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Awkward Questions


To be honest, I can’t remember what exactly we did over the last weekend with the exception of going to an Iftar and my Halaka.

After Jummah prayers on Friday, there was an announcement for a community Iftar at the mosque on Saturday.  I waited until after all of the Sunnah prayers were finished and I approached one of the ladies who always says hello to me to ask about the Iftar Dinner.  I have only been to a handful of Iftars in the time we have been together, and most recently within the last 4 years.  Most of them are private events, where we are invited by friends to their homes or a hall they have rented. We have sponsored and participated in our own dinners, but we’ve never attended a community Iftar.  The point being, is that I didn’t know what to bring!

So, I asked.  Do we bring a main dish, do we bring drinks or do we bring dessert?

We bring dessert.


So, we made Strawberry Trifle.  Our recipe actually ends up filling 2 bowls, so we brought both.  It ended up being a great thing that we had the two bowls because the men and women were eating completely apart.

I’m a bit sick of the segregation at this point.  I know maybe, 4 people there, and no one is able to sit next to each other.  I ended up sitting with my daughters in a room where we were the only people speaking English.  I really don’t like eating separate from my husband and son.  I don’t understand why we couldn’t eat with our families.

The night was a mixed bag of uncomfortable interactions, but the highlight of the night was when a hijabi lady (who was wearing jeans and a button down men’s oxford shirt) questioned why I was there.

I was in line for the dessert buffet with both of my daughters when a lady cut into line ahead of them and turned around and asked their names.  They answered politely, and then she looked up and asked me where I was from.  So, I responded.

Then she proceeded to ask me if I was Muslim.  I am wearing Abaya, I am wearing the Insha’Allah necklace, I have subtle makeup and my shoes are off.  I am with my daughters, one of whom chose to wear hijab that night.  WHY did she feel the need to question my religion?  I answered her that my family is Muslim.  She looked directly at me, and asked the same question again.  “Are you Muslim?” There was no reason for this question, aside from making me feel uncomfortable, so I answered her WHY?  Just “WHY?”

She shut up, turned back to cutting in front of my daughters and got her sweets and didn’t talk to us again.  But that was the icing on the cake.  I was soo pissed!  I wanted to leave, I wanted to make her feel just as unwelcome as I had felt the whole evening.  But I stayed.  I placated my daughter, who noticed that the rude lady had cut in line, and we ate our dessert.  Shortly afterwards, it was time to go.

The whole reason for attending this Iftar was to help our children get used to the people in the community, to feel more comfortable, to be part of the whole.

I feel like it was a failure on all fronts.  From the women’s side.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer permalink
    08/22/2011 12:36 PM

    BOOOOOO!!!!! to that. I can relate to all the major points you made from being uncomfortable, segregated, and offended. Growing up and attending churches, I was always greeted with smiles and delicate words in such social gatherings because Christians tend to look for every opportunity to “save”or “witness” to someone. I’ve always noticed the Muslim community could do a lot better in this department. The department of , “welcome” “we’re so happy to have a new face here” “please sit with us” “are you new here?” “please come back” “did you know about xyz event coming up?” “can we have your contact info so we can keep in touch?” you get my drift. I was always taught that “fellowship” within the religion is encouraged by God and necessary. If I’m scoping out a particular religion, then I too am scoping out the fellowship within that religion because that’s where I will find support, encouragement, faith building activities, etc. If I don’t feel the love then I’m less likely to want to be part of that so called fellowship. Yep, this is it for me. I feel sad for my children.

  2. 08/22/2011 12:41 PM

    You know my feelings about the masjid environment… And I am so sorry that this lady managed to live up to my low expectations. This is why I often make a fool of myself going out of my way to talk to new people at the masjid. Many times (since I don’t attend often) I find out these people already have loyalties that I didn’t know and they don’t need my kindness, but I try.LOL

    Why are we like this? Sorry, but if there is a secret handshake or something I don’t know it either!!! And I feel like you, frustrated that my attempts to let the kids feel like they belong are often met with blatent hostility. We need our own mosques!!! Reformed Islam? Who knows.

  3. Rachael Salahat permalink
    08/22/2011 1:53 PM

    Wow. This is why I’m so skeptical about attending Muslim functions. Because I HATE being questioned. I HATE being looked at like a foreign object. I can’t believe she asked you TWICE. Even after given the obvious things you were wearing and being with your children. Its almost like they know the answer, but they want to hear it come out of your mouth. I’ve come to realize after many years that a lot of arab women are rude. Especially the older ones. They def lack in the manners department. Atleast in many cases that I’ve encountered. I think you responded well. A lot better than I probably would have lol.

  4. Nancy permalink
    08/22/2011 6:42 PM

    I don’t understand, why are you so determined to participate in a religion that so obviously doesn’t want you? Why would you want your daughters to be taught by belief and by example that they are second best? Or third best in their case, because not only are they female, their Mom is an outsider and always will be one?

    I don’t mean this in a mean way, I just really don’t understand your determination. God, for those who believe in him, can be found in so many religions. This one doesn’t want you and isn’t likely to change soon.

    Best of luck to you, I think you’re trying your best, but I hope that you’ll realize the futility before you waste too much more time on trying to fit in. I think westerners are so determined to see everyone in the best light that we sometimes project good will onto others who don’t necessarily have it.

    • 08/23/2011 12:43 AM


      Islam is not defined by the actions of Muslims, just like Christianity is not defined by the actions of the Christians. The actions of the women do not reflect on the religion, it reflects on their culture and their upbringing. They were never taught to be gracious and warm and open to people of diverse backgrounds.

      I write here about my experiences, good and bad, to share with others who have made the choice to be in relationships with a similar dynamic. If I had married a Jewish man, there would be volumes of books giving me assistance in making it work in my home, in my life and for my children. It’s not so for me.

      I would also like to point out, that you asked “Why would you want your daughters to be taught by belief and by example that they are second best?”

      I am not teaching my daughters to believe anything of the sort. The Islamic religion encourages women, treats them as valuable, wise and powerful in their homes, in business and in religion. I have never been treated disrespectfully by a Muslim man (a truly religious man, not someone who talks out of one side of his mouth and behaves differently when he thinks no one knows better) I am always addressed with the utmost care and respect. It is people who are being rude and unwelcoming to one another, not the words of God, nor the practices of the Prophet.

      My choice to raise my children as Muslims was not something I decided lightly. For my family, there isn’t another choice. I am not wasting my time here. My efforts are not futile. I am making a difference in my own life, in the lives of my children, in my husband’s life and our extended families’ lives. I am making a difference to every reader here who has ever had an experience like mine because they know they are not alone. I have made a difference in your life because if I was not here trying to reach out to others like me, you would not have ever had this conversation with me.

      Please take what you like from my writing, I hope that you learn and grow from our discussions and what I share, but don’t tell me that my actions are futile. I know better. Kristina

  5. 08/22/2011 7:41 PM

    I disagree with Nancy above. It is not the religion that does not want you, it is the people. The woman who made you feel awkward was just plain rude. It does not make a single bit of difference what religion she is from. I am in awe at how much you are trying to do the best for your children and I am truly sorry that there are people in the Muslim community who make you feel less than welcome. Your story will help me better about being more welcoming too. Unfortunately we still limit our time at the mosques around here because of the segregation issue. In my recent learnings I have learned that during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) there wasn’t such a strictness of segregation because people (MEN and WOMEN) treated each other with the due respect. There wasn’t even a separation in the prayer areas. I am amazed to hear about the freedom that truly comes with being Muslim and possibly living in a truly Muslim society (which does not exist in modern day).
    Again I am sorry that the people were so rude to you. I agree with Jennifer that Muslims could do a better job in welcoming people at the mosques and other functions.

  6. 08/24/2011 10:32 AM

    The Islam that you are speaking of (and it is a common version) is cultural. Islam as a religion is not oppressive to women at all. As a matter of fact Islam gave women rights to own property and decide things for themselves that would be only a dream for women all over the globe for 100’s of years elsewhere in the world. So it is not because we are mislead or self-hating that women all over the world are converting to Islam every day.

    Now, let’s deal with the reality of how women in predominantly Muslim CULTURES treat women and you will find the oppression you speak about. Certainly if you read carefully you will see that Kristina knows she is encountering the culture not the religion in these situations.

    So, don’t define Islam by the actions of the cultures it is dominant in. And know that the founders of Islam were all outsiders. There is even a teaching about true Muslims being “strangers”. Surly there isn’t a time when this has been more true than now.

  7. Rachael Salahat permalink
    08/25/2011 11:47 AM

    I’m not really sure how someone can blame religion for the way a women acted towards you. That’s where stereotyping and judging comes in to play. Which if anyone believes in God, doing those things is a “sin”. I just wish people would think before they spoke. Some people are just rude. It has nothing to do with their religion. And I thought that was pretty obvious in the story you telling us. This is the kind of stuff that upsets me about people. The jumping to conclusions, the judging etc. If everyone just kept an open mind I feel like so many more of us would get along and appreciate each other for what we are regardless of gender, religion, race we are.

  8. Ahmed Durrani permalink
    08/29/2011 9:32 AM

    I know how you’re feeling because my mother felt the same way while I was growing up. I am the son of a muslim immigrant pakistani father and a white canadian mother who chose to keep her christian faith. Back in the 70s and 80s the cultural baggage was much worse in the muslim communities. For example, some people told my father he was committing zinnah (adultery) and that his marriage to my mother was un-islamic. He was deeply saddened by this but eventually came to learn that this is not true (cultural) and that his marriage was completely allowed in Islam.

    Growing up my mother also faced a lot of hardship with the muslim community because of cultural ignorance. But despite these challenges she continued to be involved and helped us to find our faith and volunteered in the community persistently. My sisters and I chose to be Muslim because it made the most sense to us. They wear hijjab and are strong figures in the community.

    Today, Muslims are much more aware of their religion and have let go of the cultural baggage but some have yet to move on. Despite this, my mother is recognized as one of the hardest working and most respected elders in the Muslim community even though she is still not Muslim.

    • 08/29/2011 10:52 AM

      Ahmed, Thank you so much for sharing! It is wonderful to hear that there are people who grew up in a home where the mom was non-muslim but still were able to feel that Islam was their religion. I have so many questions about how it was while you were growing up, and how your mom did it!


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