This post first appeared on Nancy Shehata’s “Muslimah in Progress” blog at Patheos. It details her family life, and how most Amerian Muslim familes are not exciting enough to be featured on TLC.
As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.
Work piled up on my desk (and on the floor, and in the closet, and out in the storage shed), a house full of sniffling, dry hacking, post-nasal-dripping children, more scandalous news than you can shake a stick at, and still I can’t think of what to write about. An amusing anecdote about the children? My ire at Lowe’s pulling commercials from “All-American Muslim”? Joy over having plenty of coffee in the house? My brain is full but all my thoughts are tumbling over themselves in their haste to scramble out onto the keyboard. Sometimes the overload gets to me and I just want to hide under my blanket for a few days and tell the world to go on without me. But children need antihistamines and tissues, people have a habit of needing to eat at regular intervals, and, hey, it’s football season so I have to come up for air on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday (and now even Saturday!) so I don’t miss a play.
In our lovely town, Fredericksburg, sometimes called F’burg or just “the Burg”, life is at a frenetic pace as people try to juggle long commutes into Washington D.C. with the need to shop like a maniac before Christmas. Obviously, as a Muslim I opt out of that particular battle, but even when I make a routine run to the store for bread, milk, or sunflower seeds (yes, they are a staple in my house), I still get hit from all sides by the noise, the bright lights, the dogs barking holiday tunes, the gift sets of body wash and gourmet cocoa. I dash in and dash out, sparing a glance at the holiday department and wondering if people really do buy boxer shorts with reindeer on them (with Rudolph’s red nose strategically placed, directly in front of where the, ahem, nasty bits would be). I shake my head, smile sympathetically at the overworked cashier, and run back out the south door, avoiding the north door because there’s a really rude greeter there who gives me the stinkeye every time I pass him.
Back home, I enjoy the peace and calm. For about five seconds. Then my preschooler gets whacked by her baby brother and starts wailing, and then the baby starts crying, too because it seems like the thing to do. One half-grown cat has dragged the carcass of last night’s turkey out of the trash and has strewn bits of bone and meat across the kitchen floor. Hubby is hiding in our bedroom trying to watch TV while our middle two boys battle aliens on the floor. Oldest son is building something on the computer. I make a note to enroll him in computer programming classes. I stash the groceries and sweep up the dead bird bits, scoop up crying baby and give preschooler a kiss on her boo-boo. Then I think to myself, Thank GOD they didn’t want to film my family for “All-American Muslim”.
I mean, I’m pretty sure my family is totally representational of a typical American Muslim family. My husband plays the part of scary bearded Middle Eastern man. Obviously he didn’t study for the role, because he forgets to look intimating and smiles too much and tells bad jokes and helps me wash dishes and even changes baby diapers. My oldest son is the rebellious tweener, secretly watching Weird Al Yankovic videos on Youtube and visiting Memebase when he is supposed to be practicing his words for the spelling bee. My middle children don’t go to a madrasa. They go to a really nice elementary school and read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books after they are supposed to turn the lights out and sleep. My little girl dresses in pink or purple and loves Dora and does not like Bubble Guppies. The baby mutters Islamic fundamentalist slogans like “bralbagalah” and “takatkatkat” while he practices torture techniques on the cats. Yep, typical radical Islamists.
We are a religious family. We strive to live our lives according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. That includes bearded hubby, hair covering me, children who say “Bismillah” before they eat or drink anything, prayers, fasting, Arabic lessons, life lessons, stories of the prophets, lessons on manners and ethics, and lectures about politics and government. We do NOT wear tattoos (unless perhaps it is a relic of an earlier, non-practicing time of forgetfulness), drink alcohol, eat pork, try to open a nightclub, celebrate Christmas, work at a brothel, or do anything else that might make us interesting enough to get ratings on reality TV. Sorry, we’re boring, that’s just how it is. That’s how it is for millions of Muslims who are living alongside all the other Americans. We are so boring and “normal” that you don’t even realize we are there until you see the scarf or drive past the mosque or get scared by the crazy guy on AM radio.
So, Muslims, be proud of yourself and your religion. Go on doing what you do, pray, eat breakfast, drink coffee, spill the sugar, go to a PTA meeting, watch Oprah, yell at Limbaugh, pray again, fast some, visit your sick friend in the hospital, lobby against guns, support autism research, study for your finals, raise your kids, bake bread, open a restaurant, work in a soup kitchen, giggle over cute boys at the mosque, watch “Family Guy” when the kids are in bed, worry about paying the bills, pray some more, talk about Islam to your Facebook friends, console a coworker dealing with cancer, call your mom, go get an oil change… go on living and being a normal practicing Muslim and inshaAllah, God willing, some, many, or most of the non-Muslims around you will use their brains and think to themselves “He’s a normal guy… she’s a normal gal” and they’ll deal with you like neighbors and friends and learn to ignore the islamophobes and hate-mongers. That’s all we can do, brothers and sisters. So get busy doing it. And you can be pretty sure TLC won’t come knocking at your door.