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Wishing to Wear Hijab More, but…

So, lately I have found myself wishing I could wear hijab more. It sounds like it should be so simple. Want to wear hijab more? Wrap it round and off you go! Go to the shops, grab the groceries, wander around the office, attend customer sites, go to the park, library, beach etc. Just wear it and go!

It isn’t that simple though. I know, as I write this, that some people will read this and judge with thoughts of ‘she’s just making excuses’ and ‘If you believe and have faith, then you would do it in spite of the difficulty’. You know what? That’s ok. If you feel the need to judge where I am at in learning Islam and my current capacity to get through challenges, then I guess that is just where you are in your place and space of life. I am somewhere different.

Current Challenge 1 – Local Cultural Attire

When the clothes people wear is so normal to them, they hardly realize that they do have a cultural dress.

I live in Australia, on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a typical beach lifestyle here year round, so the cultural dress of the area is board shorts/shorts, bikinis or a one piece suit is typical. For women no longer in their 20’s, t-shirts, thongs/sandals might be a little more common. If you are not at the beach, summery clothing is usually short sleeved or sleeveless with straps or strings. Shorts, short skirts, etc. This is just the cultural dress of the area. Evening wear, if you are going out to a restaurant or something, is usually a T-shirt of some sort and jeans/long pants OR if you are a lady you can wear the shirt/pants combo or a nice dress or skirt and shirt. That’s just (in general) what people here will wear.

YES there are other types of clothing options worn by people, no I’m not saying EVERY Sunny Coast person dresses like they are about to surf a wave. Merely I’m stating that this is the most common dress and sets the standard for what is ‘normal and acceptable’ social wear.

SO, the cultural clothing is also MY cultural clothing. I’m white Australian. While I wasn’t raised here on the Sunshine Coast, I was raised on the Australian Coast, I swam at beaches, I hung out in Tshirts, shorts and Thongs. I’ve worn bikini’s and feel very comfortable in swimmers that show plenty of arms and legs.

It is a very large shift to go from Bikini’s, short and tshirts, to modest clothing and hijab.

And to be honest? I think that it’s extreme. Seriously, if I were to suddenly go from traditional local attire to full, modest, Islamic attire, I’d argue that I had become an extremist and Allah is against extremism.

I am still Australian, I’m still part of this amazing beach community and becoming Muslim isn’t going to remove me from that. So how do I achieve both? How can I be a casual, beach Aussie and be Muslim? I don’t yet have an answer for that.

Current Challenge 2 – Access to appropriate attire

With that cultural clothing demographic in mind, Muslim women stand out, regardless of how ‘casually’ I dress, it stands out. Put aside the Hijab scarf for a moment, and consider the rest of the attire. Long loose pants or a long skirt you could get away with. A little trickier in an office environment that dresses a little more ‘office smart’ rather than ‘social worker casual’, but still wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.
Wearing a long sleeved anything? People will think you’ve lost the plot, gone bonkers, misplaced your mind, etc. Also, most of the clothing readily available in stores around these parts are marketed to the prevailing majority of clothing culture. The casual, beachy, Aussie lifestyle.

Dressing so vastly differently from everyone else is a challenge. Challenge in access to the style of clothing, challenge in choosing situation appropriate clothes, etc.

Current Challenge 3 – wearing a ‘scarf’ in the QLD heat

THEN ontop of the odd/hot clothing choices you add a scarf and you stand out. Everyone is barely clothed and you might as well be wrapped up in a blanket with a neon sign above your head that flashed ‘very different’.

Now, if someone asks ‘aren’t you hot?’, I’d simply respond “of course! The weather is 35 degrees” (Celsius, for those who need the Fahrenheit equivalent it is 95).
I would still be ridiculously hot without the scarf, but the scarf does keep the burning hot sun off my head, ears and neck, so aside from avoiding sunburn I also have a shade source that goes everywhere I do. Winter isn’t too bad (the 4-8 weeks of slightly cool weather), but mostly it’s hard.

Current Challenge 4 – Face of Islam

I don’t want to be ‘the face’ of Muslim people. When I dress modestly and wear hijab, every word, action or inaction that I make is a reflection on the Islamic community as a whole, and vice-versa. I am Muslim, true, but my actions are mine and mine alone. I don’t see someone yelling at their child and go ‘oh, all those atheist’s just yell at their kids’ or see a Christian jay-walking and extrapolate that all Christians ignore the road rules. No, I see THAT PERSON is making the choice to yell and THAT PERSON is making the choice to jay-walk.

I feel, when I wear hijab, that every action I take, every time I don’t smile broadly and welcomingly at everyone, is deemed a critical assault against that person and that Muslim people are just not friendly.

I’m sure most people I walk past probably don’t care too much about my hijab. I am SO grateful to those people, for making my life just a little easier with their kindness.

Current Conclusion – I do what I can, when I can

I mostly wear Hijab and proper dresses/long attire when I attend prayers etc or a Muslim community event.

If I am having a really positive day, I’ll go out and about and run errands etc. in hijab. At those times I feel like I’m doing my bit to promote Islam and the Muslim people as nice, friendly and regular people.

With all that said, the majority of Australians are laid back and casual, don’t particularly care how others live their lives. Though I do pick and choose carefully where I will and won’t wear a hijab for my emotional safety. For example, I won’t be going to any late night things in hijab, or attending any professional events in hijab.

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Startling Realisation – I’m Muslim!

Salam!

I was sitting around today, waiting and thinking.

Waiting for my husband to finish ona job site and not really thinking about anything in particular. After a while, I realised I’d been thinking about the Quran, Allah and what I’ve learned and discovered so far.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. I’m Muslim. 

I believe in Allah and Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). I realised I even THINK ‘peace be upon him’ at times when I think about him.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a TERRIBLE Muslim. I didn’t grow up a Muslim, so there is a TRUCK LOAD of things to learn how to do and incorporate, or remove, from my life. There is no way I can become a saintly Muslim overnight. I’m going to continue to sin for weeks, if not years, to come. There is so much ingrained haram things in my life.

And that’s ok.

The Quran sets out how people should be taught and led to Islam. Literally baby steps. Allah does not expect that I will suddenly be a halal eating, hijab wearing, 5 prayers a day person. Allah knows and accepts that I need to learn and grow. Allah knows this growth could take a lfetime.

On top of that, I don’t just blindly follow what people say. ‘Oh Sister’ a fellow Muslim might say ‘you wear jeans and that’s haram’ or ‘you should be wearing your hijab in x style’. I appreciate the input, but I would like to learn and know in my soul that what I’m doing is ACTUALLY what Allah wrote into the Quran. I’m not interested in haddith at this time. Everything I need to know to become a good Muslim should be in the Quran. After all, it is LITERALLY gods words. Plus, I can only learn so much about Islam, I don’t have hours a week to devote to becoming a better Muslim.

Also, I’m Australian Muslim. I have a culture and existence that doesn’t disappear because I am Muslim. 

I also wish to be mindful of my friends, family and colleagues. A sudden change in behaviour, dress and manner would easily be viewed as extremism. Allah is against extremism, and I think going from Aussie beach swimwear to full hijabi swimwear in the space of a day is quite extreme.

So! I’m Muslim.. wow. Ok. Now I need a game plan on how to start letting friends and family know about this in a gentle way.

I think I’ll start with my brother and sister. The two people who I know will be ok and not freak out. 

Life Update – August 2017

I thought it was time for an update on where my life is at right now.

I’m not sure if this happens to anyone else, but I make plans, have goals I want to achieve and then when I start putting plans into action and working towards those goals, the universe throws life in the way and that halts or significantly changes all my plans! Surely others experience this?

I hope I’m not the only one.


So what have been my life hopes, plans and aspirations this year so far? Let’s review…


Become a mum.

That’s my aspiration every year. Every year since I was 19 that’s been my goal. Now that I’m 30 and still don’t have a child… well it’s not a nice feeling. IVF has previously been out of our financial scope. You can’t build a business, funnel everything into that dream AND have loads of spare cash floating around. That’s not how life works.

However, I found a Fertility Clinic that, if you were earning a low wage, you could qualify for heavily discounted IVF! WELL!!! How excited was I? Potentially going from $2,ooo per cycle to $300 per cycle! I mean, we were going to go make a baby!

Then they advised me that my husband could not be present for the egg extraction or the implantation… I left the office in tears I can assure you and I cried all afternoon. I realize many women would be happy and comfortable going ahead without someone present, but the extraction means sedation etc. and I refuse to undergo a procedure where I am unable to advocate on my own behalf AND the service won’t allow someone I trust to be present.

That service has refused. So I am still without a baby/child. But life goes on.


Finally become a Foster Carer

I wrote about this in another post titled Road to Caring.
We both went and did the training weekend and it was great. I completed my homework, had all the personal reflections done (it takes HOURS to get through the homework). I was prepared to take in up to 2 children of primary school age, etc.

Unfortunately, my husband didn’t get in and do his homework and reflections. Not because he didn’t want to, he did, but it takes hours upon hours to complete the homework and the personal reflection (about your family, your history, etc) take even longer. With him busily running a company, growing and expanding into a new region… well he just simply didn’t have the time.

In the end I took it as a sign. If he doesn’t have the time/capacity to complete the homework/reflections, will he be able to commit to 2 children in need of therapeutic care? Probably not. I handed back the work we had completed and advised we wouldn’t be able to progress at this time.

Another plan/goal crushed for the year.


Moving house, selling a house, buying a house

So, not that long ago I was so excited to be moving house! If you remember, we had been approved for a great new house to rent, paid the bond and first several weeks of rent, etc. We had packed up the house and were ready to get a truck and move.

WELL! The DAY BEFORE we were due to move, the home owners CHANGED THEIR MINDS! Instead they wanted family members to move in. They refused to provide us keys. Refused to let us move in.

We were nearly homeless. I don’t care if I have to be homeless… but we have the dogs?! For a terrifying 24 hours I 100% thought I was going to have to put my dogs to sleep.

Thankfully the house we were living in had not yet rented to someone else and we were able to stay here another 6 months.

Only now they want to sell it… *sigh* and we can’t afford to buy it. We have to try and sell our other property (at a loss) so we might be able to buy something.


Working in the company

It’s sad, but I am simply not enjoying working in the company. It’s not my passion. Service desk and customer service calls… I’d rather be working with children, in the human services industry or something.

So I have recently made the decision to find a job outside the family business. That’s a bit daunting, but I’m not happy which in turn means I’m not being productive, which is bad for business.


Learning to Do Islam

So many changes and upheavals have had another sad impact. I don’t have Friday’s free.

I just can’t get away from work consistently. It has been WEEKS since I’ve been able to attend Friday prayers.

I know people say you need to make time for the things that are important, but when 100 things are important… something somewhere has to give. And while I really want to learn more, I have to prioritize living, earning and paying the rent over learning more about Islam.


Not all doom and gloom

It’s not all bad though.

I have a lovely home to live in at the moment, with a beautiful outdoor space.

I have a phone interview this afternoon for a potential job and there are several jobs popping up every other day that I can apply for.

Things are tough, but one day they will get better.

 

Learning to Do Islam ~ First day at Prayer

NOTE: This post was drafted WAY back in the beginning of 2017, or end of 2016. I’m finally getting a chance to post it. 🙂


DATE: Early 2017 or late 2016

Today I attended my first prayer gathering with the Muslims of the Sunshine Coast.

Let me set the scene a little.

I really don’t own ‘Muslim appropriate’ clothing. So I wore black work pants and a regular t-shirt. I tied my hair back in a pony, but this was only because the day was incredibly hot and I wanted my hair off my face.

So, I arrived early… like REALLY early. I was a good 25 minutes early. I live about 3o minutes away so I left ridiculously early because what if there was traffic? Or a road incident along the way. I didn’t want to be late. So I waited in the car for about 15 minutes before I went in.

I’ll be honest. I was anxious. I don’t think I’ve every really had that ‘first day at a new school’ experience, but I imagine it felt something like this!

As I walked into the community centre (the Mosque is under renovation), I saw a pile of shoes, so I removed mine. No biggie, lots of cultures have a ‘no shoes’ type policy. The space was like any other community centre. An indoor space, bathrooms off to the left then as you walk through the open space there is a big doorway (like garage door size) and a regular door leading to an outdoor covered area and behind that a children’s play space. I imagine playgroups would use this space too.

I was the first woman there. Awkward.
A man entered the centre and walked past me, greeting me with Assalam. I think I remember vaguely mumbling assalam back, absolutely NO confidence! I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to issue the same greeting back or say something else. Also, what if I pronounce it all wrong?!

I saw the Imam/Sheik Zain, who I recognized as I had googled him before coming (research, very important). I walked over and half-heartedly explained who I was. He gestured to the area inside that looks out via the large doorframe and advised that this is the women’s area.

He moved on. Must be busy!

Now, I admit, I had no idea what to do with this women’s area. Women have an area? Why? Why is it here? Do women do something different here?

While I waited for 1pm, I had a brief wander around the community space, looking at the posters and various signs for the different groups that use the space.

After a few minutes, another gentleman came to let me know about the women’s area. I thanked him. I assumed we must be about to start, and perhaps Zain had sent him. Which means I’m supposed to do something… ok… let’s look at the women’s area..

There were patterned rugs on the floor, clearly for comfort and prayer. I was still the only woman here.
I saw in the men’s area that those who had arrived were either sitting or kneeling on the rugs. Some people were in prayer. Not being sure if there is something I should do first, I simply sat down on a run at the very front of the women’s space and waited.

When things began, one of the men recited something, an opening prayer of some sort (mental note, google what actually happens at these things). Then Sheik Zain began to talk. It was much like a sermon you’d have in church where the priest talks about something, generally related to what’s happening in the real world, and links the religious text to that. This talk was on social justice, how zakah or zakat (essentially Muslim Tax) was used.

During Sheik Zain’s talk, more people kept arriving. Men who were coming in late would briefly do some sort of prayer then sit or kneel and listen.
Women started to arrive! I felt more at ease once the talk began and women arrived. I know how to listen and I can copy what the ladies do if I need to.
And, because I think maybe god knew I needed a baby on my lap to provide me with something I was experienced in, one of the ladies who sat next to me had a beautiful 9 month old girl, who I had the pleasure of holding and sitting with.

Towards the end, the talk ended and the Muslim prayer began.
As I don’t know how to do the prayers, and I certainly don’t know the Arabic, I just sat and watched. The women around me were doing the prayers as well. But it wasn’t awkward for me, I had a baby to hold. 🙂

Then it was finished! People started leaving. The ladies began to talk with me and introduce themselves and I explained briefly how I came to be here.
I was invited out to the shopping centre where they go afterwards and grab coffee and subway etc.
As it was still school holidays, someone’s primary school aged son came up to me and said Assalamu Alaikum (forgive the spelling, it’s spelt differently all over the web!) and I said that I’d love to give him the response to that greeting, but I don’t know it.
And he graciously told me what it was, and helped me out a little. 🙂 I instantly forgot how to say it, but he didn’t mind at all.


So there you have it, my first visit to a Muslim prayer gathering.

I wouldn’t say I learnt how to ‘do Islam’ today. But I learnt who some of the people are, I learnt how to greet someone and I generally just took the opportunity to become accustomed to the flow of things.

Will I return? Absolutely. There is so much I want to learn and understand. Though I will go looking for a hijab and more appropriate clothing. No one said anything negative, however I will feel 100% more comfortable if I can blend in a little.

Reaching Out ~ from Learning About to Learning To Do…

Consider this post a bit of a segue, a gap fill between one series and the next.

If you haven’t yet read how I came to be interested in Islam or my series on Learning About Islam, please remember to take some time and read about it. You can find the list of blogs HERE. (or at least you will when I make a space for it)


At some point, I reached a natural conclusion to what I was going to discover by google and logical consideration. I’m not entirely sure when this was, but a few weeks after that I decided that I wanted to learn more. I wanted to meet Muslim people and learn how to DO Islam. I say Do Islam, because for a non-believer like I am at the time of seeking more in-depth knowledge, I feel it is disrespectful to write Be Muslim. How can someone Be Muslim, or Become Muslim, if you don’t know anything about it or what it actually means to Be Muslim.

But what I can do, is learn to Do Islam and maybe by learning how Muslims live, what they believe and how they prey and live their life, I might discover that I do want to be Muslim and believe as they do.

Until then, I feel I am learning to Do Islam and great deal of respect and honour is given to the Muslims of the Sunshine Coast community who are allowing me into their lives and their space to learn.


So, I reached this conclusion that I wanted to know more.

I reached out to the Muslim community via an email address on their website and was forwarded onto their Imam.

His response was quick, pleasant and positive. Essentially he introduced himself, offered to answer any questions I may have, invited me to their Friday prayer and talk time and recommended several YouTube videos that would be of benefit.

(For those interested, he recommended Islam Unveil and Contemporary Issues. At the time of writing I have only had the time to watch up to episode 21/24 of Islam Unveiled and I recommend it. I have yet to start the 2nd.)

I inturn advised I would attend if I could (the prayer time is near midday and I work), and asked what I should wear. Remember guys, I am entering someone else’s faith. I feel deeply that I should be as respectful as I can and not intentionally or unintentionally offend others who I wish to learn from.
Either way, his response was that it would be ok to wear what I would normally wear as we were not meeting in a mosque.

So that’s it people. It was that simple. I attended on the Friday, but that is another post which will begin my next series Learning to Do Islam.

 

3 fridays

NOTE: I drafted this post back in April? It’s now August, so it’s been sitting here a while. I’m sad that I didn’t get it posted sooner, but I am going to post it as I want to be able to share my thoughts and learnings on Islam.

 

I’ve attended the Friday prayer time 3 times now… and my favorite part is listening to Sheik speak. I’m in aww really. Just listening to him speak, this time about some of the terrible acts occurring around the world and at home, I couldn’t help but feel like I was truly sitting amongst a group of people who were apart of this country but also cast aside by it.

I’m not saying the people don’t want to be part of the country, not at all. I’m simply saying that as Muslims, they feel such a strong connection to the ‘brothers and sisters’ (other Muslims) who are being persecuted and murdered around the world.
It is strikingly similar to how many Christian people feel about their Christian brethren. Afterall, you hear on the news about certain groups of people who feel we shouldn’t take Muslims in from certain countries, but if they are Christians then yes we should help them.

Not for the first time did I feel like I had stepped into a whole new world. As if crossing the threshold to the community centre was actually a crazy dimensional portal to some far-off country. They are all so exactly the same as me, and yet because of their daily routines and rituals, because of the people who their hearts ache for, they are so very different to me.

My least favorite part of the prayer time is when everyone prays. PLEASE note that ‘least favorite’ does not mean I dislike it or hate it. It simply means that it was my least favorite and here is why…

Muslim prayers are done in Arabic. They are never done in English.
Muslim prayers are very ritualistic, certain positions at certain times, etc.

I don’t know Arabic or the ritual prayer motions… so I just sit quietly (usually I get to hold a baby! So that actually should make this my fav part), I listen and try to watch without staring at people.

I need to find (make) time to read about the different prays and begin to learn them… I wonder how long do new people sit around not joining prayer before they join in? Would it be weird if 8 weeks from now I still wasn’t praying? 8 months? What if I never pray? When would it become to awkward to continue to turn up if I were not praying… Also when everyone else prays, should I stand up and move away from the area? Should I remove myself from the rugs? Is it rude to be in the middle of people praying and not pray?

Wow, so many questions I didn’t even realize I had.

Learning About Islam ~ Seeking Answers 5

Welcome to my 5th and final post in my series Learning About Islam.

As I mention in a previous post ‘Learning About Islam ~ My Questions’, my initial exploration into what Islam is all about left me with quite a few questions. Obviously I didn’t get these answered all at once! In fact, I didn’t even think of all these questions at the same time. Rather, they developed over several months, just spinning around in the back of my mind.

Seeking answers to these questions also didn’t occur all at once. Instead, I’d see something and want to know more. Below is a summation of some of the information I found that lead to ‘answers’ for my questions.

(NOTE: these answers may not be true or accurate. They are simply what I found and observed on my own during my time of information seeking)


5 ~ What’s up with the hate against Muslims? How do Muslim people feel about that?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (perhaps Uluru?) you will have noticed there is a lot of hate towards Muslims. Trumps banning them entry, a random Australian is yanking someone’s Hijab off, Muslims viciously attacked as they exit their Mosque, etc.

I’d like to think the majority of Australians are no ‘anti-islam’. I think most Australians recognise the difference between extremism and Muslim Australians… but then you listen to what some people say, they propaganda they throw around… and it just makes me question more and more of what people say.

1) Why are communities against ‘Sharia’.

I get the distinct impression that the call for ‘no Sharia here’ has 2 parts.

1 – people don’t know/understand what sharia is
2 – people don’t realize that the way Sharia law works overseas is different to how it could work in Australia

My understanding of what Sharia is, is that it is the Muslim laws of behavior, what’s permissible and what is not. For example, multiple wives is permissible but eating pork is not.
Now, if I so choose, I can choose to live my life according to Sharia law. Australia won’t recognise it as law, which is irrelevant as Sharia is about abiding by the Muslim view of Gods laws laid out in the Quran.
So long as Sharia is followed within the laws of Australia, there is no issue. And I have not been able to find something that you could do in Islam where you couldn’t find a way of doing it in a legal manner here.

Feel free to comment if you can think of one, I’d like to know as much as I can.

The reason Sharia Law is different overseas, is that countries where government and legislation is based on Islam have no problem with people choosing to follow Sharia law… much like in Australia our Christian based legislation makes it very easy for us to follow it but it would be more challenging for us to try to follow Australia Law overseas.

2) Why are people against Muslims having a Mosque or a place to pray?

As far as I can tell, this comes down to ignorance and fear.

Ignorant of what Muslim people believe and how they live their faith, and fearful of what a Muslim person might do or that the ‘wrong type of people’ will move into an area.

If I could jump back to the ‘no Sharia here’ argument, those same people who don’t want Sharia, maybe they would do well to acknowledge that laws Australia currently has. Like people having the right to a place of worship and to practice their own beliefs without fear of persecution or harassment.

3) Why can’t Australia just allow Muslim people to live in peace?

Fear I think. The media has a lot of responsibility here, but I believe that the sheeple need to learn, listen, pull apart a story, look for evidence and STOP taking things at face value. Dig a little deeper. Think a little harder. Look just a little further.

Don’t accept the truth, find the truth.

 4) How can I support Muslim people? Is it awkward for them if I am not Muslim and don’t wear a head covering?

I’m not sure how I can support Muslim people. As I don’t have a lot of contact with Muslim people, I think the same way I would support any human would be sufficient.

  • smile
  • say hello
  • attend a big Ramadan celebration
  • refuse to share or pass on Islamophobic postings on facebook or other media.

5) What would happen if I wore a hijab?

Well, I wrote a little about this in my last post.

I thought if I wore a hijab I would get accosted or abused at some point. That didn’t happen.

There was one cranky lady behind the counter, but she was cranky at EVERYONE so I assume it wasn’t the hijab.

So, since nothing of great interest happened initially, I’ve started to think more ‘long term’.

What if I wore a hijab all the time? How would the islamophobic people in my life respond? How would my Christian aunts and uncles cope? What would my parents say?

I guess I can’t really answer these questions.


Well, there you have it!

That’s the end of my series on Learning About Islam! Yeah! We did it! Thanks for reading through these, assuming you have.

Until my next little series, thank you and keep checking in!