10 Things Some Feel Are “Normal” Questions to Ask Muslims

The biggest WTF Questions that are pretty invasive and absurd, but asked as if perfectly “normal”. Let’s see how they sound if similar ones are redirected at Jews and Christians.

1. You removed your hijab. Are you still a Muslim?

Imagine: You removed your yarmulke. Are you still a Jew?

2. How are you a Hispanic Muslim?

Imagine: How are you a Black Christian/Jew?

3. You wear makeup and eyeliner. Isn’t that immodest and unIslamic?

Imagine: You show too much cleavage. Isn’t that immodest and unChristian?

4. Do you have hair on your head?

Imagine: Do you have hair on your crotch?

5. Does God want you to kill kufirs?

Imagine: Does God want you to crucify your only son?

6. So every Muslim man can freely engage in polygamy?

Imagine: So every Christian/Jewish man can have 700 wives and 300 concubines? (See King Solomon–Kings 11:3)

7. What happens if you miss a daily prayer?

Imagine: What happens if you miss a Sunday/Sabbath service?

8. Why do Muslims want world dominance?

Imagine: Why do Jews want world dominance? 

9. D0 you believe that men should marry underage girls (under 18)?

Imagine: Do you believe that God should impregnate an underage girl without her consent and then not marry her? 

10. If you are really a Muslim, why do you curse so much?

Imagine: If you are really a Christian, why do you fuck so much?

Advertisements

Stereotyping, Orientalism & a Total Conversation Fail

Strike 1...2...3...you're OUT!

Just had to republish this piece…It never got much attention the first time I published it, but maybe it’s because it had a not-so-sexy title. I still wonder whatever became of “Hot Sauce Guy”…

Conversations with strangers who approach me because they identify me as a Muslim (via my headscarf) are usually quite interesting and always leave me thinking. Yesterday, however, a conversation that took place at the check-out aisle of a grocery store continues to puzzle me and even disturb me; hence my blogging in hopes of getting it off my head and transferring it onto yours…

As I said, I was at the checkout aisle at the grocery store. I came with my Muslim girlfriend, her husband and her 3-year-old daughter. As we were checking-out of the empty grocery store (with over 10 registers), a random white dude in his mid-thirties and a Cardinal’s jersey stands behind us with one item in his basket: a bottle of hot sauce. I looked at the hot sauce, then to the empty isles to my left and my right, concluding that he hated the self-checkout aisles as much as I did and was patient enough to wait behind us for the one cashier.

guy: hi (speaking nervously)

me: hi (with big stupid smile on my face)

guy: how’s it going?

me: great day, can’t complain.

guy: are y’all a big family? (y’all=my girlfriend, her husband, her daughter and I)

me: They are husband/wife and this is their daughter…I’m their annoying friend (I smile nervously at his disappointed pause)

guy: you’re just their friend? (Did he expect me to say we were a harem?)

me: yes…

guy: do you have many friends?

me: Yes. Well, no….I just have a few good friends…

guy: yea, I have good friends too…

me: that’s what’s important right…? (awkward moment…)

guy: do you go to school or something?

me: i’m a grad student…

guy: oh, wow. hey, could we meet some time for lunch…or coffee?

me:……(How do you say, “hell no, dude! I don’t even know you!” in a polite way?)

guy: …or would that be inappropriate?

me: (Yes! that’s the word!…..inappropriate…!) Yes, it would be…

guy: oh, right….who should I talk to then? You mother? Should I meet your father?

me: (No, I don’t have a “representative” at this time, but thank you for asking)…..Nobody…I mean, just don’t have the time right now…

guy: not even to talk in a bench somewhere…like in a park?

me:…..no?

guy: I get it….

me:….

(Mind you, at this point I am dying inside because I don’t know where to run and my friend’s three-year old daughter keeps playfully encouraging conversation with this man by asking: “What’s your name?”…All the while, I know my friend and her husband are laughing at the fact that I am always somehow part of the strangest conversations/encounters)…

guy: My name is Nathan (he answers the three-year-old, but directs his introduction to me)…What’s you’re name? (this time, he directs the question to me)

me: Cristina (Oh, no! He will realize that I was a Christian-turned-Muslim and he is going to stab me or something, like Michael Enright did to the Muslim cab driver in NYC)…

guy: You know, I watched a program the other day and was hearing how Arabs are facing lots of discrimination nowadays…

me: Yes, that’s true, but….I’m not Arab…I’m Cuban American….

guy: Oh! I’m so sorry if I offended you…

me: It’s not offensive to be Arab…they’re Arab (pointing at my friends)

guy: Oh, you know…my friend speaks Spanish…

me:…. (should I tell him that Spanish is my second language and that I don’t like burritos? No. I don’t want to shake his entire universe all at once)

guy: …But you know, they mention that Americans should make more efforts to understand Arabs…

me: you mean Muslims?

guy:….

me: there’s a really good mosque around here and they would be more than glad to give you information about Islam…

guy: …right….this line is real long…it was nice meeting you… (I think the awkwardness of the conversation finally dawned on him)

me: have a good day, Nathan…(guy checks out at light speed in the lane next to ours)…

Why did he choose to speak with me? My girlfriend was inches away from me, but I was the lucky duck. While hijabi’s are sometimes approached when alone, they are rarely approached when accompanied by a man (perhaps due to the stereotype that Muslim woman don’t speak without permission from “their men”?). I commend Nathan for taking this “risk” and talking to an accompanied hijabi. But why me? Perhaps my zebra-printed headscarf  (yes, I wear animal print, don’t judge me) and clear, native English was inviting? Whatever drew him to me, this man’s goal was to start a conversation with the girl in the headscarf..

I am quite sure he wasn’t trying to ask me out on a date. I honestly think he just wanted to learn more. Not really about me, but what, in his mind, my headscarf represented.

Do you know when you attempt to do something new for the first time? Like sing karaoke or speak in front of a large crowd? Your voice tends to crack, you turn red in embarrassment, yet, you continue clownishly? This guy was something like that. I believe that talking to a Muslim was his attempt at something new. I will not argue that this attempt was utter failure in so many ways, but even failures teach us lessons. If he were to reflect, would he approach another Muslim with the same set of assumptions with which he approached me?

Was this his attempt to extend a hand of friendship to everything I represented (apparently—the Arab world)? Or, did he have some ulterior motive? Like to smash the bottle of hot sauce over my head and yell “dirty Arab”…? (yes, this crossed my mind!)

The one thing I did realize was the danger in becoming an object of representation. Muslim women who wear headscarves have become a representation of so many things. I was an American before I became Muslim. Thus, my annoyance is not in being mistaken for Arab. No. My annoyance is in having to carry the load of all the negative connotations that the headscarf, a piece of cloth (!), has come to represent (oppression, terrorism, foreignness). Realizing that I represented so many things in this man’s mind, I kept replaying the conversation in my mind. Did I represent my religion in a positive way? Did I help dispel misunderstanding about Muslims? Could I have been friendlier without being suggestive? Could I have educated him more about the fact that good Muslims don’t support terrorism? Should I have dramatically yelled, “we are good people, tell your friends!” on the way out?

I needed more time to tell him that I recycled my paper bags and reused plastic containers because I was a tree hugger! And I had to tell him that BBQ sauce was much better than hot sauce, how dare he? Oh, and that I was also a baseball fan, and actually watched a Cardinals game when I went to St. Louis! Yes, the American sport and I was a regular American girl too!

But who was I kidding. I stood like a billboard in front of this man. My identity and purpose cleverly designed and published by the American media.

Like any Muslim who loves his or her religion, we want to explain ourselves. But sometimes we simply aren’t prepared with all the right words because we are too busy being normal human beings. Thus, I stood as an awkward person dragged into an awkward conversation.

And yet, I think everything went as it should have…

Connecting by Disconnecting

I don’t have much to say, really.

Before Ramadan began, I did the things that Christians do for Lent “For Ramadan, I will give up…” It’s just an instinct I built from 15 odd years of trying to give up cursing every Lent. I always failed.

In Ramadan, the only thing Muslims are required to “give up” is food, water and sexual pleasures from sunrise to sunset. I, of course, follow that but the little ex-Christian inside of me decided to give up additional things. I decided to give up facebook and youtube. In addition, I am only committing about an hour to the internet every day (to read news, check my e-mail or chat with friends). I have many friends who use the internet during Ramadan because it distracts them from cravings. For me, however, the internet tends to upset me very easily, especially when I read comments on blogs (usually bickering between people who are fighting over religion). Youtube comments are the WORST and have the power to mess up my entire mood. Thus, I find it much easier to keep my patience and refrain from anger by staying off the computer all together.

[Ok, I also tried to give up cursing (AGAIN!), but I failed immediately after so I knocked it off my list (AGAIN!). The most important thing is that I feel steadfast in the most important sacrifices for Ramadan which are fasting and prayer].

Only two days have passed, but I feel like this is something I can actually accomplish. Many of my Muslim friends who know this is my first Ramadan have inquired how I feel fasting so many hour. In all honesty, I feel great. Thank God. When my friends ask me what is the toughest part? I have to confess that it is not tasting food while I am cooking. These past two days I cooked food for Iftar and it was the first time I made dishes without tasting them! Yea, that was hard 😀 Other than that, Allah has been kind with me as I do not feel hunger nor thirst that I cannot control with a prayer or distraction.

I won’t be posting much this month, but every few days, I will write some updates or stories I come across.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Another Conversation with Mami

It isn’t often that I find good moments to talk with my mother about Islam. The first time I told her I was Muslim, we were stuck in traffic jam for an hour. We talked a lot that day. Soon after that conversation, I haven’t really found the time nor the place…nor the courage….to bring up the subject again. I am so afraid to hurt her, that I do not want to bring up a subject that may cause her confusion, discomfort…

Well, today she got stung by an insect. Her foot swelled up real bad. She said that perhaps she got stung by the bichos (insects) that give lyme disease or yellow fever. I told her I have no idea what she was talking about…She said her bones hurt and that perhaps the small insect bite would be the rotten thing that kills her…. I told her it would stop swelling if she puts her foot in a hot bath…She agreed. So, I prepared for her a water bath for her swollen foot. She threw in fresh mint. She said it would kill the bacteria. We both sat in the living room together without the television and she asked me why I wanted to leave in a week.

Me: I need to get work done…

Mom: But school doesn’t start until late September…you will be so lonely there.

Me: I know…but I think I just want to go back.

Mom: Don’t go back so soon…I will be lonely here.

Me: The truth is mom…

Mom: …

Me: You know, “we” celebrate Ramadan.

Mom: (laughs) who is “we”? and what is Ramanan?

Me: Ramadan is the month that Muslim fast, mom. Remember, I told you that it’s one of those main things “we” do besides pray and give money to the poor…remember?

Mom: Oh, yea…so what is the problem with celebrating Ramadan here with us?

Me: I am afraid you won’t understand….

Mom: Well then tell me what I have to do…

Me: You dont have to do anything. I will fast; not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Mom: So why can’t you do that here?

Me: Because you are always trying to feed me…and you put ham in my food last week… remember…?

Mom: it’s was just a little ham, hija. I didn’t know…I forgot.

Me: I know you forgot. I know you don’t know…

Mom: It was just little pieces of ham, I didn’t know. I thought you just couldn’t eat pork…

Me: Yea. I don’t eat any pig product. I don’t eat gummi bears anymore, you know…

Mom: Gummi bears? They’re just gummi bears…

Me: But they are made with Gelatin. It’s a pig product…so I don’t eat them.

Mom: Wow…gummi bears…

Me: Yea.

Mom: Well, I want to respect you “things”… So, what kind of food should I make for you?

Me: Just make a lot of rice…but without ham or pork. And beans, I like your black beans, they’re good…

Mom: Ok, just tell me what to cook for you…

Me: Ok…but remember…please, not before sunset, ok?

Mom: Will you stop celebrating Christmas with your family now?

Me: I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I will still buy you presents.

Mom: How about the Christmas tree?

Me: Yea, I guess. Can we call it a holiday tree?

Mom: Sure…(laughs)

Me:…(laughs)

Mom: How about the pork on Noche Buena?

Me: No pork, Mami…

Mom: It’s ok, I can make you some chicken on Noche Buena, so you can eat with us too.

Me: I like chicken…

Mom: Do you cover your head?

Me: sometimes…

Mom: Oh… Does it get hot?

Me: It’s hot without it…

Mom: true…

Me: I always wear it to pray…

Mom: When do you pray?

Me: Everyday…remember mom? The 5 “main things” I told you about?

Mom: Oh yea…you Muslims pray a lot. But praying is good…

Me: Yea…

Mom: Do you tell everyone you are Muslim?

Me: Some people know, some people I don’t really care to tell them anything…

Mom: Oh…

Me:…

Mom: just ten cuidado, hija. (“Be careful, daughter”).