothes must be thick enough that it is not see through

 

I am not debating the evidence for Jilbab (over garment) or Niqab (Face veil) that is an entirely different type of post and MUCH longer.  The above is just the bare minimal a Muslim woman must abide by.  That does not mean that a Muslim woman who does not wear hijab is not Muslim.  It does mean that a Muslim woman who does not wear hijab is sinning and will answer to her Lord accordingly.

 

Hijab Growing up Muslim American.

I was born and raised Muslim in America and I started wearing Hijab when I was 7 years old.  To be honest I don’t remember not wearing hijab.  I have school pictures from kindergarten with Hijab on.  It has never really been a challenge for me because it has always been apart of my wardrobe.  Just as common as choosing pants or socks my hijab has it’s own drawer in my dresser and a special hanger in my closet.  Although I am not as creative as Nawal or Suehalia with Hijab but it almost always matches the outfit.

I also started my daughter wearing hijab when she was young.  At 5 I began putting it on her when we went to

the Mosque and Islamic functions.  At 7 I began having her wear it when we left the house, but she didn’t have to wear it in when she played in the yard.  In addition she couldn’t wear shorts but I did allow short sleeves on a hot day. At 10 I required her to follow all the rules of hijab, including covering everything but her face and her hands and wearing hijab anytime she may be seen by a male who was not blood related to her.

I know that growing up a Muslim female in a country that culturally opposite to nearly every modesty rule we have can be very difficult.  That in conjunction with the normal hormones and rebellion that happens to every teenage, I felt waiting until hormones kick in with puberty would be a recipe for disaster.  Although it is only Islamicaly required when a girl reaches puberty, that is the worse time for a parent to make an Muslim American girl just start wearing it.

Puberty happens just when social pressure is at its peak and pier acceptance, self-esteem and identity are all on rollercoaster of hormones and emotions.

 

I feel it’s absolutely essential to allow girls to get use to wearing it before this time.  They should already have a pride in wearing hijab and being identified, as a Muslim in addition to having built up the necessary “armor” required to wear it in American society.  Even before September 11 people stared and pointed.  Now it’s even more negative attention to being so apparently identified as a Muslim.  As a Muslim women you have to develop a since of self worth and independence in mind and thought to constantly counter not just the “regular” I don’t have to be a certain way to be accepted, but also a firm “it’s okay to be who I am, believe what I believe, and act and dress accordingly”.

This attitude and confidence as a Muslim American Woman is not developed overnight.  It is taught by example.  It is taught by understanding the religion and the practical reasons behind the rules and legislation in Islam.

We can’t make our kids follow something on the “because I said so” parenting philosophy.  I encourage my kids to look at current events, social and political problems then we talk about how Islam prevents or solves those problems through practical application of its laws and legislations.  They see on their own why Islam is the truth and why we are Muslim.

As a family we have gone to Sabbath dinner at our Jewish colleagues house, Award ceremonies at a church and interfaith dialogs.  And we have discussions about what we experience after.  I always use each opportunity to discuss the differences as well as similarities between Muslims and other faiths, or Muslims and those who profess no faith.  My family have broken fast with the Iftar meal and prayed in synagogue as well as in the Sunday classroom of a church.  And I am proud that they have been allowed experiences I was not as a child.

 

I grew up very sheltered from all other religions, learning only about them through TV shows and lessons at the Mosque.  To some Muslims all Jews were the enemy and all Christians were going to hell.  My mother didn’t take the steps I have as a parent to have my interact with other faiths but she did talk to me a lot about the common thread and brotherhood among Muslims, Christians and Jews and even enjoyed a spirited debate with the Jehovah Witness that would stop by and invited in for tea and cake.  I remember her saying “I’ll take your brochure if you’ll take mine”.  She would exchange brochures and actually sit down and read it, then get the Quran or Hadith to see what Islam said on the same topic.

 

Okay that’s a bit off topic…but you get the point.  So Episode 5 gave me a lot to talk about.  And even though there is still much about the show that irritates me at times it has given me good topics to blog about and share my opinion.

 

 

All American Muslim . . . Not Really?

All American Muslim . . . Not Really?

I don’t really blog (obviously from the lack there of on this blog that I have had for years 🙂  BUT after watching TLC All American Muslim last night I am going to go out on a limb here.

For anyone who knows me or knows of me knows I am all about “Living Islam Out Loud” in America.  I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show: Thirty-Something in America  as “the job you’d never expect” because I am a personal trainer who dresses in Hijab.  People in my community know that I am not apologetic or shy about being Muslim and practicing my Islamic principles no matter what setting I am in.  I truly believe that Islam is a part of the fiber of America.  And Muslims in America should stand up and demand our piece of the American pie.  And I don’t believe we have to “blend in” in most cases or compromise our religion to do so.

I am a Muslim American and I am PROUD OF IT!  I am the second generation of 4 consecutive generations of Muslim Americans in my family.  My mother’s mother was full-blooded Cherokee Indian and my father’s father fought on the front line in Normandy to free the Jews from the concentration camps in Germany during WWII.  I am as American as American can get.

I was also born and raised Muslim, growing up in “strict” Orthadox Sunni household.  My parent reverted to Islam, Sunni Islam (Not the Nation of Islam)  so to me being Muslim is in my blood.  I believe the tenets of my Religion with full conviction.

When I heard about the All American Muslim Reality Show, I think I was among those who most anticipated and looked forward to seeing it. Finally Muslim Americans shown on main stream TV media.  Now that I have seen the show I have to say I am quite disappointed.  I feel like the “normal” people who live in New Jersey and watch Jersey Shore.  “I hope people don’t think this is what Islam or being a Muslim is.”

First let me say I understand that Muslims come in different shapes, sized, and now obviously with different tattoos. So I am not being judgemental as to the level of these people’s faith. (Okay maybe a little since a blog is completely subjective)  I also recognize that the Arab American experience is different from the experience of a African-Native American Muslim experience.  But my fear is that people will think that some of these people are representative of the Muslim community.

I think what we all have to realize is that there is a difference between faith and religion.  There is a difference between someone who believes in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad and a Muslim.  Okay that did sound very judgemental but the fact of the matter is words define us to some extent.  A Muslim is not just someone who believes but someone who practices Islam.  In America it has been redefined as anyone who believes in the tenets of Islam, which is not true.   I simply don’t believe we should let other’s define us.  When you begin to let “others” outside your group define you then you also let them control you and I don’t seek be controlled by the mass media or American society.

(Okay if you haven’t seen the show then you have to go online and look up the video.  I am not going to recap the entire show.)

The show was so much propaganda.  It seems like the producers gave more air times to the individuals who are not really practicing Islam and minimal time to the people who actually do (yeah, I know we have 7 or 8 episodes to go).  And that is NOT okay.  Islam is a religion.  A religion is governed by rules and regulations.  If there were no rules then it negates the entire purpose of the religion.  So excuse me if I get a little testy when people say I am Muslim but don’t do anything a Muslim is supposed to do.

It showed a tattooed, mini-skirt, bar going “Muslim” getting her fiance to convert to Islam before she married him. Really?  Are you serious?  That is like eating a McDonald’s cheese burger for lunch and requiring your date to only eat an organic salad with tofu.

At the wedding the best representation of Lebanese culture they could come up with was a belly dancer?  Again Really? That was a far reach even for the practicing Muslims.  I am not Lebanese but I am embarrassed for them.

And what was up with the Bar theme?  Muslim don’t drink, in fact it is against Islamic belief to even sell alcohol but the found a couple who met at a bar and a “Muslim” woman who wants to open a bar.  You might as well have them make a ham for Eid dinner. – “Oh Lord I hope not”.

On the other hand I really enjoyed  Nawal and Nader Aoude (Pregnant Couple) and Foaud and Zaynab Zaban and family (Football Coach and family).  They seem to actually practice Islam.  I look forward to seeing more about their lives.  And Nawal I agree.  The belly dancer in a mixed environment was the Islamic equivalent of a stripper.  And the “send the baby and email” comment by Nader was just too funny.

For now I do plan on watching the show, and blogging about it.  And I am going to try not to watch in defense mode.  I feel like blogging is the least I could do to set the record straight.  I hope they show more of the challenges and triumphs of actually practicing Islam in America not just being in America as someone from a Muslim or Arab Heritage.  Which by the way I think is a more appropriate name for the show “All American Muslims Arabs”