The Two Communities

6 thoughts on “The Two Communities”

  1. You have stated it plainly and persuasively and I will have to chew on it a few times like beef jerky to extract all of my thoughts. For now, I will say that I may not live in racial purgatory, but I never felt anchored to a community after my conversion. The cultural space in the masajids wasn’t present, and still is not, to let this be the case. Being a Muslim in the mosque still requires a unique skill-set that I dare say most do not possess. It requires a great deal of cultural adaptation which is hard to sustain for a long period of time.

    I was granted a generous slathering of praise for the color of my skin, yes. I can guarantee you, growing up in the church and in a non-Muslim society no one ever complimented me on my skin color. The best remedy, in fact, for a pasty complexion was a day at the beach in the sun. After my conversion, when I started covering, my grandmother would complain that I looked sick and needed a tan. The Muslims never said that. I did marry a Moroccan, however, and if you don’t know already they are not infatuated with complexion. No one, in fact, there has ever praised me on the basis of complexion. I’ve been paid compliments but nothing to do with my color.

    No matter, though, my exclusion in some circles would come from a likely place – not the color of my skin but from my gender and indifference to play the fiddle. I often speak plainly what is part of my conviction and I stray from tribal alliances, which are infectious in the Muslim community, and likely the world over. Since losing my place in the comfort of my own people, I don’t see why I should trifle with making my way into the comfort of another -at the expense of my own convictions, especially on human rights issues. If I were to play the fiddle, I’d do it in the comfort of my own community in which I, at least, have nostalgia based on childhood memories and roots.
    What I have managed to do, Alhamdulilah, is build a community of friends that may be scattered but live in my heart as if we all resided in the same place. I also enjoy rewarding relationships through friends locally and we thrive even outside of a structured setting.

    People will disappoint you again and again as surely as you will, at times, disappoint yourself. I don’t see a masjid community in sight for me. I have never found a masjid that would make me feel at home or let me participate without disdaining me for not acting like a proper trophy muslim. As a woman, I can’t even feel like I’m at any home. You haven’t known second-class mosque status until you’ve subjected yourself to the women’s section – that is the back of the bus with little ventilation and a broken sound system. Ha!! You haven’t known second-class status until a well-respected leader asks you to organize an inter-faith gathering at a large mosque as long as you abide by the condition not to speak out loud b/c women’s voices should not be heard.

    In some people’s minds (and I stress ‘some’) If you are white and your curtsy you are gold. If you are white and you don’t curtsy, you are dung. If you are a woman and you are white and you don’t curtsy, you are an intruder made from dung, and therefore you are an outcast. All and all, though, even having said that. The glass is half full. I feel blessed to be part of this ummah and participate in community building to the extent that I can. I think over the years I have accepted the status quo, detached myself at times to save my sanity, and claimed my sense of belonging in un-likely places. The community is vast. I’ve learned that there is the mosque and then there are the Muslims. There are a ton of Muslims. As much as the world seems small, it is really very big. A community is a congregation of people-not necessarily a building presided over by a shura-board of male dominated voices – originating from circumstances which can make it hard for us to convey meaning, though we all speak a common language.
    The Muslim community is too vast to cling to a small handful of national organizations. It’s needs are too diverse. Those national orgs rarely, in my experience, ever meet the grass-roots needs on a deep and abiding level across vast sectors of the American-Muslim community. In time, Insha’Allah there must be a list of organizations that uniquely meet the needs of many sectors of the American Muslim population and in which those members can fully participate as valued, contributing members. That has been the history of religious minorities in the U.S. and I presume Muslims are no excpetion.

    1. You know sis, I hesitated a bit before clicking the “Publish” button because I knew that my words couldn’t quite grasp the totality of the situation and even my own thoughts on the matter. With the exception of your personal experiences, I don’t think you said anything that I didn’t want to incorporate into this post in some form or another, even the comment about Moroccans. (And I’m joking about this either. I’ve been told they don’t care about that type of stuff. In fact, someone suggested I go to Morocco to find a wife 🙂 ). I’m very well aware of the gender issue. It makes me just as sick as the racial issue, but I suppose, being a male, it doesn’t fly as high on my radar as it should :(. Forgive my omission of it, if you would sis. I feel men speak for women quite enough already.

      In truth, I’m still the sorts of a vagabond, though I usually feel more at home in Black masjids, for obvious reasons. I’ve come to the realization that perhaps the status of a nomad would fair the religious soul better. And along this bumpy journey, I’ve chanced upon good Muslims, both Immigrant and convert, Black and non-Black, who don’t give my complexion a second glance, as if it were a bad thing anyway. (No tanning for me. I just get really dark). Organizations have their limitations, just as people: they are messy, political and they aren’t a panacea for all that ails us. I don’t place my hopes in them, despite the good they do. Still, there is a longing to be a part of something: perhaps, because you are married and have a family, that aspect of life has been satisfied to some degree. I’m not at this stage yet. But this could, again, be my presumptuousness penetrating through once more. If so, please forgive me yet again. I’m two for two now it seems.

      In truth, I know I’m still very young – my early-mid twenties in fact – and I have lots of growing to do. I’m not so naive and cocksure as to believe I’ve understood each issue. Far from in fact. I’m not an optimist: Voltaire ruined optimism for me; and I’m not a pessimist either: it can breed naiveté just as optimism can. The glass is neither half-full nor is it half-empty: it simply is what it is, and I happen to be thirsty. “What you see is what you get/And what you don’t you won’t forget.” Bask in the imperfections: they make life much more interesting.

      Thanks for the input sis. You’ve given me much to ponder over, like the prospect of marrying a Moroccan! 🙂

  2. Also, I know I didn’t elaborate much on the glass being half-full but, even though disappointed and dis-jointed, I have seen improvements and I have found a cohesiveness and celebration of diversity in the Muslim community and voice for civil rights that I never found in white church. My experiences, if I want to be fair, have been as shattering as they have been fulfilling.

    1. I’m glad you’ve seen improvements because I sure haven’t. I suppose that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist though. I’m sure they do, somewhere out there, over the rainbow. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough or maybe I don’t know what to look for. Probably both. Allahu’Alim.

      “My experiences, if I want to be fair, have been as shattering as they have been fulfilling.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      1. Anthony – this going to sound so Hallmark, but I am female (hear me roar), so please forgive what I am about to say: I felt so darn sad when you expressed your longing to be part of something. You are right! Family has a lot to do with that. Family has also pulled me back into the community many times when I might have otherwise kept on walking. The need to keep my children engaged is a key factor.

        Insha’Allah, in time, you will be blessed with the most kind-hearted, brilliant wife. I pray that you will have healthy children someday. I imagine that you will be a wonderful husband and father. Yes, I have to pitch Moroccan women, even though I am not one. But, really, and I know I’m just preaching to the choir – never close your mind to a potential wife from any part of the world or country. I’m glad I kept my mind open – Allah generously rewarded me with a husband who is much kinder, compassionate, thoughtful and stronger than me.
        You will know the right sister when you meet her and she will know too. She wouldn’t let Mt. Everest come between the two of you. And note- it would be good if she takes a liking to Marvel.
        You are not cocksure -you are smart, sincere and mindful. You are an asset to the ummah so you must stay engaged – for the children you will one day know Insha’Allah.

  3. LOL! No need to apologize for being didactic sis. I’m used to it: I was raised by “preachy” women after all. They kept me on the straight and narrow with their admonishments and their constant threats of whippings with belts or switches or whatever else they had on hand. People should listen to preachy women more often. It worked for me. 🙂

    I tend to write how I speak and I tend to employ a lot of sarcasm which doesn’t show itself as well in writing unless it’s blatant. Of course, I’d never disqualify anyone from anywhere for a significant other, though I know not everyone reciprocates this mentality.

    As for being Hallmark: so long as you’re not trying to sell me these corny, cloying Valentine’s Day cards or Christmas cards, we’ll be straight. 🙂

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