Saturday, January 15, 2011

Convert Truths, Blog Carnival

When I saw this post I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring... Not just because I have always thought of the blogger as a kindred spirit, but because it's a topic I have been interested in recently too. I have been blogging since 2005, and I'd say things have changed a lot in my life... But then when I went back to look on the archives to see when I started my blog, I found that the oldest post was this post about not fitting in at the masjid and I just about fell over. Because here I am 6 years later about to tell you the exact same thing! I'd like to say that I decided to take the post in an entirely new direction because why rehash what's already been said, but I'd be lying to you. This issue is still very near and dear to me, so I think it merits revisiting.

Before I was Muslim I actually did attend church, I was a Sunday school teacher as a matter of fact. And I was also a vocal performer in college... So I sang at churches frequently. It may interest you to know that the minister at the church I worked at wanted to keep me on as the childcare coordinator. But after me showing up on Easter Sunday in hijab, other church members complained and I resigned. Anyway... Just an interesting back story. What I'm trying to talk about it mosques, and my experiences with them as a convert. I bring up my experiences as a Christian because obviously that's what I have to compare it to.

I have always had a problem with the cliquish nature of the masjid experience, and even after so many years as a Muslim I haven't been able to get past it. It feels way to much like the high school cafeteria for me to be comfortable there. So, for the most part I just avoid going to the mosque. Now before you shout haram, hear me out and give me a chance to explain why. In my opinion, if going to a religious institution does not enhance your religious experience there is no reason for you to go to it. And if going to a religious institution actually makes you question your chosen faith, run away and don't look back. One of the things I love about Islam is the fact that your connection with God requires no intermediaries. Now I am not so uneducated that I don't know the rewards for praying in congregation, but I think a certain amount of common sense can be used in these matters. How many converts you know have been driven away from the religion by people in the community? Food for thought.

On a personal level, I have walked away from the mosque crying. I have cowered in my car wondering if I would be turned away at the door. I have been treated with disrespect. I have been ignored. I have been marginalised. And I have gotten to a point where I just expect it. So you get it. I hate the mosque, it means nothing to me. I will go out on a limb here and say I think my experience is shared by not a few other converts, but the majority of us. Going even further out on a limb... I think it's also the experience of even born Muslims raised here in the US. And I think it's about time that drives us to action.

Our mosques are not a reflection of who we are as a diverse, educated, forward thinking community. That has to change! I know from my conversations with other Muslims that we are all thinking ahead, wondering what the community will be like in 10-15-20 years. But we leave it at wondering. We are dropping the proverbial ball here sisters and brothers. We are hating the mosque and the community and not putting forth the effort to create something that really represents us as we are. I wish I knew why that is. I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that we are afraid we will be called the k word if we ever question the way things are. And there is some truth to that.

So I say, forget the guy in the jilbab who gets his panties in a bunch every time you talk about changing something at the mosque. We need our own mosques. I'm not sure what you would call them, reformed? Definitely not progressive (but that's another post). They would be open for everyone. People would be welcomed, there would be a special new shahada committee to help converts. There would be a youth group, and a mother's group. And no one would get asked how many raka are in the isha prayer before they entered. As a matter of fact non-Muslims would be invited regularly and be given an opportunity to see that Islam is not a members only club where you have to know the secret handshake to get in... We are a religion accepting new and different people all the time. Did I mention the charity work? I think it should have a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter. Maybe even a free clinic! Wouldn't that be great?

Muslims... What makes me sad is not that we are a mess and we seem so disorganised and hostile to outsiders. It's that we even seem that way to ourselves. We have got to change that. There are great moderate Muslims out there, we just have to unite. If you know me you have probably heard me say this in 100 different ways 100 different times; until we accept each other, we can't ask people to accept us.