Posts Tagged ‘muslim’

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!

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Raising awareness — raising funds!

February 27, 2011

Satuday DH and I went to an event put on by the III (International Interfaith Initiative) and the Muslim Alliance league. I had read about it on the III website, but I didn’t know if there would be anyone we knew who was also coming.
[side note: I am learning that DH is often resistant to going anywhere or inviting anyone over or…… But, once he gets there, he has a good time and is glad that he went or extended that invitation. He reminded me that I, too, am resistant to haggling with businesses, but when he takes the initiative, am usually glad that he did. – Um, prospective]!
I’ll have to write sometime about how he acts with Pakistani businesses who won’t let me inside their establishment because of the dog.
Anyway, This was a fund raising event put on by “OBAT HELPERS.”
http://www.obathelpers.org
They serve refugees from Bangladesh who live in refugee camps. These refugees have lived in such temporary homes since the partition of 1971 and still feel misplaced and without a real home. [Did I mention that we are slowly reading “A golden Age,” by Tehmina Anand, which is set in Bangladesh during 1971? This feels like a sequel to the book. (smile)]. They lack education, food and money. Before we went, we talked about how much money we would donate. DH was not in the “donating mood.” But, when we got there, DH warmed up and everything was fine. Of course, it helped that as we were going inside, we met a Muslim guy who dh had previously met from the Masjid. He spoke and we walked in together. We did not know that the Muslim Alliance league was helping host this event. We met quite a few people who we had met during Eid. And, to top it off, the dinner was filled with Pakistani food.
One interesting fact was how they fund raised. There were pledge cards and envelopes where you could donate discretely. There were raffle items and there was a silent auction. Since our cab was late getting to our house, we arrived late. So, we did not get to see what was raffled off or the items up for auction. We could not have afforded the items (most likely) anyway. But, it would have been nice to take a gander at them. Next time, I could help by sending out flyers to businesses to ask for raffle items. That might be a help to them.
Those methods of fund raising were all too common and normal. However, , there was also a call for $5000. “We need $5000 and I know most of you, I know someone can give $5000, raise your hand, who will give it?” I was amazed that it was put forth so brazenly! After about ten minutes of this, the speaker said “OK, if no one will give $5000, then, we will raise our amount in small chunks. We need $1000 from five of you. We have to have it, and I know that you will give it. Who will give it, raise your hand and be acknowledged. We’re not eating until we get this out of the way.” This went on until the speaker reached the $250 mark.
Now, some of it was in joke: — I think. But, they were pretty bold about asking for money in that way. … … And, dh has a problem with other businesses and charities who ask for money. He calls them “Robbers.” He is not a fan of “being direct,” but, I guess, in this arena, it is quite acceptable. Maybe it matters “who” is doing the asking! (wink smile)
Anyway, we had a good time and supported a good cause.
If anyone is looking for a charity to give to this is a good one. And, they say that all of the donations go to the people, not to run the organization or pr, etc. I do know Indiana residents Anwar and Afshan Khan who are the founders of this organization. We went to their house for Eid celebrations after the prayers at the mosque. They invite many people to their home for dinner, etc.
At least, take a look at the webpage, please.
I thank anyone in advance for any help that they can give. We seem to continuously run into Anwar and Afshan Khan, so the next time we see them, I will find out when they are going to Bangladesh next and ask them to tell me all about their trip. Then, I’ll post about it here!
Hey, if you can’t give, it would be great if you could pass on the information.
This is not just about “raising funds,” we want to “Raise Awareness,” also!

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 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)

an explosion of a different kind

May 6, 2010

Ok, I have gotten calls from people who just wanted to inform me that “The Time Square Bomber was from Pakistan.”
[I specifically don’t follow — or didn’t — because I didn’t want to talk
and argue about such things] But, I must now. No matter how hard I try, possible terrorist attacks are a part of my world. Muslims and Pakistanis in the USA and those associated with these two groups not only have to worry about getting attacked by a bomb (which is no discriminator of people), but then, they must be attacked from US citizens who think that they are the enemy.
And, oh, by the way, “the Underwear Bomber was too…. maybe there are more Pakistani bombers — it must be in the water… … or religion!”
It does not matter that people are wrong.
this one woman’s indignation made up for any minor geographical miscalculations that she might have made. Faisal Shahzad may not have detinated a bomb, but he was the instrument which allowed fear to ignite terror in the hearts and shatter logic in the minds of people everywhere.
Instead of spending the day thanking God that the plot was foiled and that there were no casualties, I must spend the day feeling the wrath and fear come upon all Pakistanis for that any and all acts of terrorism. Because, it is not enough to deal with the current state of affairs, we must bring up every act of terror that has been perpetrated on our innocent society and make sure that we have sufficiently wired them together by geography, nationality and religion.
And, since I have ties to a Pakistani, I must be naive or stupid. The aftermath of irationality has spread farther than the effects of that bomb ever would.
So, I was off to do research. “Famous Bombers,” who are they? Where is their country of origin? And, of course, this is only limited to those “people” who have made an attempt (successful or not) to detinate a bomb — or those in conspiracy to do so.
It is worth noting that acording to research, the most famous “bombers,” are American Aircrafts. (smile)
Some of the lesser known (at least according to current News Media) are:
The Klu Klux Klan, the Canadian
Front de Libération du Québec, The Italian Red Brigade, The German Red Army Faction, The Peruvian Shining Path, The American Weathermen and The Spanish ETA. I am almost certain that there are no Pakistanis in any of the above mentioned organizations. But, maybe I need to alert my local meteorological society. (smile)
Ok, we have Richard Reid (aka Tariq Raja) from Srilanca.
I know that no one knows Paul Rose who was from Montreal, Quebec. And, of course, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are not Pakistani.
I realize that there is a large number of foreigners on the list of “Famous Terrorists.”
I found my information at:
http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Famous_terrorists/
If someone has a better site, let me know.
Here is the thing:
There are many (ok, the census bureau had stats, I just could not read them because they were in that funny table thing) Pakistanis living in America.
There are Organizations such as the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America which would at the least signify some solidarity with America.
And, statistics say that we have from eight to ten million Muslims in America.
Now, of course there are many Pakistanis that don’t claim to be Muslim,
but even if every Pakistani registered as Muslim, there would still be many more Muslims. Muslims and specifically Pakistani Muslims are under the microscope and anyone who is associated with them will be also.
I have wanted to go to Pakistan, which will probably be delayed — although who really knows.
But, I wonder: for the ease of things, how many Pakistanis feel the need to call themselves “south Asians,” or “Asian,” just to avoid the hastle.
Not that they will avoid it for long.
And, I know that I read a post by The Gori Wife that expressed her anger toward Faisal Shahzad.
I, on the other hand get upset at all of those ignorant people who can’t separate Imran from Faisal —
who has no idea of where Peshawar is (and where it is in relation to Rawal Pindi — not just geographically, but culturally)
and those who think that “muslim,” obviously means Terrorist.
I noticed that the news reports stated that Faisal Shahzad was a “Financial Analyst.” I think that this is the real problem. We should stop targetting and stereotyping Pakistanis or Muslims and start making all kinds of assumptions about those financial analysts. That kind of work could push anyone over the edge!

interfaith discussions (Part I)

January 14, 2010

I must admit that I had many challenges to grapple with when it comes to Interfaith. In this regard, Imran has always been more optumistic than I. After hearing all of the crying Christians who married a madman Muslim and were perpetually the victims of abuse and unfair treatment, I was on the search for couples that had overcome their challenges in the context of religion. There were resources for christians (Prodistants) and Catholics, Christians&Jews, but hardly any between Christians and Muslims. Note:
Do’t read “Not without my daughter,” by Betty Mahmoody or “Inside the Kingdom,” by Carmen Bin Laden. I did not read the latter, former manage to finish the latter. Here is part of the resource packet at http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.co.uk and it began to express all of the things that I had thought about in my mind. There are not many interfaith email groups or listservs out there.
I found a site, but it is based in the uk, so even their meetings are not open to me.
The site is:
http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.co.uk
and it was quite helpful.
They offer a free resource packet as well as some online discussion forums.

Here are some of the questions that were posed.
**discussion questions:
(Each person should fill these out and be as specific as possible.
1. What do you believe about God? Is God one person or many? Is God categorized more by love or punishment? What is God’s function: to condemn, to spread love, to punish sinners, etc?
What does God command us to do: How can we share and witness without trying to convert, or are we suppose to convert?
2. What role does God play in your life? How often do you pray? What symbols of God do you have around your house? How many programs do you listen to that are about God? How much of your time, money and thoughts are given to spiritual things?
3. In your everyday life, how many of your friends are of the same faith? Would you welcome close friends of another faith?
4. do you pray? How? When? What are the parameters of prayer? Is that the only way to pray? Would you be open to other ways of praying?
5. What celebrations are important to you? describe them in detail.
6. How has God shaped your beliefs about marriage? Specifically, what do you believe that God tells you about Marriage? Do you believe that he says that interfaith marriages are wrong?
7. What roles has he ascribed for marriage partners?
8. When is it ok to divorce?
9. What does God expect of you as a person, marriage partner and member of a faith community?
10. What do you believe that god expects of your marriage partner?
11. How does your Holy Book instruct you to raise children?
12. Name some things that are abominable in a marriage.
13 How does God tell us to handle our struggles and/or those things that we find unacceptable?

more thoughts:
some important subjects might be:
Do you feel that you are torn between your family and your fiancee or
is it more between your desire and what you believe is “right according to God?”
If you inherently feel that it is wrong….. … BUT, I love him/her anyway, then, you are always going to be at odds with your faith.
The roles in marriage acording to God — men’s duty, women’s duty, power and submission.
What (that your partner might do in his/her faith) Would be unlawful to you acording to your religion?
In what ways might you support your partner in his/her faith without compromising your own?
How might you handle those overzealous people from your own religion who try to convert your partner?
How might you handle those who are from your partner’s religion? How might you like your partner to address such issues?

***Questions to ask yourself:
Do you like to work out your journey through life for yourself or do you enjoy being a
member of your faith group and family?
Are you generally comfortable ‘living outside the box’ and not being typical? Or do you like to know that you fit in and that you are absolutely at the heart of what’s going on in your community?
If approval of community matters a lot to you, it’s likely to affect a range of choices you make –
from where you feel most comfortable living, to how you see your marriage and your
partner.
Do you like your partner’s identity to back up your own?
How do you react in circumstances where your marriage and the compromises you have to make for your partner are seen as shameful?
Might you keep quiet about it, or would you be happy
presenting your difference positively?

Some people are like explorers, drawn to the unfamiliar and curious to
experience different cultures. If this describes you, the choice of an interfaith marriage
may feel natural. Sometimes a restless person can gain a real sense of ‘coming home
at last’ by immersing themselves in the new world of their partner’s culture. If you
approach religious difference like a spiritual explorer, swapping conformity in one
culture for conformity in another may not be a viable long-term option for you. This is
something you might want to consider as you plan your future, especially if your
partner’s approach to change and exploration is different. People in interfaith
relationships are not necessarily rebels, leaders, bridge-builders or explorers, but you
may sometimes find yourself playing some of these roles some of the time.

Some groups to help:
Support groups for interfaith and culturally mixed couples: Groups like these
offer emotional support, affirmation, and provide a sense of normality – showing that
other people face these issues and respond in similar ways.

Inter Faith Marriage Network http://www.interfaithmarriage.org.uk
Muslim Christian marriage support group: http://www.mcmarriage.org.uk
People in Harmony http://www.pih.org.uk/
MixTogether http://www.mixtogether.org

The resource package at the interfaith Marriage network is a comprehensive document and I recommend it for anyone who is thinking about being in an interfaith relationship.
note: women are more likely and willing to read and process the information.
Guys don’t as a rule, like to talk about such things for long.
But, if you are a clever woman, you can find small ways to discuss these issues with your mate.
Again, go slowly!

The first Entry

January 13, 2010

Disclaimor:
I have tried blogging before and (while I journal quite often) I stopped submitting it on the internet. I will try to do better. I am directly motivated by communication; so respond often!

    ***MY LIFE WITH A PAKISTANI:

There are several things that I enjoy thinking about and have made my attempts to blog about.
I have grown children and can talk about the joys and disappointment of motherhood.
I am blind and can talk about living with a disability, blindness specifically. I could elaborate on the National Federation Of the blind.
I have a social work degree with a sociology minor and could talk about societal constructs as well as the act of service.
My children are half white and half black (African American)and I  can blog about racism  and raising intercultural children.
I have been unmarried for many years and raised my children on my own. I could blog about being a single parent.
I can talk about the effects of infidelity, a manipulative x and divorce
Oh, and I am a Christian and he is a muslim. I could have endless discussions on faith, spirituality, Christ’s teaching and interfaith dialog.
Did I mention that I am significantly older than he is, so I could talk about the culture of Age Gap relationships.
But, this part of my blog is about Imran and while I touch on all of these things and then some; this part of my blog will focus on our relationship and life together.
I do reserve the right to expand my subject matter when I become too lazy to post different blogs on different topics or when they effect our present relationship.
I only mention his name because there are many who have the name “Imran,” and frankly, for you to understand my blog, I feel the need to be transparent. I realize that this brings with it many hazards, but I want everyone to know that I am a real person and this is a real journey. I am not embarrassed by what I write and stand firm to tell it as I view it.
I will be posting my story “Before Imran” either in a different blog, or at least give a link to anyone who cares to read it.
This is me: authentic and I don’t want to hide under any cloak of secrecy.
 
This journey: the interfaith, the intercultural one has already been quite trying, but we both hang in there.
With our particular relationship, there are just too many variables to keep quiet.
Maybe someone else reading this blog will take solace.
I will speak to the various issues that we face and I will try to be honest.
The only thing that I dislike about 
the blogs of many women in similar situations  is that they rarely mention conflict or difficulties or challenges.
I understand her desire not to be that open in an internet venue.
first, no one (she might feel) needs to know such things.
And, people might just criticize her for those challenges.
And, she might feel too volnerable to do so.
It seems that many people do.
But, for anyone who has been in a relationship with a Pakistani,
is blind with a blind spouse,
is in an intercultural, interfaith or age gap relationship,
needs for me to be quite honest about my struggles and defeats.
I will try to be honest and forthcoming with each and every emotion and experience.
I will be honest about my short comings, while in this intercultural/interfaith relationship.
I do this because I think that maybe someone reading this will take comfort.
There will be things that I suggest that won’t work for you and some things that I have a particularly difficult time with that my readers will not.
You will feel comforted: “At least I don’t have that challenge.” Then, there will be things that I find quite easy that you don’t.
But, this is one woman’s story.
There is just too much of my life that has passed and too much that I have yet to blog about.
***HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!!
I ENJOY COMMUNICATION! Please email me and leave any comments. I want you to understand my life and I welcome any thoughtful opinions.
 While polite and encouraging comments are certainly welcome and appreciated, a dialog of discussion, shared views, etc is preferable.
Not only do I want you to get to know me, but I want to know anyone who decides to read my blog and enjoys hearing about my life.
My blog is not meant to be lecturous dribble: but my attempt at communicating with everyone on the internet.
I will answer all messages — unless they are spurious or exhibit distasteful motives.
I would like Imran to post with me so that you hear his perspective, but frankly, he is much too private and that ‘ain’t gonna happen.’
So, I will try to give an accurate account of his side, etc.
I must admit now that there are things that I don’t want to mention and there are probably some things that I will leave out because out of respect for Imran, they are just much too personal to mention.
I will not hold back, however, when I am discussing my personal challenges and thoughts on most subject matter.

Any personal contact (email me) will yield direct communication.
Maybe my journey can help others. Maybe we can share our lives and tips to make our journeys more bearable. Maybe you can feel joy at my happy moments and derive pleasure from the things that I write.
I understand that many are more wise than I and I would benefit greatly from your counsel, suggestions and never shy away from opinions, no matter how unlike mine they are.
Please, however, always be respectful when sharing.
I am not technologically savvy, so if you want me to link to your blog or tag you or whatever, you will have to explain it step by step.
And, leave your blog address so I can stop by.

about me:
I am a blind woman, now in my 40’s. I have grown children.  I have a social work degree. I have many hobbies. I live in a small town, but will migrate to a larger city, soon.
That is just too many “I statements” and makes me feel quite shallow.