Response to NPR, “Lifting the veil.”


Salaams (Peace) all;

A recent NPR piece explored the topic of why some Muslim Women choose not to wear the hijab or traditional head cover.  The piece explores the issue with profiles of 12 Muslim women who do not wear the hijab.  Of course Muslim men who are often the strongest proponents of hijab were immediately ready to take on this issue and explain why Muslimahs don’t cover.  On a recent post about this topic, listed responses from several men and only 1 woman.  I myself responded not to the NPR piece but to the lack of input into the discourse from Muslim women themselves.  What follows below is the text of my response:


I always find it interesting when Muslim MEN get together to discuss the reasons why some sisters choose not to wear hijab.  I am equally amused when White Americans get together to discuss issues in the Black community.  Because it is hard to really understand the complexity of an issue if it is not YOUR issue.  Sure we are all Muslims but only half of us have to deal with this decision.  And this decision is not easy.  It does not cover you, it exposes you!  Because it draws the attention of every eye.  You are often treated differently and the job market discriminates.  I consider any Muslim woman who leaves her house in hijab the same as a Muslim who has left taking on Jihad.  Because you never know what you might have to face that day.  Even with your kufi and beard it is NOT the same.  I know of an obviously pregnant Muslimah who was standing at a bus stop and had a group of guys slow down their car and throw a can of coke on her and scream for her to go back to where she came from.  I have had this shouted at me and my children as I walked them to the park!  I have had a potential employer tell me the only reason for not hiring me was my hijab, and ask if I would consider taking it off while at work.  So my brothers you can’t understand and you can’t answer this question.  And as for the brother who says it is not worn in the Imam Warith Deen community, (the largest community of African American Muslims),that is a false stereotype.  Some wear it and some don’t, the same as with any other community!  Some wear it in non-traditional ways, as do women from many other cultures!  We have to get past this idea that the Arab way is the ONLY way.  We also have to get past the idea that a woman’s piety can be judged by her head cover.  I know Muslimahs who don’t cover but are extremely pious and I know some that do cover and also commit sins you would think no Muslimah would EVER do.  But they wear their hijabs, everyday.  And while we’re at it, maybe we should just stop judging people period!  Allah is the Judge, because He is the only one who knows the secrets of actions done openly and privately.


Adventures in healthy eating pt 2

Salaams (Peace) all,

I watched my children gulp down their pizza and hot dogs, our usual Saturday movie night meal.  I realized there was not a vegetable on the plate.  both of my kids are a healthy size and weight.  However with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and worst of all cancer, I knew I had to do better.  How, was the only question I had.  My five year old runs screaming from the sight of anything green on his plate.

Taking the advice of mom-cooks like Jessica Seinfield, (author of Deceptively Delicious), I decided to hide the vegetables in foods that they will eat.  She assures moms that veggies like spinach and carrots can be successfully hidden in tomato sauces.  Great!  I thought, I’m going to try it!  Without purchasing the book or reading the recipes I tried to figure it out.

Tomato based spaghetti is a staple in our house so that is where I started.  I took a package of frozen spinach, I wasn’t ready to start raw,  and zapped it in the microwave.  I used a few carrots, (they don’t come frozen), and softened them in boiling water.  Smiling and humming as I worked happily in the kitchen.  I thought, what a great thing I’m doing for my kids.  When the spinach thawed and the carrots softened I added both to the blender and pureed.  My first inkling that I probably should have bought the book came when my puree ended up the consistency of baby food.  The spinach completely took over the carrots and my mixture looked like a dark green mess!  Undaunted I dumped it in the spaghetti sauce.  The conquering spinach quickly took over that also!  Now my sauce was this ugly dark green color.  Oh no, that’s not hidden I thought.  To hide the spinach I added another jar of sauce.  No luck!  Two more jars and a can of diced tomatoes later it was was a dark and muddy brown with a very slight tint of red.  It tasted only mildly appealing to me as an adult.  The look was so strange, I knew it would have to taste spectacular to get the kids to eat it.  I started adding extra spices.  I ended up with nearly two gallons of sauce!  Sauce that was only barely appetizing.

I was determined we would eat it!  It took some convincing along with a promise of dessert to get them to try it.  They did finish what was on their plates but they didn’t ask for seconds.  Seconds are my usual indicator of how much they liked something.  Three experiments and another gallon of sauce later, it has gotten a little better.  I’ve learned that you only need a quarter bag of frozen spinach if you are going to puree and hide it.  But you can use a half bag if you don’t puree at all!  The spinach wilts down while cooking in the sauce and it barely noticeable at all!  One or two carrots pureed blend in nicely as well.

Once you have your sauce perfected its’ extremely versatile.  I use the sauce to make our pizza from scratch and I feel good knowing that I served a healthy junk food that they love.  ( I use a whole wheat pizza crust and I promise you cannot tell the difference!)  The sauce is good for sloppy joe, pizza, spaghetti and even lasagna.  They love it and always ask for seconds!

Thor is NOT a god!

Salaams (Peace),

I don’t usually get a chance to watch tv.  So I missed the new Thor trailer.  If you’ve been stuck in Muslim Mommydom like I have then you might not even know who Thor is.  Thor is the latest of the Marvel comic heroes to come to “life” on the big screen.  In the latest Thor trailer, Marvel proclaims that “There are many superheroes, but only one is a god.”  The commercial ends with Thor asked the question, “who are you really?”

The answer according to the poster and trailer is  that Thor is a god.  On one of the movie posters, the word GOD is centered across his face.  With the tag line again…”only one is a god.”   As a Muslim mom, I have accepted that my beliefs do not reflect the beliefs of the majority of Americans.  As such, my children are exposed daily to ideas and values that are vastly different from mine.  I do my best to shelter them and teach them values that reflect our Islamic beliefs.

But seriously, isn’t this blasphemy?  Shouldn’t we as Muslims, Christians and Jews all agree on this point.  This is not entertainment.  This is an attempt to personify god.  To take what is basically “shirk” or idolatry and make it cool and heroic.  There used to be a time in America when to say “goddammit” was a bad word.  Because it was considered a terrible blasphemy.  People would tell children, “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”  Christians would say, “we don’t have false or idol gods.”  Does anyone remember that?

The truth is in this country we have all become so relaxed.  We allow these small blasphemies without raising an eyebrow, much less a protest.  Small shirk (idolatry) leads to big shirk.  And if we don’t teach our kids to reverence God, how will they learn it.

When my children ask me about God.  I teach them that He is not black or white.  I teach them that He is not human at all.  I teach them that God is not anything they could EVER imagine, because He is not like anything they have ever seen or known.  I teach them that we are all His creation and He is our creator.  I teach them that to make pictures or images of Him is blasphemy.  Blasphemy because He is so superior to us that we could never get it right and any attempt would be insulting.  I teach them that God is worthy of all praise and glory and should be reverenced in the most special way.  Certainly not in a way that Thor deserves!

Truthfully, I don’t think that my kids will grow up and start worshiping idols because they watched Thor.  However, I want my kids to grow up with such a reverence for God, that they look with disdain and disgust at anything that blasphemes God in anyway.  It’s my job to teach them this disdain.  It’s the most important part of what I teach them.

Adventures in healthy eating…fruit!

Salaams (Peace) All,

Saturday night in our house is pizza and a movie night.  As we sat down to our usual fare, I looked at the meal I was serving my children.  For dinner that night we had pizza and hot dogs washed down with “fruit punch.”  I looked at our meal and felt deeply ashamed.  What kind of mother feeds her kids this junk?!!

I told my children, “you have a terrible mother?”

“Why,” they asked.  I explained how I had a wonderful mom.  (May Allah be pleased with her.)  For dinner we had at least two vegtables at every meal.  Veggies that were cooked fresh, not canned or frozen.  Some meals were all veggie, “you don’t need to eat meat everyday” she’d say.  We lived in Chicago and didn’t have a garden.  But in the summer she would drive to “u-pick” farms in Indiana and pick her vegetables fresh.  She was committed to a healthy lifestyle for her children and didn’t mind the hard work.  Or if she did she didn’t complain to us about it.  Having grown up with such a paragon, you can understand, why I felt so guilty.  I do understand that eating these fast food quickie meals are necessary sometimes.  Busy moms can’t do it all.  And if you have to do it saying you are a terrible mom is a bit harsh.  However, I wanted to do better!  Since I believe that it is never too late to make a change, I decided to make the commitment to eat healthier.

On Sunday, I took my children with me to the grocery store.  A store with a very large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I let them select the fruits and veggies they wanted to try.  They were excited about all of the fruit.  So we bought a very nice variety.  Usually I keep the fruit out of sight in the kitchen.  On this day we went home and made a beautiful fruit basket to sit in the middle of the table.  I told them whenever they wanted some fruit they could just help themselves.  I  knew the attractive arrangement and easy access would encourage them to remember to actually eat the fruit.  We also made fruit kabobs.  Or as we called it fruit on a stick.  We played with the cookie cutter to make flowers out of fresh pineapple with melons, grapes, and strawberries as garnish.  I then arranged them in a pitcher to keep in the refrigerator.  (By the way, I learned that if you plan to keep in the fridge, don’t add the strawberries.  They don’t keep as long after washing!)  The whole process of getting them involved, and keeping the fruit in attractive ways to remind and encourage eating really worked!  I can honestly say they ate more fresh fruit and a wider variety than ever before.

I’m trying also to integrate veggies in a healthier way as well.  I’ll keep you posted on how that is going.  For right now it warms my heart when I hear them say, “can I have more fruit sticks!”

Why I am afraid of Tinkerbell.

My Muslim daughter loves the Tinkerbell character and all things fairy.  I was not happy with this but I accepted it as part of being a young girl.  Then we watched the 1st Tinkerbell movie, together.  It starts by asking, “do you ever wonder…” how the sun rises, how the seasons change, what makes the leaves fall from the trees. Now my Muslim mommy antenna is up!  Because there is only one answer I know as a Muslim…Allah! But no, the answer given is “it’s all the work of fairies.”  The movies go on to explain that “fairies” are responsible for these things and more.  I sat there thinking, crap, this is shirk!  And Tinkerbell is going to have to go!

Ideas put into the minds of children are very powerful and messages internalized can stay forever.  That’s why I’m trying so hard to get them to internalize love for and knowledge about Allah.  I have been teaching her that Allah has power over all things and it is Allah that is responsible for all of the things she sees going on around her.  Now Tinkerbell is telling her I am wrong.

I wondered…what is a fairy exactly.  What kind of mythology does it come from, the origins.  I found this answer on Wikipedia…  “Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being variously dead, or some form of demon…”

According to Wikipedia (and other sources) fairy folklore originated in stories of demons.  And although pretty in pink and purple wings now, originally they were scary troll like creatures who were either undead or demonic.  Similar to what we in Islam would think of as bad jinn. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t like the idea of my daughter walking around with “bad jinn” t-shirts, backpacks and sneakers!  And these fairies are on all of these items and more.  Fairies are back and they are everywhere, just as cute as they can be.

I don’t imagine, that most people buying or even selling these fairy items realize the demonic connection.  Certainly the children don’t.  As with most demonically originated items in our culture we have forgotten the true origins and meanings behind many commonly used symbols. (like the heart and arrow symbol) So I don’t really believe that my daughter will grow up and worship the devil because she likes Tinkerbell at age 6.

What I fear most about Tink is that my daughter will grow up and realize that Tink is an imaginary character without the power to do anything.  She will be taught in school, scientific explanations for the seasons changing and rain falling.  And she will grow out of believing in the unseen magical world.  My fear is that as she is told to explain her world through science and to grow out of belief in magical creatures, that her new cynicism will lead her to question a faith in God.  Because, Allah is also unseen, powers unexplainable, something that must be taken mostly on faith.  I heard an atheist on television today saying, “I am an atheiest, because I don’t believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, God or any other illogical thing.”  SubhanAllah!  This is my fear.

I want her to believe in the unseen world.  There are powerful beings and forces at work both for good and evil that we can’t see.  The most powerful being God.  This is my fear, with Tinkerbell flying around trivializing this FACT she may start to doubt, the real unseen world.  Scary thought.