Monday, May 19, 2014


A woman stopped me in the street to ask if she could write an article about me and my community. I told her that it would be inappropriate, and suggested she write some short fiction instead. Plus, I'm a "writer." I write about myself all the time.

I spent years convincing Americans that I am fascinating. It's ME. I am the intriguing thing. I do not even need to be doing anything special. I'm a phenomenon. With one boot in one boat and the other boot in the other boat, I stand there, wobbly and casually, talking about boats. Playing it cool,
overhearing conversations about the young ethnic Muslim who unsuccessfully tries to straddle a world of religious devotion and one of secular charms. This discussion takes up about half a page. Then they illustrate it with a drawing of a prayer mat that looks like a dollar bill.

I was trained to believe that this is something worth writing about. I have tried to convince myself otherwise but I can't seem to shake it. The subject is brought up and I smile bigger than before and then proudly nudge the guy beside me and say, "Hey, look. That's my kid." But it is mostly a sham, because what happens to a lot of us is that the juggling act fails and we make concessions. There is nothing really all that fascinating about someone dropping one ball and picking up another. And every so often scrambling around trying to scoop up lost balls.

Living in a heavily Westernized Arab city, there are no longer two worlds, just one big boat full of wobbly Muslims. I am finding that even over here in my little corner of the world, there are constantly choices to be made that are not so much the difference between right and wrong (Alhamdullilah, those are becoming easier to spot, and will inshallah continue to do so) but the choice between caution and "taking it easy." These are the tricky ones. They are not as flashy as the ones that came before, and require more care, sincerity and presence of heart. It takes work for the seemingly fuzzy things to come into focus as clear cut. Then after work, they go change into their party clothes and come out wearing all black and white. Not even so much as a shimmer from a sequin to leave me wondering, wait, what color is that, actually? Or thinking, that would look even better in gray. But it takes work, knowledge, mindfulness and obedience. These are blessings that can only come from Allah, and I hope and pray that I can fill my little lifeboat with them all, just in case this ship sinks.

Like most things, I can best illustrate the situation using crafts.

"What's the rule for playdoh?"

"NO MIXING!" the kids yell in unison as they mush the yellow and green into a tube shape, smash it, then cheer, "Machapichu!"