Identity Crisis

My sincere apologies for my long silence – work, life, and everything else has kept me too busy to post anything. 

Nevertheless, one issue has been growing in my mind over the past few months and is beginning to take a toll on my mental well-being: my identity. 

Upon conversion, I was excited to be seen as a white American convert to Islam; I enjoyed being different and didn’t mind the curious stares.  However, as time has passed, the excitement is wearing off and I am now feeling almost desperate to be seen as ‘normal.’  It would be nice to ‘fly under the radar’ so to speak every once in a while, to fit in with SOMEONE at least.  Everywhere I go, I’m different.  Born Muslims stare at me with curiosity, and some approach me and talk to me about it, but the conversations rarely go beyond that; it seems that I’m viewed as some sort of exotic rarity that they want to pump enough information out of to be able to rush home and call their families to tell them about an American convert they met (sometimes they ask to take pictures with me so that they can show their families even)… while all the while failing to realize the seriousness of the impact my conversion has had on my life. 

Americans either stare coldly, smile kindly (or with sympathy rather), and a few (mostly women) compliment my scarf or my outfit.  And there are always some who treat me rudely, assume I don’t speak English, or believe I must be brainwashed or a complete idiot for accepting Islam.  Although the people around me from day to day are mostly polite, I find myself being held at arm’s length, despite my efforts to get to know them and move closer toward them.  

Of course, I can’t fail to mention the few true friends I have found online; kindred spirits who either share my experiences or simply are sincere and genuine enough to move beyond my appearance (most of them don’t even know what I look like anyway!).   

As a result, I find myself suspended between two worlds – the Muslim world, which seems to be something one must be born into, and the dominant culture in the American world, which seems to consciously or unconsciously reject all those who fall outside the white, Christian(ish) ideal.  I can’t really blame either one outright, however, as it’s basic psychology to be attracted and feel close to those who share similarities, and feel unsure or distrustful of those who are different.

And all the while, I have begun to struggle with my own concept of who I am as an individual as well.  I fit nowhere.  Due to my conservative Christian background, I find myself resonating more with Muslims from collective backgrounds, who value family and more traditional roles of the husband, wife, and children.  Yet my own family seems to have drifted more into individualism, living life for themselves, depending on only themselves, and thus not extending a helping hand when other family members need it most.  At the same time, I support the Islamic view of the roles of the husband, wife, and various family members (which is definitely not always the same as the cultural traditions most Muslims practice, and differs slightly from the traditional Christian ideals); I still value independence and minding my own business; I hate the nosiness and mindless (yet destructive) gossip that often accompanies collective cultures, and believe that people should be left to manage their own lives, make their own decisions, and find the right path for themselves without the intrusion or judgment from others. 

And I am so many other things as well.  I am a musician, an artist, an intellectual, an athlete, someone who is open-minded, compassionate, educated, moderate, skeptical (in that I ask questions and am unconvinced if something is not logical), hard-working, curious, and earnest.  I have a million different interests and enjoy learning about everything.  I have a great deal of knowledge about Christianity, and am knowledgeable about Islam as well.  Compared to my family, I’m a raging liberal.  Compared to most other highly educated Americans, I’m conservative – moderate. 

Yet…. none of that is evident when others only look at my scarf and the color of my skin – they simply make their judgment, and then brush me from their mind.  Of course, I remind myself that even if I didn’t wear the scarf, people would just look at my overall appearance and pass me off as X or Y and move on.  So, it’s not a question of a piece of cloth; I like wearing it and cherish its benefits greatly.  I just think it’s regrettable that it’s become an item highly marked with preconceptions and stereotypes.  Muslims and non-Muslim Americans alike see it and come to entirely different, and incorrect conclusions. 

And yet, what does it matter that others see me for who I truly am or not?  It doesn’t really… but I think it’s just the combination of being hugely misunderstood everywhere I turn AND struggling with my own concept of who I am.  I am many things, but am having great difficult to tie it all together in order to conceptualize myself as one, single individual.  I don’t expect others to fully understand me, but I suppose it’s not entirely fair to complain about it either since no one can get a clear picture of who I am until I first understand myself.

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9/11: Muslims Lost Loved Ones Too

For Families of Muslim 9/11 Victims, a New Pain

USAToday

NEW YORK — After that cruel day nine Septembers ago, Talat Hamdani felt twice victimized: first by fellow Muslims who killed her son, then by fellow Americans who doubted that a Muslim like her Salman died a hero at the World Trade Center.

Now, Hamdani says that with anti-Muslim feeling aroused by plans for an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from the Ground Zero site, she again feels like a double victim.

“It’s worse now than it was then,” says Hamdani, a retired middle school English teacher who supports the project. Despite feeling an anti-Muslim backlash in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she says, “at least there was empathy then. I got tons of support. Now I’m getting hate mail.”

Hamdani is one of hundreds of American Muslims who lost loved ones on 9/11, yet found themselves tarred, because of their faith, by the attacks. As
9/11’s ninth anniversary approaches, some of these Muslims worry that the controversy over the mosque near Ground Zero is feeding a revival of the
Islamophobia of 2001.

FBI statistics show that hate crimes against Muslims remain relatively rare. But recent headlines reflect tension over Muslims’ place in America: A young
man is accused of stabbing a Muslim cab driver in New York City last month. A Florida preacher plans to mark Sept. 11 by publicly burning Qurans.
Across the nation, groups oppose plans to build mosques, including ones proposed by moderate congregations.

Yet 9/11 had more Muslim victims (about 60 of nearly 3,000 killed) than terrorist hijackers (19).

They included an assistant bank vice president and a cook, a commodities trader and a waiter, an insurance executive, a security guard and an IT guy.

They included immigrants from all over: Sarah Khan, a cafeteria manager from Guyana; Syed Abdul Fatha,a copy machine operator from India; Zuhtu Ibis, a computer technician from Turkey. There was Michael Baksh, a Pakistani immigrant on his first day of work at the insurance firm Marsh & McLennan, and Abdoul Karim Traore, who had risen at 3 a.m. that day to deliver USA TODAY before reporting to work as a cook at Windows on the World restaurant. Karamo Trerra, a computer tech, was ready to celebrate his fourth wedding anniversary on Sept. 12.

And there was Salman Hamdani, who apparently abandoned his commute to work that morning to offer his skills as an EMT and police cadet at the Trade Center.

That was where he eventually would be found, in 34 pieces.

“People of all faiths died that day,” including Muslims, says his mother, Talat. “It is not fair to hold us responsible.”

The Muslim 9/11 victims’ families are not a cohesive community. Few are in touch with one another. (Many relatives left the country, some because they
were not here legally.) They’ve experienced different levels of prejudice — some say they have faced none at all — and differ on issues such as the proposed Islamic community center.

Talat Hamdani says she supports the plan, because of its proponents’ constitutional rights; because it would promote religious tolerance, and because moderate American Muslims “have been scapegoated. We have had to carry this cross for nine years now.”

Neda Bolourchi, a legal mediator in Los Angeles, lost her mother, Touri, who was aboard the jet that crashed into the south tower. She opposes the mosque because she believes it would politicize the Ground Zero area and destroy it as a sacred place for reflection and remembrance.

“I have no grave site to visit,” she says. “All I have is Ground Zero.”

Three families

The families of Muslims killed on 9/11 are spread across the nation:

• Mehr Tariq’s husband Tariq Amanullah, an assistant vice president at Fiduciary Trust, died in the south tower. She is 49 and lives with her two
young adult children in California’s Silicon Valley, where they moved in 2005 to be near her brothers.

Her neighborhood is diverse — about one-third Muslim — and tolerant. She feels comfortable visiting a local mosque for Quran study. “I read about (anti-Muslim sentiment),” she says. “I don’t experience it here.”

In 2001, when she attended a counseling session in New York for 9/11 families, some non-Muslims in the group didn’t distinguish between extremist and moderate Muslims: “I felt so isolated, because the other people were so angry. They would blame just ‘Muslims.’ ” She stopped going.

The furor over the Islamic center in New York reminds her of 2001: “Nobody cares that Muslims were victims as well as non-Muslims.”

• Baraheen Ashrafi’s husband, Mohammed Chowdhury, died atop the north tower, where he was a waiter at Windows on the World. Ashrafi, 38, lives in Edmond, Okla., where she moved with her two children to be near her sister. A native of Bangladesh, she became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Hers is the only Muslim family in the neighborhood. Despite some incidents over the years — remarks about her head scarf, soda cans thrown at her car,
an old woman in a wheelchair at Wal-Mart who refused her offer to help with something on the top shelf — she usually feels accepted.

She never tells acquaintances about her 9/11 connection; most people only know that she’s a widow. Nor has she told her son Farquad, born two days after 9/11, how his father died. She knows the day is coming when she must, and dreads it.

She worries about the safety of American Muslims, and was shaken by the August assault on the New York cabbie, whose accused attacker reportedly had expressed polite interest in Islam. It shows, she says, that “some people are looking good on the outside, but inside are full of hate.”

• Ysuff Salie’s daughter Rahma, who was seven months pregnant, and Rahma’s husband, Michael, were passengers aboard the jet that crashed into the north tower. Ysuff, 64, and his wife, Haleema, 58, live in Newton, Mass., and run two bakery-cafes.

After 9/11, several of their Muslim relatives were barred from international flights and almost missed the memorial service for Rahma and Micky. Haleema felt compelled to tell reporters: “We would like people to know that we are Muslims and my daughter and son-in-law were Muslims. They were
victims, too.”

Today, Ysuff says he hasn’t felt much prejudice — “and I operate in a very public place” and avoids controversy. “If I see a disturbance, I keep away. If someone asked me (about the Islamic center), I’d say, ‘No comment.’ I’m not a person to judge.”

Reinforcing a mother’s faith

Talat Hamdani has two stories about 9/11. One is about who it took from her, the other about what it did to her.

Both begin the morning of the attacks, when Salman, 23, left their home in the Bayside section of Queens in New York City heading to his job as a lab tech at
Rockefeller University on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He had a Quran in his backpack and a date after work in Jersey with a young woman he had met online.

He was born in Pakistan — his two U.S.-born younger brothers would tease him about it — and moved to America with his parents in 1980, when he was 1. His father, Saleem, owned a convenience store, and the boy helped with odd jobs such as sorting the Sunday papers. He became a citizen in 1990.

He had graduated in June 2001 from Queens College, where he majored in chemistry, and he hoped to eventually go to medical school. He trained as an EMT and drove part-time for an ambulance service. He joined the Police
Department’s cadet program, a sort of ROTC for cops.

This, his mother infers, is what happened on 9/11: While heading toward the city on the elevated subway train, Salman saw the twin towers burning and wanted to help. He used his EMT and police cadet credentials to get downtown, where he was killed when the north tower collapsed.

When he did not come home that night, the family searched frantically. They visited hospitals, checked the morgue, posted “missing” fliers. (Some were
ripped down.) In early October, they flew to Mecca to pray for his return.

They even nurtured a perverse hope: that perhaps Salman was one of the many young Arab and Muslim men secretly detained for questioning.

Meanwhile, police were asking the family about Salman’s politics and his computer. Rumors spread.

Someone distributed amateurish fliers with Salman’s picture, saying he was wanted for questioning by the city-federal terrorism task force.

A New York Post story about Salman was headlined “Missing — or Hiding?”

Talat has never gotten over what she regards as the slander of her son. She says it helps explain her advocacy of the Islamic center: “This is a cause for
me. If there’d never been a shadow of suspicion cast on Salman, then there would be no reason for me to do this. My anger comes from his own country
casting suspicion on him.”

With no word on their son, his parents left the front door unlocked and slept on the living room floor — waiting, against all reason, for him to walk back in.
That’s where they were late one night in March 2002, when two policemen appeared at the door. Salman’s remains had been identified; his name was
clear.

The following month, at his funeral, the police commissioner called him a hero. “Most people would have gone in the other direction” during the aftermath of the attacks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “He went in to help people.”

Two years later, Saleem Hamdani died. The medical cause was cancer, but his wife deemed him as much a casualty of 9/11 as his son.

Her attempt to clear Salman’s name made Talat an activist. She joined Cindy Sheehan at Iraq war protests near President George W. Bush’s vacation home in Texas, and she attended hearings of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. She realized that 9/11, which had taken away so much, also had given her something. “It reinforced my faith,” she says. “It gave me more confidence. I found myself standing up for a faith as I never had before.”

When the Islamic center became an issue, she was the only Muslim 9/11 family member to step forward. In June she spoke at a community planning
board hearing, as opponents jeered.

“My legs were shaking,” she says. “But I had a mission: to honor the memory of my son, and to heal the wounds of 2001.”

After appearing on television, she got hate mail at home on Long Island. One letter said, “Go back where you came from.” Another said, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”

Talat has her own conclusions. She says the true martyrs of 9/11 were not the men who piloted planes into buildings, but their victims: “They gave their lives doing what they believed in.”

The martyrs were Salman, and all the others born in faraway places with unusual names. “They died for one reason,” she says. “Not because they were
Muslims or from Pakistan or anywhere else. They died because they were Americans.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-03-1Amuslims911_CV_N.htm?csp=obinsite

In the Midst of Ramadhan

Salaam alaykum, peace and blessings to all, and my sincere apologies for not updating my blog in so long!  I’ve been buried at my job with the start of a new semester and am barely keeping up with all of my obligations as it is!  When I come home in the evening, usually right around iftar, I’ve got about 2ish hours to figure out what to eat, make it, eat it, and then do everything else I need to do before the next day begins.  So yes, I’m a bit frazzled!  On the weekends I just want to do NOTHING, and most certainly nothing that has to do with my computer!

Nevertheless, some of my Ramadhan goals are going smoothly, alhamdilulah.  I’ve been fairly successful at reading Quran almost every day during my lunch break, and on the days when I have to work through my lunch break, I just try to read more on the weekends to compensate for it.  I’m learning so much – I feel like I’m reading a completely different book than what I read before!  SubhanAllah, the Quran is truly an amazing book.  InshAllah I hope to begin sharing some of the passages that have really resonated with me with you all.

My goal of being more present-focused is working somewhat.  Mostly I’m just trying to survive my incredibly busy day, trying to get an impossible amount of work done in a short period of time, but I have been stopping myself every now and then to just be still, both physically and mentally, and carefully take in my whole environment and find something positive and uplifting.  I love nature, so mostly all it takes is looking out any nearby window. 🙂

Exercising while fasting has been a challenge, but I’m getting through it, day in and day out.  It’s hard to push myself as much as I’d like to when I have a parched, dry throat from a full day of teaching and from having an intense headache… But I am resolved to take the challenge and fight through it with whatever energy I have left, and I’m making it, alhamdilulah, with the strength of God.

My goal of focusing on akhlaq with students and colleagues is going semi-well – with students, I think I’m doing very well with remaining patient and kind, alhamdilulah (no matter how many times I’ve told them something and someone will inevitably STILL ask me cluelessly about what I just finished explaining).  With my colleagues, I’m not doing such a great job of going out of my way to be kind and helpful though, as I’m usually really tired (and incredibly parched) after teaching and just want to go to my office and focus on prepping for upcoming classes as furiously as possible.  I think fasting is also sapping all of my energy, because sometimes I can barely put two sentences together!  So, with my colleagues I’m being pleasant but pretty quiet.  Alhamdilulah, there are still two weeks left, so all is not lost – I still have time to step up my game somehow!

On to the more exciting part of the post (for me anyway): a verse of Quran that I’d like to share!

Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have fear, nor will they grieve.  An honorable word with pardon is better than a charity followed by affront.

(Quran 2: 262-263)

When I read this, I see wealth as meaning not only our money, but also anything that we can give.  So anytime we do anything for anyone else, it can be termed as charity.  What we are being told to avoid, however, is following up an act of charity with grumbling or reminding the other person of what we did for them and making them feel indebted or obligated in any way.

It sounds obvious, but in practical application it is not always so easy.  How many times in our lives have we gone out of our way to do something nice for someone, and they didn’t seem to appreciate it or even acknowledge it?  We then may feel compelled to point out what we’ve done in an annoyed or angry manner (or at least silently hold a grudge against them!) – yet in doing so, we’ve lost the benefit of performing the charity in the first place.  Other times we may do something so great for someone else that we (sometimes unwittingly) like to remind them of what we did, making them feel bad or as if we want them to pay us back for it.

God tells us to avoid all of this – once you perform an act of charity, it’s done.  We have to always bear in mind that we give charity for God’s sake, not for any particular person’s sake.  Our reward lies with God, and not with that person.  With this mindset, even if the other person responds negatively, it shouldn’t affect us as we didn’t do it solely for them in the first place!

I think this type of bad habit occurs frequently with family members or those closest to us.  Perhaps a husband seems to be unhappy with his wife for no apparent reason, and she decides to be charitable and let it go and respond positively instead of negatively.  Yet when he continues to berate her, she explodes and, as a weapon against him, points out each specific circumstance in which she was nice even though he was treating her so badly.  In doing so (becoming angry and using her acts of charity against him), her kind acts no longer hold any reward, because she was doing it in search of the reward and recognition of her husband, and not for God.  Further, any good that might have occurred from her initial charity would be completely undone (if not worsened) now that she has blown up in anger and used her charity as a weapon against him – and the situation will inevitably continue to spiral downward.

SubhanAllah, the meaning in this last phrase (an honorable word with pardon is better than charity with affront) is incredibly profound: it is not only referring generally to any situation in which someone has usurped our rights, but also specifically to a situation in which someone reacts negatively to our charity: to pardon them kindly – to simply let it go.




Good Manners in Debate Put to the Test

It was only a few days ago that I posted on the importance of maintaining good manners when discussing religion with others. The following day, I was resoundingly put to the test on this very issue! Alhamdilulah, fortunately I have thought about this issue a great deal (long before posting on it) and was thankfully fully conscious of myself and the situation as it was taking place, which prevented me from reacting in the wrong way. Indeed, it was clear to me that God was putting me to the test – I understood the concept in theory, now how about in practice? In the midst of the situation, I was reminded of one of the first verses of Quran I have memorized:

“Ahasiba an nas an yutraku an yakulu amana wa hum la yuftanoon?”

“Do people think they will be left alone after saying, “We believe,” and not be tested? (29:2)

Islam is not merely a philosophy that we can spend all our time pondering and use its wisdom to analyze situations and circumstances – it is much more than that. After a great deal of thought, reflection, and understanding, we must then put our knowledge to the test by living it out and practicing it in real life.

The specific situation in which I was put to the test involved a friend of mine from undergrad on Facebook, of all places. My friend had made a comment in opposition of the NYC mosque on his status, and some of his friends commented with supportive, ignorant remarks. Normally I don’t get involved in debates on Facebook because the opportunity for misunderstanding and hurt feelings is quite high (the most important communication tool is nonverbal communication, which is nonexistent online!). However, because I knew my friend as a reasonable and open-minded person, I decided to provide some facts. Here is the exchange below:

My friend: They could’ve chosen any other site in the country to build the super mosque and I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Does it really have to be in Manhattan? At Ground Zero? Is that not a thinly-disguised middle finger/victory sign? If it’s acceptance they want, this would seem to be the wrong way to go.

Person A: I posted something similar on my status as well. I think it’s crazy!

Person B: yikessss!

Person C (another friend of mine whom I thought was reasonable): I agree with you (name of friend)!

Person D: Amen, yo.

Person E: Do the classy thing?

Person F: Revenge, American style… Chuck E Cheese’s of Mecca

Person F: Thinly-disguised middle finger? I think it’s the spike of the football in the endzone followed by the Ickey Shuffle.

Person G: nah…. we need a hooters in Mecca, and strip clubs in every Saudi village, and a Bob Jones University in Ryiadh..

Me: ‎(sigh)…
1. Extremist terrorists are responsible for 9/11. The 90% + of the rest of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide CONDEMN acts of terrorism and 9/11 in particular.
2. The Quran expressly prohibits the murder of innocent life (chp 5 v32)….
3. Those building the mosque also condemn the 9/11 attacks (see their website: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/).
4. Several Muslims also died as victims in the 9/11 attacks, and a mosque inside the towers was destroyed as well.
5. bin Laden and other terrorists would happily murder the leadership of this mosque as imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is Sufi, not Wahabi.
6. They are not building it on ground zero itself.
7. This mosque is nothing new; there are other mosques in the area: the imam for the new mosque has been at another mosque 12 blocks from ground zero for the past 20+ years.
8. Muslims have had a strong presence in NYC for over 100 years.
9. In sum, these Muslims have nothing to do with 9/11. Building a mosque in NYC is just like building anything else there.

Hope that helps clear up any confusion, misunderstandings, or disinformation. 🙂

Person F: Yea! A wacky liberal has been drawn out of the bushes. (like a moth to a flame) I’m grabbing the popcorn. This is about to get real entertaining. Ladies and Gentlemen….herrrrrrreeeeeeeee’s (Person G)!

Person G: (My name), it is blatently, clearly, obvious, that YOU, are the one furthering that which you CLAIM, to discourage..

When do we get the David Duke Museum in Selma, or the Julian Stryker hall of remembrance near Auschwitz?

Or the Conference on ho…w Eicmann and Mengele were just misunderstood, to be held in Tel Aviv?

Person G: of course….right on cue…..

Person G: I’ll be okay with it, when and only when, this is allowed first….

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Allah/136441216391250?ref=ts#!/photo.php?pid=24518&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=136441216391250&aid=-1&id=100001450896448

Person G: ‎1. Muslims…. were responsible
2. Wrong….. I know it too, your quote reference doesn’t mention it ….
http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm

3. What about the founder not condemning Hezzbollah….
http://prayerandaction.com/?p=6998

4. What about the Jews and Christians murdered by Muslims on 9/11, including many of personal Colleagues?

5. Not murder, praise…. That’s Usama and the other goat fuckers would do.
6. Like that matters.. and yes, you know it… deep down, you do…. You can pretend and be hypocritical otherwise, but deep deep deep down, you know.. its a slap to our nation, which is, JUDEO….CHRISTIAN….. SORRY, ITS TRUE….. DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!!
7. YES…. IT IS NEW… YOU TWIT!!
8. That doesn’t make it right..
9. Trust but verify….. Since they have proven beyond any shadow that they can’t be trusted, why should we bother…

HERE’S THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET.THAT NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IS TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

if…………….. they can’t build a mosque there, then the same people can tell those who made this country, our fellow Christian and Jewish brothers, when and where they , can and can’t hold worship, pray, etc…..

That’s what anti american, Muslim apologizing, jew and christian hating, intellectual liberal progressive types want and desire….

We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of and why not??????????????

…………..BECAUSE………………………WE….are Americans………

Born and living in the greatest country founded on principles founded by god, not………….. a used carpet salesman.
http://thereligionofpeace.com/

My friend: (My name) — You don’t find it to be in any way distasteful? You don’t see how it would be perceived as such?

Me: Goodness. 😀

(My friend’s name): I really don’t, just like I wouldn’t find it distasteful for a church to be built next to any of the number of bombed abortion clinics or sites where abortion clinic providers were murdered. There is a stark difference between marginal, extremist Christians and mainstream Christians. The same is the case with this mosque. It is important to differentiate between extremists, who exist in all ideologies, and the majority of everyone else.

The real issue here is simply ignorance. Ignorance is the true enemy, as it causes a great deal of harm to others and most of all, to yourself.

Person G: Precisely, please recognize yours….

Ok so a lot of issues can be deduced from this exchange. First, I should mention that when I read the exchange before commenting, I felt so shocked that two of my friends would participate in such ignorance; people who are college educated and open-minded. In fact, as I was trying to write my initial response, I had a hard time even typing because I was shaking from the anxiety (I HATE HATE conflict and often start having serious panic attacks). Nevertheless, I wanted to present the facts from the original sources (i.e. the Quran, the website of the proposed mosque, and so on), since it was clear all the commentators are using secondary sources (which are often ripe with bias, misinformation, or omission of facts) as a basis to form their opinions. I also tried to end on a positive note, as God has said that we should wish others peace, and to always give excuses for their behavior (by attempting to frame my remarks as being offered for the purpose of clearing up confusion or disinformation through no fault of their own – the problem is the information they have, not them personally).

Yet, you can see for yourselves what sort of derogatory attacks I received in response. Surprisingly, when I read the responses later, I wasn’t breaking out in a panic attack, I was amused and calm. The truth reveals itself every time. The facts that I provided were not in dispute; instead, attacks on my personal character were rampant. There were gross assumptions made with no basis whatsoever. I just hoped that my friends would read that and feel very uncomfortable because they know who I am. I was probably the most uptight, conservative person they knew when we were in school together (they all went to bars and parties while I refused to even be in a place that served alcohol – and most definitely never touched alcohol! This was all when I was still a strictly practicing Christian). My friends know very well that I am none of those things I was accused of.

Nevertheless, I refrained from responding to Person G, as he had revealed himself as being close-minded, foolish, and uninterested in an intellectual discussion of the truth. Imam Jafar as-Sadiq has said that arguing with a fool is like putting wood on a fire, and the Quran tells us to deal with these types of people by simply wishing them peace and walking away. Further, any response to Person G would have simply been a repeat of all the points I made in my original comment, so I had nothing more to add. Addressing his personal attacks would only deviate the discussion from the main point, and since I don’t know him, I have no interest in or need for defending myself.

Instead, I chose to address my friend, since it was for his sake that I posted my comment in the first place, and because he was the only one who responded respectfully.

Of course, Person G had to respond yet again, in an attempt to jab at me once more to get me to respond to him. I was also a bit disappointed that my friend didn’t respond again, especially since I felt he should have spoken up against the accusations being made against me as he is the one who actually knows me personally.

But, in the end, I walked away from the incident feeling very positive about the experience, and happy that God had enabled me to carry out His injunction to discuss faith with the best of manners. I knew that I had spoken the truth and nothing of my own. I also felt confident that there were many others on Facebook, my friends, my friends’ friends, and the friends of the other commentators, could see our exchange via the news feed. The spectators and people on the periphery should be the ones we always keep in mind in any debate we have. There may be no hope whatsoever for the person we are talking to, but for those on the edges, listening in, those are the ones who may very well be seriously considering what you have said. It becomes even more important to remain in control and refrain from getting angry and firing back insults, as once we do that, the spectators will conclude that we are just like the one we’re discussing with, we’re both wrong, and may stop listening. But, if you keep yourself at a higher level, stand by your own code of ethics and standards, you will absolutely attract attention and respect.

It was a really good lesson for me, and I thank God for giving me this opportunity to put my words to action. I am also grateful that it took place in a written format, as in verbal conflict I typically get too anxious to respond very well!

Alhamdilulah.

Abortion: The Islamic View

Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, abortion was always something denigrated and preached heavily against as it constitutes the murdering of innocent children.  I have participated in Pro-Life rallies and protests, holding signs and shouting with everyone else.  I believed very earnestly that the mother made the choice to have sex – it was not the choice or the fault of the unborn child, who does have a soul (as David (as) says in Psalms that God knew us while we were still in the womb, and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”).

Yet this narrow view of abortion only accounts for some of the reasons why women choose to have abortions: some have abortions to save the mother’s life, or because the mother was raped (which was certainly not a choice on the mother’s part!), and so on.  Some of these women are in fact married and are not engaging in pre- or extra-marital sex, which may be shocking for some to realize (something never ever talked about at any of the churches and protests I went to!).

Upon converting to Islam, I automatically assumed these same beliefs held true for Muslims as well: no abortion whatsoever.  Yet, I was very surprised to learn that actually, Islam takes a contextual, realistic view of abortion, unlike the black and white stance of Christians.

In fact, the Quran even weighs in on the ever-contested debate of when (or if) a human fetus has a soul: derived from Surah Mo’mineen, Islamic jurists have ruled that abortion before the 4th month is permissible IF the mother’s life is in danger.

Why favor the mother’s life  over the baby’s life?  Well, Islam follows the principle of choosing “the lesser of two evils.”  When you’re faced with only two choices, both of which are bad, you have to go with the ‘least’ bad.  In the case of a pregnant woman whose life is in danger, saving her life is better because she may have other children dependent on her, a family, a spouse, relatives, loved ones.  She is already well-established and known in this world, so to lose her would cause a great deal more heartache and trauma than that of the unborn, still unknown baby.  Plus, if we favor the baby’s life over the mother’s, then who will care for the baby?  The baby will be an orphan, and runs a very high risk of having a difficult life.

Some Islamic jurists have even ruled that abortion to save the mother’s life can take place at any time during the pregnancy, even after the 4 month time frame.  In fact, I’ve been told that this is the case in Saudi Arabia: a pregnant woman can go to a hospital and have an abortion upon discovering that her life is in danger, at any time during the pregnancy.

I’ve also read that some jurists have stated that a woman who has been raped may also abort the baby, although not everyone agrees, as opponents believe that baby falls into the same category as a baby with defects or handicaps (for which abortion is not allowed).

The issue of abortion is yet another clear example of the Islamic emphasis on logic and reason working in harmony with faith.  It is not a stark black and white issue; rather, just like all else in life, it is an issue that requires context and logic.  Religion should not stand in opposition to logic and intellect – God is the Creator of reason, so most certainly, His religion would not oppose His natural system.  SubhanAllah (glory to God).