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Coffee With a Tea Partier – Conversations with Our Neighbors about Islam

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“Tall decaf mocha, no whip,” I order as I scan the room for a corner table.  The clerk practically knows my order by heart since I frequent the joint so much with my husband and kids.

As she hands me my change, she opens her mouth to say something more.  I anticipate a “Can I ask you why you are wearing that?” or a “Are you hot in that?”  Being one of only 2 Muslim families in a very rural town in New Mexico, and wearing niqab, I tend to get some real extreme reactions.

“I already told your husband this but I just want to say you have the most well behaved kids I have seen in years, and I have seen a lot of kids!” she exclaims, much to my surprise.

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After thanking her, I take my seat and begin to surf the net while my husband keeps the kids busy in the adjoining grocery store aisles.

“Hi!” a middle aged man says to me as he sits at the table next to me.  I recognize him from another local store we frequent (there are only a handful of them in the whole town).  “My name is Bob.  Did Peggy talk to you?” he continues.

“Who?”

“You know Peggy, from the library?”  Peggy is a local library volunteer that loves to chat whenever I take my kids to story time.

“No, what’s up?”

“Well I was hoping, when you had time, and with your husband of course, if I could talk to you guys and ask you some questions?  I am a Christian but there is so much out there about you guys and I wanted to talk with you about it all.”

“Sure, I need to get some stuff done on the net but when my husband returns we would be happy to answer your questions.”  I explain as I slurp away at my mocha.

Soon after, my husband arrives with a half eaten banana and 2 sleepy children.  After laying them on the adjoining couches, I introduce him to Bob and we begin to chat.

“Where are you from?” Bob asks my husband, Zayd.  Zayd begins to explain how he was raised Methodist in the Bible belt state of Illinois, how he began his faith journey in grad school which ended in him becoming Muslim, and the issues he had with the trinity and original sin.  I then encouraged Bob to ask his questions and voice his obvious concerns.

“Okay, so how do you feel about people who become Muslim and then leave Islam?  Do you believe they should be killed?”  Wow, going right for the jugular!

As the night proceeds we address honor killings, wife beatings, killing of infidels, you know, all the real lightweight topics.  We explain that there is a big difference between Islam and culture, that there is no compulsion in religion, and then give him our prepared dawah talk about Tawheed and the real Islam.

As we are chatting, another man walks over to Bob and greets him.  As he turns to leave, he gives my husband a pat on the back and says “Hi, do you guys live here?”  “Yes,” Zayd responds.  “Well, we just want you to know how happy we are to have you guys here.”

“Thank you!  We are happy to live here as well and your welcome means a lot!”  Zayd replies enthusiastically as he shakes the man’s hand.

After he leaves, Bob remarks how surprised and happy he is that the man has welcomed us.

“You know I hear a lot of really negative things about you guys but I am not one to believe everything I hear.  On the other hand, you guys are telling me such different things. To be honest I really don’t know who to believe, no offense.”

He continues, “I have never met a Muslim before but I see your family around town a lot and, uh, well, I write a blog and actually wrote about your kids!  I wrote that there is a Muslim family in town that seems to have the loveliest children and it made me curious to get to know you guys and find out what you are really like.”

“Well that’s great!” I reply.  “We are so happy you approached us and wish more people could get to know their Muslim neighbors.  It’s the only way to dispel the fear and hatred that has developed in this country.  Sometimes I see a sign for a Tea Party meeting and think, ‘We should just go and get to know people there.’”

“Funny you say that!  I am actually a member of the local Tea Party!  They have a listserve and someone forwarded an e-mail claiming that Muslims still to this day have not apologized or condemned 9/11.  So I immediately went to Google and typed in “Muslims apologize 9/11” and a whole list, several pages long, came up with links proving the opposite.  I just hate when people spread misinformation and lies like that!  I believe in the Tea Party but I think these lies just detract from our mission.”

Zayd then hands him a card and extends an open invitation to visit the masjid.

“Thank you and I may take you up on this offer but it will take me a long time to research things first and verify the things you have explained to me.  Then we will see about attending your worship house or having you speak to others.”

On the ride home I begin to realize how many people in our small rural town see us on a regular basis and talk to others about us without our knowledge.  It makes me even more self-conscious about the fact that our every actions and words are being observed and analyzed in an attempt to understand the “Moslems,” our real values, and whether or not we are really a secret sleeper cell implanted in their town or just a regular family trying to protect our children and make ends meet.

We can blame the 9/11 terrorists, the Quran-burning pastors, the professional Islamophobes, or Fox News for the horrible perception of Islam and the suspicion of Muslims.  Though, at the end of the day, only we can challenge that view through our consistent, daily interactions, one neighbor at a time. It is from a kind gesture at the cash register, or a well behaved child that says please and thank-you to a waitress, or an offer of assistance or concern to a person in need that makes the lasting impression and changes negative attitudes. We should not only behave this way to change perceptions, but because our deen commands this type of behavior towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Studies show that over 50% of Americans say they have never met a Muslim and nearly as many fear Muslims.  Now imagine if an upstanding, well mannered Muslim family moves into every small town in America and rather than isolate themselves, they become a productive, visual member of that town. How would these statistics change?  How many people would witness for us on the Day of Judgment that we spread the message of Islam without even speaking a word?

A final story.  Soon after, I am approached by a woman who says “Hi” to me every time she sees me.  I have never spoken to her in detail and never specifically about Islam.  She asks me if I can give her a copy of the Quran.  Almost in tears, she tells me about the horrible things she hears others say about me when I enter the store.  “My kids hear this stuff too and ask me questions.  I explain to them that you guys are people of faith.  I also tell them that I know for certain that if you were my neighbors and my house was burning, it would be you Muslims that would risk your lives to save my family while the other neighbors would just stand there watching.”

WOW! I am not sure what gave her this impression but all I can do is pray that Allah enables my family and me to live up to her high expectations, Insha Allah.

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Hebah is a Muslim American with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UIUC. She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Egyptian immigrants. She currently resides in Albuquerque, NM with her husband and two children. Hebah is a social activist who works to dispel the myths about Islam and Women in Islam through community presentations and panel discussions. She also heads Daughterz of Eve, a local Muslim girls youth group.

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Sadaf Farooqi

    November 8, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    Barak Allahu feeki, Hebah!
    May Allah bless you and your family and make you beacons that make the light of Islam spread in your town and beyond, Ameen.
    After the piece in NY Times about you, and now this, I can honestly say that I think Allah has chosen you to represent Islam in that town.
    Masha’Allah, may Allah protect you and yours from harm. Ameen.

    • Hebah Ahmed

      November 9, 2010 at 7:50 PM

      AMEEN! And may Allah give us the wisdom and knowledge to do a proper job Insha Allah.

  2. Umm Reem

    November 8, 2010 at 7:42 AM

    Excellent articel, as usual hebah!

    “We are so happy you approached us and wish more people could get to know their Muslim neighbors. It’s the only way to dispel the fear and hatred that has developed in this country”

    couldn’t agree more! :)

  3. Farhan

    November 8, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    Had it not been for the anti-Islamic attitude amongst the Tea Partiers, I would seriously join them. I support small government and low taxes.

    • Omar

      November 8, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      May be you should attend a few meetings and support them on those issues. Change the perception :)

      • fester225

        November 8, 2010 at 11:59 AM

        Good thinking Omar!

      • Farhan

        November 8, 2010 at 1:48 PM

        perhaps…i’m not that political anymore. I desperately need to work on myself first and foremost.

        But, in general, left-wing economics is objectively bad. Anyone who has studied economics would know this. A lot of Muslims tend to be leftists and it bothers me.

        • Youssef Chouhoud

          November 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

          Actually, Farhan, I don’t think the matter is as cut and dry as you make it out to be. I believe, as with most things, the economic truth lies somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, as with most things, the “middle” is disappearing in economics, too.

          Even in the Prophetic tradition we can see elements of what might be called “capitalism” and other instances that resemble “socialism.” All, of course, in moderation :)

          On a related note, I’m a big fan of the EconTalk podcast which is hosted by Russ Roberts, a professor at George Mason and an ardent libertarian economist. I often find his arguments persuasive, but I just don’t buy that the “free market” would be objectively in everyone’s interest. Similarly, the Tea Party’s opposition to the EPA, FDA, financial regulation, etc. just seems too influenced by Big Corporations and largely misguided.

          • Sabour Al-Kandari

            November 9, 2010 at 8:05 AM

            Mash’Allah, interesting points guys.

            Matter of fact, I wrote a paper titled “The Islamic Financial System: Between Capitalism and Socialism” in my Econ class (5 years ago maybe).

            It’s interesting that you mention that, I found an academic paper through wikipedia saying the same thing, pretty cool:
            http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/0/8/5/0/p108508_index.html

          • Farhan

            November 9, 2010 at 1:14 PM

            I graduated from George Mason with a degree in Economics, so I was influenced by that ultra-libertarian strain :-) Since then I’ve moderated my economic views a lot. But I still do tend to see free-market solutions as better than a government-controlled system. This is the case in MOST things.

            I never comment on Islam and Economics. I’m not an ‘Alim, so I don’t have the authority to do so. Perhaps you can correct me on this, but from what I see per the Ahadith and a few texts I’ve read on Islam and Economics, there’s a few things that are explicitly forbidden (ie, ribbah, gambling, alcohol, etc) and everything else is halaal. I read things like “taxes are haraam” and there are ahadith against price ceiling or controlling the market.

            The only thing that might be seen as “socialist” is Zakah. But, that’s only 2.5% of your remaining funds, not ~30% of your income that goes to the government.

            Because we are largely an oppressed community, we identify with other oppressed peoples’. That’s why a lot of Muslims idealize Che Guevara and these types. The 60s and 70s saw “Arab Socialism” and Pakistan had parties like the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party). But in every situation, socialism failed and led to wide-scale corruption.

            I also see problems with pure capitalism. I think the ultra-Libertarians at my university don’t see outside of their economic analysis box. Perhaps the best is something in between? Do advise.

          • Youssef Chouhoud

            November 10, 2010 at 11:39 AM

            @Farhan: Wow, that’s pretty awesome that you have a degree in Econ from GM. Honestly, if I had it to do all over again, I’d be an economist all the way. Did you take any classes with Prof. Roberts?? I’d be SUPER jealous :P

            As for the Islamic perspective on the matter, trust me, I’m as far from an Alim as you can get. I really wish more genuinely knowledgeable scholars and students of knowledge commented on modern economic matters to shed some light on both theory and practice.

            I will say though that even if there isn’t much in the letter of Islam that resembles socialist creed (and I’m just assuming arguendo, both of us can be mistaken on this point for all I know), there’s still the general communal ethos in Islam; or, put differently, a “socialist” spirit of the law. This is evident from the continuous emphasis on jamaa throughout the Prophetic tradition and the continuing reminders to give charity beyond just zakat. Similarly, there were actually periods in Islamic history (mostly in the early days) when the realm was so rich that each Muslim received a stipend from the state. Doesn’t get more socialist that that :)

            As for modern examples, I definitely agree that there are few (if any) instances where revolutionary socialism has taken hold and been of any benefit. In lands where socialist tendencies have evolved and been allowed to organically grow, however, the results have been far more positive. European socialism, though it’s taken some hits recently, is generally speaking a success, particularly the Scandinavian variety.

            That said, I think there are many instances, perhaps most, when free market solutions work best. But at the end of the day, I trust the government to do right by me far more than any faceless corporation, to the extent that the two are mutually exclusive these days.

        • fester225

          November 9, 2010 at 5:41 PM

          Farhan,

          “Because we are largely an oppressed community,…”

          Exactly who is oppressing you?

  4. fester225

    November 8, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    I don’t know about the cities, but out in the sticks getting to know the neighbors is a time tested way of reducing tensions and avoiding misunderstandings.

    Of course if you’re going to do this to introduce Islam to the local community, you need the right people to do the introducing. Reverts (or converts to any religion) tend to be “over enthusiastic”, and turn people off. Representatives who think of this country as “The Great Satan” should also be avoided.

    The main purpose of these introductions should probably be to show that Muslims are pretty much like anybody else. The Muslims in this country by and large work, raise families, pay taxes, and don’t normally eat their young.

    Where you have immigrants who did come to live in “The Great Satan”, it might be worthwhile for them to discover the same thing about Americans.

    • Youssef Chouhoud

      November 8, 2010 at 3:03 PM

      Good points, all around. Study after study has shown that Islamophobia is directly correlated to lack of interation with everyday Muslims. We need to do better.

      And your last point is well taken, too. Though, I think with the current generation and moving forward, loaded, nonconstructive criticism of America is losing its sway.

      • fester225

        November 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

        Now that everybody seems to be in agreement, what are we going to do about it?

        • Hebah Ahmed

          November 9, 2010 at 7:55 PM

          Masjid Open Houses are a great start! And how about every time we slaughter for Eid or get overloaded with Eid sweets, we can share with our neighbors.

          • fester225

            November 9, 2010 at 9:48 PM

            What about a specific plan of action (to promote good), specific individuals who are going to carry it out, and a specific locality to carry it out in?

        • Youssef Chouhoud

          November 10, 2010 at 11:43 AM

          @fester

          Somewhat counter to the points I made above, I’d say it’s far better to have a laissez-faire approach to this matter rather than opt for top-down management. It’s evident that young Muslims are far more interactive with American society than their predecessors, so I say just let things develop naturally and the results we’re looking for will come, God willing.

          • fester225

            November 10, 2010 at 2:04 PM

            So we should just do nothing and abandon the current generation?

            I’m developing a theory that doing nothing, for any number of reasons, is a large part of the problem.

          • Youssef Chouhoud

            November 10, 2010 at 2:16 PM

            By “young” I’m referring to anyone 30 (or thereabouts) or younger. So I’m certainly not saying abandon the current generation. What I am saying is that the previous generation, save for a few stalwarts, doesn’t really have much to contribute in this regard. Unfortunately, they are the ones consciously trying to “do something” and mucking things up in the process (Park51 anyone??). The current generation, on the other hand, just does what comes natural and in the process achieves the kind of results you and everyone else is looking for.

            When I originally said “we can do better,” what I meant was that we should on an individual level do our part and get out of the way of those who can do something on a grander scale.

            But any talk of “solutions” or “bridges” is often forced and fruitless. Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to get something done.

            (Maybe I’m a closet libertarian after all :P )

    • Sabour Al-Kandari

      November 9, 2010 at 7:58 AM

      ..and don’t normally eat their young.

      I’d like to see some statistics for that.

    • ahlam

      November 10, 2010 at 12:53 PM

      ”The Great Satan” was taken from some of the leaders of Iran-either their ayatollah or Ahmadinejad-but the media generalized it as a saying of mainstream Muslims. It doesn’t even ake sense,wheres the medium-sized?

  5. Harmless muslim woman

    November 8, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    I really enjoyed reading this! It really makes me think that people do watch what we do and see if it is the same religion that CNN and fox likes to portray Islam. Also, today I was out walking with my son and some guy perhaps out of respect or fear totally dodged me and walked fast the other way. He did not even look at me. I wonder what goes on in these ppls heads. I guess now we have a little glimpse. Thanks again!

    • umtalhah

      November 9, 2010 at 8:49 PM

      hmm…. how about a “hello and you can say ‘hi’ when you see me” (from home alone 1, waaay back from the day) :)

    • ahlam

      November 10, 2010 at 12:50 PM

      LOL, I have weird instances too.And its always (non-muslim)men.Its like you don’t know are they trying to act respectful when they hold the door open and give bow, which is just embarrassing, or when they cross the road after seeing you from a distance,or when they just stick to the wall when they pass by.Sometimes I just think like they have no clue of how to act or are plain scared.Its kinda funny.

  6. Tahmid

    November 8, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Salam, Good post MashAllah and we all need to be a part of the community we live in and isolation is not gonna get us anywhere.

  7. shereen

    November 9, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    Interesting article.
    About four years ago …someone sent an email stating that “MM” is really run by non-Muslims. Who are the brothers & sisters running this website? Choukran.

    • Farhat-il-Faariha

      November 9, 2010 at 1:44 AM

      If You Just Scroll Up A Little, To The Left, There Is A Little Text-Box That Says ”Authors”, And Right Beneath Is ”Staff Writers”…..

      Hope I’ve Helped Insha’Allaah….

      =)

    • Bushra

      November 9, 2010 at 3:14 AM

      Jazakallahu khair sister for addressing this here. Firstly there are several shuyookh associated with MM, namely Yasir Qadhi, who is the Dean of Al Maghrib Institute, as well as Waleed Basyouni and others. There are a list of shuyookh on the left hand side of this website.

      Secondly, I can assure you that we are Muslim and that MM is Muslim-run, even down to the legalities and web design of MuslimMatters. It is quite funny when someone mentions that MM is run by non-Muslims, when it really is quite far from the truth.

      • Talha Shahid

        November 10, 2010 at 3:53 PM

        BarakAllahu feek ukhti Bushra. Yasir Qadhi is not a scholar. He does not have any recommendations from his teachers. Rather he was not spoken of in good terms by his own teachers who taught him. Its sad that he doesn’t come out and say that himself so people stop saying that he is a scholar and instead guides the people towards the major scholars.
        But he himself has established himself as a scholar of the West and apparently is not in need of the advice of the major and senior scholars alive today. May Allah guide the Muslims in the west who have left the senior ones for the younger ones. Allahul musta’an.

    • Sabour Al-Kandari

      November 9, 2010 at 8:00 AM

      “MM” is really run by non-Muslims

      Woah, that’s some serious haterade.

    • Hebah Ahmed

      November 9, 2010 at 7:58 PM

      I know I am Muslim! :) How could anyone think MM is run by non-Muslims, they are doing a great job spreading Islam and teaching the Muslims! May Allah reward all the hard work of the MM admin!!!!!

    • umtalhah

      November 9, 2010 at 8:56 PM

      omg! i wonder how amad took it. i was so sure i would read a response from him :)

      on a serious note: this is quite far from truth. mm is not run by non-muslims. Allahu alam.

  8. Sabour Al-Kandari

    November 9, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    Mash’Allah, excellent article!

    I love how the casual writing style (i.e. detailed descriptions of little things in the surroundings) reflects on the nature of the casual conversation. That takes serious skill and creativity.

    As for winning over the hearts and minds with akhlaq and wisdom, I truly don’t think we understand how powerful such behavior is and how much people actually pay attention to us.

    Say thank you to the bus drivers! ;)

    • Hebah Ahmed

      November 9, 2010 at 8:01 PM

      Jazak Allahu Khair!!!! I cannot much take credit since a lot of the books I have been reading are effecting my style. I like to mimic what is effective on me. I think story telling and casual writing can bring a point home much better than preaching. Allah knows best. :)

  9. fester225

    November 9, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Farhan,

    “Because we are largely an oppressed community,…”

    Exactly who is oppressing you?

  10. umm esa

    November 9, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    a well-written article, ma sha’ Allah!

  11. Kashif Dilkusha

    November 9, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    Masha ALLAH

    May ALLAH bless you more with Emaan.

    Thats I believe should be best tool we can use and have to spread Islam.

  12. Sami

    November 10, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    We are very proud of you Sr. Hebah! Keep doing what you are doing and may Allah bless your family.

  13. SQ

    November 10, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Assalamwa’laikum Hebah. Thank you for this wonderful article! May Allah continue to give you the strength to go through your daily struggles, and reward and bless you and your family. This article really struck home for me, because I have always lived in a community/ town where I am not surrounded by many Muslims (due to wherever my education takes me). Right now I’m in a small town where I am one of maybe 3 hijabis – definitely the only one in my school – and it really is a internal struggle for me to remember to watch what I say or do. I don’t want what I do on one of my “off days” to stick with someone and have them associate it with Islam. Thank you so much for motivating me. InshAllah one day I will have the strength and knowledge to give dawah as well to the people I interact with.

  14. ahlam

    November 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    Mash’Allah, its really nice reminder.A smile and a conversation definitely does go a long way,it does. If anything we have even more proof from the Prophetic tradition.

  15. Defending shaykh Yasir Qadhi for Allah's sake

    November 11, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Brother Talha – while you are entitled to your opinion speaking publicly against someone and not offering any proof for it is not very nice. I know shaykh Yasir Qadhi through his work and he has benefitted me immensely. I have never heard him ask to be called a shaykh. May Allah swt bless him and his family for all the work serving the ummah.

  16. Sarah S

    November 11, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    This was wonderful to read- barak Allahu feeki for sharing your experiences, Hebah :)

    I have lived in New York my entire life… a city girl through-and-through. In some ways, I believe that NY promotes understanding and openmindedness due to the incredible amount of diversity that you see as soon as you set foot outside of your home. In other ways, I think that it can be very difficult to make a lasting and positive impression on such a large group of people.

    In large cities, people are exposed to so many different types of people but they see both the good and the bad… and, unfortunately, sometimes the good just isn’t enough to overcome the bad behavior of some people. Many Muslims live in enclave communities here in NY and don’t feel the need to learn English, thereby playing into the stereotypes that so many people have about us. Also, NY is a city well known for it’s “leave me alone” attitude… people tend to minimize their interactions with others so it can be difficult to help them to feel comfortable enough to strike up a conversation. However, I think masjid open-houses are an excellent idea and they provide outreach opportunities that, in a large city, may be difficult to accomplish on a daily basis.

  17. Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    November 11, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    The woman probably thinks your niqab is fireproof.

    Just kidding. Nice story. Though I find it somewhat disappointing that even after getting to know you and talking to you at length, the man you spoke to still says he has to “verify” your info before visiting the masjid, as if you might be lying.

    Still, it’s a start.

    As a final note – and one for which I’m sure I’ll get blasted – I think wearing niqab is counterproductive to engaging the non-Muslim community and building trust. Hiding your face implies that you have something to hide, or you want to be left alone. It’s isolationist. And since it’s not required in Islam, I see no good reason for it. I realize it’s the sister’s choice and I respect her choice. I simply disagree with it.

    • Sabour Al-Kandari

      November 11, 2010 at 2:57 PM

      Salaamualaikum, yes you will get blasted. Run for cover!

      And since it’s not required in Islam

      Really the whole foundation of what you said. The problem is that’s just one opinion, and there are a huge chunk of classical scholars who considered it fardh and brought their proof.

      So really, if one is convinced of the scriptural academics behind niqab being fardh, you’re being uncool (and giving people a reason to be upset at you) by blasting the deen using reasoning from Western-social norms rather than scriptural academics.

      To sum up, nothing wrong with disagreeing – just remember the deen is based on scriptural scholarship and not Western social norms.

      • F

        November 11, 2010 at 3:50 PM

        We need to pick our battles in the west and niqab is not the hill we want to die on.
        Muslims scholars and organizations in the west have generally taken the wise stance of choosing the opinion of it not being fard nor encouraging it. I have no issues with individuals choosing to wear the niqab for their own reasons.

        • Sabour Al-Kandari

          November 11, 2010 at 4:52 PM

          Generally, the scholars choose that opinion after looking into the Qur’an and Sunnah. As soon as a person picks-and-chooses Islam based on what other people think is cool and even makes that a consideration, they are doomed to the same fate as the Mu’tazliah.

          Pretty basic stuff.

          • F

            November 11, 2010 at 7:30 PM

            Not really that black and white. Considerations from scholars also take into account the prevailing situation of the account. Otherwise why would Umar (ra) suspend the punishment of cutting of hands? Was he also trying to ‘please people?’

            Part of the sunnah is to look into what is best for the people in their context. So what works in Saudi doesn’t necessarily work in Canada. I’m not saying laymen make these decisions but qualified scholars. This was the practice of the great imams such as Imam Abu Hanifa and is not a ‘modern innovation’ as most things get labeled these days.

          • Sabour Al-Kandari

            November 13, 2010 at 3:16 PM

            A bit of a straw-man argument akhi. There’s no need to argue that looking at the current situation is a part of Islam, we already agree. My point is that there’s a difference between that and actually rejecting parts of Islam for non-Muslim ideas.

            Hiding your face implies that you have something to hide, or you want to be left alone. It’s isolationist

            Do you see how this is more of a direct attack on the niqab itself (and the sister)? Such discourse follows closer to the history of Greek philosophy in Islam (where the religion was attacked) than the temporary abolishment of the hadd punishment (where the religion was followed).

          • F

            November 13, 2010 at 6:31 PM

            I agree with you too brother Sabour. As Muslims, we don’t or shouldn’t believe that wearing a niqab mean we have something to hide. Though we can’t shy away from the fact that might be the popular perception among the non-Muslim masses.

            Decisions are taken for the sake and betterment of the Muslim community. You are right in the sense that we shouldn’t reject Islamic practices based on non-Muslim ideas. Though living in the West, our individual actions carry an impact for the Muslim community at large whether we like it or not.

            So if the scholars do make a decision that it is better not to implement certain sunnah (or even fard) practices at particular times, I’d like to think that it is for the betterment of the Muslim community in the West in the long term.

    • Hebah Ahmed

      November 12, 2010 at 8:46 PM

      Asalam ALikum Br. Wael,

      Yes, it was disappointing to hear that he still doubted us, insteading believing we were trained to lie in order to cover our “covert operations”. Of course with his peers and the media working on him for years to build the distrust and fear, did we really expect one conversation to change his mind? But like you said, its a start.

      As for niqab, all I request is that we Muslims encourage each other to do more, not less. As for dawah, I am not worried because Allah will protect His deen and indeed He alone guides who He wills. Trust me, my niqab will not deter an honest person from reaching out and finding the truth if Allah so wills. Now if I was doing something haram or displaying bad manners, by all means tell me how bad I am for Dawah.

      One woman I met told me she was an athiest who hated Muslims. One day she passed a masjid and saw the covered women. She got so mad that she raced home to read about “these crazy people”. After researching Islam, she became Muslim and now wears Niqab. In this case the “negative” reaction pushed her to read and Allah guided her in this way.

      Here’s another one. I call it McDawah. I once took my daughter to the McPlayLand (it was snowing out and she needed some physical excersize!). There were 2 women staring at me curiously. I went over and said hi and complimented their children. They then asked me why I wore the niqab and covered myself. After an hour long conversation about Islam and Muslim Women, they both took their shahada. Allahu Akbar!

      I think we should all just look internally and strive to do whatever we can individually to please Allah, and Allah will take care of His Deen and His Dawah Insha Allah. Plus the best form of Dawah is to practice your deen with conviction, refusing to compromise based on other’s opinions. Allah knows best…

      • Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

        November 14, 2010 at 12:04 PM

        Alhamdulillah. After your McDawah story, I really can’t say anything. You make a good point that Allah will not allow an act of taqwa to become an obstruction.

        By the way, I certainly did not mean my comment as an attack either on the institution of niqab, or of you. I only meant that it seemed isolationist and counterproductive within the specific context of Muslim-non-Muslim relations. However, you’ve given me something to think about.

        • Hebah Ahmed

          November 16, 2010 at 4:43 PM

          I did not feel your comments were attacking at all and are definitely worth exploring as these are thought I had myself when I first thought of wearing niqab. I think it is important that we have these types of dialogues. Jazak Allahu Khair.

  18. F

    November 13, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    Walaikum Assalam sr. Hebah,

    I’d like to state that regardless of a Muslim sister wearing hijab, niqab, or nothing, we are all brothers/sisters in Islam and that entails respect and honor between us. As Muslims, we all love each other for the sake of Allah(swt) even though we might have disagreements in certain practices that even the scholars have differed over. These disagreements have existed from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and will last till the Last Day. But this doesn’t we shouldn’t strive to work together. If anything, regardless of the differences, Muslims should strive to work together on issues that they agree on. And on issues that we don’t agree on, well, we can choose to work separately :-)

    But that adab and love should always be there.

    • Hebah Ahmed

      November 16, 2010 at 4:59 PM

      We Alikum Asalam F,

      I could not agree more with all of your comments and I thank you for the reminder. I hope that my comments have not in any way come off as judgemental or harsh…if so please chalk it up to the coldness of cyber space! :)

      I personally do not believe niqab is fard and see that there is a very valid difference of opinion on the matter. I honestly think it is easy to judge each other on our outer appearance and how much we cover but there is so much more to our deen than that. When I say we should encourage each other to do more, I mean in all aspects of the deen. If you can fast more, fast more, If patience is easier, or praying, or reading quran, or being a social activist, go for it. I think this is why there are different doors to Jannah, because there are so many aspects we can excel in. As far as I am concerned, if a prostitute had her sins forgiven for feeding a cat, then we really should leave the judgement to Allah.

  19. Mostafa

    November 13, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    As Salaamu Alykum,

    So…ugh…what did Mona get for my ‘Eid present?

  20. Khadeejah I.

    April 13, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    JazakAllah khayr for this lovely article! :)

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