Posts Tagged ‘gender segregation’

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 madeā€¦ 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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My first Eid

November 20, 2010

I keep writing:
“My first ….”
That is a good thing, because when you get as old as I am, you want to continue to have “firsts.”
(smile)

Before we get to the eid post:
“I am a proud member of the Desi web ring.”
the only problem is that now, I can’t find the “new post,” links or the “manage my blogs” options.
Where are the blind bloggers to help???
for now,
I’ll email my blog posts in and then try to go to wordpress and edit them so they don’t have lots of space in between the lines , etc. My post about my wedding is on the other computer and it is
temporarily out of commission, so I thought that I would go on and write about my first Eid; before I lost some of the details. I wish that I had a couple of pictures, but here it is.
I will post about my marriage. It will just take some time because the post — or most of it, is on a nonworking computer.
Imran had gotten off of work to attend Eid here in Indianapolis. This was my first Eid and his first Eid in Indianapolis. He found someone who would take us to Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) which is about 25miles away. I found someone to watch the dog. Actually, jackie, my friend that I have talked about before, said that she would watch Fallbrook.
I can hear all of my advocacy friends saying that “dogs are allowed in any places of worship and should be permitted in a mosque.” You are right legally. I have every legal right to take my dog in a mosque and they can’t stop me. they might try temporarily, but they would receive much media attention and a call to the police department. But, I was more concerned about our inclusion than my rights. We were already new, we are blind and Imran wanted to make contacts and friends. A large dog would not help the process. sure, it might, if we were in a church where everyone wants to pet the dog. But, we were in a diverse environment where “some people” would be frightened of the dog. And, many feel that a dog is unclean and should not be in a mosque. So, out of respect, I left him with a dog sitting family.

Imran thought about wearing Pakistani clothes, but wore a suit and tie instead. I would have been just fine with him wearing Pakistani clothes, but he didn’t know which were his best to wear. So, I thought that “if” he was going to wear American clothes, he might as well look nice!
I could not find my hijab. OK, I hear you! I should actually have more than one. I only have one because hina gave it to me. But, I can’t find it. And, I could not find one single scarf. So, I put my hair up and had to go “uncovered.” I recall reading Azadeh Moaveni’s “Lipstick Jihad,” where her Aunt walked through the streets of Iran without her hijab on. Azadeh likened it to walking down the street with an uncovered breast. Now, we were still in America. But, I felt that everyone would think that I was totally disrespectful for not wearing a head covering, especially on Eid at the prominent ISNA. I wondered if they would stare and comment to their siblings and children….So, I went through the first part of our day trying not to be conspicuous, yet knowing that I was.
I wore a red sweater that was a half turtle-neck. My black skirt was above my ankles, but I had on high-calf length boots. And, my glory was my Bangles that I got from a friend, Saima. She gave them to me as a wedding gift. I was excited to finally get to wear them. And, they were commented upon by Auntie and some of the other women. I was excited to tell the story of my friend and how I got them.

For anyone who does not know, ISNA is rich with diversity. I was not; and just never think much about being; the only white person or american person. I already know that most likely, I am the only blind person (well, now, accept for Imran). Blindness usually overshadows any other characteristic of difference, anyway.

We were picked up by an Indian couple. Later their University daughter would be my interpreter and conversational companion during gender segregated activities. I appreciated and enjoyed the company. I tend to be a spectator or observer in most activities. Rarely am i actually “included.” Usually, I observe and make my own analytical commentary (in my mind, of course) about the situation. This is for two reasons: 1. most of the time, people don’t know what to do with me. I have went to holidays with family, college and church socials and other events and most often, my participation is spiratic. So, I get to observe. 2. I am a bit analytical, as a result of childhood observing. 3. I don’t like drawing attention to myself and/or being the center of attention. Many times, I don’t necessarily want to “blend into the background,” but I do want to “blend with others.” There is a difference. In the former, you are hoping not to be seen at all. In the latter, you are hoping to be part of the group; enjoying as others enjoy. I thought that I would observe Imran enjoying Eid… … or maybe the children enjoying Eid.
But, University Girl did help me feel a “part” of the celebration and not just an “ethnographer.”

I was quite excited to experience Eid with Imran. Especially, since we could forego the “sacrificing a goat,” thing. I am not sure that I have the stomach to witness that much sacrificing of animals… … the sounds, the smells, that might just be too much for me! I don’t know. But, I was glad that we weren’t a part of that specific Eid tradition, yet!

Ok, the Indian couple were late in picking us up and we got to the prayer late. There was also construction and that didn’t help any.

the Khudba (Wait, did I spell that right???) was about using Islamic diversity to bond together. He spoke passionately (quite passionately) about not having a Palestinian mosque, Sudanese mosque, Pakistani mosque, Egyptian Mosque and African-American mosque. He implored Muslims to help grow Islam by leaving those distinctions behind. he, (the man who gave the Khudba — and whose name I don’t remember — please forgive me), told a story where Bilal, an African Muslim (who was a slave and one of the first converts) was castigated by another Muslim. the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told the chastizer that he had not left the age of ignorance. the man felt so guilty that he lay his face on the ground to be stomped on for his offense. Of course, Bilal did not do this. He, the offender, was forgiven. For any Muslim, if I have gotten any part of the story incorrect, please know that this is how it was told or how I understood it. I may have missed something. Imran tried to fill in some of the blanks when Arabic was used. but, that was after the celebration and when we were home. I am sure that you realize that I can’t remember the offender’s name, either. (smile)
for me, the message was not only about putting aside color, cast, class and national distinctions; but also about forgiveness and asking for forgiveness when we have wronged a brother.

I sat in a chair behind the kneeling women. I said prayers silently. I don’t know the motions and movements that are manditory. and even if I did, it would feel too much like I was “playing Muslim,” and I did not want to give that impression.
But, I did take off my shoes. and, I did respect the prayer. There were at least three people who asked me if I was Muslim. At first it was a bit awkward. I thought my bare head gave away my religion! But, no one seemed to say or whisper anything. Sure, maybe they looked and maybe even stared. But, the Indian women whom I was with; (Yes, I sat with the women and Imran went with the men), did not say a word or seem to be bothered. No one offered me a headscarf in embarrassment or out of duty or as a polite gesture. That was ok and I would have taken it, if they offered. But, I am just saying that obviously, it did not bother them much. this does not mean that they didn’t care about being disrespectful. I only mean that this was something that they were not focussed on and I was silly to put so much thought into something that could not be changed… … at least, I could not change it.

The inquiries of my religion was only awkward because in Imran’s typical fashion, he did not mention the fact that I was not Muslim. He talked to Auntie on the phone at least twice and (I can’t use the word “forgot,” I’ll have to use the word “avoided) giving such information. “THANK YOU HONEY!” (just in case you were wondering, that was sarcastic )
So, when the first person asked, the Indian (We will call her auntie) spoke up for me in a resounding “yes, of course she is!” I had to delicately correct her.
(blush blush blush)
[momentary silence]

there were refreshments for all. The women ate in the basement and the men ate in the gymnasium. Imran admitted to filling up on doughnuts and “namak para,” which is a Pakistani dessert. It is strips of light flaky salted pie crust. That is the best way I can describe it.

then, we all piled in the car to go to a Pakistani Friend’s house. There were quite a few people. I sat with Imran and the men (not understanding their Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi) until University girl rescued me to sit with the women.I want to take a minute to talk about gender segregation.
In the mosque, the women and men did not eat together. so, I playfully chided Imran when he showed up in the room of women — (with the entent) of seeing whether we were ready to go and to check on me.
I think that he was just trying to score a couple more doughnuts!
But, I did not feel odd, in the least.
sure, there were things that I thought to talk with him about when he was not there.
But, I was ok.
And, after my sensitivity to the uncovered head, you would think that I would be quite sensitive to that.
then, in the Pakistani home, it was clear that men sat in one room and women in another.
It reminded me of our thanksgivings where the men sit in the living room and watch football and the women are in the kitchen cooking and talking.
sure, women *can go into the men’s room.
But, honestly, who wants to? ok, those who want to try to get the attention of the men or something. But, Well, I am fine talking to women!
So, I use “rescue,” when describing my transition from Imran’s side to a sofa crammed on the end of a line of women. I am not a “my space” kind of person, so I don’t mind “crammed in,” anywhere. Besides, the older I get, the more I realize that the spaces are smaller and I seem to “be cramming” more than usual. (smile)
and, I might have felt alone, if it was not for University Girl.
but, honestly, Imran could not possibly translate all of the conversation for me and so I was “rescued from the boring man talk.”
I did not feel “shunned to the back,” or any of those other ways to describe male/female segregation.
auntie, university girl’s mother was trying to include me into the conversation. University girl introduced me to every one and translated when she realized that I did not speak Hindi or Urdu. we also talked in english. It did occur to me that she was including me at the expense of her own comfort. I know that she would have rather sat with her University girlfriends and chatted incessantly. Much appreciation! There was a middle aged pakistani woman that I thought to chat more with. She spoke English fluently and when I mentioned “liberal,” her ears perked up. I would have liked to talk with her more. she was visiting from DC.

the food was eggs, a potato dish seasoned with tomato paste and spices and Paaye.
Ok, I might not be spelling it correctly.
this is gravy made from the feet of the goat.
[Don’t tell me the animal].
But, I did not taste any of the meat, just the gravy for dipping my Naan in.

I have to tell you that I seem to consume lots of Naan when I eat. I can’t make the tight pinch with a small piece of naan. Sometimes, I would use the spoon (yes, it was given, but I don’t know if any other person had a spoon or not) to move the food onto the naan. the potatoes were large chunks, though and sometimes the naan could not hold it. So, I seem to consume lots of naan with my dinner — probably more than the average person.
So, I did not have much to dip in my paaye.
Imran didn’t even eat paaye, but I did not find it distasteful.

People had to get back to work and to their day’s grind. So, we left. I should have asked for contact information. I was just enjoying the discussion and forgot to do so. Imran also enjoyed the men’s discussion.

We got home about 2:00 and we had time to enjoy the rest of the day. That means, we enjoyed a book together — Maybe we will get finished with “shantaram,” before christmas. .. His selection, but I agreed and seem to stay awake longer than he does when listening! (smile)
. And, we ordered Chinese. We have decided never to order from ChinaKing again. the first time, we just thought that it was a bad day. But, the customer service on the phone is horrible. Imran has a hard time understanding their English…. … So do I. The food was ninety minutes+ late and luke warm. Thank goodness that we didn’t order any crab ragoons because fried food does not taste very good when it starts to get cold. when we complained, we got a hollow apology. and, the food is not nearly spicy enough for Imran. We have to mix the soy or duck sauce (whatever is in those little packets) with some tabasco sauce. I think I am running out of hot sauce! (smile)
(smile)
I don’t know why Imran doesn’t like to tip the servers, etc…. … especially their customary 15%. But, I had to agree with him. this delivery man was not getting tipped.

Now, we got an email saying that there are interfaith celebrations this week where Muslims and Christians (mostly Catholics, but Presbyterians, also) are sharing a thanksgiving meal together. Hey, I am ready! Indianapolis is not very “open” to these types of celebrations so I am excited that there are actual some type of “interfaith” events. If we go, I will write about it. I want to know how the “interfaith” part is handled when praying, and discussing faith issues — but there might not be discussion, just eating and socializing. I am getting more excited just thinking about it.
. I think that a mosque is partnering with different churches to host the event.
I have to admit:
Interfaith does mean that you get to celebrate with many different types of people a bit more often than monofaith couples. (Is monofaith a word?) . Is it “monofaith,” “unifaith,” “single faith,” I don’t know!
However, With all of this meeting and celebrating, We should have more friends than we do! (smile)

contact with mixed company: forging respect

June 26, 2010

Everytime I try to edit this post, WordPress does not let me. I have tried to edit it many times… even before my first comment. This is my last attempt.
Now my computer has crashed again and I forgot all of the great inserts that I had made. I guess, I will have to try to remember the good parts and move on. I thought that my last edit was quite good, but, as I said, it is stuck on another broken computer. If all of those broken computers could talk… … …

I have read many intercultural blogs and I have not read much about the differences in male/female relationships. I have read about one woman’s husband who is a male feminist. But, rarely do people talk about opposite sex interactions. So, I suppose that I must assume that either
1. everyone has very understanding husbands who have assimilated to American values when it comes to opposite sex relationships:
or
2. The wives have surrendered to their husband’s’ views concerning opposite sex interaction.
or 3:
No one feels comfortable talking about such issues and they prefer to act as if they do not exist.
Of course, Possibilities 1 and 2 might have happened in a few cases.
and, if one partner converts to Hinduism, Christianity or Islam(or neither are of any religious affiliation at all — or at least a quite liberal one), their values might change also. I realize that rules about gender interaction are wrapped up in religion as well. A conservative person will have some strict rules about regulations and roles of each gender. Thus, when both are the same religion, there may be “few” conflicts in this area. Also, if both are rather conservative or rather liberal, there may be comparable views about interactions between genders.
Are we the only ones?
I was a pretty conservative Christian and he is a somewhat liberal Muslim. Yet, I must admit that Imran and I have talked extensively concerning this very thing. We had different views on interaction betweeen the genders.
For example:
Dancing with people from the opposite sex is common in america. From Ballroom to Step, dance has been a way of opposite sex socialization.
Yet, he would never go to a dance. Now, I am not asking him to salsa or step? I am thinking ballroom or square (how lame is that???)
But, he has strict rules for himself about physical contact between the genders. Even if it were just dancing with me.
“Let’s take a ballroom or swin dancing class?”
1. he would not want to dance with me in public some of this could be because he feels awkward learning to dance and is afraid that he is getting it wrong. But, some has to do with the personal nature of dancing.
2. he certainly would not want me dancing with other men. no explanation needed.
Now, many feel that there is no harm in dancing.
But, that kind of physical contact and closeness between men and women, he finds just inappropriate in public.

So, I forego dancing in public.
Now, this does not bother me much. I was never a “dancer.”
Sure, ballroom dancing and square dancing were fun. And, I must admit, it was a bit exciting to dance with a guy: even if it was only taking his hand or feeling his arm loosely around my waist. So, I understand about physical contact.
But, honestly, before Imran, I didn’t dance much.
Would I love to learn more complicated ballroom dancing and to swing dance?
YES. … … especially if Imran and I were to learn it together. But, this activity is easily replaced with something else which is equally enticing to me. We have many other activities that we can share together that stimulate our minds or that provide some exercise.
So, this only slightly annoys me — on a bad day.
Yet, I can see that it would annoy others, if someone enjoys the dancing scene.
(yet, the blogosphere is silent)
Or,
Let’s take swimming for example.
I remember the scene in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” where the main character, Changes, is witnessing his love Erica sunbathing topless on the beach. He swims with her also and later with some hesitation and patience, enjoys the freedoms of having an unrestricted relationship. . Later, close to the end of the book, he daydreams of her being in Pakistan with him. Of course, it has been suggested that “Erica,” is not only a beautiful girl, but a metaphore for “America,” and in that vein he will always miss and daydream about America, even when he is in Pakistan.
But, in reality, if the daydream had materialized, the situation would unfold quite differently. I imagine cultural values would clash and he would find her boldness about the removal of clothing quite embarrassing. The main character, Changes, does not touch on changing values of respect, transformations about modesty and if, in fact, although he enjoyed her boldness in the matter, he still would find it “inappropriate for a real lady.” The one thing that we do get from the book is that cultural expectations and values collide.
_________
I’m an American. I am use to swimming in a swimsuit without any regard to others in my vacinity. His comments:
“Even if guys don’t try to touch you (and I am sure that it is hard for them not to do so), they want to. They think about it. In their mind, they are thinking about what it would be like to do so. And, they are not just “looking” They are ogling (and although blind guys can’t see you, thus, can’t “ogle,” they have an active imagination) and wonder what it would be like to touch…. etc. Why would you want someone imagining you in such circumstances? Don’t you think that they are fantasizing about you… … just a bit? And, doesn’t that make you feel uncomfortable to know that someone is imagining what it would be like to make love to you –(and have sex would be the more appropriate term) or at least touch your body?” I’d like to say: “I am certainly not the subject of some lurid fantasy!” I’d like to argue with him on this point: but, I can’t. I can’t tell him that guys are desensitized to women in skimpy clothing and that they no longer care. He would trod out the media and how sexual advertising has become. He would remind me of all of the strip clubs and “hooters,” that are around America. I’m up for a good debate as much as the next woman; but, I want a reasonably good chance that I can win. And, Lying has never been my strong suit. Honestly, I don’t think about guys’ fantasies much. I just want to enjoy the water and swim. Yet, the fact that I don’t want to think about the fantasies of others does not mean that they don’t exist. It just means that I ignore them. I did not have a reply for this except:
“so, if you saw Rachel (a friend of mine) in a swimsuit, you would start fantasizing about her????” He wouldn’t respond and I let it go. The best that I could get out of him is that he would not put himself in a situation where there would be scantily clad women (Rachel included) around so that he wouldn’t be tempted to fantasize. — [good answer, but I think the answer to my question is an indirect “yes”]. But, even if he would be tempted, he circumvents the entire situation. Maybe he does not want me to know that he might be tempted by another woman. But, actually knowing that you might be tempted and circumventing (sorry for the same word twice, but I am not thinking of vocabulary) the situation is even more admirable.

and further, I say, “I don’t care what they are thinking. I just want to enjoy the water and as long as they don’t touch, then, they can keep their thoughts to themselves. But, even this is a bit incorrect. I really don’t want them imagining such intimate situations with me. and, I do say that I am sure that they try to control themselves. Yet, bikinis make it quite difficult. The water feels awesome against my skin. Besides, if I curtailed my innocent enjoyment just because they could not keep their desires in check, then, I might not come out of the house or speak to them ever. Where do the regulations end? Should I not talk to men because my voice might titulate them?”
I do make some valid points.
But, when it is all said and done: “NO, I don’t want guys ogling me in such a way — or in the case of blind guys: wanting to touch … etc… (just a quick brush against the breast — whoops, sorry it was an accident).”
And “blind,” does not mean “all the way blind,” many blind guys are partially sighted and can see what I am not wearing up close. So, even if we stayed within the blind population; there are still problems. It is not just the “seeing,” per sey, it is the imagination. I still have my feelings about it being the guys’ responsibility to keep his fantasies in check. And, why should I sacrifice my desire to feel the water and enjoy the coolness of swimming just because guys don’t have self control? After all, you don’t see me wondering and fantasizing about the guys in their swim trunks. and I reassure him that I don’t. It doesn’t even pop into my head. Of course, he reminds me that guys are more visual and even blind guys have a visual imagination. he should know, he is one of them!
Yet, I don’t want to overstimulate them. I have to set the boundary between my freedom and enticing others.
I must admit that swimsuits (even the one piece modest ones with an accompanying skirt that i wear) — (wore) do show lots of skin and that can entice guys.
In addition, he still feels uncomfortable knowing that other guys are seeing me with very little clothes on and having such thoughts.
when all is said and done, I have agreed to either
A. swim with females only — or
B. swim with the clothes of a Muslim woman (minus the head covering).
I did find a “muslim Swimsuit,” at
www.ahiida.com
This is made by an australian woman.
But, it is quite expensive and other muslims say with distain: “not necessary.” because you can just swim in light clothing.
(shakes her head and lifts eyebrows: how cumbersome is that — heavy clothes on your body?)
Would I feel a bit odd doing so? Yes. But, I will get use to it and eventually, I would relax. Besides, I will still be enjoying the water. I don’t actually “swim” anyway. I just float and enjoy the feel of the water. Yet, I have considered swimming and or water walking to get back into shape because there is little pressure on the bones. So, I am not sure how to navigate that one — unless I find a women’s only group who water walks

And, this was a big thing for him. It is more of an issue for him than it is for me. If I swim, it is probably two times a year. A female friend has offered her pool to me and I might take her up on it; but there will be no guys present. They are all out working!
I am a part of organizations where there are many men. I go to conventions, conferences and events without Imran. He tends to worry lots. It is not “jealousy.” Ok, maybe a bit of Jealousy. But, I have seen him do the same with his sister. He asks that I call when I arrive and if I am going to be late for our routine chat. At first, it felt as if he did not trust me. I can’t say with certainty that this was not the case. But, I can say that we have had to work out a system that makes both of us feel comfortable. I have agreed to call him when I arrive and call him each evening before I turn in for bed. I will send him my agenda and tell him my plans for the coming days. I enjoy doing this and have no difficulty in doing so. It comes up in conversation, anyway. It is not as if he has dictated such strengent commands. I want to share my day and all that happens in it. Much of my next day’s agenda just comes up in conversation.
He has agreed not to worry, not to call my friends asking why I have not called or if I am ok because I have not called yet.
He will wait for my txt or phone call. He does support me in the things that I want to do and wants me to succeed and excel. He talks about being this way: even when his father went to work or when his mother was out.
1. while socializing, if I am invited to dinner or such by a male, I should not go alone (preferably both males and females will join us). There should be four to eight people at dinner. The more and the more diverse, the better.
2. i don’t go to bars unless the entire group that I am traveling with is going and strongly insists. I do not drink alcohol. I made this decision before Imran, so I am not sacrificing alcohol for the relationship: per sey. But, I realize that others do drink alcohol and sometimes their judgement is a bit hazy. Their judgement might effect their reactions toward me, so I need to be on my guard at all times. Of course, I find the women in the group and stick close to them. I enjoy finding and talking to women. I am not a flirt by nature. So, this is quite acceptable to me. And, I try not to stay long. this does not mean that I don’t talk to the guys. This just means that I am careful and don’t put myself in potentially dangerous situations… but, within reasonI don’t shut myself up in a hotel room because I might have a dangerous encounter, either.
3. Only women are permitted in my room. That is, of course, unless the men are family members — my sons or father. Of course, if Imran is there, then, we can invite a group over. And, if there are my sons or father, then things are a bit more laxed, but still care needs to be observed. Yes, I usually get a room by myself.
4. when a man does make a pass or cross the line, or when any of these other boundaries have been compromised, I will truthfully tell Imran. It won’t result in blaming me. Now, you all have seen at least one picture of me. It is not like I am a model or even close. I don’t want to give the impression that I am always being hit upon or that men find me extremely attractive. And, I try to be quite modest in my dress: not drawing attention to my appearance. I did this before Imran. In fact, we talk about such circumstances before they might happen and I tell him my strategy for minimizing such happenings. But, he can’t blame me if a guy does step out of line with his comments. And, I will firmly put him back in line. I have promised to tell the truth, but in return, he has promised not to hold me responsible for the thoughts and actions of other men. These things are quite complicated and I will admit that most women will think that I am being crazy and either
1. allowing Imran to impose restrictions on me
or
2. imposing restrictions on myself which are not necessary.
I want to say that if Imran were Christian, I would behave similarly. Of course, there are some residuals of Islam, but most of my behavior was decided before Imran had come along.
I try to be modest in my dress and speech and try not to give the wrong idea about my intentions. I believe that flirting is not only dangerous, but suggests (even for a microsecond) something improper. Before Imran, I had not thought about the swimming issue. I suppose that I was modest by American standards, but probably quite liberal by Pakistani standards.
I know American women who are married to American men who don’t tell their husbands the truth because they are afraid of the backlash.
I think that many American men feel as …. … let’s say, Pakistani men … do.
I mean, they might not want other men to see their wives/sisters in skimpy clothing and they might feel uncomfortable when their wives flirt with others. It is just that they believe that they should not feel this way, so sometimes they suppress it.
These men are afraid to show their emotions because they are afraid that women will call them cavemen. And, no one’s freedom should be compromised for someone else’s feelings.

When thinking of our regulations on opposite interactions, These are actually common sense rules and I have no trouble with them. But, I need to admit that we have had to have many conversations to arrive at this dialog. Would I have had the same conversations if I was in a relationship with an American or christian man? … … maybe!, but then again, probably not.
The american man would value freedom above all else and since we have grown up in skimpy swimsuits, etc, he wouldn’t have a problem with such situations.
and, if he did, it probably would take him longer to admit that he had such a problem.
Or, he might handle it by doing a bit of “interacting” of his own.
Now, according to American standards, I am quite modest in my dress. But, there is a gap between conservative Americans and liberal Pakistanis, sometimes.
You can’t just assume that your guy (especially if you are in an intercultural relationship) has the same values that you do when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex, responsibilities of the opposite sex and modesty when around the opposite sex.
I remember when I first read:
“In the name of Honor,” by Mukhtar Mai.
This is a telling story about a Pakistani woman who was gang raped and took her rapists to trial.
This book got us talking about
how women handle rape in Pakistan, if a woman is ever partially responsible for a man’s actions, the differences in American and Pakistani legal systems, why women would commit suicide if they were raped, the fact that many women would rather die than be violated in such a matter, men’s reaction to a woman if they know that she has been raped and many other women’s issues surrounding sex, violence and their rights. I must admit that our discussion did not yield total agreement. … But, as we grow, we both conceid some points.
{I love reading books and talking about them with Imran. We talk about many social issues and flush out all of the possibilities! That is one of our strengths — but that does not mean that we always agree and this fact doesn’t make me a harlet or him a cave man!}

I have had these discussions before in very integrated settings: both inside and outside of academia. Imran suggests that when men and women casually and openly talk about such intimate subjects, they cut out the “special ness” from the activity and are just left with a physical act that yields instant gratification. If a man or woman shares such details such as personal body dementions, specifics about previous sexual experiences, the number of sexual partners etc, then he/she really has nothing to share with the current partner that has not been shared with everyone else. He wonders why people are so cavalier about talking about such an intimate and personal subject that should only be shared between two people. Imran admitted that he would never (in a normal Pakistani situation) talk about such issues as “sex,” in mixed company. Pakistani women would not feel comfortable and frankly, neither would pakistani men.
In fact, parents don’t talk about sex with their children, either.
(But, that is an entirely different post). In the beginning of our relationship; when we were talking and learning about each other; I brought up women’s issues, sex and all sorts of contraversial topics(drugs, prostitution, pregnancy out of marriage, euthenasia, ethnocentrism, racism, sexual freedom, church&state, child rearing, alcohol, white privilege, feminism, clubs for men, caring for the elderly, piercings&tattoos, accountability (individual and collective), contraception, law enforcement, GLBT, polygamy, legalizing marijuana, the prohibition on alcohol, societal norms, individualism verses collectivism, differences in sexual expectations, disability&independence, gender roles, equality verses equity, pornography, extended families, child marriages, masturbation, patriotism, house husbands, intercultural adoption, self defense, begging&dignity, capital punishment, what is included in the definition of adultery, circumcision, etc). I ask Imran later if he thought that I was too bold for delving into such topics. He says that he just expects this from Americans, so he didn’t think twice. But, he does not talk about such subjects with others…. not even some of his guy friends. Sometimes, he says that he has not thought about things in such depth. He just accepts things the way they are. But, I notice that there are differences in American and Pakistani guy talk.
1. while they might talk about sex, they don’t seem to make it personal.
2. they never kiss and tell.
3. They never talk about contraversial issues in mixed company. (I am not sure about patriotism, Islam and/or war).
4. when I ask about guys and their personal relationships: Imran just doesn’t know. “How is Salman’s engagement coming? Is he looking forward to finally being married? Has he talked with you guys about his anxieties about marriage (I was not specifically referring to sex)? How is Shahzad’s wife’s pregnancy coming along? Is he worried about having his first child?” “What about Atiq’s sister? Would he want her to come with him to study? What does his family think of his stay in America?” Imran just doesn’t know. He does not talk about such things. I have tried finding out all sorts of things about his friends’ wives, sisters and families and have hit a brick wall. So, even same sex relationships and communication is a bit different between americans and Pakistanis. The men just don’t talk about their families. I am not sure whether this bothers me or not. But, it really doesn’t matter because it is not going to change.
and, as a girlfriend/fiancee I must accept this fact and move on. “yes, they do know about me.” So, it is not that he is keeping me a secret. I have talked to his friends and he has skyped them when he was visiting.
_______
To be honest, there are still sometimes when we are in mixed company, that he misunderstands my interactions. And, if the truth be told, I misunderstand his. He is quite quiet and reserved and I am worried that he is not enjoying himself. So, I try to include him. Or, sometimes, I think that he wants to keep a low profile and he really wants me to be more inclusive.
I might be interested in a man’s subject matter or admire a man’s specific qualities; but, it makes him feel rivaled.
There are also times when men make an offhanded flirtacious comment and I choose to ignore it(and sometimes deny it), but he knows that they are being flirtacious which bothers him. Similarly, he is much more understanding than he use to be when I respond to men in mixed company. He does not assume that I am interested in them as a partner. He understands that I can admire a specific quality; but that does not mean that I am comparing Him to the man in question. Yet, it is embarrassing to him if I were to praise another man too much.
We admit that there are some qualities that we admire in others that we don’t see in each other.
He can certainly find American women who cook better Pakistani food and who speak much better Urdu than I do.
In his defense, he never verbalizes it. Sometimes, it seems that it is not very important to him. Yet, I know that it is when I do it. I am the one who notices it and remarks. “Wow! I admire her Urdu skills. I wish that I could speak so fluently!”
But, I have learned not to so openly admire the quality of another man because it does make him feel uncomfortable doing so.
He has learned that if he has a problem with my speech or actions; he can calmly come to me and talk about it. He does not need to assume that I want or am fantasizing about this guy just because I find his abilities or character admirable.
I have learned to try to be more reserved in my expression and praise.
We both want to make sure that we are not compromising too much of ourselves; yet, we are compromising “partially” so the other feels more comfortable.
This is a balancing act and is always in progress.
Sometimes we fall! Sometimes it is me and sometimes it is him. This process requires respect for the other person put before our own desires. If I told him that his feelings were unwarranted or that he was overacting and I would continue acting as I have always done – then, he would continuously feel as if his feelings are not as important as my desires.
and, if he demanded that I do things his way, I would feel stifled and as if he didn’t trust me to make good decisions in mixed company.
There are probably those Americans who would say that I am too submissive and I need to reassert myself as an independent woman. They will worry that I have compromised too much of myself.
Similarly, there will probably be those Pakistanis who will want to tell him that he is playing with fire. If he is not careful, I will walk into a situation that disrespects him. And, I probably don’t respect him because I am not yielding to his strong suggestions in such a sensitive area. If I don’t respect him in this, then, am I going to respect him in secret?? (I know the implied question).
Yet, he is comfortable in his stance.
And, I am, as well.
When I start sacrificing my activities and my abilities for his happiness, then, I am sacrificing too much.
For example: If I was to sacrifice my …
volunteering or career or time with family , just because it made him uncomfortable, then, he would be taking away a very important part of my being.
He knows how much communicating with others, being productive, family relationships and serving the community means to me.
So, he would never request that I discontinue because of his insecurities…. if he had any.
But, if I don’t recognize, understand and modify my interactions out of respect, he will feel disrespected by the very one who is suppose to lift him up. He will begin to wonder if I have alterior motives for my actions.
If I know that something that I do makes him uncomfortable and I continue to do it; then, I am telling him that my freedom is more important than he is. Yet, if he were to treat me like a child or his property, then he would be degrading me to the status of an object. This he would not do, either. So, we reach for compromises. we don’t “Throw the baby out with the bath water,” so to speak.
I must also admit here that there are no double standards. If Imran feels uncomfortable with me doing something, he does not do it himself. If I feel comfortable doing something, I expect Imran to do it also. If he does not want me skinny dipping with men, then, he must not swim naked with women. And, if I think that it is perfectly acceptable to go out drinking with men, then I should not compllain when he shares alcoholic beverages after the workday with his female colleagues. Of course, I am going to extremes, but my point is made.
Ok, rereading this post, it makes me sound like a bold flirtacious flaunter and he as a tyrantical insecure foreigner. That is not the case. Yet, there are still some gaps between our views and ones that need to be addressed and navigated through.
I am still amazed that no one else has written on this topic.
Nonetheless, as vulnerable as it makes me feel: I want people to know that this does happen and this is the way that we have handled such things. I notice that the majority of women have probably grown up as I have and I am certain that not all Indians/middle easterners/Asians/Africans/Pakistanis adopt western mindsets when they come to America. Culture is woven into the fabric of who we are and can’t be changed just because another wants it to be. This is true specifically for cultural ideas about relationships and gender roles. I’m not Pakistani. I’m not ever going to similate a Pakistani woman’s actions, responses, values or behaviors. At first, I tried and thought about changing to act more “Pakistani.” (or better termed: less american) But 1. it just won’t happen. I will never measure up. And, shouldn’t he like me the way I am? After all, this is who he fell in love with and although we all change a bit; if one person is trying to make significant changes to the other, then, there are problems. and 2. I can’t. it is not good for me to change that much… … especially when I would just be doing so out of respect and not because I actually valued such things. With the swim suit issue: as much as I don’t want to admit it: he is right. So, I have radically changed, but not because he said to do so: because he makes good points and I have changed my stance because I do feel that he is correct on this issue. He knows and accepts my american-ness — most of the time. And, he knows that he can’t always prove me “wrong.” (as in the swim suit issue). . But, I feel that I have to walk a line between respect and freedom. Sometimes, I don’t even see the line and at other times, I might feel as if I am walking a tight rope. It is easier to put respect before any freedom if you know that the other person is also putting your happiness or desires before their feelings sometimes. I don’t want him to always feel disrespected and uncomfortable, either. I must also realize that he is modifying his views, also. I know that there are times when he is unsure, yet he yields. . BTW., he has never put any restriction on my socializing. He tells me his discomfort and we find some kind of compromise. That does not mean that we can’t come to an agreement. But, we have to scrutinize our actions and our feelings behind such actions. We have to evaluate our culture and our values and discuss the feelings that surround these values and analyze what it would mean for us ithese values were modified. Sometimes that is just tiring. It takes lots of thought and energy. Sometimes, we just want to act and react without evaluating ourselves. So, I know that this is easier said than done. It also requires that we try to look at another point of view and that we know that we are not always “right,” or that we will get everything that we want. There are times when we just want to be stubborn. (Or, should I use a singular pronoun here)? This balance and this compromise is much easier to talk about than it is to achieve. We seem to only want to compromise when the thing that we are giving up is of little importance to us. But, in the end, at the end of the day, if you can struggle through it, it is worth it!
We also analyze assimilation and those who have either gone too far — or who seem to be stuck in their own culture; oblivious to the culture that surrounds them. I realize that Imran, himself, has to keep that balance between his Pakistani culture and the American culture.
I joke with him that he is becoming “american,” because he wants the air conditioner on. when he visits: I want to keep it off to save moneyand he wants it on because — it is too hot and humid in Indiana. When he first got here, he would ridicule Americans for thinking that 80degrees (f) is hot.
He says: “it is not the heat, but the humidity.” “I say Yeah, right, I’m not buying it! … … he is freon dependent and he knows it.” Now, it might be the humidity, but I’m not ready to give this one up yet. (smile) And, he can’t use the computer as a scapegoat either. (“It is just not good for the computer to be over 75degrees F.”)
Sorry about the digression.
The main point is that: All is a work in progress.
We would love to hear your stories and how you have handled interacting in mixed company.
Here are some questions:
1. Has there ever been a time when you and your partner’s views about modesty have collided? when? Do you mind sharing your story?
2. Have you changed your views or your habits about interacting with the opposite sex since you have been with your partner? Has your partner changed his/her views? What concessions have you made?
3. Do your rules surrounding such interactions change with the company that you hang with? This means: if you are hanging with Americans or westerners, do you instinctively change as opposed to hanging with your Indo/pak/nepali/Asian/African/middle Eastern company?
4. Were there times when you and your partner have disagreed about boundaries in mixed company?
5. Have you had to set some boundaries? What has led to this? Do you mind sharing your personal experiences?
6. Do you have any advice to give to others in similar circumstances?