What does it mean being in the Muslim world? Does it mean that a society is more Islamic? Does the percentage of Muslims make a difference? What about the percentage of women who cover and men who wear big beard and long thobes? What happened to all those traits we’d hear about in khutbas about the Ummah being an exemplary community, the best of peoples, etc…etc…
Well, the Muslim world isn’t this happy Muslim place where people are singing “Tala al badru wa’alayna” skipping down the streets giving salaams to their neighbors. No, the Muslim world is a place where a woman will get hit on and ripped off by an airport worker within 1/2 an hour of stepping on Muslim soil. The Muslim world is where a throng of people pass by an old lady struggling carrying her loaded bags and some random western woman offers to help. The Muslim world is where cars mow down pedestrians on the road and where everyone cusses each other out. The Muslim world is where men say disgusting things to hijab wearing women sweating profusely in the humid air.
Being in the Muslim world means your landlord commands you to cover the toilet seat because there are jinn residing in the toilet and he accuses your roommate of practicing magic. It also means that he or his sons feel like they can come into your apartment at any time at night and take stuff out.
Being in the Muslim world means being thankful that you meet up with old college friends who will take care of you and make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible. It means you are thankful for the rare and random acts of generosity from those Muslims in the Muslim world who truly exemplify the beauty of Islam—Sadaqa and Karamah.
This week-end, I drove with a friend to the Grizzley Peak. I said my good-bye to this chapter of my life, good-bye to friends, good-bye to the Bay Area.Tonight is my last night in California. This time tomorrow, I’ll be on the first leg of my journey. It hasn’t been easy saying good-bye. The past three days have been full of tears.
I will be returning to my home town before I go abroad. There will be a family reunion and I’ll know more about where I come from. But what do I know of any place? I know that even though I have never belonged or felt at home here in California, that it is beautiful. I’ll really miss so many parts of Northern California. Time was too short to soak it up and really enjoy it before leaving.
I have anticipated and feared this moment for the past eight months. It became all more real four months ago. My anxieties even creeped into my dreams. But there was no question as to whether I was going to take this journey. The only question was how. The how still unfolds. What do I return to is still unanswered.
So many of the relationships I have forged in the past few years have changed and a number have ended. I have no idea what will happen over the next year. I let go of old resentments and hurts so that I can be open to new experiences. I try to hold on to feelings of love and gratitude, rather than the fear and anxiety. I am tired, I am sad, I am excited, I am grateful. I have a few more things to do, and then there will be closure. I have a few more strings to tie and long list of prayers to make during my travels. My friends have kept me alive this long, and their love still carries me. I will keep them in my prayers. They say the prayers of a traveller are always answered.
I just read the op-ed by Uzodinma Iweala. It is an interesting piece. I thought I’d share it.
Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the “African” beads around her wrists.
“Save Darfur!” she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!
It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission.
Read the rest of the article here
Last year I wrote about a teacher who was suspended for telling his student to “Sit Down Nigga!” I made a brief reference to the Michael Richard’s racial tirade in a blog entry about Cross cultural discourse on Black Culture and the Black Family . Even though the NAACP staged the funeral of the N-word, it appears that the N-word is alive and well and exploited by all sorts of people.
Let me tell you my most recent experience. I met a friend at a random franchise Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat. We haven’t been able to catch up in a long time. She’s from the East Coast and spent several years in New York. Anyone coming to Palo Alto from a major East Coast city often experiences a major culture shock. This is especially the case for African Americans who move from areas where there is a significant African American population. I know of a very WASPy guy whose father moved to Idaho because he felt like the Mexicans and Asians were taking over. One has to wonder how do some of the old timers feel when they see brown faces walking in their multi-million dollar neighborhoods and local spots . You see Palo Alto is an affluent suburb of San Francisco that is predominately white. Rarely do I experience racial hostility, except for the one time when my brother and I were seated next to a skinhead couple at another more trendy franchise restuarant. He had a Black jacket that said “White boy” and “Fuck all yall!” his girlfriend wore a hat that said “Skin.” I am sure they felt like us two Black people invaided their white space of Palo Alto. They didn’t say anything to us, but then again there were only two of them. The issue was that they wore their white supremacist ideology as accessories in order to let people like me and my brother, and the dozen or so Somoans who would have destroyed them in an altercation, that this was their town and Fuck all of us.
While this was a rare occasion, I do get other instances when I am very much aware of my outsider status. Normally, I get stared at a lot. Last Monday, one of my friends who is racially ambiguous but clearly not white noticed how all these white people stared at us. Some with mouths agape. I assured her it could not all be just because I am black or they are staring at my hair. On occassion someone will pay me a compliment. So, I just assume they are staring for more positive reasons. Not that I should let that get to my head. But last Friday, an old white man at a cafe just stared at me with one of those stone cold stares. I swear it had to last about 20 minutes. There was no friendliness involved, just one of those stares that made me quite uncomfortable. But I tried to act like everything was normal and not let it phase me.
Maybe something was in the air this past week. But it wasn’t just me. I’m not hyper-sensitive or something, and it was more than just stares. That Thursday evening my friend and I ate outside at that franchise Mexican restaurant. After I got up to take wrap up my leftovers my friend informed me that a young hispanic/latina/Chicana used the N-word. She was talking to her Asian and White friends who sat at the table. From what I recall, she said “Oh he’s using that nigger talk.” Immediately I got pissed. My friend, who has dreads, just experienced a child commenting on her hair. This was the last straw. So, my friend went up to the girl and checked her. My friend’s point was that if this teenager felt comfortable saying the N-word in front of her, then what else does the girl have on her mind. The thing that was so disturbing was how comfortable she felt saying it. The girl defended herself by saying that her boyfriend was Black, so she’s not racist. So my friend said, “Would you use that language in front of his mother or grandmother?” The girl said that his mother wasn’t black, he was mixed. That logic amazed me. My friend tried to tell the girl how disrespectful that was and that as a young woman she needs to think about what she says. I am sure in that girl’s mind we were two Black women with attitudes, so I wonder how much did it sink it. We did not appreciate hearing the N-word appropriated by some teeny-boppers who don’t know the gravity of that word. We did not appreciate having to be confronted with that type of issue when all we wanted to do was relax and catch up. But somehow this young woman felt that it was okay to use the N-word within ear shot of two Black women. Who said it was okay? Was it her boyfriend or some of their Black female friends that gave them a pass? Did one of their friends tell them, “Hey you’re one of us, so you can use the N-word around us.” Guess what my friends, none of us are authorized to give out that pass. We ned to think about the gravity of our words when we say them. We need to hold ourselves and others accountable for what they say and how it can affect others.