Standing My Ground

This year, we attended two community iftars during Ramadan.  Both were at the same masjid that we attend on a regular basis, the same place where my children study Quran and we frequent on different times during the year for lectures that are interesting and applicable to our lives.

The first time we went this year, it was a positive experience.  We had a nice time, our dessert was well received and I felt like I had finally made some headway into the accepted framework that makes up the Muslim Sisterhood.

A week ago, we went a second time and it wasn’t so great.  I felt let down and bruised. I felt like that girl who the popular kids humor and allow to tag along and then once they are away from the group, they talk behind her back…while laughing. I wasn’t going to talk about it with you because I wasn’t sure I’d dealt with the situation in a good way. It was embarrassing.

Then last night, I was talking with a friend and I confessed the altercation to her and told her what happened. She applauded my stance and said she was proud of me for standing my ground.

I felt like I had back-peddled two years of putting myself out there.  Two years ago, when we were in line for the Iftar dessert and the women cut in line in front of us, I was unprepared to deal with her rude behavior and unsure of my place in the community.  I was trying too hard to fit in and ever since then I’ve regretted not standing stronger against her behavior.

Last week we were invited to the community iftar. We brought pineapple upside down cake to contribute to the dessert tables. My ladies prayed with the women and I waited outside the door of the women’s prayer room for them. The Imam’s wife ushered us into the dinner service line to make plates quickly after the prayer ended. The ladies stood in front of me with their plates patiently waiting their turn while the line behind us was soon out into the hallway. A woman (not much older than me) reached between my ladies and took a plate from the end of the buffet and proceeded to step in front of Pea.

I gently tapped her on the shoulder and said, “excuse me, but the line is this way. (pointing to the end of the line)”

She turned around and ignored me, and continued to push ahead of Pea.

I gently said again, “Excuse me, but you are stepping in line in front of my daughters and this is not right. You need to join the line.”

She responded, “No I’m not.”

I said again, “You cannot cut into the line in front of my daughters. You need to get in line like everyone else.”

She mumbled something in Arabic to the lady right behind her and rolled her eyes.

At this point I raised my voice.  I know I shouldn’t have, but when someone rolls their eyes at me and acts like we don’t belong, It sparks my inner mama bear.

I said, “Astaghfirullah!* (yes I actually pulled out some Islamic jargon at this point.) My daughters have fasted as long as you have today. You have No Right to step in line in front of them!”

At this point, she huffed and mumbled and stepped away from us and joined the line somewhere behind me. I wasn’t concerned if she went to the back of the line or not, I wanted this altercation to end.

Then, the woman who was standing next to her (again, not elderly) tried to do The Exact Same Thing!

My voice was not calm. When I said, “Excuse ME. You. Can. Not. Do. This.”

She answered me, “Yes, I know…Your Daughters!” and threw up her hands and took her plate to the end of the line.

Of course by then, Kate and Pea were mortified. I was mortified. I couldn’t believe we had to deal with this rude behavior again. AND not one person stepped in to help me. NOT ONE PERSON. I knew a lot of people there, and no one said a word.

By the time I got back to the table, I replayed the whole thing in my head and even told my table mate what had happened when our ladies stepped away to get some dessert. She didn’t respond.

If it was me by myself, I wouldn’t have even taken any food until everyone else has been served. It really isn’t that important to me to eat at the mosque. Aside from the fact that I was not fasting, I don’t do buffet food in public places. But this was about Pea and Kate being dissed by women who are supposed to be welcoming them into the community of those who Fast Ramadan. By those women cutting in front of my daughters, it was like they were negating the ladies’ place in the Ummah.

I am busting my ass to make sure that they are not punished in any way because of me. I’ll be damned if I am going to allow my daughters to be treated in this manner at a place where they are supposed to feel comfortable, by people who should be welcoming them. If they have a problem with me, it can be all about me, but not my sweet girls.

Not my babies.

So, I came home and told Khaled what happened and he didn’t know what was the right answer. It is different when you are a born Muslim. It is different when no one is questioning if you belong there. He won’t get it because He Belongs.

I thought about this whole scenario this week and finally came to peace with what happened. I don’t regret standing my ground, but I still don’t know if I handled it the best way. I hate that I embarrassed my ladies.

And then my friend said she was proud of me for standing my ground for what is right and setting a great example for my ladies.

After that, I knew I needed to share this with you so you know, if it happens to you…You are Not Alone.

*An Arabic phrase meaning “I ask Allah forgiveness.” A Muslim says this phrase many times, even when he is talking to another person. When a Muslim abstains from doing wrong, or even when he wants to prove that he is innocent of an incident he uses this expression. – Islamic-Dictionary.com

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://gravatar.com/lagresa Claudia

    You are an incredible example to your girls! Rude behavior in any religion, Muslim or Catholic is simply rude behavior. Your girls, when they are a little more mature, will see this clearly as your love and true devotion as a loving mother. I’m sad to say that many of us women did not have powerful role models sticking up for us as children, as you have for your girls.

  • Rachael

    As I was reading this, I felt so angry for you! I experience stuff like this all the time here, but I have to ignore it because even if i want to say something, they won’t understand my English! Which makes it even more frustrating!!! But I definately bitch about it the second I can to whoever can understand English. The problem here is that they have NO CLUE that stuff like that is rude. The culture here is different than in the states and having manners is not a priority. I applaud you for what you did. If I had daughters, I would have did the same. If it was just me, I probably wouldn’t have. It’s scary being alone in those situations. I’ve been living that way for the last 9 months and I cry about it often. There are pros and cons with being non Muslim and/or American being amongst Muslims and people of a different culture. My biggest frustration comes from the communication. I don’t speak fluent Arabic and my in-laws speak very little English. So I can’t speak my thoughts, opinions, frustrations. Instead my husband gets to hear it all!! Haram! Lol

  • Nat

    Why work so hard at joining an exclusionary group that doesn’t want you, and that you don’t want to fully join anyway? Let their Dad take them, and if the gender rules are so silly and archaic that their Dad can’t do that, then that’s Islam’s loss, not yours.

    Your daughters live in a country they fully belong in (as do the people who are brushing them off) . Why so much effort to segregate them out into a culture that doesn’t even want them that badly? Would it be so bad to be more like Mom, and not be able to join the group that won’t take them because the group has not only decided Mom doesn’t belong, but that being a daughter of Mom makes them less worthy of membership in the group?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/myislamiclife My Islamic Life

    Rachel, I’m surprised that in the 9 months you’ve been there, you’ve not found an English speaking subculture to tap into. You need some girlfriends there! Let me know if we can help you find some peeps.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/myislamiclife My Islamic Life

    Nat, What exactly is your question then?

    If you are a frequent reader, you know then that it is not an option for my children two follow any other religion. This is the dominant religion of my family and this is the way we are choosing to raise our children and live our lives.

    You are using this most recent struggle with 2 ignorant women as a reflection of the whole Muslim population and it is not accurate. I have many Muslim women in my life that accept me and my choices and my family just the way we are. They are converts and born Muslims. They are married with children, not married with children and not married. They are conservative and not so conservative. They are Shia and Sunni. They are strong, feminist women. When I am with these women, I don’t have the problems I encountered at that last Iftar. Only when I deal with people who do not know me do I end up with issues. The thing is, I am out and about mixing and mingling with almost all the Muslims in our community on any given day. From school, to the stores to the restaurants and the parks and even my gym. If they don’t know me by name, they know my face or my children or my husband. If they don’t know us, it is because they are holiday Muslims who hide away in their homes and only speak Arabic and only talk to Arabic Speakers and never mix into American life.

    Islam is not the issue here, it is the Muslim cultural baggage that we have to sort through to be able to observe the religion. When it is all cleared away, it becomes very simple. The problem is in dealing with the baggage.

    I’m sorry that I have not written enough about the positive experiences I have had with Muslim women and men in my life. There are many more positive experiences than not. I hope I have answered your question. If not, please continue asking and I will do my best to explain.

    Kristina

  • Jana

    Reading this made me so mad! Not at you, but at the whole situation. Your story brought back memories of when I use to go to community dinners. I remember a lot of pushing, a lot of “yella, yella”, a lot of unfriendly cultural people, a lot of children running around wildly as if they spent their whole day locked in a cage and just got let out.I can’t forget to mention a;; the women gathering food for their family members who decided to stay at home and not pay the $10 ticket price. The last time I went to one of these dinners my daughter was 6 weeks old, she’s 5 years old now and as much as I would love to have her involved in the Muslim community, I can’t when this sort of thing continues. The imams and community leaders need to make changes….they haven’t so far, at least where I live. Our mosques are just being turned into one big culture club, and it really pushes other Muslims aside in such an indirect that the mosque doesn’t have to take responsibility for it.

    -Jana-

  • https://www.facebook.com/heidi.soliman Heidi Soliman

    In fact, I’ve seen this same thing at the mosque!!!! This makes me long for organization like Taleef ?? In Chicago which is centered around converts… converts who get our cultural norms and respect that!

  • melissa

    assalamu alaikum, that could have been me at any one of the many iftars, picnics, or other Mulsim events i have attended over the last 13 years as a Muslim. SubhanAllah! I have experienced the same thing countless times. However, I keep going back and hoping, inshaAllah, that something I say, or do, or the way I respond will affect and change at least one person!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/myislamiclife My Islamic Life

      Thank you for sharing Melissa. I have seen the ripple effect of change. Keep strong. I’m sure you have caused others to think twice before acting.

  • Rubana

    I came across your blog while browsing BlogHer.com. I am a Bangladeshi Muslim living in Central NJ. Your post described a situation I found myself in during Ramadan when we went to the mosque for iftar on a weekend. My husband says this particular mosque, very established in the area, has become better at organizing such events, over the years. However, only for the men. Only because the men complain, make suggestions for improvements, etc. And it was true. The men’s food line was orderly, quiet, and the food service was very organized and efficient. The neighboring women’s line was loud, women (even younger ladies) cutting in line, food running out, etc. Apparently the women don’t “make suggestions for improvement”. I didn’t complain to anyone, thinking it would be “unIslamic” of me, but the truth is, the Imam and the management need to be made aware of these things happening. Perhaps there is someone you could speak with at your mosque about these issues? I always thought since I’m not very active at the mosque, who am I to say anything to anyone. But the truth is, unless we step up, there won’t be change.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/myislamiclife My Islamic Life

    Rubana,

    Thank you so much for telling me you came from BlogHer! It was recommended to me that I list my blog there and I just got around to it last week. I’m a newbie there, so any tips you have would be wonderful.

    I appreciate you sharing your experience. I do, in fact, tell people about the experience from the Mid-Western American perspective. Usually, I tell Khaled…and sometimes I even tell my mentor, Auntie Faye or another Auntie in the masjid. Often, when I tell Khaled, I ask him to tell the Imam. When he does, things happen. I wish I could just bring it up to the Imam myself, but as long as things are getting done, I don’t mind. :-) If this changes, I’ll have to take matters to him directly. I am blessed to have a relationship with my husband that is able to support my opinions and vision. I want the masjid to be a welcoming place for my ladies and future generations.

    Kristina

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