You may see me walk down the street or in the mall with a group
of friends, giggling, laughing, bags in hand and having the time of our lives.
But, you notice that I am different, thoughts of "terrorist" 'rag head' or 'slave' may ring in your ears you may even giggle and watch me your eyes glued to me with wonder. Yes, i do notice these looks and I can imagine those thoughts. You notice my fair skin, blue eyes, blonde hair, fairly typical in America, then you notice the loose clothing and the long blue scarf (hijab) that covers my long hair and you feel ashamed of me and look away in disgust.
I am a 17 year old Caucasian American girl who happens to be Muslim, not by birth, but by my own choice, I converted from Catholicism to Islam 2 years ago.
I am mainly writing this because many Muslims in American, myself included feel that many of our fellow Americans associate our peaceful religion with hatred and the slavery of its women! I cannot say why i converted in this article because it could fill a novel! All i can say is after intense research for a year on all religions I felt closest to Allah (God) when i read the Qur'an (Koran) and read about Islam, a feeling that Christianity couldn't give me! That's why I converted.
I must admit it is very hard going from the "free-wheeling", typical American lifestyle to one of praying, modesty and spiritual freedom. Islam is a fairly simple religion, few rules, but the rules you must as much as you can) follow. All these rules what is allowed (Halal) or prohibited (Haram) were all written down in the Qur'an or the "hadiths" that Allah (God) gave to his last prophet: Mohammed over 13,000 years ago in makkah (mecca) in what is now Saudi Arabia. Unlike many other religions there are no real conflicts over how the religion can be interpreted as its all in the Qur'an. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity is called the "religions of the book" because these religions are based on "books" or scriptures from God to his prophets. As Muslims we respect and we believe in Moses, Abraham, Jesus (Isa) the virgin Mary (Maryam) and the last prophet that God has sent to the earth was Mohammed. In Islam we only worship the one, supreme god, Allah (God) who can be neither man nor women, we respect highly Mohammed but don't worship him, we also respect all the above mentioned prophets before him.
Sadly there are many "false rumors" about Islam, for some reason or another people tend to prefer these false rumors to the truth. As Muslims we see each other as "brothers and sisters" and many of us call our fellow muslims as "brother David" or "sister Fatima",Like in Christianity. In the Qur'an, Allah (God) specified that when you see a fellow Muslim you should greet them with at least a 'salaam' (peace)
In many "islamic" countries, there system and following of Islam actually isn't considered true islam, its a "mixture" or there culture and there religion: Islam, like in many such countries there government may demand its women wear the Chador or Burq'ha (tent like garments) and prohibited them from working, education, driving, and maybe even being in seclusion.
All these practices are cultural, in many of those countries the Chador was worn by the wealthy Persian Christians, Hindu's and Assyrians as a form of social snobbery, and again many of these practices that are now considered islamic isn't islamic at all! if you read the Qur'an, or read the Hadiths the Qur'an states that women, same as men must be educated, women can work, hold careers and keep any money that they make, have
the freedom to be outspoken, worldly humans who can leave there house without there husbands permission. In the past not many women in the Islamic countries were educated so they had no idea of all the freedoms that Allah has given them, and had written down in the Qur'an, they were taught about Islam and its laws from men who were not very kind and felt that in order to be powerful they had to keep there women illiterate and dependent on there men for everything.
In fact Islam is one of the first religions to give women equality. Even though it wasn't practiced in many islamic countries as such until those Muslim women became educated in the recent era.
You maybe wondering why Muslim women wear the scarfs to cover there hair and dress in loose clothing. In the Qur'an, Allah wrote that girls past puberty should not wear thin clothing, and should cover there selves to keep from being assaulted from men. It is specified that a Muslimaa (women muslim) should wear hijab, which basically means "cover" this is basically a head covering that covers the hair, neck and ears and is opaque, such as a scarf or Khimar (scarf that also covers the chest) and wear clothing that is loose, and only exphoses the hands and face. It up to the individual if you wish to wear loose jeans and a sweater and a head scarf or wear a Jilbab (loose dress that covers the whole body)and a head scarf or be extreme and wear niqab(face veil), gloves and chador (a sheet like covering that you wrap around your body) and it also depends upon the women's culture and ethnicity, many Saudi's think only the loose, long dress like outfits are acceptable, wear as others, such as Pakistanis prefer the long loose pants under a tunic shirt (shalwar kameeze) I personally prefer the typical, wide leg jeans and sweaters and a colorful scarf. Ofcourse not all Muslimaa's wear "hijab" for some reason or another. also, Islam requires Muslim men to be modest too, they cant wear silk, gold, jewelry (other then wedding band) and be clothed fully from stomach to knee.
"Every religion has a characteristic, and the characteristic
of Islam is modesty" (Ibn Majah)
In the Qur'an, Allah has stated that "believing women should lower there gaze and guard their modesty; they should not display their ornaments except as is normal, they should draw there veils over there bosoms and not display their beauty except to there close male relatives..." (Surah 24:30-31/Found in the Qur'an)
Here are some basics of Islam. In Islam you must pray 5 times a day towards Makkah (mecca) as it is a holy place in Islam, when we pray we do many movements and say various prayers to Allah, we stand, we bow, we sit all to show that we are God's humble servants.
We are also required to fast from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan (Ramadan is coming up at the end of December) for the whole month we refrain from drinking liquids or eating foods during daytime, Of course if our sick or for some reason cant fast Allah doesn't make you fast, this is to discipline our minds and to understand how a poverty stricken person would feel who doesn't get 3 meals a day. We also are to give alms to the poor, we celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ahda, these are big holidays for Muslims like Christmas. For the Eid al-Fitr we have a 3 day feast after Ramadan is over and attend special services in the Mosque and give small gifts. Eid al-Ahda is a major holiday right after the time for the Hajj, the Hajj is required at least one time in a Muslims lifetime (if there able) to see Makkah (mecca) and see where Mohammed was given the Qur'an by Allah (God).
Did you know that the majority of Muslims aren't Arab! its a common belief that Muslims are all Arab. In reality a majority of Arabs are Muslim but many are jewish or Christian. Indonesians and south east Asians make up the majority of Muslims, and Islam is one of the fastest growing religion in America. many Europeans are traditionally Muslim as are many Africans and many Caucasian and Afro-Americans in North America are too. Islam is essentially a 'global" religion like Christianity or Judaism.
I sincerely hope that this has dispelled some common myths that almost everyone has about Islam. Islam isn't a religion of terror, blood nor hatred of its women, but a thoughtful, peaceful, modest religion that gets you closer to our creator, Allah.