Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Another post about Ramadan — from a Christian in an interfaith family

August 13, 2012

I wrote a lengthy Post about ramadan, but I think DH accidentally deleted it. So now I have to do it all again. That’s frustrating. But, here we go and know that it will probably be twice as long as the original post.
Honestly, my thoughts and plans, rather fantasy, about celebrating Ramadan was very different than reality. I imagined that my husband and I would listen to Quranic messages together. He would get more generous and more understanding and closer to God as Ramadan progressed And I would take the messages that were most like the Biblical messages and remember to apply them. After all, we could all use some reminding of our fundamentals…. and I must admit, my prayer life could be better. Muslims pray five times a day and I probably could increase my prayer life which is always a good idea. There’s nothing saying a Christian can’t pray five times a day. I would pray my prayers when my husband prayed his prayers. At the end of Ramadan I would cook something special. We would have a meaningful holiday and pass this tradition down to our LO(Smile). We would Celebrate Ramadan in our own special way. We would have wonderful Eid traditions that we handed down to our little baby. Everything would be full of meaning and reflection and family connections. That however is not how it is happening.
I seem to be on the peripheral of Ramadan. We don’t share messages together we rarely talk about any message that is given. And I admit that I am readily willing to listen to any scholarly message in English about the Quran or Ramadan. But I want to do it together. I want to listen and discuss. My husband does not like discussing. I suppose my approach might be a bit American in nature it’s kind of like the Bible study approach. But I thought it would have some value.
There’re many reasons I am on the fringes of Ramadan but I’m going to name one here right now. I don’t go to the mosque much. So, I take my responsibility for that one. I should insist on going to the Mosque with DH, if I want a full meaningful experience. This Ramadan my husband has gone to two specific mosques. one mosque is very diverse. This is the mosque that has the aggressive headscarf policewomen. yes I felt as if they were policing my headscarf which by the way never wanted to obey my commands. However we have went one other time to this mosque and I didn’t find the women nearly as aggressive. The only time my headscarf was pulled into submission by some African women who were sitting next to me, was when a man came into the women’s quarters. — twice… but I am ok with that because I saw it as a way to protect my respectability — or something similar. . the other mosque that my husband goes to periodically especially when I don’t go, is an exclusive Desi mosque, AKA “the men’s Mosque.” Of course, women are not exactly forbidden to come but they are certainly not welcomed and there is no place for them to pray. “After all,” DH reminds me, ” it is not mandatory for women to come at all.” What disturbs me most is that my wonderful husband is okay with this logic. he does not see a problem if women want to go to the mosque, He says, ” they can go to at least seven other ones around the city…” … I think there’s more mosques springing up all of the time, now … the Exclusive Desi one was not even listed on the Google Search. . In any case, DH has no problem with the fact that it is all men. And, they have (according to DH) some awesome food. Which probably means that, women are at home, cooking for the men to go to a mosque that they are not even welcome to attend. And… … DH has no problem with this. He won’t even offer an objection, and this is America(the land of opposition and objections), not Pakistan.
obviously and unfortunately, he doesn’t see us celebrating Ramadan together. My participation is not mandatory. and it seems to make no difference to him whether I go to the Mosque or not. now of course it will make a difference with the baby so for that reason he might want me to go but not for my specific support.
So, I ask him to put the question to his mother: Would she attend “Mosque,” if one gave her a space to pray? his mother and father live in Pindi. This is not a village, but mosques still don’t openly welcome women. His mother said that she would certainly go, if there was a place for her to pray. Her daughter, R, (DH’s youngest sister) goes to the mosque in Lahore with her new husband. His mother asked if I would go with her and I gave her a definite “yes.” I understand that attending a mosque is manditory and this is seen as a gift to the women since they have household duties and/or children to care for. But, there are many women who have neither of these responsibilities. Besides, by “not” giving women a space to pray at a mosque (we haven’t even gotten to the equal space argument) aren’t we saying that women’s spirituality is less important than men’s? furthermore, I wonder if this “men’s mosque,” is so conservative about women’s participation, what else are they conservative on? and: why was it even built? Apparently, it was only built two years ago, yet there were many other mosques quite close in proximity already in full swing.
It strikes me that one of the reasons my husband says it’s not a big deal for women to attend the mosque, is because he says women tend to socialize more than they should. He says they are loud and they tend to want to socialize instead of listening to the message. But I have to point out, it wasn’t two days ago that he was saying to me how wonderful it was that he was making some contacts at the mosque. Hello, socialization. It’s just done in a different way. I also pointed out that if they have a imam right in front of them or have the speaker right in front of them, they probably would be more likely to be more quiet.
And there’s a considerable amount of women who are frustrated with those loud social women and who does want to hear the message. I know because when I was at the mosque there were quite a few African women and American women who voiced their stern opposition to those loud talkers.
I talk about “sex discrimination,” which I am sorry to say doesn’t even seem to touch DH. The men are quite friendly, the prayers and messages are dynamic and the food is awesome!
Anyway, we did go to the diverse mosque, once. And actually it was a nice gathering. Now of course I couldn’t follow those prayers. No I don’t speak Arabic but it wasn’t just that. Every time I thought the prayer was over because there was a little interlude where people began to discuss and talk then , it would start back again. I didn’t know whether the prayer had ended or just … … took a little break — for some unknown reason. And yes my obstinant headscarf never tends to stay in place. I wonder if there is an elastic version of this headscarf that just encompasses the entire head like a showercap. Ok, that doesn’t sound very attractive, but it would get the job done. Maybe that would be better for me. It doesn’t help that my little guy loves to yank the headscarves off of myself and any other woman in close proximity. Yes, that is exactly what we got when we went to the mosque. He decided that he would be a bit more social than usual and yank women’s headscarves off their heads. This did not amuse the African woman sitting next to me. I think it was the fact that she was dressed in a very colorful outfit and headscarf and he was fascinated by it. Yet they weren’t amused. They were however enamored by my baby because he was so good we ended up staying until 1230 at night. Know that it certainly did mess up my sleeping schedule for the next two days. But my baby was not cranky at all. He wanted to get down and blow bubbles and crawl around on the floor which by the way I restricted his movement because I didn’t want him wondering off without me. Also we know that he has a fascination with people’s iPhones and there were a few women who plugged in their iPhones to be charged while they were praying. I was somehow surprised that women brought their iPhone chargers and plugged in their iPhones while they were playing. OK, I admit that I was a little bit India’s that I hadn’t thought of it myself. I thought somehow it would have been a bit disrespectful to do so. I don’t know why. I just did.
My little guy was very social. Much more social than I thought he would be. He seemed to be quite comfortable there. I think one of the reasons is because everybody was sitting on the floor. He likes people sitting on the floor. and, most women didn’t try to get him to come to them. they just waited until he was comfortable. he likes people sitting on the floor because They are his height and somehow they seem more personable down there. If they’re standing or sitting in a chair they just don’t seem to be as inviting for him.
I think the women like me more if I have a baby. Strangely enough it was unlike our Pakistani picnic experience. I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the mosque. One woman actually remembered me and sat down and talk to me all night.
Now here is one of my dilemmas. I was called sister. I have no problem with this. I am, after all, a person of the book, Which means that I believe in the Bible so I am actually a believer in one of the three Abrahamic faiths. So maybe sister is not out of the realm of possibilities for me. However I don’t want them to think that I am Muslim and feel betrayed when they find out I am not. I don’t want to act as if I’m something I’m not. But I don’t want to brandish the big C on my chest and every time someone says something I retort ” did you know I’m a Christian?” I don’t want to make a big deal about it. But there isn’t anything that distinguishes me as a Christian from them as Muslims. I wear my headscarf. I don’t fast because I’m nursing. I sit in a chair instead of getting down on the floor to pray but that could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I just don’t want the women to think that I have somehow fooled them. That would be counterproductive to what I’m trying to do which is to Forge good relationships between them and myself.
Another thing I did like about Our Mosque experience was the five minute English message that talked about being gentle and kind with your children especially since school is starting and while we certainly want our children to succeed, we also don’t want to make it so difficult that they feel the stress. I thought it was a very good message. And I found out that they’re having a celebration for the children. No my baby will not be able to enjoy the celebration yet. But I think my husband is getting excited just thinking about the time when he will be able to. And I’m glad they’re doing a celebration for eat. And of course we realize that many children won’t get to celebrate Christmas and Easter and that our baby is special in that he will celebrate all the holidays. The be plenty of time to spoil him with gifts and other things. Not that I necessarily want to spoil him but you know what happens. I also remind myself that there are probably a number of children who do celebrate at least Christmas because many families are interfaith now. many times there is a brother or a sister or a cousin or a mother and father who are still Christian after the Muslim converts. Therefore it is likely that they could celebrate Christmas. Maybe. And any case I wanted to give money for the eve celebration. And my husband reflected on how he could be more patient with our baby.
We were invited over to a doctor’s house after E was over to enjoy their hospitality. They also have a son who is about fifteen days older than our baby. Of course I’m certain that there is going to be comparisons made… Etc. But it will be nice to meet another couple. With a baby at the same age. And his wife is from the US, as well. I don’t know if she’s Muslim or not. But I do know she’s from the US.
any case, one thing I have learned this Ramadan, is that if I wanted to be special I have to make it so. My husband is not inclined to make Ramadan a family affair. It just was never done. His mother was just fine with not going to the mosque and hearing the messages. It just was not an option for his mother, so her role was to cook. If I want Ramadan to mean more than just cooking, I need to seek out those meanings for myself. I’m also fully aware that there will come a time, when my baby will not be experiencing Ramadan in the way that I am experiencing Ramadan. He will be with the men and I will be again on my own to experience Ramadan by myself. But hopefully by then I will have lots of women friends.
To top it off, I invited my daughter to the eve celebration. Now I invited her because there’re many Christians to go to eat celebrations. We have an interchurch and interfaith organizations to go to eat celebrations. Not only do they learn about Islam or Ramadan, but, many christians celebrate with Muslim friends. So I didn’t think it was out of the question to invite my daughter, after all her little brother will be experiencing his first eat. However she forcefully declined. She was almost apald that I would invite her to a mosque. Now I understand the fundamentalist Christians who feel very adamant about not stepping foot in the mosque. But this woman in her Christianity will go to a gay karaoke bar, tattoo parlor and redneck tailgating concerts; but, she has a problem with a Muslim place of worship??? So, she is totally comfortable with obssessive drinking, dressing in drag, all types of drama on the stage; but she is not comfortable with a different form of prayer?
Anyway, I am very much disappointed by her close mindedness.
This year it is me and my baby. We will make Ramadan and eid the best we can. And, I’ll have to start early to try to make the next Eid even better for LO.

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Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.

August 30, 2011

There are many complex variables to worship. Of course, worship should be a time when you do, say or sing to get closer to God/Allah. But, there is a communal part to worship and somehow, (and I think that most people have this expectation or hope) you also want to develop relationships with those who share your spiritual beliefs and are worshipping along side of you. I’ll admit, I was never one for “collective prayer,” it seemed so conscribed. Yet, I do understand the sense of communal oneness in such an act.
I wonder, did I fool myself or is it a myth somewhere: the thought that Muslims are, somehow, quite close knit in their communities and relationships – almost as close as those Amish. (smile) We have attended two different mosques on a regular basis. I wish that I could tell you that I was openly greeted and embraced. I can’t. Now, I need to admit here that I always feel a bit timid and shy and vulnerable when going to the mosque. Sure, you wonderfully assertive people will tell me to get over it and stop being so emotional. Quit whining, you will say. Bla bla bla: it has went through my mind several times. But, it is really a combination of a few things which makes me feel vulnerable.
1. It is still taking me some time to get use to this male/female segregation worship. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of women. I am “sisterhood,” all the way! It is that I feel that my guide is leaving me at a crucial moment. In churches, I can take his hand, lean over and whisper something in his ear, ask “Tum Theek ho” to gage his comfort level. All this is missing at the mosque. When we have Muslim taxi drivers, they drop me off at the “women’s entrance,” and DH at the Men’s entrance. So, I have to enter alone.
2. All mosques are a bit different and it is hard as a blind person to understand what is expected of me. Where do my shoes actually go? (If I have not taken them off yet, it is not because I am unaware of the rule, it is just that I am not sure where the shoes are being put); I think that the headscarf knows that I am not Muslim, thus, resists my efforts to keep it on; how conservative is the dress of other women in this mosque; during Ramadan, some people are strict about only eating dates and drinking water between the call to prayer and the actual prayer and some include fruit and snacks; someone has to help me with the food because I don’t know “what” is there or “where” it is (consequently, someone always has to serve me which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable);
3. I am not Muslim. I don’t want the sisters to think that I am “playing Muslim” when I am not. Yet, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and/or disrespect anyone in the process. There are some discussions – some acts – that I am precluded from because of my religious affiliation. Yet, I am never quite sure where the line is. And, I wonder, does my Non-muslim-ness make it more difficult for sisters to bond with me? This is not an ethnographic study and I am not an observationist – or at least, I don’t want to be or to be seen that way. There is a certain objectivity that an observationist gives to the experience and I would rather be more participatory than that. Yet, obviously, there is a line to my participation.
4. I have a guide dog. I don’t take him to the mosque, but if the same friends take us places or want to expand our relationship, they have to be comfortable with the dog — — which many are not. Actually, we rarely get that far. But, I know that many are not comfortable with my dog and this causes all of us some discomfort. There is a limit to how much I can leave him at home and honestly, if I leave him at home too much, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one. However, when we have to depend on rides, I have to put their comfort first.
My hope was that we could knit together a community of brothers and sisters (both from the church and the mosque), as well as some work colleagues — maybe — to be like close family. What church, you ask. And, I must agree, because I have not made much headway there, either. While I admit that the mosque is a bit more accepting than most churches that I have attended, there still feels like a disconnect. Sure, men at the mosque are more willing (than men at a church) to drive us to and from the mosque. They do seem to be “more helpful.” But, I was not just looking for “help” I was looking for a community to belong to – a community of interaction and the sharing of ideas and ultimately ourselves.
[side note: I think that is also what my daughter is looking for and one of the reasons (certainly not the only one, because he seems to be a much better guy than the others), that she wants to marry her ex-morman boyfriend who has tons of sibs and cousins]. The “Ex” is on the “mormon” part, not on the “boyfriend” part.
Anyway, at first, We began attending a very small mosque. The Imam would drive us to and from the mosque. Sometimes, I would talk to his wife. I thought that we wre developing a relationship with the couple. The man went off to study Arabic for three months in DC. I called the wife a couple of times to see if she needed anything. I got no response. The imam did not even call us when he returned. We had expressed excitement about his trip and were generally interested in his progress & experiences. Since we were one of the main families who would worship (and I use that term loosely in my case) at the mosque where he gave lectures, I kind of expected a closer relationship with the members. The second mosque is quite a bit larger. The one thing that I do like about this mosque is that there are lots of different nationalities present. We know men from Somalia, Gambia, Senegal, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some American born&raised Muslims. The men of the mosque are willing to pick up DH and I and return us to our homes. Our Gambian friend has a Christian wife, but she never comes to the Mosque. There is one bright spot. One Auntie, Shaaesta, does sit and talk with me. I realize that she could very well sit and pray/talk with the other Aunties. But, this pashton woman will sit and talk with me every time I see her at the Mosque. Sure, sometimes, she can be opinionated and she usually worries that I will fall down and/or trip over something on the floor. I wonder how much more intense this preoccupation with my falling will become when I have the baby and need to carry him around. ? Yet, she is kind and when we sit and talk, she really listens to what I have to say. I have not seen her outside the Mosque, however. It is a promising start. And, I must understand that *one* person can make a difference.
Now, DH is celebrating Eid with our Gambian friend and his Christian wife. That is where he was invited. And, I am stuck here at work. Dh has many more personal days than I do. When he works over, he gets comp time and he has been working at the company longer. Besides, whenever we have doctor appointments, I have to take off 30mins before my work day ends. He does not because his work starts 30mins before mine does and ends 30mins before mine does. So, He had the time to take off and still get paid. I don’t. and, frankly, I am a bit emotional about not getting to celebrate Eid with him. So, I’ll stop here with the future hope that next year, we all will celebrate Eid together.

Interfaith Watch (What is in the News)

June 22, 2011

i have tried to be low profile about interfaith. sometimes, it feels that interfaith subjects are taking over my life and emotions. … [how much to give, when to give, the boundaries of modesty, rules on cleanliness and eating, …] sometimes we reach for a balance, sometimes we honor the other’s beliefs, and sometimes, we say we will — but we fall short….
Just being real, here!

But, i must admit: differences&compromises in tenaments and expressions of faith do seem to overwhelm me at times!
It is a large part of our existance — Whether DH wants to acknowledge it or not.

anyway, we joined that Naiff (National of Interchurch and Interfaith Families) board as a Muslim/christian couple — a position that “I” (if no one else does) take seriously.
Since our wedding didn’t quite work out like I had planned or hoped (long boring story that I don’t want to rehash — at least, not now) ,
I was thrilled when someone else called looking for an imam to do an interfaith ceremony.
…. … maybe they can have that ceremony that I just couldn’t manage to get together!!!
(how exciting).
So, I sent them a questionnaire to verify exactly what kind of ceremony they were wanting,
[blended, alcohol? pork? kissing? dancing? mehr? and more] went on a search for Imams in their area and generally started looking at Interfaith articles, again.
i have already posted many links to Interfaith resources, so I won’t bore you with that again.
But: Here is an article that got lots of attention.
http://www.northjersey.com/news/123548299_Christian_Muslim_service_prompts_hate_mail_to_pastor.html?c=y&page=1
Now, i ask: What business is it to a person living in New Zealand, if a minister wants to hold an interfaith service? I understand wanting to be “globally aware,” but this is going overboard.
And, the most exciting moment – the hated Pastor admitted that he welcomes “interfaith couples,” at his perish! WOOHOO!
check it out!

A snow day (for all intense and purposes)

February 1, 2011

We have a “snow day.” DH was almost gitty last night when there was a possibility that we were going to have a paid day off. The ice is making the roads horrendous to drive on, so our company has taken a “snow day.” I think that snow days (even though, technically, this is an Ice day because it is about 27Degrese [ F] and not much snow accumulation thus, not really a Snow Day) turn adults into kids. They all channel their inner child. And, although DH has never had a “snow day” in his entire childhood, the inner child was channeled anyway. So, he was/is excited to have a day off. We are spending it being lazy and avoiding anything that feels like work which includes (but is not limited to) mini marathon workouts, dishes, cooking, laundry or straightening up the office.How long can those dishes be avoided???? We would spend the whole day inside, but:
The International Interfaith Initiative is hosting an event at our Indiana Interchurch Center.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 7:00 – 8:00 PM
“In the news today, we hear many stories—more negative than positive—about Pakistan. Please come and learn more about Pakistan from General S. P. Shahid (retired) as he shares his experience serving in the Pakistani military and working for the public good through non-profit organizations.”

I want to go. I don’t care about the weather. I want to go. Now, I must admit that I feel that most people are a bit over dramatic when it comes to weather and ice. I think that it is because I just have no reference. I don’t drive and I logicize [is that a word?] “It might be a bit slick, but with the salt, it is not that bad!” So, who cares about ice, I want to go. I have high expectations for the event and don’t want to miss it. Not only do I want to hear about the general, I want to meet others who discuss such subjects as cultures and/or interfaith. How exciting!!! I even called the director yesterday to make sure that they were not going to cancel it. He said that if so, there would be a report on the website by 10:00. It is 10:26 A.M. and no sign of cancelation. And, the director even said that he would call me personally if they canceled so I could change public transportation schedules. Oh, public transportation is still running. I think that if public transportation is still running, so should we! Actually, the public transportation drivers confess that they “always run,” no matter what the weather!
Honestly, I am not trying to be unsafe or uncaring to those who are afraid to drive on the ice! Many would feel that I am just being too flippant about this subject. Maybe so. But, my inner child is channeled; too, I’ll kick and scream: — I want to GO!
As 11:08 there was a call canceling the event. The director reported that General Shahid is quite excited to talk to people about his history and involvement in Pakistan and give people another prospective about Pakistan. Maybe they can reschedule tomorrow afternoon during the lunch hour. Would I be available! Sadly not! Guess those dishes are calling my name!

Hear the Call of III (International Interfaith Initiative)

January 25, 2011

For the last year, I had tried to find interfaith resources and people in interfaith marriages. I found a wonderful group of Muslim/Christian couples. The problem is that their meetings are in Southall, London. Obviously, that is not going to work. I have written on interfaith issues in previous posts and if I was more technically savvy like most of you, I would point you to their links. SORRY! I just don’t know how! And, dh is not interested. (smile)
I even thought about starting a “meetup group” or something similar for
‘intercultural’ couples. This came from a desire for both of us to feel strong in our faith. I wanted a place where we could unabashedly explore and express our faith with others who held similar desires, yet were open to their partner’s faith. But, I had to “find” the couples, first.
There were a few problems with finding interfaith couples that live in Indianapolis or the surrounding areas.
I could not find any interfaith couples at all. Now, I found the Dovetail magazine which talked about interfaith families. But, there was no ‘interfaith family’ in Indiana that I could talk with. And, even if there were: it is most likely one might be catholic or agnostic or atheist. In this case, they don’t have the same challenges as a Muslim and a Christian might have. I have also discovered that
1. just because one is a part of a minority faith, does not necessarily mean that they will accept others from less prominent faiths. Now, I say this, but I know that there are more than six million Muslims (maybe 8 million, my reporting might be off; but at least, six), in the USA. [So, i guess “minority faith status” might be kind of relative], Yet, as I have reported, imran and I have not made lasting connections with either the people at a mosque or at a church. Is some of this disconnectedness due to our status as an “interfaith family?” I don’t have enough experiences with mosque going individuals to make a definitive guess, but I do know that in the case of church going people, the word “interfaith,” is rarely spoken and definitely somehow not applied to Christian/Muslim couples.
2. this is the Midwest, people don’t really like to talk about their faith, unless they are certain that they will be supported. Interfaith is kind of a taboo subject.
3. did I mention that we have trouble with transportation? so searching the state is just not an option for us.
4. ‘faith’ is so subjective. What might be important to me in my faith, might not be as important to you in yours.
5. We are talking about “Muslim” here. At best, his religion is ignored and at worst, it is criticized.
So, here we sit!
And, when Rev Michael and Barb Slater from editors of the “Together magazine and who are CoChairs of the National Association of InterChurch and Interfaith Families
http://www.NAIIFOnline.org
Posted a desire for a Muslim/Christian couple to join the board, I was thrilled.
Now, of course, DH and I are newly married, so I did not suggest us, specifically. But, the thought of another couple bringing their wisdom to bear on such a sensitive subject and the fact that they actually were open to such a Christian/Muslim couple frankly, thrills me to no end. Before now, they had focused more on varying cultures and traditions within more similar faiths. Some will argue that Christianity and Islam are similar, but let’s not get into that debate.
And, to my Hindu, Buddhist and other faith friends (I can’t spell sorry), I realize that, as of yet, Hinduism and other such faiths are not included. I am not sure of the reason, but as of now, the farthest I have seen “interfaith initiatives” go is to Judiism.
So, here’s my Q:
Is there any interfaith couple “Specifically Muslim/Christian,” who would be willing to serve on their board? I have just received information about membership and specifically board membership. We (due to our zealousness concerning interfaith issues and probably because they don’t know any other Muslim/christian couple [passionate or not]), have been extended an invitation to be a board couple. It sounds quite intriguing (to me) and not too burdensome (to DH). yet, I still wonder if “we” are “qualified” to do so.
Whether it be “US” or “SOMEONE ELSE,” , this is an opportunity for the Christian/Muslim couple to be heard. Hey, why not throw a bit of culture (Pakistani) and disability (Blindness) into the mix. I am all for diversity. And it would be a great learning experience and opportunity for us! But, honestly, I admit that another couple might be more qualified for the position and might do a better job at being an effective mouthpiece to show the positive side of an interfaith(Christian/Muslim) marriage, present an objective viewpoint concerning the struggles that an interfaith family faces and give suggestions and tips for those contemplating such an endeavor. They also might be able to dispell the myth of the spiritually stunted confused child; similar to the stereotypes you hear about when people talk about bicultural or multicultural or biracial children. The myth lives on despite the many who can prove its obsurdity!
… …. …
And, just as I was about to post this, DH sends me an email detailing plans from the International Interfaith Initiative to host some seminars at our Indiana Interchurch Center.
What????
We have an Indiana Interchurch Center?
There are five upcoming events in Februrary, alone. Hmmm, maybe February is “interfaith month,” which also happens to be the month in which DH has a birthday. (smile) He received this information from a Muslim email list that he belongs to. It seems that the members of the Muslim Email listserv are a bit more open to interfaith initiatives than their Christian counterparts. Now, I am under no illusions. “interfaith,” does not always mean “interfaith families.” And, I remember how much “interfaith dialog,” and “interfaith celebrating,” went on at the last “interfaith event” that was held close to the Thanksgiving holiday. But, it is a start!

adjusting expectations

November 27, 2010

When I heard: “interfaith celebration,” I was excited. Imran had gotten a message from a Muslim email mailing list and when he passed it on to me, I was definitely thrilled that such an opportunity was happening righht here in our city. My mind was swirling with possible scenarios.
I wondered if there would be a good mixture of Muslims and
Christians(of varying faiths) and Jewish people and Hindus ….etc? Would the dinner have meat and if so, would it be Halal? Would the people be open and want to meet others of differing faiths? Would the speeches be interwoven together? Would the clergy support one another? What type of music would be presented? Would the prayers be
“interfaith,” as well? … … Just too many questions!

The Interfaith celebration was Wednesday, the day before
Thanksgiving. We did not get much information. We found a Pakistani family who said that they would take us. Their daughter had come down with food poisoning, so they would not be able to bring us home. Now, I was worried about going. But, Imran said that we would find someone to take us home, so it would be ok. Still, I was apprehensive. But, Imran knows me well. Had we not gone, I would still be wondering what we missed and my imagination would run wild.
The night was wet and a bit cold. It had been raining for a good while. Thanks to the Muslim family that took us, We finally got there. We missed the call to prayer, the reading from the Quran and the Rabbi’s message. When we came in, there were a couple of speakers intermingled with a few songs. But, Imran and I had no program. We did not know who was speaking and which faiths they represented. The person who drove us had to leave because her daughter was sick. The person who helped us find a seat was an usher/greeter, so he was not able to sit with us.
We listened to the music. Unfortunately, I did not know any of the hymns being sung. That also was disappointing. I noted that Imran took my hand during the songs and prayer. This is always a source of comfort and reassurance. I remembered that I thought that had he been closer in the Mosque, I might have wanted to reach for the same comfort. There was a call for money, as the presbyterian church that held this celebration, also supports interfaith hunger initiatives/ both in Kenya and here in Indianapolis. I gave some change. I had to jingle some change and kind of display it to make sure that the collection plate is passed to me. That is our way (a blind person’s way) of letting people know that you do intend to put something in the collection plate. Otherwise, people will not pass you the plate. There are two reasons:
1. They may just assume that WE, as blind persons, have nothing to contribute. 2. They may not want to make us feel uncomfortable by passing us the plate, if we truly have nothing to give. It does put one on the spot. Usually, a sighted person can wave it away if they have nothing to contribute. But, with a blind person, there has to be some conversation.
After the service, I had to strike up a conversation with a woman behind me. She was polite, but not too personable. (Was it the blind thing; or the obvious intercultural couple thing)? There was a small reception afterwords while they served cookies and drinks. We met the pastor of the church briefly.
we did find someone to take us home. It was raining when we got home. The conversation did not go past the stage of small talk and it took our drivers (a father and son) a while to get warmed up. But, I am glad that I went. I realize that this is only their second attempt at such an event. I have some suggestions, though. And, if they don’t listen, maybe I will pitch them to the mosque who has hopes of hosting something similar when they get the space.
Suggestions for planning an interfaith event:
1. provide a united front. All of the clergy should join together both at the beginning and end of the service to show unity and genuine companionship.
2. Allow each faith to have an important part of the planning and time in the service.
3. Whenever a speaker gets up to speak, announce again who you are, where you are from, and give a small welcome/introduction message. It would also be polite to thank the speaker who spoke before you.
4. Whenever the choir gets up to do a song, announce who they are, where they are from and the selections that they will be singing. (It was not very disability friendly). The songs were in a hymnbook, but I did not know the words or who was speaking. They didn’t even tell us when to kneel, sit or stand. So, sometimes, we felt quite odd because we weren’t sure what people were doing…. and, we did not want to get into someone else’s space by standing/sitting too close as to know what their body was doing. Sighted people [not trying to generalize, here] seem to not have a problem with being the only few people in a row and seem to require lots of space between them and the next group; especially if that next group is a group of strangers.
5. Imran and I had to find people to help us. People did not come up to us and introduce themselves. It was obvious that we were new. But, all around us, we heard people greeting old friends and talking with people about: “/What are you going to do tomorrow? Want to come over?”
6,. Share a meal together. If you can’t share a meal or don’t feel comfortable consuming so much food when you are trying to fund raise for people who are hungry: then, have snacks, but let each church/mosque/synagogue/temple bring some snacks from people in their congregation. And, have them help serve it. this would also give people a chance to mingle with other faiths, more.
7. The Imam did not stay for long. Imran wanted to talk with him. It really did not seem like people were that desirous of forming new friendships or getting to know those outside of their own clique. To be honest, it felt as “interfaith” was just something to talk about. It did not seem that people really wanted to “mingle” with those of other faiths. When I mentioned to the family behind me that we were in an Interfaith marriage, the response was to change the subject.
Yet, the eternal optimist says that it is a start. And: I did hear some good prayers and some good songs and, at least we got out and were introduced to more of the community. We had a pleasant
conversation with the Pakistani family who took us to the celebration. And, just before we were dropped off, the atmosphere began to warm up. Who knows. And, now, at least, I know what this celebration is and can give suggestions on how to make it better.
We went to see my father on Saturday. My father, was at first, kind of chilly. And, I was a bit disgusted. The meat was ham. I think that my father was a bit put off because Imran did not eat Turkey, either. The first time, he did eat the turkey out of politeness. But, he just is not a fan of turkey. I keep saying,” Chicken or fish!”
But, I thought ahead and made some chicken patties. My father even let me cook on his stove without any hastle which is not normal because he usually is a bit nervous when I cook on a gas stove(blind thing). And, no one put up the three small barking dogs. Actually, they did at first, but as the evening wore on, the rules became less strengent until the little dogs and puppy were sitting on the kitchen chairs. I couldn’t believe that they kept letting them out of the room and just roam around. I felt as if I had to be a shield to make sure that they did not get to Imran. And, I shouldn’t have had to do this. They should have been more respectful. I kept mentioning it, but it fell on deaf ears.
My older sister’s children argue incessantly. I kept thinking: “At this rate, Imran will never want children.”
The eternal optimist says that things went well. My older sister opened up a bit more (she had virtually no one else to talk to) and he says that things will get better and better as we continue to see family. Besides, the optimist had some conversations concerning insurance and was able to engage my sister and father in a few topics. And, I got to see Kyler. I often feel like I don’t see him enough. So, all in all, I was glad that we went.

So what do the two visits have in common? Well, if everything is not planned out in advance, sometimes, I am a bit apprehensive. But, the Optimist (usually, not all the time) finds the good, the hope, the things that make outings worth while. And, I must admit that he is a bit more flexible than I am. He finds something to eat and does not say a word when family is so obviously pork centered. (two types of cheeseball with ham, as well as a whole cooked ham and sometimes even bacon in the veggies). And, he had to put up with barking growling territorial yappers. I have to admit that my father’s dogs are…. …. Well, …. …. Not well behaved! We have not even discussed how their political views are different than ours, etc. Yet, Imran goes and finds the good. This reminds me that I should not complain if someone has a problem taking my dog in their car. I need to be more flexible, sometimes!

I want to say that it is not that I don’t like going places. In fact, I want to go and to socialize. But, I do get upset when people don’t observe and respect other people’s differences. But, the Optimist just seems to forget the offense quite easily.
Hmm, I could be a bit less rigid and relax. Point taken.

humari shaadi kahani (1)

November 27, 2010

Imran and I married on September 24, 2010.
We had a courthouse wedding. His sister and friend S came and my sister and her soon to be husband (although they didn’t know it then, they would decide to marry at their respective courthouse a week later) also came. I think that there are pics on facebook. Check out my facebook page because I have a hard time inserting pictures and such into my blog. This is why it probably looks kind of plain, etc. I am not sure which pic is which, so I will wait for others to post them for me and hopefully, they will label them also. But, sorry pics don’t accompany this post.
(note: if/when I ever go to Pakistan, I think that I am going to have to HIRE someone just to take pics) [smile].

First, I had to lay to rest some dreams. I must admit that I am a dreamer. I already think about what will happen when I go to Pakistan. I conjure up many different situations in my mind. Although, I know that these are purely hypothetical and most definitely in my fantasy. I just think too much.
My dream wedding begins on a clear warm day. We marry in a church where I found a commited clergy to officiate. The Nikka is right before the wedding in a mosque of his choosing. My father and family goes to the mosque and we have Muslim friends, also. The horse and carriage will pick us up at the mosque and take us to the church. Now, we have incorporated the white horse concept into our own wedding. OK, that sounds extravagant. But, we have to get from one place to another and I am trying to incorporate both traditions into one ceremony. Why not. It is my dream, after all. (smile)
Sure, why not mendi? I think that the others in my bridal party will actually like it and it will feel festive: even if I can’t see the colors. And, hey, I want one of those drums … … (Can’t remember off the top of my head the name of the drum) that the women play. The music and decorations are a tasteful blend of American and Pakistani. Maybe: a tabla player as percussion to some piano selections or selections from both a brass quartet as well as a bansuri. It is not a huge wedding, but our friends and family are there. I like the roses and Jasmine and other flowers from Pakistan blended with lillies and American flowers. I am not a “color person,” but Dominika or someone would help me coordinate. I have succeeded in finding a modest American dress with a Pakistani veil. I (WE) pronounce our vows in both English and Urdu. (I have already written my vows). We have a reception with Pakistani food and American food.
I never did like the separation of the bride and the groom’s relatives. So, all would sit and eat together.
We pass out favors of small cloth bags: (one side with an American flag and the other has an embroidered Pakistani flag on it). The small bags have a drawstring and inside is a blend of Pakistani nuts and candy and American candy. Each bag will have supari and dark chocolate.
OK, dark chocolate is not “American,” But, it is my favorite. And, the bag should remind people of Imran and I. I don’t necessarily like supari. I thought about the chilli millies. But, I found that I like shahi Maywa and kabli maywa and thought about stuffed dates. And, we could put print “humari shaadi kahani,”(or something similar) on one side and the braille embroidered equivalent on the other.
I do like to take pictures, just as mementos and to show others. The ceremony and reception will be video taped. This is just in case his family can’t come. This is a sketch with different variations, as I think of them.
Back to reality:
there are so many challenges. Finding clergy to do the ceremony posed a huge problem. Then, we weren’t sure where to have the ceremony. Maybe we should have it at a nutral place: instead of at a church. Besides, many churches have a bit of a problem with marrying a Muslim to a Christian.
Then, there was the issue of money! Should we spend so much on a wedding ceremony, or should we save for us to go to Pakistan to meet his family. Well, with all of this: besides the fact that there were still those who weren’t supportive, the stress was immense. it is very difficult to blend two cultures. His family is not here. My family still has reservations. Friends still have reservations as well. Actually, the only ones who are a bit more understanding were his Muslim friends who are in wisconsin.
In the end, I love Imran and he me. We knew that we wanted to be together. He has a job here (so, even if I don’t) we can still pay the bills. It made no sense for him to rent an apartment for six months until we figured things out. With transportation and the difficulties from moving from one place to another, etc; it was just less stressful and easier to have the courthouse wedding now. We could still, if we both wanted, have a ceremony later: when family and others were 1. around and 2. more accepting. And, it would give us some time to plan a “waleema,” where we might just take a trip to Chicago or Milwaukee. I enjoyed our small courthouse wedding. My sister and her (now) husband came and was there for me. Hina and S was also there. Hina and S stayed the weekend. I dressed in the outfit that Imran bought me. I made him dress nicely in American clothes. If I had the bangles, I would have worn them. They were given to me a bit later from a dear friend as a wedding gift. But, I did find a necklace and looked quite nice in my outfit. Imran and I filled out lots of forms. We talked about it and I decided to change my name. It will be difficult for my family to get use to: but my last name is now “Ahmed.” The good news is now I am an “A.”
It took us four hours to actually get married. I thought beforehand and could not think of one thing to do that would make it a bit more special. Well, I thought of saying somethings in Urdu to him, during the ceremony. Actually, truth be told, I practiced over and over. But, I am more shy than ever to speak it especially in front of others such as his sister and S. I was afraid to get something wrong. In hindsight, I should have. In any case, the judge was almost bubly. She did help us relax and also feel special. We were the sixth couple to marry. We spent five hours at the courthouse before being pronounced “man and Wife.” We spent another hour and a half enjoying company and a meal.
My sister had to get back to her own family, so we ate at “golden Chorale,” My sister’s husband was our driver since Imran, Hina, S and I are all blind. Actually, her husband is blind in one eye. He was playing with a stick, when he was small and the stick pierced his eye. He has an artificial eye. He has normal sight in the other eye, so he can drive with no problem.
Anyway, we ate where everyone could find their favorites. From Hina’s favorite of fried fish to Nikki’s meatloaf; everyone enjoyed themselves. Then, we went home and could finally say that we are husband and wife. We felt at peace knowing that now we are together as close as two can be.
Imran and I didn’t really have a honeymoon. The next day, he had to work at the vision expo and we all (Hina, Imran, S and I) went after a breakfast of potatoes and eggs. We also had an unpleasant experience with Open door (Paratransit) when they had record of my ride scheduling, but not Imran’s. This would be the first of many challenges with paratransit. Soon, we were all on our way.
We are talking about having a ceremony in June or July. We would like to find a way to blend our cultures together in a ceremony. Hopefully DJ will be able to get leave from Japan and Imran’s family will come, also. Although, I do realize that there will be lots of stress in the planning. And, honestly, that “stress” and “feeling green with fear,” and the reality that I was alone in the planning; was one of the reasons that I opted for the courthouse wedding. But, his parents might come and it would be nice to have a bit of a ceremony/celebration…. …. Hmmm, who can help me plan a small intercultural wedding on a very tight budget? (which will include taking and posting pics)

My first Ramadan

October 7, 2010

One of my firsts!
September 3, 2010
I have not written in my blog for a while, but I wanted to write about Imran’s visit and the start of Ramadan.
People in MC relationships (Muslim/Christian) [No Christian offense because I put Muslim first, it is not a comment about dominant faith, etc] – [people are so sensitive].
Approach Ramadan differently.
My goal was to respect the fast and not eat because Imran was not eating.
But….
I wondered if I was kind of “thumbing my nose), because I was participating in a fast that was not mine to participate in.
Yet, I did not want to tempt Imran.
So, I ate/eat discretely.
I got up early to prepare a breakfast. I made some pretty flavorful food, but I knew that it was not authentic Pakistani food. When I did buy parathas, I seemed to burn them. My cooking&baking skills are disappearing and who knows why.
Imran came on August 8th and had a job interview on the 13th of August. He actually had one on the 10th of August for a Customer Service position and the one on the 13th was for a script writer/ assistive technology teaching position.
We were hoping for the latter interview to yield a job, but with today’s economy, we would take any job offered.
But, back to Ramadan:
So, I was thrilled that we were invited to one of his friends’ house to break the fast. This was on Saturday, the 14th, so we had already spent three days of Ramadan.
He had forgotten to mention (I think that “avoided the issue” might better describe it, but I am not quibbling on this point) that I have a guide dog. Fallbrook, my guide dog, can not stay at home when no one is there to watch him. It truly is like having a small child. But, we were invited to a traditional Pakistani home and the parents and even Imran’s friend was quite afraid of the dog. I strongly suggested that Imran go without me. I did not want to make anyone uncomfortable, but there was no one to watch Fallbrook. As reluctant as Imran was to bring up the situation, he was even more determined that I accompany him. We decided that I would take the dog: (the family said that it would be ok, as long as we kept him outside). And, I prepared for it. It was a bit hot, but I brought extra water. But, when we got there, it was suggested that we keep the dog inside, but in the entryway: where there was no carpet. It worked out rather well.
The family consisted of a mother and father,(who were visiting) their children, A., B., and C., (A and B are females) and C is a male and married to D. C & D also have a two year old son. D., C.’s wife, is an American. A will be getting married soon and moving out. B is blind and we talked lots about her GRE, Braille skills, etc. She has taught in Pakistan and we talked about some of the differences and resources that she could find here.
I expected to have a large Pakistani dinner. What I had was vegetable rice, biryani, chicken in a spicey sauce and some pita bread that served as Naan. Oh, and D and I ate a bit of fruit before the fast. She said that she was not fasting either. At first, I thought that she may not be Muslim, but, upon later reflection, I think that she is Muslim, just was not fasting that day.
It was wonderful to talk about cultural differences, compare Urdu notes and just enjoy the evening. Imran and I have not had much response in regards to finding people to take him to the mosque, etc. He had one Indian friend, but he went back to India. The last couple of calls to various mosques did not result in any contacts being made and no Mosque attendance.
Imran bragged about my urdu. I wish that he had not because I have not used it in a while and frankly, it is not that good at all! But, he cajoled me into singing one of our favorites, “Tayri Yaad” by Adnan Sami. Of course, he would sing it with me. The problem was that I know the song much better than he does. So, soon enough, his masculine voice ceased to resonate and, of course, I was on my own for a bar or two. They were impressed, I was embarrassed. .

The other intercultural couple sang Pakistan’s national Anthem… … put us to shame. I don’t even know it and could not pick it out.
Does anyone have a link?
No pakoras, no samosas, but the vegetable rice and spicy chicken was quite tasty! The biryani was a bit too spicy for me.
But, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the company!
I demonstrated my “I-Bill,” Thanks to Imran, I have a way to recognize currency.
It happened in Dallas. Someone thought that they gave me a $10, but it was really a $1. Now, I am not jumping to conclusions and assuming that there was any malicious intent. In the past, we would have to ask a sighted person the denomination of our currency and then fold it accordingly, so that we would not have to continue to ask all of the time. But, now, there is a small device that will read and speak the denomination. It is quite small. The end of the bill is slid into the device and it will announce the amount of currency. So, Imran bought me an I-bill, after my unfortunate miss hap in Dallas. And, I got to show it off! (smile)

We also visited one of our favorite restaurants “Magoo’s California Pizza,” which is Halal and owned by a Pakistani family.
We broke the fast with dates and a kind of sweet rosewater: … … Rahoofsa????
He had a place to pray and all was good.
We had a good time and went out by ourselves.
There is something “free” about not having to rely on someone else’s time frame.
But, we really did have to rely on the timeframe of public transportation, so we were not as “free” as I pretend.
(smile)
Yet, Ramadan celebrations were great: despite the fact that I could not provide him a “close to Pakistani” experience.

I realized two important things from this wonderful evening with the family.
I tend to give up too easily. Imran always looks for the compromise, he makes every attempt to make things work. For me: A “no” is a “no.” I take things for face value and try to work within that mind frame. Imran is always looking for the compromise. … even with people he barely knows. Many times, people are not as rigid as I might think that they are. And…. Each family has their own way of blending cultures. Some accept extended family into their homes and some do not. Some cook lots of Pakistani food and some do not. Some American counterparts learn Urdu and some do not. Some Pakistanis wear their traditional clothes and some do not. Some take frequent trips to Pakistan and some do not. It is whatever makes the couple and extended family feel comfortable. Certainly, I would not want Imran to lose his culture and/or minimize his customs. But, the specific blend is up to the individual couple. I think that I had been oversensitive to the fact that people might accuse him of “losing his culture,” or “assimilating.” Does a relationship with an American already mean that one is “assimilating into the American culture?” So, I have been trying hard to help him preserve his culture.
I am learning to relax a bit. Just as some enjoy a very strong cup of coffee and others enjoy a bit of coffee with their sugar and cream—
As some enjoy very spicy meals while others have a pallet for the more bland selections –
The blend is up to the family.
I can’t tell you that you are not a “real coffee drinker” just because you like lots less coffee in your cup than I do.
If each party makes every attempt to incorporate different blends, then one partner won’t feel as if their specific culture and traditions are being overlooked. It is important that people do keep certain treasures from their own culture. But, each individual person gets to decide “what” those treasures are and how to incorporate them into their new blended life.
I am not advocating choosing a dominant culture and forgetting another’s culture.
But, I don’t have the right to criticize someone else’s particular blend. If both participants are happy, then, it works for them.
It might not be agreeable to me, but I don’t have to live there and/or with such decisions.

In any case, the “friend finding” is slow. But, we are enjoying our ramadan.
And, I, as a Christian am praying more because I pray when he goes to pray.
I can already hear the opposition ringing in my ear about the differences in prayer, worship and so forth.
But, all I can say is that:
you make your compromises and I will make mine. Our Ramadan was good for a first year and I hope that it will get better and better as the years go by.
I thought that Imran would be disappointed that he did not have large Pakistani celebrations. But, for now, he is ok with it.
He is an eternal optimist and I am learning to appreciate this quality more and more.
(smile)

Oh, and he did get the Assistive Technology job.
It took lots of time to figure out the specifics.
It had to do with immigration, employment, CPT, form i94 (I think that was the number: I am already mixed up about the specific forms — there are so many), fulltime work, etc.
Whenever immigration laws rear their ugly head, some people are quite knowledgeable and others think that they are, but are not.
But, in the end, he works full time at
Bosma Enterprizes.
He teaches blind people how to use the computer and he is also working to make more programs accessible so that more blind people can join the work force.
He likes his work and his colleagues.
He started work on the 1st or 2nd of September.

random post

April 27, 2010

Ok, I am resigned to the fact that no one reads this blog.
Maybe my children will read it after I am gone.
I have not yet elaborated on how depressing it is to not have a job when you are 40 and have moved to a larger city for just that reason.
And, I have yet to update any readers — (yeah right) on my relationship with Imran.
But, I must broaden my blog’s scope to include some of my thoughts because it is just too time consuming to make another blog.
Although, I reserve the right to do just this very thing in the future, if I so desire.
I posted the following message on facebook:
” The NY Post video of a man who helps a woman being mugged. He is then stabbed and dies on the pavement. 25+ people walked by. R you less likely to come
to someone’s aid in a city? R you’re less likely to help than years ago? R we morally required to help someone in need? Christian response? story:
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/hugo_wouldn_have_done_that_family_FKNTR0IUj3tsYhB5uSzfEL

Remember, I only have 400 characters to post.
Not one person responded.
Yet, people will comment to status changes such as
from Christine:
” Ace the cat just tried to drink water out of my cup. ewwwww,”
(12 comments)
or
From Amanda:
” wants a PS2 (or 3) so she can play Happy Feet, lol.”
(3 comments)
from Mary:
” This is my year.the 1st is my angel 2nd watch my space.”
(3 comments)
from Pam:
” As slow as Farmville is, you might as well have DIAL-UP!!!!”
(7 comments)
from Cheree:
” Bummer, stasia couldn’tget her bunny rabbits today bcit turnsout we cant have caged animals inthe apt however dogs are aloud so im still thinking about
adopting a dog, any suggestions on small very kid friendly doggies????”
(9 comments)
from Jasmine:
” Just sitting here in the bathroom while Kenity is playing in the tub. I’m def getting a headache and I already know she’s going to keep me up all night.”
(7 comments)
From Tabrani:
” Seringkali orang merasa kecewa terhadap sebuah media peneribitan ketika tulisannya tidak dimuat atau ditolak. Penolakan itu, sebaiknay kita jadikan sebagai
pembelajaran bagi diri kita. namun jangan pernah cepat menyerah. Kirim lagi dan teruslah menulis dan kirimkan.Pasti akan dimuat nanti”
(6 comments)
Ok, Tabrani is from Indonesia and only a few know what Tabrani said. Sometimes, he writes in English, but this was not one of them. .
But, you get my point.
I have wondered if it was just me
(maybe I tend to grate on people’s nerves).
Or, whether it is people in general.
I still don’t know.
And, yet, just today “The Cop,” (that is how he has introduced himself), has offered to mow my yard (a 30minute job on a riding lawn mower) and would not accept payment.
I am certainly greatful and am looking for a way to help make his life a bit easier.
Yet, I can’t understand that mob mentality.
And, it seems that facebook is a clear representation of the streets of New York. No one even comments, much less cares.
Oh Lord, help me to respond when a need arises. Help me not to be so myopically focussed as to not see what is going on right in front of me.And, give me the courage and boldness to act in truth and love.
In Jesus Precious name!

Now, let’s see where the test comes from.
I do notice that every time I am convicted about something, I am tested on whether my actions support my words.
I am hoping to pass the test and in that way feel a bit of success that I have done what is required of me as a Christian… … and a human!