Saturday, September 09, 2006

Somewhere In Between

Today I travelled to another city to attend a one day course for work.

After the course finished, I had some time left before my train was due, so I thought I would go to the mosque. Asr was nearly due and I wanted to go somewhere quiet and read the Quran. The more I thought about the idea, the more appealing it became.

I called Directory Enquiries and got the number of a local mosque. I rang the number. No answer. I passed a Shalwar Khalmeez shop with a Muslim name, I went in, gave my Salaams and asked if they knew where the mosque was. Of the five ladies in the shop, one returned my Salaams. I asked where the mosque was. They looked at me like I had asked for a bacon sandwich. "It's the other side of town".

I left the shop and I felt saddened by their rudeness. I'm starting to have doubts about going to this mosque, from the ladies' reaction, it could well be somewhere women aren't allowed/encouraged to go. I passed by a university, usually a good place to find a prayer room. It was closed. The shopping centre didn't have a prayer room either. It's getting late, I decide to try and catch an earlier train.

The timetables are located on a gloomy quiet platform. A gaggle of teenage boys are nearby.
I hear the word "Waki"(wannabe/white Pakistani) and with a sinking feeling, know they are talking about me. One actually walks over, pretending to look at the timetable, so he can check that I am indeed, white.
He returns to his friends and I hear the words "P*ki Lover". That would be about me too, then. Since my indignation would just feed their obnoxious behaviour, I walk away. I think that if I did have a Pakistani husband standing with me, they would have probably kept their opinions to themselves. Cowards.

I've had enough now. Alhamdulilah, there's a train that I can catch. As the city slides away from me, I feel relieved.

The stereotype of the Muslim woman is that we are isolated from society, either through choice, or due to the stereotypical image of the tyrannical, domineering Muslim man.

The sad fact is that, so much of society makes you feel uncomfortable, it's easy to stay in your comfort zone. It's annoying not being able to find somewhere to pray. The stares make me feel weary. I can tell myself that it's good dawah, it's good for us to be representing Muslim women in a positive way and it's good for people to see a convert.

Sometimes, I just feel so tired. Tired of explaining, being made to justify myself to people who view me with suspicion anyway. Several times, I've walked onto a train carriage and people have not just moved seats, but moved carriages. When I wear abaya, I know the nasty looks will increase as I'm viewed as not only a Muslim, but one who needs to go back to their own country.
I'm tired of explaining to both Muslims and non-Muslims that no, I didn't convert for marriage.

I think many converts are torn about whether to carry on living in their country of birth or to move to a Muslim majority country.

I don't belong here anymore, but where do I go next?


SH said...

golly I feel like that all the time. I'm not a convert but I'm half English and passed as one before I started wearing hijab. Sometimes I want to pack it all in and move but like you, where? My dad's Egyptian but I don't speak arabic and don't relate to Arab culture like I do to British culture. But whatever, inshaAllah one day a strong British/Canadian/American Muslim collective identity will emerge that will stop us feeling like we're in the wrong country.

DA said...

If there's anything life has taught me, it's that one can't look to humanity as a whole. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing alone in the world, and sometimes knowing that there are people who care about me doesn't change that. Sounds cliche, I know, but; converts, especially white converts, are not usually going to win a lot of love, either from our birth society or from the Islamic community itself. I am honestly more comfortable maintaining good relations with as many as I can without compromising myself, but ultimately, restricting my real friendship to a select few and not expecting much from anyone else.

I feel you on all of this. Until I moved to my current town, I never really felt at home anywhere. Sometimes I still don't. However, I've known Muslims who did hijra and it just made their problems worse. It's hard to say and at the end of the day, the only one who can answer these questions is you, with guidance from allah.

Sorry, I guess I'm not saying anything of any value, but it's all I know :-)

At any rate, I despise loudmouthed cowards like thoe boys you mentioned. They tend to bring out my pre-Islamic trait of smacking fools. It's a hard behavior to curb! I have a tendency to be like "Yeah, asshole, I heard ya! I may only be 5'9 and chubby but I'll still beat your ass!" and you'd be surprised how quick they drop it.

Best of luck. If you'd be interested in discussing it sometime, email me.

Maxxed`ouT said...

I don't have mmuch to say ...
but my heart goes out for you .
God bless you .

La Gitana said...

I can understand where you're coming from, I always felt the same way when I wore hijab. It's not much better in a Muslim country except no one critisizes you for being Muslim as much as they place the entire burden of Islam on your shoulders. I guess you have to find strength within yourself to go on.

Rain said...

Hey Safiya ,

I can feel ur pain... but i want u to remember what happened to prophet muhammed at the early of his message...he was a minority too..god endew u with patience and strength and isA u'll be rewarded for it.

luckyfatima said...


geeze i live in a Muslim majority country and I know that I definately do not belong or blend in here. It is diverse here in terms of peoples' nationalities and all, so I know it would be even worse if I were to move to Pakistan. I always felt very American culturally, and attached myself to that as an expat in a foreign country. But since 9/11, especially since this summer's visit home back to the states, I feel very displaced. Like, where the heck do I belong? I don't belong here anymore. People HATE me here. It was so weird. I guess home is where the heart is, and if you're heart isn't into a place, home is where you make it. I very much identify with this post.

Hee hee, I have never heard the term waki. That's funny. Gosh those stupid boys actually harassed you? GGGGGH! I guess I must be a waki, too.


786 said...

As salamu alaykum, sister!

If you wear hijab, this happens. The alternative is to wear an "invisible hijab" -- avoid eye-contact with men, and convey your modesty more subtly. I know of one sister, a Russian convert in Moscow. She wears full hijab and gets greeted with shouts of "terrorist" in the metro. She smiles back. In Russia things are considerably worse. The police have been issued with orders to search women not dressed in tight clothing (!!!) in case they're concealing suicide bombs under their dress. I am not joking.

One brother convert I know says he likes to spread the message that you can be Muslim and ordinary -- that you don't have to wear special ethnic clothes or anything. I like this approach. You can cover your head with a European style scarf, and wear Western clothes that cover you up.

What with half the cabinet speaking out against the veil, they're obviously trying to turn the heat up on Muslims. But never forget, this is Allah's will. And He knows best. Sometimes darkness is a catalyst for light. More and more and more white-skinned people are turning to Islam.

Allah hafiz!