Sometimes, I must admit, I feel distant from my own kind, from men in general. I often don’t understand them or their motives, if they truly have any, quite possibly because I was raised almost exclusively by women. I find myself sitting around my male non-Muslim friends, those amongst my close circles of friends who fulfill various niches in my life, listening with a sort of forlorn intent to the hearts of men as they tell their tales of their sexual adventures, or misadventures in some cases, their tales of lust and satiation, their tales of “the chase” for the not-so-elusive-not-so-difficult prey, the “hunt,” as it were, for the “charms” of women and for what lies beneath the skirts of women. I listen, absorb, and formulate vicarious experiences based upon what I hear, and that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a world, a part of life, I’ve seen and vicariously experienced many, many times, yet one I’m not familiar with, despite being a convert to Islam. (The men amongst us converts, especially us Black men, are usually taken to be of licentious, drug-addicted, alcoholic lot prior to finding Islam, a stereotype which annoys me to death).
One might wonder at the moral integrity of the company I keep – or even of my own moral integrity. One might ask, “Isn’t the company you keep a reflection of yourself?” Perhaps. Sometimes though, life is such that it doesn’t really give a say-so in the matter: you just sorta find yourself in inauspicious situations. And it isn’t as if shielding yourself against this sort of stuff makes it any less real: it happens to be the world we reside in. “But surely,” one might retort, “if you kept Muslim company, you wouldn’t hear this type of stuff, right?” Wrong. Please try again. Case in point, consider this conservation I had just a few days ago with a Muslim womanizer.
I went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant with a co-worker of mine, an Egyptian Muslim man in his mid-thirties. We work in the same building and I often chance upon him while walking around. We exchange greetings and “chew the fat,” which usually ends with him consulting with me about exercise routines that will eliminate his love handles (I should take up personal training as side job). I hadn’t known this brother too well prior to our lunch engagement, but I knew, at the very superficial level at least, that he was Muslim. In the corporate world though, you can never been too sure who is Muslim and who is not: Arabic, Urdu, or Farsi names don’t mean jack diddly squat. Anyway, I suggested the restaurant because of its proximity to our building. He accepted, and we were off.
Now, here is where the fun beings. I must forewarn my readers at the outset that I will make use of profanities as I reconstruct the conversation from my memory. I personally don’t like to expurgate foul language from conversation because I feel it diminishes the realism of the situation. Besides, at times, I can have a mouth that would make the most profane of sailors blush out of embarrassment, a vestige of my Southern upbringing and a character defect for sure. Character defects make life interesting, like a Greek or a Shakespearean tragedy almost. With that being said however, in spite of all my faults, at least I can say in all honesty that I’m not, nor have I ever been, a womanizer, al-hamdu’ilah. As for my foul mouth, I ask Allah to cleanse my tongue.
Anyway, get a load of this.
When we pull into the parking lot, we both catch a glimpse this attractive – and I mean, very attractive – White girl entering the restaurant. Per the mandate of the Prophet, we are allowed one glance before we are to avert our gaze. So I get my one glance, and I say to myself, Damn! That girl is fine as Hell!, which is my typical response when I see a comely female. Gonna be for real here. Not even gonna lie. No “holier than thou” for me. My co-worker, let’s call him – I don’t know – Ahmed, a generic “Muslim” name, on the other hand, says aloud, almost to where the woman can hear him, “Man, I really want to have that ass.” My brain lapses into temporary inactivity when it registered his words. What! Wait a minute! You want what?! Did he just say what I think he said!? Out loud?! In public?! What the fuck!? I totally am not expecting such a brusque and candid admission of carnal desire. It caught me completely off guard. All the men I know are not so blatant with such admissions: they usually employ euphemisms or something like that. In any case, I have never ever heard something like this out loud, in the public sphere beyond the occasional, insipid hip-hop song, especially from a Muslim. It just rolled off his tongue without effort, without second thought, without any sort of reproach. I’m like Whoa! This came from the mouth of a Muslim?! But wait. There’s more, as if this weren’t enough.
So we are seated at our table, and Ahmed starts flirting with our waitress, a short Chinese woman. He makes these pathetic and shameless passes at her. She gets exasperated at his attempts and I get embarrassed for bringing him along. He then begins to tell me of his exploits. It went a little something like this.
Ahmed: “Man, I really love the chase.”
Ahmed: “Yeah. I mean, it’s so much fun. White girls are the easiest. Plus, they’re everywhere. Spanish girls are nice too. They kinda look like us (Arabs). All you gotta do is go to the right places to find them. Like – shit, you know – dancing. You go to those types of places and there are girls everywhere.”
Me: “I don’t know. I’m usually pretty busy after work with training and stuff. Don’t think I’d have time for something like that. I’ve got two left feet anyway. Did you ever try finding a girl in Egypt?”
Ahmed: “I’m through with that shit. Muslim girls are too conservative anyway. They usually say I’m going to Hell and shit like that. I’m just having fun, enjoying life at this point. You know, Jamal (another co-worker of mine) and I used to go out all the time. We were like a team. He’s a real big guy, you know? All the girls just loved him. He’d just push them up against a wall or something like that, you know? Me? I’m the smooth talker. But then he went and got married. His fun’s over. ”
Me: (out of genuine curiosity) “Have you dated an Asian women?”
Ahmed: (mishearing me) “Have I ever slept with an Asian women?”
Me: “No.” (nervous laughter) “Have you ever dated an Asian women?”
Ahmed: “Oh yeah. I’ve slept with one too in fact. What about you?”
Me: “Nah. I – uh – don’t frequent the dating scene. I haven’t a girl friend since high school. As for finding wife, it’s hard for me. Most people don’t want their daughters marrying niggas.”
Ahmed: “No way man! For real?! That’s still a problem?! I thought the Prophet came to get to rid of stuff like that.”
Me: “Yeah well, we see how well THAT turned out. It’s a huge problem. I know plenty Black brothers who have this issue.”
Ahmed: “Well, I would say just put shit like that out your mind when you’re searching, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. Would you ever get involved with a woman who has a kid?”
Me: “Yeah. I don’t have a problem with that. Why?”
Ahmed: “Cause I’m seeing this girl right now who has a kid. She’s a White girl, but the father of her kid is Black. So there’s hope. Are you interested?”
Me: “Is she Muslim?”
Ahmed: “Oh God no! Quite the opposite in fact. She drinks and parties, enjoys life too.”
Me: “How old is she?”
Ahmed: “Twenty-two. I like them young.”
Me: “No. That’s okay. I’m good bro.”
I’ve heard similar stories from my Muslimah friends who have traveled the Arab World, stories of wolf-whistles and gawking eyes, the conquest of women. I’ve heard them, yet I never internalized them as I did that day. And of course, this isn’t meant to indict all Arab men or Muslim men (I happen to be a Muslim man myself); it’s not as if Black men or Hispanic men or White men or any other men are any better. In a way, I feel guilty about the situation, complicit in a sense. I felt as if I should have rebuked him, but then, I ended up saying nothing at all. I didn’t really know what to say. I contend that silence can be a wise response. Not so sure this time around. In the end, I made du’a that Allah would guide and forgive this brother for his ignominy.
I once complained in a previous blog entry about the pitfalls of being Black in world which seems to privilege those with fair skin. A White Muslimah, an acquaintance of mine, somewhat chided me. She reminded that, though I happen to be Black, I have the advantage of being male in a world which favors those whose sexual organs happen to be on the outside of their bodies. She – I’m not ashamed to say – kinda put me in my place, as most good women tend to do with men. I’m quite used to it, being raised by women and all. Not sure how they manage to do that. I reckon it’s a female thing.
I can already the voices of women reading this. “Uh, yeah. Silly, ignorant man. Welcome to our world.”
May God help us all.