Monday, June 08, 2009

Blog Carnival post on White Privilege... Very Late.

This blog carnival is one that I promised myself I would write for... Of course I am late so I hope the sister who is organising will accept my apology and my entry. It's a good topic, and being lily-white Muslimah I have thoughts on it!LOL

Craving the Spotlight

As a White Muslim you are a BIG DEAL. You are a superstar at Muslim gatherings. And unless you are painfully shy you will eventually start to love it, NEED it. No, really. Everyone will ask you how you converted and tell you how wonderful you are. You learn masha'Allah and think maybe it means something like "Look, there goes the only American smart enough to convert to Islam." The entire community is ready to marry you off if you happen to be single.

Then the reality of your new life starts to set in. When you peel back the thin veneer of this "welcome" you will find that you are an outsider. You will see all too clearly that the praise only keeps coming as long as you aren't challenging anyone. The minute you dare to contradict you will find out that born Muslims automatically assume you to be uneducated in matters of religion. And where a lesson or hint may be appreciated in the first months after you convert... The assumptions start to sting once you have been Muslim for a few years. They come from unexpected places. Even your spouse may pull the born Muslim card on you. So we are knocked off the pedestal the community put us on swiftly and unceremoniously. And we fall hard.

Here we were thinking that we were trading one community for another. We tolerated the looks that the old ladies at the grocery shot us because we knew the Muslims understood us. The Muslims were proud of us. The Muslims thought we were smart. Well, maybe they did anyway. It's an unpleasant surprise to find out that everyone still thinks of you as a child even when you have been Muslim for years. There is also the matter of feeling like you have to fight the culture that people THINK is Islam all the time. And usually both these things are in play when you feel like the community just doesn't get you. The attention you learned to love, turns sour overnight. You realise that no one ever seeks more from you than your conversion story and you start to get tired of telling it.

I have left more gatherings with tears than I care to remember. I NEVER feel like I fit in. The ideals of Islam and the truth about the Muslims of today are just so far apart. I don't think people dislike me, but I do think they are full of negative assumptions about me. I challenge these people who think they know so much to ask themselves how much direct knowledge from learned people do they have? You can't just assume that because you have been following your cultures "Muslim" version of life for years you know all there is to know about the religion. Worse yet, you might be surprised at how much of what you think you know has NOTHING to do with Islam.

So, here we white converts are in between a cultural rock and a religious hard place. We aren't American anymore because once you out yourself as Muslim by dress, actions or talk you don't really fit in with the other people from your cultural background anymore. At the same time, we will never be Egyptian, Arab, Pakistani, whatever... So we will never fit into the groups that the Muslim community divides itself into either. By choosing Islam we have chosen life as an outsider.

So, yes... We have the admiration of the Muslim community. People will offer us jobs and spouses thinking we are just so great and wonderful. But they will never really accept us. So maybe we are privileged... And maybe not. I guess that depends on how you define it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This is where I grew up. So if you wonder why I just feel like a square peg in a round hole here in Wyoming... It's a far cry from Cairo, but I'm not going to claim that I understand for a second why my husband has adapted better than me!LOL