Sometimes, there is stuff you don’t want to talk about. Its too private, or too painful, or too powerful. Sometimes you don’t know what is happening or how to explain yourself. I didn’t even realize it was happening until a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve been trying to figure out a way not to talk about it.
Ever since Naina died, I have been unable to invest any time in attempting to fit into the community here. I just don’t have it in me. I have stopped caring if the Muslim mamas in the community or Kate’s school like me. I don’t go out of my way to try and get them to like me anymore. I just don’t care. I haven’t put in much effort in reading about Islam or what is happening in Egypt these days because it is all about people dying, people getting tortured and murdered for praying the way they pray. Women being raped by people who call themselves true believers. Good people being targets for the new wave of McCarthyism. People being placed on Most Wanted Lists because they believe in Freedom of Speech and Expression.
I am terrified to my core that this will never end.
I have no tolerance for attending Jummah in a mosque where I don’t feel comfortable. For many years, we attended Jummah at one mosque in town because the Imam delivered his sermon predominantly in English. When he got really passionate about his topic, he would revert to his dialect of Arabic that is a little different than the community of Syrian/Egyptian/Palestinian audience speaks. This was the best of all of the options, because the women prayed in the back of the room or in the balcony space and the sermon was (for the most part) in English. Then, when the balcony became another classroom, and the lockers for storing the burial cloths multiplied, the women were squeezed out of the upstairs space and the 1/3 of allotted space for the women downstairs decreased even more. The balcony was where the students sat and now the students and the women had to share that 1/3.
For the last year, we’ve attended Jummah at the mosque down the street when Mr. Fox had Fridays free. There would be headphones for English translation, and the women sat in the library and watched the Khutbah on the television. This became increasingly a source of contention for me because I know enough Arabic to know I was getting the filtered, edited version of the sermon. Not only was I pissed that I had to sit in the ‘library’ and watch on a television, now I wasn’t even getting the message that was intended.
Then, there was enough of a demand for an English Jummah. In the beginning, there were only a handful of people. But, we kept going because it was nice to be able to understand. Then, we discovered that we could sit in the main prayer hall because there was enough room at the back for the women to be included in the main space. Every Friday we would attend, we would sit together with no barriers between us and the speaker. I could see my son and often, Khaled. It wasn’t the best arrangement, but it was better than it had ever been.Now, the prayer times have changed and the English Jummah is at a time we cannot attend. I feel Unmosqued. We are back to attending the mosque where the Imam is difficult to understand. Three weeks ago I didn’t even bother to go inside. Last week I tried to attend, but I couldn’t deal with people looking at me, questioning why I’m there, being squished amongst judgy people, and then have them look at me out of the corner of their eye when they realized I didn’t pray. I went upstairs where the girls on their period went to listen to the sermon, amongst the folding chairs and the burial clothes. It was sad and lonely.
I felt so empty when I left and I just don’t care enough any more to try to make that empty feeling go away.
A few weeks ago, I went to church. It really effected me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. After I came home, I shared this with a group of women that I trust with my spiritual journey. Now, I can’t not share it with you, because I think it has some purpose.
I just want to share this. Today I went to church. I went because it was Mamama’s funeral. I wasn’t sure I could go because my daughter was home from school today. I didn’t know how I would feel, and I didn’t know how it would go for her. Then, this morning, I couldn’t NOT go. I got dressed in clothing that I knew would be appropriate for a funeral and for church and on the way, I prepped Pea on what to expect. Once we got there, we chatted with my friend (who explained about the open casket and invited Pea to take a look if she wanted.) Then we took a program and sat in the pews. I went through the program with her, explained about the book of worship and The Bible and the singing and answered her questions.
I was not prepared to feel the way I felt. I was comfortable. It felt good to be in a familiar environment. I knew the songs. I knew what would happen every step of the way. I knew all the stuff. The only thing that bothered me was the heavy emphasis on Jesus as Lord. I also wasn’t comfortable participating until they started reciting the Apostle’s Creed…and it just started coming out. Then the Lord’s Prayer. It felt really good. Also, there was a woman as the minister. I really liked her. I loved listening to all the voices mingled together singing.