I was having a wonderful conversation yesterday with a good friend of mine who is much like me; a convert married to an Egyptian with similar religious leanings. We were talking about ummahs in different parts of the US that we had lived in or had friends in- what these ummahs had, what they lacked, and what we’re thankful for (a lot) in our local ummah here in Minnesota. We agreed that the Twin Cities definitely has the best ummah that we’ve ever lived in (alhumdulillah) and we posited that it might be the best in the entire US, in terms of size, amenities, and general brotherly love and cooperation.
Get ready, this blog post is really just a long commercial for why you should move to Minnesota.
But you should.
When I read Nicole’s intro for Convert Truths (link here), I immediately felt a sense that all of her topic suggestions applied, and yet really didn’t apply to me, if that makes sense.
We’ve all been through the die-hard newbie phase; the abaya and niqab phase; the astughfurlillah phase. It’s a good phase, really, an earnest phase and we all generally go through it with sincere intentions.
I think its a necessary phase when it comes to a convert’s need to figure out who she/he is in terms of being a Muslim and still being oneself. Many people need that phase to remove themselves completely from their pre-Islamic mindset, to break from the routine.
I had that phase, my friends, I daresay that I was even a bit of a know-it-all for awhile. So obnoxious.
But eventually I grew out of it; eventually I was able to reconcile who I wanted to be as a Muslim while still retaining my individuality, as most converts are also eventually able to do. But I’ve been Muslim for coming up on 6 years now and I reckon that it took all 6 of them to get where I am today, and God only knows how much different I will be in 6 more.
What I can say is that having lived in Egypt made a huge difference in me as a person entirely, not just religiously. It doesn’t make me the go-to expert on all things Egypt, but I SINCERELY recommend that any convert lives for at least one year in their spouse’s home country because you learn so much about where your spouse comes from, why he/she acts, reacts, thinks, feels, and leans a certain way. Its a meeting point between you and him/her. If I could, I would make it mandatory.
Like I have that power. *flexes muscles*
Friends, it also gives you a bit of street cred with the mosque men/women from your spouse’s Backhomeistan, and it makes you a lot less obnoxious when you expound on why Backhomeistan is such a wonderful place, paved with gold, filled with super deeni people who are loads better than the western kufaar you have to deal with everyday; mostly because you probably wouldn’t expound on that because you’d know that Backhomeistan is actually only about 3% paved with bad asphalt and 99% culturally Muslim.
Seriously. See what I’m saying? Its terribly important.
Especially when it comes to mosque street cred with the Backhomeistan crew. And it ain’t just us converts, either. Western-born Backhomeistanians deal with the same exact side-eye from the crew if they’ve never lived in Backhomeistan, so try not to take it personally if you DO get side-eye when you try to sit with them.
Which brings me to a really, really important piece of information for new converts, old converts, any converts dealing with side-eye from Backhomeistanians in the mosque:
And I’m going to say this very baldly;
Stop giving a fuck.
Your religion is not FOR them to side-eye or front-eye or judge in any manner, mostly because many of them really have no more information about it than you do. See my reference to Backhomeistan being 99% culturally Muslim. They know the basics but unless they are scholars, they’re learning along side you.
And if they are scholars, and they’re still giving you the side-eye without welcoming you and try to help you, then they have a LOT more to learn.
But in reality, at least in many mosques I’ve been to, halaqa-time is Backhomeistanians Social Hour so really, the side-eye is less about religion and more about culture. Which is where Backhomeistan street cred comes in handy.
Now, lets go back for a second to my first paragraph, the one about Minnesota being an awesome place to be Muslim (alhumdulillah) (told you, long commercial for Minnesota); I feel blessed to have lived here and to have come into Islam here.
Are there mosque politics? Abso-freaking-lutely. You can’t get a group of people together WITHOUT some sort of interpersonal politics- religious, work-place, friendly, or otherwise. Its human nature, so try to not take it seriously.
Plenty of sisters I know have stopped going to the mosque here because of these politics, or because of snide things said or enacted by a group of other sisters.
This is sad to me, because they are ways to get around it as long as you are able to let it roll right off your back and, as I baldly stated above, stop giving a fuck.
For those of you who are having an issue with mosque politics, feeling burned by the side-eye, or out-casted I would like to give you a checklist:
- Check YOUR intentions. What are you going to the mosque for?
- Socializing? I don’t blame you for it, where else can you socialize with other Muslims without having a core group of Muslim friends?
- Try another mosque, sometimes that’s all you need. If there are no other mosques then open up communication between you and the other women/men. Communication is KEY because they may only be giving you the side-eye because they don’t know you, and they can’t know you unless you talk to them. Yes, its shitty of them not to make the first move and welcome you, but if they are Backhomeistanian they may already feel out of place and uncomfortable around westerners. Sometimes it just takes breaking the ice and you find that they realize they were wrong about you and you were wrong about them. You can’t know until you try. Honestly, I’ve bull-dogged my way into a group of Egyptian women (after living in Egypt for a year, they became a lot more open to me because I LEARNED how to interact with Egyptian women. I TOLD you its important to have that street cred.) and now they’re pretty wonderful. You don’t HAVE to have the street cred, you just have to try. If they still ice you out, then they are not worth it.
- Religious talks/classes/prayer.
- MashAllah. Why do you care what they think then? Go for the Islamic knowledge and fuhgeddabout the other people.
- Your local/only mosque is a different sect/leaning than you? That’s a toughie, especially when you have few options. Move to Minnesota.
- Ok, I’m joking. But really, I don’t have an answer for that beyond trying to find a good online community. Internet friends are just as important as real friends, only you can’t hug them.
- All of the above, but the men/women like to cause drama and you’re tired of it.
- What type of drama? Can you ignore it? I promise you if you stop giving a fuck what they think, and focus on why you are there, it should be better. Just because Islam is perfect, doesn’t mean Muslims are. Focus on why you’re there; focus on Allah.
- Check YOURSELF, and I mean this sincerely. Drama is many times a two-way street. If you take a step back, stop responding, stop back-biting about the other person to those people who are on your side, and the other person continues their rain of drama upon you, eventually it will become obvious that the only person continuing the beef is them. Focus on your reasons for being there, and ignore the drama-whores. They’re like bullies, if you stop rising to their taunts, they get bored. It may be hard, but remember that Allah rewards the person who backs down from a fight even though they are right. I’m too lazy to look up the hadeeth, but I’m pretty certain that reward is Paradise.
Of all the mosque drama I have ever encountered personally, most of the above advice should suffice. If it doesn’t, feel free to email me your issue at mollyannelian at gmail dot com.
Maybe I can start a Dear Abby column and call it Dear Amina.
I think this blog post is not what Nicole was looking for.
Plus I don’t know how to wrap it up. I am so off my blogging game, see why I don’t blog much anymore?
I stopped giving a fu— ok, I should stop swearing, sorry.
In reality, the Muslim blogosphere is no longer what it was then because we, the dinosaurs, grew older, wiser, and, at least in my case, tired. Many of us came into Islam around the time that blogging blew up and so we dove into this new media with the desire to work through our issues, our growing pains, and our creative labors online.
For me I live blogged a tumultuous, horrible, wonderful, amazing, and painful year in Egypt, and before that the first ten months of my marriage in the US, separated by an ocean from my husband. I could not have made it through that without my blog, and my friends who commented on my posts and commiserated with me. Thank you all for that, by the way.
Maybe Twitter has replaced my blog for me, because I can air my grievances out immediately, in 140 characters or less, or in a long, run-on set of tweets.
Maybe when I pop out a mini-me I’ll go back into live-blogging that child’s first smiles, farts, spit-ups, and steps. I don’t know.
Maybe right now I’m just at a contented point in my life. Alhumdulillah. Happy, comfortable, completely and totally bourgeois. I go to work. I cook. I shop at Target. I fill my car with gas. I dig myself out of the million tons of snow we seem to have gotten this winter (seriously, will it ever STOP?!?). I hang out with my wonderful friends and family.
I’m… happy. Alhumdulillah.
And I think I would make a very boring blog.
Am I getting boring? Honestly, I’m exhausted. I forgot how much work this blogging thing was.
So.. snappy wrap up?
I’ve got nothing. Check out my checklist though, see if you think it would apply. See if you think its a bunch of bull-hockey. Give me things you think should be added.
We’re works in progress, all of us.
And everything we do.