This post was first published on July 8th as a part of Hindtrospective’s 2015 My Mosque, My Story: A Side Entrance Ramadan
If there was ever a time I felt completely at a disadvantage while parenting Muslim children, it is during Ramadan. I am so often embarrassed when we go to the Mosque during Ramadan that I would rather just not go.
I am the only non-Muslim that attends Jummah on a regular basis at our Mosque. We go every Friday because I take my children and I sit with the ladies and we listen. I cover my hair and wear a prayer skirt out of respect for my family and because it is what is appropriate. I’m not out-of-place there because people are used to me. They know I sit there where I can see the speaker. I listen to the khutba and my girls are dressed appropriately. We are attentive participants. We don’t talk when the speaker is talking. We Listen. Once the sermon is finished and the prayer begins, I move to the side and wait until everyone is finished praying. Everyone who is a regular knows this. They know me. We say ‘Hi’ to each other. People ask me to watch their babies while they pray.
But during Ramadan, people come out of the woodwork to attend Jummah Services. It’s the same at churches, during Christmas and Easter, there are members who only show up on holidays. The Arabic Jummah is packed with people trying to reestablish their place as a member of the mosque. The English Jummah is also filling up because people are just learning about it or they are holiday Muslims.
People who don’t know me are showing up, taking my spot on the carpet, and eyeballing me when I’m not praying, judging what they do not understand. Watching us like we are the strangers there, not them.
Because I am the regular, and because I’m so used to new people being welcomed at church, I introduce myself to anyone to appears not to know anyone. I approach them. I say hello. I welcome them to the mosque so they don’t feel out-of-place. I have mentioned before to my husband and friends that I would love for there to be a welcoming committee so that there is at least one person at every prayer to be on the lookout for new people. Or the regulars should have name tags. That way you would know at a glance if someone is just at a new service or is new to the mosque.I approach them, welcome them and ask if they have been to this mosque before. Or, sometimes I remember meeting them someplace before and I mention that and draw the connection for them. I want the new person to know that they are important and its good that they are there. I want them to feel welcome. After I do all of those things, the first thing they say to me that isn’t a response to my welcome is, “are you fasting? – Do you fast?”
That question shoots me back to that place where I am the odd one out all over again. Invariably I am stunned into silence. I can’t believe that they are so rude to ask. Everything that I plan in my head to respond to their rude behavior flies out of my mind because now I feel like everyone is looking. The spotlight is on me and then I tell them no. I confirm their suspicions that I don’t belong there. They belong and I do not. I’m not part of the club and I can’t masquerade as though I am. I don’t know why I’ve bothered.
I know that the girls are watching though. They see me do this thing, this welcoming. I’m hoping that when they grow older, they will do the same as what I’ve done. If they do, it will be worth all of my embarrassment because the difference will be, when they approach the new person; they will be ambassadors from inside the clubhouse. I will have made a difference here. The mosque will be more welcoming.