Interview with a First-generation American Muslim, Part II

Following is based on an interview with a 30-year-old Muslim woman on May 22, 2012 near Chicago. For Part I, please click HERE.

Four years ago, I was leaving Meier’s to go to a 4th of July party and I saw this guy with a shirt that said, “Allah Sucks.” He was getting into a pickup truck and on the back of the truck was a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus Saves.” I had to comment. I was a little intimidated, but he was with his wife so I was like, “Somebody loves him.”

I said, “Sir, are you a religious man?”

“Yes.” His guard was up.

I said, “Your shirt says, ‘God Sucks.’ If you spoke a different language, such as Arabic, and prayed to Jesus Christ, you would use the world Allah to say God. I didn’t want you to walk around looking like a hypocrite so I thought I’d let you know.”

The shirt should have said “Afghani’s Suck.” Or “Arabs Suck.”

At home, growing up Muslim was very similar to most people who have a rooted culture. Family get-togethers were centered around giant meals of our favorite Middle Eastern cuisines. The gatherings were segregated—men in one room and women in another room to chit chat. We joined together to eat dinner.

There weren’t a lot of organized activities but there was Sunday school. I recited Koran, memorized the important parts. My dad had nightly talks with me about life and religion, but I was always waiting to go do something fun. He tried to teach me how to pray, but he had no time. He worked a lot. Now in his older age, he’s starting to realize the importance and wants me to be more Muslim. Do I pray five times a day? No. Most Muslims don’t. My aunt does, my Dad tries to, but that happened more with age.

My parents gave me more freedom than many Muslims get. My cousins were not allowed to have American friends (American women are sluts, according to them) and their fathers monitored their cell phones.

But in middle school, I was sheltered compared to my friends. I couldn’t ride my bike anywhere but on our street. Dating was off limits. I was disconnected. When you’re that age and you have a friend that can’t do anything with you, you start to think they’re weird.

So, I was not the typical Muslim girl. But I was not the typical American girl, either. I was in the middle. And that’s when I became friends with the super nerds who were into punk rock and indie rock music like Green Day. I’ve evolved since then, musically, but I’m still that nerd.

The main tenant of Islam is that there is one God, and we must worship that God. Islam is the Arabic word for submission. A Muslim is a submitter. It’s between you and God. Islam is a patriarchal religion—like Christianity.

The negative parts of Islam that you see are just people making mistakes. Like Saudi Arabia, for example. That country is just a bunch of people making mistakes.

They don’t allow women to drive, there are restrictions on women working, women are forced to wear hijab. Frankly, if you ever read the Koran, none of those things are supposed to be forced. It explicitly says that the decision to wear the scarf is her own. The Koran advocates education for women, and Islam was the first religion to give women rights. And yet, Saudi Arabia takes all their rights away.

I knew from a young age I must marry a Muslim, though my parents would never force a marriage. The main concern for my dad is that if I marry a white American, my heritage will be lost—the language, culture and, most important to him, religion. And if Palestinians are ever granted their country back and I marry a Palestinian, my family will have rights back to the land. But, since I am a female, if I marry a non-Palestinian, we will not.

Four years ago, I fell in love with a boy I’m not supposed to ever marry. But I’m going to. My boyfriend is willing to convert. He isn’t nervous, but he should be. I don’t know if he understands the severity of what’s going on. Does he understand what it will take to be Muslim? Will he be willing to pray?

I haven’t told my dad, yet. I told my mom. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s scared it will break up the family. I think it will. But hopefully not forever.

My dad will blame my mom no matter what. He’ll say, “What mother has a daughter who has done this?” He’s going to say rude things like, “I should have married an American if this was going to happen.” In my family, it’s the woman’s job to raise the children and make sure they come out right. I’m rebelling to an extreme. Men do it. But women don’t. No woman in my family has ever married a white man.

I imagine the worst: my dad will disown me; he will move back to the Middle East and die sad. This is my concern. But if we do it in a diplomatic way, where my boyfriend is presented as an asset to our family and he converts, then maybe in six or twelve months my dad will get used to it.

My dad tells me he loves me every day. I do not want to break his heart.

Soon after the interview, she told her father that she plans to marry a white man. She did not want to talk about the specifics with me. She said only, “I am relieved he knows but I am very sad I am causing him this much pain.” 

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