Saudi Arabia: Look At Me

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country with its own set of unique laws or at least traditions which people are expected to follow.  One such tradition is wearing the hijab.  The hijab may not be enforced upon Western or Asian women.  Yet when expatriate women are out together in Riyadh without a hijab they are unconsciously sending a message to any men to “Look at me.”  This may not be their intent.  They probably dislike covering their head and perhaps want to rebel in a small way against a tradition with which they do not agree. In their eyes and mind they are not doing anything wrong.

But what message is a woman sending out when she is out in public and not wearing a hijab?  Is it a message of encouragement or perhaps even approachability?  Probably so, particularly if she is holding her head up eye and making eye contact with men.

Saudi society is more demure in nature where women may have their heads downcast if crossing the path of a strange man.  A respectable Saudi man would not attempt to make eye contact with a Saudi woman or any woman who is also acting in accordance with tradition.

Not every expatriate is aware of the silent messages which can be conveyed in Saudi Arabia.  Hijab or just a simple scarf is a choice for the expatriate woman but she needs to know the consequences of any actions and decisions when living in a country where cultures and traditions are different.


124 Responses

  1. maybe its not only disliking to cover your head, but also the hot weather even indoors… 😉

  2. Perhaps you could just tell us about some of the consequences you encountered when you went out hijabless in KSA.

  3. My husband is always going on about how great the hijab is. I told him if he wanted I would wear it inside the house for him. He didn’t find me very funny. I own a whole bunch of them, but only because I think they look pretty. You can use them as scarves around the neck or tie them up in your pony tail. I asked him if that counted. That got me another dirty look, lol.

  4. @Susan…LOL!

  5. I remember visiting friends in Jeddah, that when we all go out to a restaurant, most of the chicks weren’t donning the hijab, no issues there.

  6. I think it depends were u are in saudi as well..jeddah is more of a cultural melting pot and less conservative to riyadh lets i guess that makes a difference as well if ure deciding not to cover ure hair.

  7. Culture is so interesting because one could say the same about a woman wearing hijab in a traditionally nonhijab wearing culture. She about gurantees herself that she will be noticed when wearing it. Even though it is a woman’s choice, I always thought that was kind of silly to wear hijab in a country wear no one wears it (I mean the majority) as it goes against the Prophets admonishment not to bring attention to oneself. I always thought it made more sense when a woman is in a nonhijab wearing place to not wear it to conform to what the prophet said. I think many Muslim women wear it in nonhijabi societies for the same reason nonmuslims might not wear it in KSA. To rebel against the society…sort of a poke in the eye so to speak…a nonverbal way of saying ” you can’t control me so whatcha gonna do about it?” And also as mentioned it might be hot. I have the opposite take on it. I feel very strongly whatever society I am in I should do my best to adapt to that culture and their ways. But I must admit after the last year or so reading this blog…I probably wouldn’t wear it in KSA as my way of rebelling…much like women who wear hijab are rebelling here (I don’t mean all but definitely there are some who do.)

    Years ago I was flying from USA to India via Dubai. At the layover I went to the lounge to wait. It was not segregated and I was wearing a salwar kameez so very covered. No head covering though. There was little room to sit and so I sat on one end of a couch far away from the man who was sitting on the other end. After a minute or two he got up and moved. I felt very insulted because it was obvious he moved due to me, but at the time I didn’t understand it like I do now. Still I wonder if he moved because he felt uncomfortable being so close to a unrelated woman or because he was too close to a kufar! LOL!

  8. “She about gurantees herself that she will be noticed when wearing it. Even though it is a woman’s choice, I always thought that was kind of silly to wear hijab in a country wear no one wears it (I mean the majority) as it goes against the Prophets admonishment not to bring attention to oneself. ”
    Well maybe cos ure not muslim u think its silly and have this idea of the rebellious women who wears hijab in the west..which to me is silly because its not that easy to wear hijab in the west at times without being called all sorts of names and what not. Im sure they could rebel in other ways and actually taking it off the most common.
    Even if she gets attention what is there to look at cos she is covered?
    Also about the attention thing..lets say a malay hijabi goes to turkey were the girls wear the hijab in a particular way different to that of the malays..she will get what should she do? rip it off so she doesn’t get stared at.?? No
    Same goes with an egyptian hijabi going to saudi..totally different style..she will get attention as well.

    ” I felt very insulted because it was obvious he moved due to me”..why assume the worst…?

  9. I don’t think muslimahs are wearing the hijab to rebel Oby. I think some Muslims really believe hijab is required and doing so brings a Muslim closer to Allah. Of course Muslims love to trot the whole “no compulsion in Islam” its not really that way. Just like other “this is a life” type religions certain behaviors are seen as ideal. In my experience hijabis are looked at by other Muslims as being better and more pious. It’s the same with Mormon women who are betty homemaker as opposed to working mothers since Mormonism pushes that a woman’s first responsibility is to her family and failing at home is the mothers fault. So mormons women who are stay at home mom tend to be looked at as being more pious. Mormons tend to be very image concious and try to to one up each other in trying to be perfect. Blech. Look Mormon mommy boots and you will see the mommies that live supposedly perfect life etc etc. I see the same “I am better than thou” attitudes with hijabis.

  10. I don’t know how taking off the hijab in a nonhijabi place would be rebellious. Seems to me it is the opposite. Same as if I didn’t wear it in KSA it would be rebellious…but if I put it on I would be conforming rather than being rebellious. It is about not calling attention to oneself. As for attention, I don’t mean the lurid kind. I mean she is noticed, everyone knows she is muslim which is the point isn’t it? In a country where men are used to seeing women on a daily basis without covering they are not noticing the hijabi’s hair if she goes without hijab…unless it is some fantastically gorgeous hair which is not likely. For western men the hair is not the focus. So she would be noticed for her HIJAB not her hair or anything else. Without it…she looks like any other woman. What makes a muslim think that they are so spectacular that a man would pick her out of the hundreds of women he sees daily on the street? She would be like anyone else…ordinary.

    Your malay example..she is a hijabi in a hijab wearing country. If she took the hijab off she would get noticed MUCH more without it than with it on, don’t you think? If someone were out wearing blue jeans and someone else is wearing dress slacks and still another is wearing shorts…unless it is dead of winter none of those three women will be noticed in a country where that is the normal wear. The TYPE of pants are not the point. All are wearing some version of the same clothing. However if someone were coming along the road in an abaya..head uncovered…they would get noticed as the clothing is not the norm.

    As for the guy who moved…I am pretty sure he moved because of me. No reason not to otherwise and take a seat across the room.

  11. My experience is…if you are forthright and look arab men in the eye and behave more aggressively (not really the word I want but it will do) and not all demure and shy…they tend to treat you more respectful. Like they understand you mean business and not being all girly and seductive to tease them…so to speak.

    I’m not sure women who refuse to wear hijab in saudi are being rebelliouos…it just might not be something that comes easy to them since they didn’t grow up with it. Ex: I have never carried a purse in my life…I don’t require all those little things that most women find necessary to exist and tote around 24/7…but my daughter bought me a wallet for my bday and I put license and ATM card etc in and carry it to please her. It is something I have to remind myself to do otherwise I will leave it (and all my things) in the house…put it down at the store and walk away…in the car etc. It just doesn’t come naturally to me to remember I have wallet that needs protecting and toting. Most women I know can’t go to the bathroom without theirs. It’s a matter of habit really.

  12. “I don’t know how taking off the hijab in a nonhijabi place would be rebellious” if you have been raised in a muslim home with parents telling you that hijab is a must and ure families values/culture/religion seconds that..i think you are being rebellious in taking off the hijab when coming to a western country as your whole life has been enforcing the opposite..thats what i meant. its more like an inner rebellion again your family/culture/religion then to society itself.

    “I mean she is noticed, everyone knows she is muslim which is the point isn’t it? ” Exactly

    “What makes a muslim think that they are so spectacular that a man would pick her out of the hundreds of women he sees daily on the street? She would be like anyone else…ordinary.” where did that come from ? Not even true.

    “Your malay example..she is a hijabi in a hijab wearing country. If she took the hijab off she would get noticed MUCH more without it than with it on, don’t you think?”
    Many turkish women dnt wear hijab…but apart from that u need to understand that there are different types of wearing the hijab depending on what part of the world u live in even if there are set rules of hijab in islam.. culture mixes in always, not saying thats a bad thing. Like i made the example with the egyptian woman in saudi arabia..its more of a curiosity thing that she would get attention but my point was even if she gets noticed/stared/looked at..does that mean she should take it off? i dnt think so.

  13. Even though I’m not a fan of generalization. But I would have to agree with cooldred, atleast in my case. Demand respect, and respect will be given (that goes for both genders). That’s why I’m “blessed” to have the girl that I do, she constantly keeps me on my toes, and makes me aware of things I’m not normally privy too.

  14. Bella Vita…

    You agreed to my point that Muslim women want everyone to know they are Muslim…Why is that so important? In a Muslim majority country I kind of understand that. But in a country That is not Muslim majority why is that so important? Kind of like me going to another country and wearing the american flag so that everyone knows I am American. Or wearing a large cross so that it is very very visible to know I am Christian. Why is it so necessary to advertise? I believe to a large extent Muslim women wear it so that people KNOW they are muslim…why is it so important in a nonmuslim country to make that known?

    I see your point about rebellion if you look at it from the standpoint of family.

    My “spectacular” comment was not meant to insult Muslim women. What I mean is that we hear that women cover their hair because it is the most alluring part and men will look at them etc. I rarely hear that a Muslim woman does it for any other reason. “Allah says…” is usually the reason and he says do it to be modest. (paraphrasing). The point I am trying to make is that in a country where men see women daily uncovered an uncovered Muslim woman is not going to be noticed at all. She insists it is for modesty but in reality it is unneeded in a place where uncovered heads will go unnoticed. She will appear more modest and go unrecognized much more without it if she conforms to the social norm…same as me in KSA. I don’t wear the head covering I am going to be WAY MORE noticed than if I do.

    I know that there are different ways of wearing Hijab. I live in a community with a lot of Muslims. Personally, I think the young Somalis have a flair with a hijab that I don’t see many other women exhibit. Other women are usually somewhat dull…but those somalis can wrap a hijab that makes me want to wear one! LOL!(for fashion of course). But then I would not go unnoticed and be modest!

  15. Years ago in riyadh it was enough to just wear the abaya, maybe one with an attached hood tye thing, ( just in case) you met one of those pwpw loonies.. i’ve carried a scarf but never worn it. – my form of rebellion, i was anyway covered neck to toe why tie my head up 🙂

    I think coolred is right, looking people inthe eye usually means you are not the demure and shy type. never had that issue when i was there – one look at my indina face and they all assumed i was the maid 🙂
    especially walking with 2 little kids !!!!

    I’m begining to like the hijabi look at the hospital, we have 2 nurses who wear it and i kind of like the clean look. of course i would not be too happy to have them in trailing abaya’s, but they are dressed in scrubs and a scarf and i think it presents a very clean neat look.
    I noticedthat they have very nice dangling earrings and their scarf is just above their earlobe. it showcases the earrings so well.

    They also match the hijabt o their scrubs and the season.. very cool

  16. radha – I’m curious if the hijab would be allowed in the operating room. I ask because in the OR they take such pains to scrub up and change into clean scrubs and cover their heads and all. Would these hijabi nurses or doctors have to put a freshly cleaned hijab on as well before entering the OR?

  17. When I was a patient in Saudi hospitals and having surgery, all the surgery team wore these opaque coverings on their head which reminded me of hair nets. Men and women wore them and all hair was covered.

    I learned the Saudi way when I was out in public and not covering my hair. I learned how to basically look through men as if they were invisible.

    The only time I was ever asked to cover my hair was when I was with several western friends and we were sitting on a bench just relaxing. A muttawa came over and I was the first whom he requested to cover. He was actually very polite and spoke good English. He said that as a group of uncovered western women we were attracting too much attention. He probably was right.

  18. AB…apparently the ONLY attention captured was HIS…you should have pointed that out to him. 😉

  19. Onigiri…

    sorry I missed your comment. Of course in many ways I agree with your statement…I said that to bella in my last comment. I definitely believe that there is rebellion for some women to wear it. After 9/11 people wore hijab even more it seems…that would be counter intuitive to me. After such a huge event that would be calling MORE attention to oneself. So I do think there was some rebellion involved. But now as we get further away from that I think women do wear it for two reasons:(not including the rebellion part).

    1. They feel it is required and makes them closer to God.

    2. They are pressured into it by family, friends and Muslim society as a whole because of fear of judgement. And in many ways it might even be unspoken

    Obviously they are not the only reasons…I am sure there are a myriad. And I did not mean to indicate rebellion was the only reason. I was debating that aspect.

    As for mormons…I am well acquainted with the whole June Cleaver thing among Mormons. My friend is what I would call a very progressive Mormon and even she feels comfortable with the whole stay at home, bake cookies, homeschool, volunteer at church and the man is the head of the household thing. It is an interesting dynamic…sort of like watching a time gone by. Her adult daughter is the same although she worked for awhile and didn’t go on a mission. I am not saying that is wrong if that floats your boat, but if one feels like they HAVE to do that due to religion or worse community expectations and they would rather do something else…then I feel it is unfortunate.

  20. @Carol – so what’s the rest of that story? Did you hurry up and cover? What about the rest of them? What if you had just ‘looked through’ him and acted as though you hadn’t heard him.

  21. I’ve been told by members of the general public on occasion and by mutawwa to cover my hair. I just say no. I always have a scarf “in case” I feel I might get in real trouble but frankly I don’t care what message I’m sending. It’s hair. I don’t like wearing a scarf and it really isn’t that scandalous.


  22. I only once wore a hijab when I was in KSA and that was because it was very windy and my hair was blowing every which way. Other than that I never wore one. I probably got some looks but not that bothered me. I look at people all the time in Canada so no doubt I looked some men in the eye in KSA as I normally would do. I never encountered any rudeness by anyone. I had a muttawa follow me around in a Jarrir book store and maybe he was watching me because I was showing my teenage nieces some books. He never said a word though. I thought about covering my head when out with the family but they all insisted I didn’t need to so I did not. Really, the scarf messes with my hair. If I put it on in the morning it’d have to stay on until I got home at the end of the day just because of my hair so that only happened the one time. 🙂

  23. @coolred,

    These 2 are not OR nurses, i don’t have an OR nurse who wears the hijab, but i guess as long as a sterile cap can go over the hijab there should not be a problem.

    I usually tie up my hair in a OR cap andthen weare one of the disposable sterile caps, so i should think it would be a similar situation.

  24. Oby, I have a blogger friend from Indiana who is trying to get up the nerve to be a full-time hijabi. It seems she doesn’t believe Allah necessarily commands it, but she wants to identify with the Muslim community.

    Maybe it’s kind of a member-of-the-tribe mentality. Gangs wear certain colors in order to identify with their members. (Thus why some schools ban certain colors!) Religious people sometimes do the same. I believe the Israelite men were commanded to wear their beards a certain way. Maybe it was an identification issue for them. It’s rather interesting to think about. Perhaps Islam growing out of tribal Arabia had this push to identify a certain way that makes (some) Muslims even today want to identify outwardly as Muslims.

    Also, I think the Muslim lady mentioned above said something about saying her salaams to fellow Muslim women around town. If she is hijab-less she feels weird saying it and, of course, the Muslim women won’t know to “salaam” her because her hair is not covered. I think they get good deed points if they are friendly to each other.

  25. Just out of curiosity went and asked a nurse wearing a hijab what she’s do inthe Or and she showed me, she untucked the scarf around her neck and kind of swept it up and wound it to her hair, ya she was exposing her neck but she kindof put the cloth up, no hanging bits ( again she always wore her hijab without it hanging down her back !!!! i’m not terribly up and up ont he hijab styles, but the way she wears it it has no loose ends.. and she says the sterile cap would go over it all…

    hmmm i never noticed her hijab has no loose floting bits before… very nicely done.

    plus she said since se works in a hosp setting she wears only cotton ones and a fresh one every day and apparently something about folded cornerwise — i have no idea but she unwrapped and wrapped in under 10 min…and anyway she has her hair in a bun, so as long as no hair is falling all over i guess she’s good to go. 🙂

  26. She further told me she wears it because she wants too and also she wants to be known that she’s a muslim , very candid young lady and v nice .

    guess it’s like i want it known that i’m married to a muslim but I’m not muslim.. we all have our ego’s and want to be known for who we are and accepted for who we are i guess…

  27. If a muslim covers herself she is considered supressed where as a christian nun is considered to be devoted.WHY THESE DOUBLE STANDARDS???Answer

  28. I noticed that after I removed my hijab…I got a lot less salams returned to me. Many of these were the same women who have always known me (they often “looked through” me as AB mentioned as they passed by)…which leads me to the point susanne made…some muslims consider salams only required towards other muslims…not to non muslims…so if a woman is not wearing hijab and says salam…chances are she won’t get a return salam. Not very nice but that was my experience.

  29. @ farah shakeel … I don’t think all of us believe that women are suppressed by wearing a hijab. If it’s personal choice then go for it. If it’s forced than that is a bad thing.

  30. I think if a muttawa asked me to cover, I would. I might not agree with it, but I don’t think I could ignore him or pretend he wasn’t there. On the other hand, if I lived in KSA, I think I’d feel very rebellious all of the time… which is why I won’t ever look for work there, no matter how many good things I hear about it. I prefer being in places where covering one’s head is a choice (and where people have, in general, lots more choice on many things….)

    I did cover for almost two weeks straight while traveling around in Jordan. The wind was so strong and dusty that I couldn’t bear to go to sleep at night without washing my hair, so I just wrapped my head up in a pashmina. It kept the dust of AND it kept me warm, as it was really cold on some days. I rather liked the experience — lots of Jordanian men and women complimented me and told me it was beautiful (heh — just a plain brown pashmina — I don’t think so, but I knew what they meant!) They were usually taken aback when I told them I was from the U.S., and then that’s when the compliments to the scarf would begin. It was a nice introduction to chat with people. However, being raised as I have been, I would not take kindly to being made to wear it all of the time.

    Here in urban Istanbul, you see covered women walking arm-in-arm with uncovered friends; you see covered girls looking very glamorous and fashionable, sometimes with their earlobes peeking out and long earrings dangling; sometimes the nape of the neck shows; sometimes you see covered girls smooching their boyfriends on park benches and of course holding hands with their boyfriends. And then you also have the ladies in black, the ladies with the scarves tied under their chins; the turban… my secular Muslim students get all worked up over this “hypocrisy,” but if everyone’s choice of interpretation is tolerated (including theirs, I might add!) then I think things ought to be pretty comfortable….

  31. I believe women who choose to wear the hijab (without compulsion or pressure) and do it with the right intentions are showing they are devout. As for nuns, it isn’t the headscarf that makes me think them devout. Rather the vow of chastity and giving up marriage and children just to worship God. That is a serious sacrifice, though I know Islam frowns on that practice. Still, their intentions are generally in the right place (please note that I am not Catholic and never have been). This is just my opinion.

  32. Coolred…

    You hit upon my point. It has been my almost exclusive experience that when I encounter a muslim woman who is new to me she does not even make eye contact with me. Moreover, I can say hello and OFTEN the hello is not returned. I find that very jarring because strangers who are not muslims that I encounter will say hello (or respond to my hello) or smile when we make eye contact or even start a conversation. But if it is a muslim, 9 times out of 10 it falls flat. It leaves me asking the question, “why”? If nonmuslims don’t find me so hideous that they have to avoid eye contact (LOL!!) why can’t muslims say hello? Even more than that…if I am saying hello or smiling at them and they glimpse me, it is OBVIOUS I am being friendly and not a threat in any way. Why not return the gesture? It greases the wheels of a civil society. I am not asking to be their best friend…only being social.

    There is a thrift store near me that I visit regularly. Most of the workers are Muslims. I am not positive of that but they are speaking arabic among themselves (I asked them.) The men are friendly and the NON COVERED women are quite friendly toward me. I don’t think they speak English very well but they always greet me warmly with a “hello how are you?”. There was one woman whom I was quite friendly with…she didn’t wear hijab at the time. I noticed that she started wearing hijab. Once she put that hijab on she wouldn’t make eye contact with me anymore and didn’t speak to me. I was really puzzled by that. So to try to break the ice one day and indicate to her that I was not judging her for wearing it, I caught her eye and I pointed to my head and then hers to indicate the hijab. I smiled and said “It’s nice”. She didn’t say anything, gave me a small smile and that was it. After that she still didn’t greet me again anytime I was in the store. I was like “WTH”? How did we go from being friendly to not even making eye contact because of a stupid piece of cloth on her head?

    That is why I question why it has to be so obvious who is muslim and who isn’t. If you aren’t in the club, you aren’t worth a hello or a smile it seems…

  33. Susanne…

    I agree with you about head being covered and saying salaam…but why does it need to be like that? You are not making a lifetime committment to someone just because you said salaam or hello. You are being gracious, social and interactive in a superficial way. That is why I think those who wear it do so do it for the reason you mentioned above…like a club. But if you have to have hijab on to get a salam then the people saying it are saying out of obligation to another “tribe” member. Like wearing it means that they are required to say hello rather than they want to. Why not just be friendly to all people rather than only those in your club. Isn’t that a bit racist? (only it is about religion and not race …you get my point.)

  34. I have found the same thing…when I see a Muslim woman here in the States it is natural for a Salam Alaikum to come to my lips. But in some cases, the women do avert their eyes and not return the greeting.

    Although once when I was in Houston at MD Anderson cancer center I saw a Saudi woman who was obviously kind of lost. I addressed her in Arabic and asked if I could help her. Turned out she was looking for the ladies room. At that time I was in typical western wear and unadorned blonde hair. She was obviously surprised by my greeting her and addressing her in Arabic but grateful for the assistance.

    Back when the muttawa asked me to cover I did put a scarf loosely around my hair. I had promised my husband if I were ever stopped and asked to cover that I would. This was our compromise since I preferred not to cover.

  35. farah shakeel…

    In the USA nuns who are cloistered…meaning they spend their life in prayer in a convent among other nuns and don’t interact much with the public…wear the “habit” as the costume is called. Those who are on the outside world and interact with the communities that they live in are generally dressed in street clothes. Not necessarily jeans, but normal, could see them on anyone, clothes. There are still a few hold outs who are of the old school and might wear the habit outside but it is very infrequent to see anymore. The correct way to address one of these nuns is “sister”. Susan A. did a good job of explaining what makes up their piety…it isn’t primarily the clothes. It is the desire to devote all your energies to the service of God.

  36. In Latin America is still very common to see nuns since those countries are mainly catholic, I do know of nuns who dont wear the habit, but still it’s not the rule over here…

  37. Nobody bats an eye where I live when a woman is wearing a hijab. Lots of women wearing hijabs in retail work. Nobody averts their eyes from non-hijab wearing women. Where I am working now I have lots of Muslim women coming in to shop. Some wear a hijab or scarf and some don’t. Nobody cares or even gives them a second look. Canadians for the most part don’t care. Now the niqab is a different matter of course.

  38. Catholic nuns wear a wimple by choice alone. They are NEVER made to wear a veil by society or men or religious police. Muslims cannot say that as there ARE cases where Muslims do NOT have a choice. I don’t care if a women wears one or not as long as its her free choice like you find in the West (though a lot are made to by parents or made to feel inferior without wearing one) but in countries like Iran where you can be beat or worse for not wearing hijab that’s a problem. Anyone else paying attention to Egypt. If the Muslim brotherhood gets to rule I have feeling a law about hijab will be popping. In fact I bet they will attempt what the taliban and Saudi do in discrimination of women. Seems the wonderful Arab spring is not looking good for women in the middle east since religious fundamentalists are gaining ground. Sad.

  39. Wendy…

    In the store I am referring to the ladies who greet me are not required to deal with the public. All of these women are shelf stockers, hang clothes etc..There are no hijabis at the register dealing who with the public. But I think that is because they can’t speak English rather than because they are hijabis. I find hijabis who work on registers and work with the public have no choice but to speak to the customer. I am talking about Muslims who don’t have to be front and center and other customers that I encounter. Do everyday Hijabis in Canada (those who are shopping or not having to deal with people) open up and say hi and make regular eye contact? If so, then I think that is great! Because it is not the case here…or at least in my experience. Don’t want to talk for everyone else.

  40. Yes they do, Oby. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have jobs. They have to be friendly and nice to people. We have hijabis working as cashiers at Safeway, in WalMart, major department stores like The Bay, Sears, etc. Some are immigrants who have heavily accented English, some are born here with no accent. Why are they friendly?? Because they don’t have to worry that somebody is going to stare at them, give them the evil eye, treat them differently, and so on and so on.

  41. @Wendy – How can they be so sure someone isn’t going to give them the evil eye?

    Do y’all remember hearing about the cashiers that were refusing to ring up bacon or other haram items that customers were purchasing. Where was that? Minnesota? I can’t remember exactly, I think it was the same place where the cabbies at the airports were refusing to give rides to passengers with bottles of alcohol (that they had purchased at the duty free).

  42. Wendy that is wonderful..seriously. As I said, those working with the public at the sort of places that you mentioned are friendly and make eye contact here too. I was talking of the ones that are not directly in a public position. (meaning don’t have to speak or interact with the public) I have never heard anyone say anything ugly to a muslim or insult them directly. Barely heard any behind the back insults either. Not saying it doesn’t happen as I am sure it does..just saying in my world I have never heard of it or experienced it first hand. What I HAVE seen is nonmuslims being polite to muslims…or at the worst treating them neutrally. Given that experience, that Muslims (by that I mean hijabis that are recognizable as muslims) have a good experience or a neutral one, I don’t know why they are not more approachable. I know they must experience racism, but I am out and about a lot…you would think I would have heard some kind of racist remark said to their face directly. I don’t walk around in some magical little bubble that is filled with goodness and light. I live in the normal world and these muslims live in the same place I do. Just by association and proximity I would think I would have heard something hateful if it is so pervasive. If they are not experiencing that and nonmuslims are treating them AT WORST neutral why are they not more approachable? Or return a hello or a smile?

  43. I still dont understand why it is so important that ALL women around u cover their hair it’s a mindset i will just never get…
    On the other hand I wonder if blonde women get more atention than brunettes or black haired women when they dont wear hijab in KSA since that hair colour is not the norm and it clearly states that she is an expat, and probably a non-muslim…

  44. @radha – Thanks for looking into that for me. I was just wondering because I thought that NOTHING that was worn outside would be allowed in an OR. But I guess they could make disposable ones that could cover the neck appropriately. If they don’t have those they someone should get on it. What about the hijabi patient? What does she do?

  45. Oby, Canada does have some racism issues but by and large it is nothing like I hear and see going on in the USA. WalMart has hijabi shelf stockers who smile and will greet customers. I really don’t see any differences between hijab wearers or non-hijab wearers. Perhaps in smaller towns there are issues but I doubt it. Oby, do you think it’s only hijab wearers that are rude or are they the ones who stick in your mind? I’ve been very rudely treated by Russian immigrants working in retail stores here and who shop where I am working. They come with an ‘attitude’ more often than not but they don’t stick out in a crowd – only when they are rude. 🙂

    Lynn, I expect there can be issues everywhere.

  46. Thanks for that link Oby, that was what I was talking about.

  47. The cab drivers should be fired. Anyone refusing to ring up or handle pork products in a non-halal store should be fired. End of story.

  48. you are correct , absolutely no outside clothing is permitted inthe OR, we do however have scarves that can be worn as a hijab and the OR nurses would change that, again not all clothing is sterile, no outside clothing but also only some pieces are sterile packagaed,that’s why you can contaminate yourself inthe OR after scrubbing.. some rules are plain stupid, but it’s easier to go with them than fight it. only 1st yrs intheir infinite enthusiasm questiont hem 🙂 and get kicked out of the OR 🙂

    I’ve had only 1 hijabi patient for surgery and she had no head covering on the table. just a cap ( its not transparent) and i don’t remember if she put her hijab back on later or not…
    The OR nurse would never permit an outside hijab in the OR 🙂

  49. @radha – well now you are just confusing me. That nurse that you spoke about wears hers in the OR cotton, freshly washed everyday you said. Why would that matter if you have scarves that can be worn as a hijab.

  50. @Wendy…
    cerainly muslims stick out in my mind because I read about them daily on these blogs. But I don’t mean they are rude verbally. I mean that they don’t recognize that you (general you) even exist. They ignore you completely…not the cashiers…nonpublic dealing ones. If you and I met in a store and I said hello to you casually with a smile wouldn’t you at least acknowledge my smile and say hi oe smile back…even if you didn’t stop walking and said it in passing? That is the kind of stuff I mean…little getures that grease the wheels of life.

    Hijab is an obligatory practice in islam . It is wajib that means compulsory , that means there is no choice , it is a must if one
    wants to remain muslim . But the holy Qora’an says ” La ikraha
    fiddeen ” That there is no compulsion in Islam . You just can’t
    impose any thing , Every religious order is for the benefit of the
    individual and no one has the right to impose any rule , if one
    does , even the ruler’s or their stooges , it is going against the Holy book and therefore act of denial of Allah , that is open Kufr or apostasy . But this is a country of Misyar Zawwaj , which has no sanction in Islam but very common practice there and this is not
    only exploitation of the fairer sex but amounts to prostitution.

    Hijab is an obligatory practice in islam . It is wajib that means compulsory , that means there is no choice , it is a must if one
    wants to remain muslim . But the holy Qora’an says ” La ikraha
    fiddeen ” That there is no compulsion in Islam . You just can’t
    impose any thing , Every religious order is for the benefit of the
    individual and no one has the right to impose any rule , if one
    does , even the ruler’s or their stooges , it is going against the Holy book and therefore act of denial of Allah , that is open Kufr or apostasy . But this is a country of Misyar Zawwaj , which has no sanction in Islam but very common practice there and this is not
    only exploitation of the fairer sex but amounts to prostitution.

  53. @Zaheer- Saying the hijab is mandatory in Islam is an opinion. There is nowhere In the Quran that specifically states a woman must cover her hair. Rather, it says adornment, which could mean many things.

  54. Actually the quran says women should cover their breasts and down to the knees. Nothing about hair arms or legs. Basically a simple sundress is modest covering.
    To force women to cover more is bidah.
    And imitating the Jews.

  55. Wendy…

    I may have mentioned this before, but Recently I signed up to provide a Christmas for poor people in our community. You have to spend a certain dollar amount per child and give the family a gift card for food. I went to a place called Welcome Warehouse to get the family. I was expecting a Christian family as this is Christmas but instead I was assigned a Muslim family. Hmmmm…what to do. This isn’t Eid it is Christmas so how am I supposed to handle this? I called the place and they explained that they help everyone no matter the faith…so my daughter and I went Christmas shopping for a Muslim family. I admit at first, I was a bit annoyed. I was worried that a Christian family that actually celebrates the holiday would miss out if there weren’t enough people to go around to provide for all the needy. After all shouldn’t someone who believes in Christmas get first choice in a christian holiday? I could have refused them…But then I thought about it and decided this is a great chance to show Jesus’ words in action. I figured it is a great way to show my daughter that as Christians we are supposed to love everyone not just our fellow Christians. We have wrapped everything and are waiting to go on the assigned date. I am going to drop the gifts at their home and I am very curious to see how this plays out. I know for sure they can’t avoid eye contact on that day!! 😉

  56. fondue…I have it on good authority that women with red hair (flaming red hair) get more attention than blondes or brunettes combined. 😉

  57. oby, you reminded me of the time we ‘adopted’ a family for Christmas as a gift to our parents. We were given a family and their contact info so I called them to see about getting clothing sizes etc for the kids. When I called her I guess I had woken her up even though it was the afternoon. She explained that she worked at a bar so she is up late. Then the more we talked I learned that she did not have custody of the kids AND they were Jehovah’s witnesses. Oh and the daughter was surprisingly HUGE for her age (probably more mom sized 😉 ) OH how I wished that I had never called them. What to do? What to do? We wanted to provide a nice Christmas for some children that believed in Santa and it was a gift for my parents. Well, I ended up calling the organization back and getting a more suitable family but we still bought for the first family but just minimally.

    Oby, there are a lot of Muslims that do celebrate Christmas and I bet your adopted family are ones that do or else they wouldn’t have signed up for the program.

  58. Lynn…

    You are probably right. They gave me a list of ages, sizes, favorite color and wish list of things they would dearly love to have. I am wondering why though, that they didn’t go to the mosque…we have the largest mosque in central ohio ten minutes away. I mean if a mosque that size can’t help where is all the zakat going? or maybe this is a little extra bonus. At the time I looked into it, I didn’t realize the program was church affiliated. I got their number from the local chamber of commerce…I didn’t think to ask and they didn’t mention it. It was only later after getting the family’s name and looking a little deeper I realized it was a church. I mean Welcome Warehouse sounds pretty secular, right? Anyway, I just checked and their website says that our community has adopted every single family that applied. That is a recent development so I am so glad! so no worries there!

  59. Oby- This is just a guess and I could be wrong, but I believe a lot of the mosques are overwhelmed with charity needs right now. There is a huge influx of Iraqi refugees in the last few years on top of refugees from ther Muslim countries. With them coming in while the economy is down, it is very tough. My husbamd spent eight months applying for jobs when he first got here before he finally got one. He got that through the mosque but it was only part time ad barely covered the gas money to get to and from work. A lot of places wouldn’t hire him citing lack of US work experience. So though the first job didn’t pay much, it did lead to a slightly better paing job after that. It wasn’t until his fourth job, 2 1/2 years after arriving here, that he began to make any kind of real income. He had me to help him, though. Many families new to the country don’t have that and I can tell you the refugee agencies do almost nothing. They wouldn’t help my husband at all, though they were supposed to. Still he had it better than many.

    Anyway, the mosque he went to was strapped with so many people begging for help. It is a large one as well with many members. So it could be that some families, who don’t let their pride get in the way, are willing to go to churches for aid if that is what it takes to provide for their children. It is really nice that you are willing to help 🙂

  60. An immigrant family we know here says the only place he’s ever got help was from a Christian church. The husband tried at the mosque and was turned away when they really needed help here. It was a United Church I think that helped them. When they were in a Syrian refugee camp it was Catholic nuns that helped them. In my mind (and what my husband indicates to me) help from a mosque is rare.

    Oby I have also seen Muslim families registering for aid at Christmas and I must say I question it. I figure they are told that if they go and apply for Christmas aid they’ll get food and gifts for their kids. I personally think it’s wrong that they apply for Christmas aid. And are you going to find a Halal turkey for their dinner???

    Also Oby, it’s a non-issue here like I said. I smile and speak to Muslim women in the malls and on the street. They don’t look through me or pretend I don’t exist but I guess it all depends on where you are.

  61. @oby – with a name like Welcome Warehouse perhaps THEY didn’t know it was a church either! lol

    How do you know that they are Muslim?

    I think it is a great thing that you are doing I just hope you kept the wrapping paper secular, 😉

  62. @Wendy and oby- I wonder if any Mosques have ‘adopt a family’ on the Eids and, if they do, could a non-Muslim go and apply for help?

  63. Oby, let us know how it goes when you visit them. What a neat opportunity and I love the lesson you taught your daughter by buying for them. 🙂

  64. Nonsense, Oby is doing a Christmas, so knock yourself out with some pretty and appropriate Christmas wrapping paper, and a normal turkey of vegetarian meal. You could give them a nice angel statue, they have angels in Islam too.
    Or what about these huge ornate crosses Americans like to hang on the walls? and picture frames with crosses, and and nice hannukia or menorah, they are fashionable over here for Christmas. Or a small tree with decorations. Or a pagan Yule log if you don’t want to go too Christian. Or a cute nativity set and a story book about Jesus.
    And, of course, a cd of Christmas songs!
    These will all help integration and community cohesion.

  65. I have seen mosques participate in Habitat for Humanity without regard to what religion the family is that moves in. Also, there is a Muslim ran clinic in L.A. that provides affordable healthcare to the area. It is not-for-profit and will care for anyone who comes in, regardless of their religion.

  66. Wendy…

    Halal turkey! LOL! No, their food choices are up to them…no halal meat at the grocery that I know of.

    I admit that I was not happy about the family I got at first. I felt a little bit indignant …primarily because as I said I really worried that a kid who would dearly love a Christmas gift might not get one and it would go to a family who didn’t even celebrate Christmas. It kind of took a little of the wind out of my sails. Plus, I felt a little taken advantage of or used that we (nonmuslims) are not good enough to smile and say hello to which is the simplest gesture possible and requires no commitment, yet when they are in need we are good enough for them to get something of value…which required a lot of commitment of time and financial output on my part. I am being honest here. Kind of hard to admit that, but that is the way I felt. Then I flipped it around in my head and thought not of what THEY are getting, but the lesson/example my daughter can learn and what we can get in terms of the joy of giving. That helped turn it around for me and made it more joyous and made it possible to give from the right place in my heart. I was able to focus on how thankful I am that we are in a position to be able to do this. Once I looked at it like that then the choice was easy.

    I am happy for Canadians and their hijabis but now I feel kind of depressed…:-( Maybe it IS me! Nah! CAN’T be that LOL!


    Funny…Welcome Warehouse…maybe they didn’t know. you might be right. I know they are muslims because when I called WW I asked them specifically if they were Muslim. The families cell phone area code is from the Dearborn area (I checked). I had once seen a show that said that Dearborn is muslim, but across the river (?) in Detroit there are many arab christians. So I called to see if indeed they were Christian as I didn’t want to assume and also what do I do if they are muslims. What were they expecting? The lady told me that when they were there to fill out the paper work the woman was wearing hijab so yes, they were muslim. Plus the names were arab names.

    Oh, the presents look so pretty all wrapped up in color coordinated paper and bows! I bought a four pack of paper rolls that all went together with different designs, but all in the same color scheme. Even got sparkly name tags to match. Actually, I had gotten the paper to wrap our gifts as I loved the colors. Now I have an excuse to go shopping for wrapping paper again!!

  67. Susanne…I definitely will let you know how it goes…I am a bit nervous how I will be received, but let’s keep our fingers crossed!! 🙂

  68. Aafke…

    OMG! Hahahahahahahaha! Too isn’t too late yet…a few weeks until delivery…maybe I can still snag one of those fiber optic twinkly angels for their coffee table.

  69. Okay, today we went out as a Muslim couple. I wanted to test the waters. My husband was wearing his little crocheted cap and I wrapped a scarf around my head, not hijab style but nicely wrapped more African style. Nobody batted an eye and people spoke to us. We went to Ikea, Safeway, London Drugs and downtown walking around. Nobody stared or ignored us either. Of course we were smiling and greeting people as we usually do so I guess that made a difference. As I said the store I’m now working in gets many Muslim women coming in and I don’t see them reacting differently or the staff of the store treating them differently than all the other customers we get in.

    I agree with you, Oby. I think it’s very odd that they even asked for Christmas aid and I don’t blame you for being a bit sad but we being kind people will include anybody who is wanting or needing. Perhaps you were chosen for this for some special reason. 🙂 I remember phoning a local mosque asking for an Arabic speaker willing to give me Arabic lessons. They asked if I was Muslim and then hung up when I said no. Just another snub by another mosque for me. Great encouragement to increase the fold so to speak. 😦

    Muslims in America show was interesting this week in as much as the brother-in-law of the convert is not happy the guy is not following the rules. Well he wasn’t given any rules as I saw it and was converted without a question. We will see where this goes.

  70. oby – You wanted to provide Christmas to a needy ‘local’ family and the closest you could get to you, in central Ohio, was a Muslim in DEARBORN, MICHIGAN?! (not across the river from Detroit, that would be Canada. Dearborn is across the STREET from Detroit, literally) Sorry, sounds like you been punked! Just kidding 🙂 I think that ‘church’ is not a church but perhaps a refugee program or something. You really have to drive all the way to Dearborn Michigan from Ohio to deliver these presents to a ‘local’ needy family?

  71. @oby

    Good on you for realizing the Christian spirit and spreading the love. I’ve always said food and general good will is the heart of any productive inter-faith dialogue. Hopefully that will be a catalyst in your town for Muslims to share the love with other faiths during Eid, and do what you’re doing (I know certain mosques do that, but not all). I suggest you write a letter explaining what you did to a local mosque, and hopefully they’ll put the word out there for other families in need. It makes really happy when religion doesn’t exclude anyone from helping out the needy. So good on you, and you’ve taught your children a good lesson.


    Just putting it out there. You’re awesome. You don’t take shit from anyone, but you’re fair when you should be. It’s strange how close Canada is to the United States, but the people are so different. I recently settled on a hockey team, who happen to be the Jets, my girlfriend’s team is Montreal, and she kept on making fun of me for rooting for them. So I figured the Jets were a safe bet, since they just started up again, plus Neil Young is a fan, so that’s a glowing endorsement.

  72. Lynn..

    I am sorry I wasn’t clear. The family lives here in Ohio now but their cell phone is from the Dearborn area. I guess that is not that weird..last night we went to a play “A Christmas Carol”. The lead playing Ebeneezer scrooge was a local guy who lives and studies his craft in NYC. His phone number on his website lists a number with the same area code as mine. So I guess he moved there but hasn’t changed his number. go figure!


    i swear someday if I ever work up the courage I am going to try the same thing and see if I detect a difference both in how I am treated by nonmuslims and how I am treated by muslims. I bet I do.It must be different here to some degree. While a hijabi would be noticed no one would openly stare as it is not that weird to see. But silently people would certainly notice. I also don’t think that they would be treated differently/rude/ or outwardly racist by most…ok, many people. Most shopkeepers would smile and greet them if they were buying something or even browsing. They would not treat them differently than I. I have seen too many people treat Muslims politely to think it doesn’t happen. I know it does. They are treated with respect mostly in my experience. NOW that doesn’t mean in a red neck place or a small community it might not be different. I think that people might think something, but not actually SAY it out loud. And if they are silently racist I have no way of knowing that.

    The mosque hung up on you because you weren’t muslim??? Wow. I had the impression that they welcomed strangers for a look see or to learn the language/religion. I mean that would be an easy way to recruit people to the faith. As far as being a nice person and helping everyone, not only does my faith tell me that, that is the way I was raised. It is the right thing to do. I guess that is why it bothers me so much that, in my experience, Muslims don’t behave the same way. I was raised to not think I am superior to anyone else and I get the feeling many muslims do think that they are. Just my impression.

    American Muslim…I was VERY annoyed at that guy who was all over his brother in law for not following the rules. First, the guy is a newbie who converted to marry Shadia. Would he have converted had he not met her? Don’t think so. Secondly, it is not the BiL job to monitor the converts level of practice and piousness. It is between that guy and god and to a lesser degree the guy’s wife. It is up to him to determine his own “muslimness”. And shadia seems OK with him as he is. Thirdly, all I could think is “here is the pressure already”. The ink isn’t dry on his Muslim certificate of authenticity and he is getting hassled about how he practices by someone who should mind his own business. There is no compulsion is right out the window. All I could think is “this is how Muslims keep each other in line and afraid to speak out”. The BIL practically challenged the guy to say he wasn’t proud to be a muslim. What is Jeff going to say? “yeah, I think I’ll try it on for awhile and if it doesn’t work I’m out.”? with that kind of pressure he can’t do anything but nod up and down vigorously. Fourthly, the BIL has no right to interject himself in Shadia’s marriage which he is doing by strong arming Jeff. Leave the man alone…he will figure it out one way or the other. I am betting by the end Shadia is going to be wearing hijab. The pressure is too much. She will conform…her brother even said to the newly covered one at the restaurant iftar “everyone will respect you more now”. Did you catch the look on Shadia’s face? If she doesn’t wind up wearing hijab I will be shocked. I think it is orchestrated to make it seem as if wearing hijab is the only respectable choice. We’ll see.

  73. I agree about what will happen on the show, Oby. Funny thing about mosques – they don’t want non-Muslims in them unless it’s a tour on a special day or something like that. Anyone can go to a church but only a Muslim can go to a mosque. I asked a relative about that once and they said if I wanted to know about Islam I could ask them but only when I was a Muslim could I enter a mosque. No, I don’t think I’ll bother to do that. Pity! I was thinking about the fact that I live on the west coast and everyone knows that west coasters are mellower. 🙂

    @ JC – thanks for your nice comments!

  74. oby – I thought that was pretty ridiculous. LOL

    I didn’t catch the All American Muslims but I can absolutely understand why the brother would be giving him such a hard time. Jeff does NOT have a choice if he wants to remain married to his ‘Muslim’ wife. She is not allowed to be married to a non-Muslim. There are even converts who divorce their husbands because they did not convert with them and they are no longer allowed to be married to him. Also, yes, in her culture her brother DOES have every right to interject himself into her marriage. I have found that to be true with non-Muslim Arabs as well.

    I’ll have to watch before I can comment on the look Shadia had after the hijab/respect comment but I can imagine. She had a ‘look’ when her sister was getting all the praise for putting it on. I thought it was more of a combination eye roll, pissed off, ‘oh spare me’ kind of look. I would think she would be more likely to give Islam up than to put the hijab on. But I’d have to see this new reaction myself.

  75. I think she was still rolling her eyes.

  76. I’m really shocked about these mosques you all speak of. That has never been my experience. I’ve been in ones while living in Califoria, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. All were very welcoming of non-Muslims. They could sit and observe during prayer times, eat Iftar during Ramadan, go to Islamic study classes, etc. I knew a woman from Arizona that was not Muslim and they allowed her to come to the mosque and study Arabic.

    The first time I went to a mosque everyone was very nice to me. The Iman had told me over the phone that I was welcome to come. I told him I wasn’t looking to convert but just wanted to learn about the religion. This was fine with him. I had to stay in the women’s area during the prayers, but they called me over afterward to the Iman’s office. There, three Muslim men sat with me for over two hours explaining the differences between Christianity and Islam. They were never offended by my questions and repeatedly told me (I don’t know why) to not convert unless I was absolutely sure. The Iman was very concerned about that. I’m guessing most people who came to learn about Islam were ones who were considering converting. Anyway, after the meeting was over, they told me I was welcome to the mosque anytime. Eid was coming up since Ramadan would be ending and they told me to come to the dinner that would be held. I actually did and really enjoyed myself.

    They had classes on Sundays for those wishing to study Islam. Anyone was welcome to attend. Since it was a rather small mosque, there were no classrooms so we set up in the men’s prayer area. I wasn’t the only non-Muslim who attended. In fact, they got so used to me coming that I had the passcode to get into the mosque when it was closed. Yet they were fully aware I was not Muslim. They also gave me a ton of reading material and several brand new Qurans. One was huge with English and Arabic side by side. I later discovered it was selling at Borders for $45 and couldn’t believe they had just given me that. They knew I was studying Arabic at the time at the Defense Language Institute so they were always giving me stuff in both languages.

    I have been to several other mosques and they all let non-Muslims in and welcomed them. I’m at a complete loss for why other’s experiences were different and very sorry to hear that. I think my entire outlook on Islam would be much different if I had been treated in such a horrible way. Instead I was always made to feel welcome which gave me a much better view.

  77. But Susan A, you said from the onset you wanted to ”learn about the religion”, that means possible convert, so of course you were welcome.

    I just finished Wafa Sultan’s book, not only are Muslims taught they are way superior to non-muslims, they are also taught that they can never be friends with Christians and Jews. Arabic speaking Muslims know they are cursing the Christians and Muslims all day long, every time they pray, they start with the first sura of the Quran, which condemns the Christians and Jews.
    She tells how shocked she was how so many Muslims who come to live in America use and profit by the system, but when they are at home or amongst other Arabs they do nothing but revile and blacken the Americans and their country and system. They take and give nothing back because religion tells them it’s their prerogative to take what they can from the inferior kuffar, while remaining morally superior.
    I must say Wafa’s book did make me think about Oby’s Muslim family, profiting by a Christmas scheme while they maybe spitting on the inferior Cristian who gives to them.
    Maybe not, but maybe they are.
    That’s why I would not bother to be very ”culturally sensitive” in this case. If they are willing to go in for the Christmas spirit they won’t mind getting Christmas gifts. After all, if Oby had not noticed the Dearborn phone number, and had specifically asked, she would have taken it for granted that she was buying gifts for Christians.

  78. You could be right about the mosque. It would be hard to get converts if they turned down anyone interested in learning. Of course, I’ve had the same exprience in Church if I go to a new one. Most religious establishments like to welcome potential attendees/converts.

    I can’t speak for what all American Muslims do as far as charity goes. If you search mosque websites, though, they do seem to be giving back to the community in various ways. At least, the ones I’ve checked on have. My husband only went to a mosque a couple times when he first got here, but then his family advised against it. They warned that it was risky to associate himself with other Muslims because of all the troubles we have in America now on the subject. So he worships on his own. When it comes time to give Zaqat (alms or tithe) he gives it to my uncle who is a Pentacostal pastor. My husband trusts my uncle to give it to people who need it and doesn’t care what religion they are. I did not influence his decision in any way. He simply told me what he was doing.

    Back when he was still stuck in Syria, two of his Christian Iraqi friends arrived in the country and had nowhere to stay and little money. My husband invited them to stay at his apartment and they did for several months before finding alternate accomodations. He did not care what religion they were. What mattered was they were in need and he was in a position to help them. He had very little to give, but he did what he could. I think you have to judge people by their individual actions rather than what the group does as a whole.

  79. Saudi’s obsesseion with forcing women to cover in abaya’s and hijab is not culture or tradition, it is an experiment in social enginering. It is forced on the population, as many older people will tell you 30/40 years ago women did not cover and were more free to choose what they wore on the street. Women in villages wore colorful embroidered dresses and scarfs and hats. That is the real culture of Saudi Arabia.
    Saudi Arabia’s unique culture has been destroyed.

    No ”respect” is due to an enforced experiment in social engineering which destroyed and replaced real culture and traditions.

  80. Susan…

    I agree with Aafke. There is always the hope that you will convert so they will lay out the red carpet. And it probably is not only islam that would do that. I say, after reading these blogs you can’t judge islam just by books. Watch the people, how they behave, not only in the mosques but outside of them. Ironically, I have heard so many Muslims say that it was a good thing that they knew about Islam before they met Muslims. Me, personally, I don’t find that to be a ringing endorsement. I am somewhat wary of a religion that is supposedly good at it’s heart but no one can seem to follow it and there are a million different interpretations. That in and of itself would be fine except that the million people who hold the million different interpretations judge each other and make the religion very difficult to be a part of IMO. Plus…it is easy to get in but very difficult to get out of…that makes me feel a bit uneasy. In the Catholic faith it is the opposite. You need to study for a year or so before becoming Catholic. They want to be sure you understand your undertaking of conversion. If for any reason along the line you want out…you can leave…no hassles. In fact, you will blessed as you depart hoping that you will find the right path for yourself. I am not saying that it is fantastic to have to go through all the study, but the point is they want it to be a mindful choice and by the time you convert you have been well taught what the tenants of the faith are. Everyone is more or less on the same page. And should you chose to leave you won’t be reviled.

    Have fun learning! Knowing another faith is not a bad thing IMO. Although I do hope that you realize once you learn about it, if you don’t convert they will wonder what is wrong with you. I mean for the average muslim, they will think after learning about it how could you POSSIBLY choose not to convert? LOL!

  81. Aafke…

    “I must say Wafa’s book did make me think about Oby’s Muslim family, profiting by a Christmas scheme while they maybe spitting on the inferior Cristian who gives to them.”

    I have to admit I thought about something like that. Will they accept the gifts and laugh behind my back that they received stuff for a holiday that isn’t even theirs? How gullible I am…I did wrestle with those type thoughts. In the end I decided to give them the (wary) benefit of the doubt.

  82. Oby, I think you had the right mindset, you are teaching your daughter a lesson in charity, that is what really counts.
    And as I said, just get real Christmas themed presents, that way if they are true they will enjoy them and be happy with them, and if they’re false they will not like them. No problem.

    It’s such a lame argument, ”The religion is good but the people practicing it are not” .
    Actually it’s utter bullshit, especially in the case of Islam where children get it drilled into them from baby onwards, where any deviation from the approved mindset is charged with ”apostacy” (and therefore death). A religion which according to Muslims themselves is ingrained in every aspect of their daily lives and in a Muslim country into politics and law. And people can claim there can be difference to the religion and the people practicing it? Of course there isn’t. People make religions. They are what people want them to be. The only thing you can say about Islam is that the less people adhere to the magic books and the less they read them the nicer and the more morally developed they are.

  83. @Oby I have found the same is true of all the major religions when it comes to millions of interpretations and people judging each other. I have plenty of Christian family members that gossip about each other and criticize anyone that isn’t going to church on Sundays. Not to mention many other things they love to point out.

    Christianity has a history of fighting over differences of opinion. How many different denominations are there now? A lot! I was first baptised Lutheran, though my mother’s family is Pentacostal and my father’s Methodist (my father actually attended a Catholic private school but that was for the quality education). Later my brother and I started attending a Baptist church that wouldn’t recognize the original Baptism so we had to do it again. Yes, this kept me perpetually confused as to what to believe as a Christian. None f the churches I went to could agree on much. Some said you could sing, some said you couldn’t. Some believed in speaking in tongues, others didn’t. The list goes on.

    For further differences, you could also study the inquisition which went on for centuries. How many Christians died because they didn’t follow the religion exactly as the church believed they should? How many wars were fought over which version of Christianity should be followed in a particular country? Many people died because of these disagreements which is why freedom of religion was so important when the United States was established.

    As for converting, go to any Protestant church and I guarantee you it is as easy as saying a few words to be saved. I respect the fact Catholics require study and learning first. All religions should follow that idea, but unfortunately, most don’t.

  84. The positive thing about Christians is that they don’t have the power anymore, so they have to play nice and their doctrine has to keep step with our advance in moral understanding. But when they get the chance they sink immediately back into the dark ages, as you can see by how they behave in Africa.

  85. @lynn – i am confusing you arnt i ? sorry 🙂 The nurse i spoke to is not an OR nurse . she wears a clean cotton one to work everyday and has quite a few at work in case she needs to change. She’s a radiology nurse. In the hospital there are a set of rules, OR we follow a diff more stricter set of rules, again depending onthe function.. If there were to be say a surgeonwearing the hijab, she’s probably wear a clean scarf and scrubs provided by the OR and then put a sterile cap – to prevent outside clothing inthe room.

    depending on the surgeries/units /resident etc.,etc In F’s OR absolutely no outside clothing..meaning no long tshirts under scrubs either… the man gets pissed easily. plus i think their unit autoclaves everything so he’d probably have a fit if a hijabi went in with her scarf that was worn outside the OR.

    But anyway that point is moot, we don’t have ANy hijab wearing surgeons in our hosp , so no worries there…ofcourse we do get plenty of hijab wearing patients and we try to accomodate them by having female staff . sometimes the anes is male ( can’t help it) by he’s behind a sterile screen so he can’t see much and is probably more interested in his sudoko than gazing at uncovered hair 😉

  86. Susan…

    Of course what you say is true! My mother was a Lutheran who went through the process of conversion so I got to see it up close and personal. And though it might be a pain, I don’t think it a bad idea for someone who wants to convert to have a good long time to think about it and not just convert because they “fell in love”. God is patient and he will wait until the person gets there.

    I know about the Protestant church from relatives, friends and from living in the South for a long time. Yes people gossip, it is true, but I have not seen it to the extreme level that I have in the Muslim faith..or maybe these blogs distort my view. (except among Mormons) What I will say is that in many ways I think the Catholic church, at least, has come a looooong way in terms of mellowing out. To be honest, Islam nowadays with it’s judgement and gossip etc. reminds me of the Catholic church of years gone by. But on the other hand Protestanism has fractured into many different “sects.” The Catholics are sort of still one group. But the Catholics (other than an extreme catholic…fundamentalist type) would never say that a Lutheran or a Baptist is not a “real” Christian. Yet Sunnis will say shia are not real muslims and vice versa. I do know that some protestants might not consider Catholics “real” Christians. Or maybe that is my experience living among Baptists in the South. But now a days Catholics would not say that about another Christian denomination.

    Yes, I know about being “saved”…and talking in tongues. I Attended a friends church and saw both…almost flipped out at the talking in tongues thing. I had never seen that before.

    Aafke is right. The reason Christianity is not so overwhelming is because it has lost it’s power to a large extent. We now have secular law and those laws govern our countries rather than religious rule. But even in the USA there are some fundamentalists that would like to have more religious influence…makes me nervous. NO country should be ruled by religion. It always winds up being abusive to some group. For me that is one issue I have with Islam. It is not only a religion, but incorporated in that is Sharia or God’s rule. Many muslims believe that God’s rule should come first. For Muslims living in the west, a lot don’t have an a conflict between sharia and secular rule. But they don’t have a choice due to the way laws are written here. But that is not the case in many islamic countries. As Aafke mentioned in Africa where codified law is not as strong as here and corruption is rife. Religion has a much more powerful influence on the people..Christianity and Islam both. I think governments/societies advance only when religion is kept in check.

  87. What is an ”anes”?

  88. Oby, *But even in the USA there are some fundamentalists that would like to have more religious influence…*

    Of all the developed world countries America is the weirdest about religion. And it shows: lots of poverty, bad healthcare, highest infant death rate of the developed world, ignorant schoolchildren (and so ignorant adults) due to religious influence on school curriculum. The loss in scientific advancement since the Bush years… I sometimes think I’m in a third world country when I am in America.
    America’s saving grace it it’s iron clad secular constitution.
    The more religious a country is, the more power religion , any religion, has in a country: the poorer, the less developed, the more injustice. It’s the same all over the world.
    The happiest and most prosperous people are those who live in countries with the lowest percentages of practicing religious people.
    America isn’t really doing that well.

    Muslims living in the west don’t have a conflict about secular and no sharia rule because they are in the ”House of war”, and they need only to wait until the population is properly islamized the rest subdued and the country they live in becomes the ”house of peace” and then sharia will be there anyway.

    What I meant about religion, Christianity and Islam, in Africa is that they are not subdued by strong constitutions and a secular population and so they show their true faces, calling for all kinds of unimaginable cruelty and murder and death. That is the true face of both religions. Give them enough room in the developed world and we will be back in the dark ages.

  89. @Oby I have to agree with you about secular governments being far better. Nothing good has ever come from religion ruling a country. It always ends up in abuse. That isn’t to say secular govts. don’t abuse their power, but at least they aren’t forcing a particular belief system on a population. In my opinion, each person has to discover religion for themselves, even if that means they choose no religion. Forcing someone to pay lip service to a particular faith does not mean you’re doing anyone any good or really keeping them in line.

  90. Susan…I can bet good money that if you had been a muslim woman at the time of entering that mosque to learn (maybe you had newly converted etc) you would never have been invited to sit in an office with 4 unrelated males…never ever would have happened. Funny thing is…this happens a lot…they “respect” muslim women by segregating them …but are quite happy to sit and chat or whatever with a non muslim woman. Does this mean they respect you less? More? or see you as a fellow humanbeing where as muslim women are…something else? I’m never sure what to make of this phenomena among muslim men…but I have been on both sides of that coin..shunned while muslim…invited and spoken too when the obvious signs of my muslimness were gone (removed hijab etc…or even before I converted).

  91. Coolred, I have to agree with you there. They only let me sit in a room alone with them because I was not Muslim. It actually surprised me they did that much based on what I already knew of the religion and culture. It seems a bit hypocritical to have that double standard, regardless of what their intentions are (respect or disrespect).

    Wearing a hijab certainly changes all people’s reactions to you. While at that same language school mentioned before, I was sent down to the Army’s National Traning Center in the Mojave Desert. They basically play war games there and simulate battle environments. One of the ways they do this is by having native Arabs role play as well as soldiers who dress as Arab (civilians have a set number of hours they can be out in the training area whereas soldiers can be worked all the time). I was made to dress and act like a Muslim Iraqi woman who was interpreting between US soldiers and the “civilians”. The thing is, my coloring is such that the poor soldiers couldn’t tell for sure once my hair was covered in a hijab as to whether I was Arab or not. Their behavior was totally different toward me, quiet and more respectful, not even realizing I was one of their comrades. Even officers who heavily outranked me acted very polite and considerate (of course they didn’t know I was a sergeant). It wasn’t until I spoke english that they caught on to my lack of accent, lol.

    One day during this time we decided to take a lunch break and go get some pizza on base. Just to mess with the people not in the “know” I left my full Muslim female garb on (robe and hijab). It was fun to watch the reaction of the base regulars since all of us were normally sequestered to a remote area. No one knew how to deal with me, lol. As we were departing, some of the real arab role players (who didn’t know who I was) came through the door the same time I was going out. They were stunned to see me and immediately averted their eyes, stepping out of the way. The others with me, who had gone back to normal military attire found the whole thing rather comical. Being on an Army base in California certainly got some more obvious reactions. This event occured a few months after that first mosque meeting so it was an interesting experiment for me.

  92. Aafke – yes 🙂

  93. Coolred, you are right about how differently non-Muslim women are treated. In KSA men shook my hand, male relatives hugged me, sat down and had discussions with me and like that.
    I must say that most of my bad mosque experiences have been in the ME countries. Being stopped from visiting the Grand Mosque in Manama on visiting day by a guard with a gun in his hand even though the sign on the door said women would be given proper attire once inside was one example.I haven’t tried to enter a mosque here – just that one bad phone call. I really have no desire to visit a mosque other than to see the beauty inside some of them.

  94. Wendy…I have never understood why they feel the need to enforce that hijab in the mosque. I have seen men enter to pray with tight jeans on…nobody says a word (no security at the door to turn them away) etc…why the policing of only women who enter…even nonmuslim women? More than once I was approached inside the mosque…after prayers…by some woman to explain to me what proper hijab was (including the rest of my clothing) because whatever I had on didn’t suit her sense of modesty. I’m thinking…the one place where people should just shut their mouths and think about god and their OWN damn faults is still just seen as an opportunity to critisize and judge.

    The security man (with the big damn gun for some reason) should be happy nonmuslims are interested enough to come check it out. A big smile and welcoming gesture goes a lot further than tossing a hijab at you and demanding you to jump through their hoops of what they perceive to be modest…all in the name of god.

    Really, people…I want to sincerely ask you…do you thinkg god really gives a single thought to whether your head is covered or not? we are a tiny little planet in a solar system too big to even imagine…yet your head and lack of covering is at the forefront of the Big Guy’s mind…and consequences are dire. Whatever. You make him sound petty and demanding…in other words…god is 2 year old. Sounds about right.

  95. Coolred…

    “The security man (with the big damn gun for some reason)”…

    Is it normal to have a gun at a mosque??? Or just this one you are talking about?

  96.…it’s not normal. There isn’t supposed to be violence of any kind in god’s house..the quran says so etc…BUT when you are a Sunni minority govt that oppresses the Shiia majority…you can never sleep too well at night wondering when they will eventually rebel (which is happening now incidently)…so guns become necessary when you practice oppression…all in the name of god.

  97. Coolred – I never did get into the mosque area set aside for visitors and to put on the clothes they had for visitors. He wouldn’t let me even though I pointed out the sign. Interestingly I did have a scarf on my head in preparation to enter the area where I would get my full garb and had on a long skirt. I certainly didn’t try it a second time.

  98. Wendy, it does sound rather bad that the guard wouldn’t let you in. I would have been annoyed too! Especially since he was holding a gun.

    I visited the Ummayad mosque in Damascus with no problem though. They wouldn’t let me in the main entrance because I was wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt, but they kindly directed me to a side entrance where you could rent robes to wear. I got in that part with no problem and got the robe once inside. It was hideous, but it allowed me to wonder the mosque freely after that. I’ve got some great pics from it. The mosque was beautiful.

  99. Susan A.

    I want to ask a question that occurred to me. Please bear with me a moment while I give a little background info.

    The world over people call Americans islamophobes. Supposedly we hate Muslims. I personally, have never heard anyone ever insult a Muslim person to their face. All the times I have ever seen a Muslim interact with a nonmuslim the nonmuslim has been polite to them and treated them as they would anyone else. Even when the Muslim person is being difficult (say, arguing a price in a walmart or something) I have never seen them be treated disrespectfully. Quite the contrary, the cashiers will deal with them with directness and politeness. (I saw this happen in front of me in line a few weeks ago) At the WORST they will be treated neutrally, but I get treated neutrally too so I would not attribute the neutral treatment of muslims to islamophobia. To add to that I rarely hear comments in a hateful or ugly manner between people when there are no muslims around and it would be “safe” to let your true feelings show and no one knows they are being listened to. So in my experience, there is no “in your face”, rampant islamophobia going on that Americans are accused of. I understand it may be the area I live, or perhaps I am not in the right place at the right time, but in this life, just during the course of living, I would have heard something I would think. To me the claim of islamophobia is FAR overly exaggerated…but I could be wrong.

    I give you that background for you to understand why I am probing this…

    Since you were in the military and it was the military’s job to “fight the enemy” in Iraq/Afghanistan I am thinking that if there is so much islamophobia as we are accused of one would see it there. Yet your story of wearing hijab made it sound as if the military personnel were respectful of Muslims, women and customs of covering. This is the opposite of what we are accused of. I have always contended that the military is not over there to damage or wipe out Islam. The USA did not go there for a religious agenda. But many muslims think that we have because we supposedly hate Islam. I am wondering, in general, what was your experience of how military personal of all ranks regard Muslims? It sounds as if they have some level of respect for them/customs. Is islamophobia rampant within the military? People outside of America seem to think it is rampant among average citizens and I just don’t find that to be the case. (and if I did I would definitely step up and say it is true.)

    I don’t mean to put you on the spot. If you don’t want to answer the question I will respect that 100%. I feel a bit awkward to ask, but I am very curious about the islamophobia label we seem to wear for the rest of the world. Thank you.

  100. @Oby- What you ask is a good question and not one with an easy answer. I’m forever seeing both sides of the argument. If I sit with Muslims, I find myself defending America’s actions and the soldiers serving in Iraq. If I’m with Americans who speak against Muslims, I end up defending some things that are misconceptions. Both sides thing I’m defending the other, which makes it a difficult road to traverse, but I honestly believe there are two sides to every story.

    That being said, you and I are in complete agreement that US soldiers are not in Iraq to destroy Islam. That is just patently false and I’ve never even heard of a soldier think that way. Really, troops were never consulted about the war to begin with and have a gag order on talking about it so we can’t even say much until we get out. I must say it is nice to get my freedom of speech back, lol.

    Is there Islamaphobia in the US military? Yes, absolutely there is. Does this consist of all soldiers? No. Some are very open-minded and completely comfortable around Muslims. Others will mock them every chance they get. As most people know, there are Muslims in the US Army. Their beliefs are respected by the chain of command. They can get time off (provided there is no important mission at the time) for Islamic holidays. I know of one soldier who even stopped to pray with the local Iraqis while he served there. They were shocked to see him do it while in full military uniform. Now, he only got the chance once or twice, but it showed them that the US military is not entirely a Christian army, but consists of many religions. Most soldiers know better than to insult a Muslim to their face, but it does happen. At one school I attended there were two Arab girls who had immigrated to the US when they were teenagers. One was a Christian Arab from Jordan. The other was a Muslim from Lebanon. They were very sensitive to an Arab/Muslim jokes but both were nice. Apparently, some soldiers took to calling these young women terrorists just because of where they were born. We were forced to have a formation where everyone in the unit attended and were yelled at for having insulted these women. The one from Jordan complained in particular because she said she couldn’t fit in anywhere. Back in Jordan, she was a minority as a Christian and felt isolated. Now in the US she was being criticized for being Arab. She felt she couldn’t win either way. I could understand how that would be frustrating.

    We had American-Iraqi soldiers who served in the US Army that had some good experiences and some bad. It often seemed like other soldiers avoided them unless they needed translating. I often heard of soldiers making fun of them behind their backs. To their faces, though, it rarely happened since the military could punish them for racist remarks. I often heard soldiers who served in Iraq mocking the Iraqis they saw while serving there. Not necessarily for the religion, but for the cultural practices. At the same time, there were those who didn’t. The language lab (which had several Arab teachers) was constantly full of soldiers who wanted to learn Arabic and about Iraqi culture. Just goes to show that troops could go either way. For the most part, though, the ones who have anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiments rarely voice them to those people’s faces as it is heavily preached by military commanders to respect those groups.

    As for my own husband, he gets remarks on a regular basis. Oh, sure, no one has the guts to do it when I’m standing there as they must know I would be on them in a second. Yet when he worked at a gas station, people said some really cruel things to him and he would come home very upset. One guy refused to show his ID to buy beer saying the didn’t have to give some dirty Arab his driver’s license and that my husband should just go back to where he came from. The guy didn’t even know who my hubby was or how he got here. Thankfully, my husband no longer works there so he receives less problems now. One funny thing is that the people he works with currently seemed overly concerned as to whether he would be celebrating Thanksgiving. A lot of people forget this is not a Christian holiday and just assumed he wouldn’t. They were surprised when he told them he would be going to eat with his wife’s family. Heck, he gets dragged to dinner with my family for Christmas too. We even buy gifts for them. He is perfectly open to adapting to this country’s customs while keeping his own. I don’t make him do it, but he wants Christians to be comfortable around him. The only thing we ask is that there be an alternative to pork served. Ironically, I developed a bad allergy to pork when I was fifteen so they were used to that anyway. Everyone in my family goes out of their way to makes sure he knows which dishes have ham or bacon in them and which don’t.

    Sorry this is so long, but I hope it answers some of your questions. I’m glad you asked 🙂

  101. These are pics of my visit to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. The first is of me outside the place before going in. You can see the guard at the entrance does not hold any obvious weapons, just what looks to be a lunch bag. The next is me with the ugly robe inside the mosque. I have many more but hope this suffices 🙂

  102. Oby, Susan…after living among muslims for so long..I sincerely hate the way they are so hypocritical about claiming we are islmaphobes…while they are…what? I have lost count of how many times I would sit among a group of them just to hear them critisizing and degenerating every last aspect of american life. From our president down…nothing was ignored. Of course some of it is true (generally speaking) but I always wondered why they felt it was quite alright to tear my culture up in front of me…while at the same time accusing us of hating on them? It took some time but I eventually realized they no longer really saw me as american…I was muslim. Period. Upon becoming muslim I apparently was not meant to associate with anything to do with my american side…and with some of them…even expected to join in on the hating of all things american. I could try and describe the looks on their faces when I jumped in and defended whatever I felt needed defending…and THEN pointed out something about islam or arabs that I found less than appealing. They were shocked…how could I possibly find fault with islam or arabs…after all..I had chosen the religion…chosen to live among them…changed my name (not really me), changed my dress (not me again) etc etc…which means I preferred it to my own culture…thus should be quite happy to disparage it right along with them.

    I would ask them…how is it if someone disparages islam or arabs they are being islamaphobes…but for you to do the same is quite all right and nothing to do with a phobe of anykind. They did a lot of hemming and hawing but could not find a decent answer when I faced them with the reality of their hypocrisy.

    Often times I realized that many of these women would absolutely forget that I was there among them…Im thinking they would just see hijab and abaya and nothing beyond that. I wasnt an individual person but one of the ummah…so wouldnt object to critisizm of my country etc. point being…while muslim/arabs are always accusing those of us in america of being islamaphobes…they are equally guilty of hating and showing it…so where is the difference? Just because they are muslims…follow islam…their prophet is the seal of the prophets etc so they are special and chosen…while we are “just” americans? that’s how I interpret it anyhow.

    Just wanted to give my take on this..sorry to butt in.

  103. The pics aren’t showing up, but hopefully that will get fixed. Sorry to anyone who was looking for them. The code is there, just not showing. Anyway.

    @Coolred- I have to completely agree with your rant, having faced similar circumstances. Back when I was still in the military, I used to spend some of my lunch breaks with a couple of the female instructors at the language lab where I kept up my Arabic skills. They were usually very nice and easy to get along with. One was a Kurdish woman from Iraq and the other a Syrian woman. They knew I was married to an Iraqi so over time they got very comfortable with me.

    One day the Syrian woman and I got into a discussion of various religions in America and it somehow came to a discussion of Pentecostals. Now I totally get that most people, even Christians, find their practices a bit unorthodox. I never got into it myself and used to find it very strange as a kid when I was visiting my mother’s relatives. Yet I believe it is people’s right to worship God in whatever way they deem necessary so long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. Well, the Syrian woman had heard of their practices and went on to describe how all of them were of the devil and going to hell. Nevermind that she just cursed my mother and her whole side of the family. That got me mad. Just because I don’t follow it doesn’t mean I’m going to condemn people on that level. As calmly as possible, I told her if she doesn’t want people judging Islam, then she shouldn’t judge other religions. The woman more or less blew me off but dropped the subject. I was beginning to seethe a bit at this point, but tried to remain calm.

    Next the woman goes on to talk about her husband’s family (this guy is American and converted to Islam only so he could marry her). Well, she went on to describe how all American women were bad mothers totally basing her assumptions on how her husband’s family raises their kids. She said that they leave their babies crying all night and refuse to do anything for them. Of course, this must mean every other American woman would do the same. She said a good mother would hold the child every minute that it was crying and not asleep. To do anything less is bad parenting. I claimed not all mothers are that way, and even those who do let their children cry, it is only after they have verified the baby is fine and doesn’t need anything besides holding. She wouldn’t hear any of it and kept shouting how bad American mothers were.

    I admit it. I lost my cool and went off on her. My anger was such that I can hardly remember everything I said, but much of it was insulting because I was sick to death of hearing all her tirades. I went on to describe every little thing I disliked about her. By the time I was done, both women were sitting in shock, not knowing what to say. I walked out. They tried to call me back, but I left and refused to answer their numerous calls. Eventually, I did answer the Kurdish woman (unwilling to deal with the Syrian since she was the one who really upset me). Unfortunately, I nearly lost her friendship as well because all she did was defend her friend and say I should apologize because I made the woman cry. I didn’t feel bad. She shouldn’t have cursed my mother’s family to hell and she shouldn’t have made such a sweeping generalization of all American women as parents. Seriously, what did she expect? I never ate lunch with them again and barely said a word to them in passing. They had assumed they could just totally disrespect anything that wasn’t the “Arab way” or “Islamic” and I would be okay with it because of my husband. Never mind that I was sitting with them in full military uniform with the US flag clearly sitting on my shoulder. Not sure how they could have forgotten.

  104. I’d like to share that I have had more positive than negative experiences vis-a-vis perception of Americans and Christianity. I was an American married to a Saudi, living in Saudi and working for Saudi institutions. As a result I had intimate exposure to the Saudi people and culture. The majority whom I met liked America and Americans but did not always agree with American government policies. I thought that was pretty fair…I don’t agree with all the American government policies!

    While Saudis in general wanted non-Muslims to convert to Islam, there was an overall curiosity about Christians and Christianity. Naturally these kind of conversations were usually after a Saudi knew and trusted me and felt comfortable enough to bring up such queries.

    Many Saudis who come to the US for the first time are also seeing churches for the first time. Like anyone who has not seen a mosque and is curious, so is the Saudi.

  105. I’ve only met a few Saudis, most in the US. They seemed polite enough to me and enjoyed the fact I could speak to them in Arabic. The conversation of religion didn’t really come up though.

    Most of the Arabs I have dealt with were from countries that had a sizeable population of Christians so they had a pretty good idea of what it was all about. My husband even went to church with a couple of his friends in baghdad once. Poor guy took communion not even knowing what it was and not wanting to be rude. It wasn’t until he came here and I explained that he found out, lol. I knew some other Iraqi Muslim guys that would go to the church to meet women. Some things are the same everywhere! Regardless, most of the Muslims I have met had a decent understanding of the basics about Christianity.

  106. Susan A…

    Please let me say I am sorry it took so long to get back to you. Yesterday after my query to you I had to take care of some business and it took much longer than I anticipated. I had to finish this morning and I have been itching to get back to read your response.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain. I am left with a mixture of emotions. Your response tells me I need to look into this more.

    I feel sad that your husband who sounds like a really nice, accepting and open minded guy has had to get hassled. I swear sometimes I feel like the three monkeys that hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I say that because I am feeling uninformed and upset about what your husband experienced and at the same time it is at odds with what I see in my world. The gas station comment is interesting because one of the muslims I used to have a nice rapport with was a woman who wore hijab at the gas station I filled up at each week. We talked about her son, how she lived with her mom (she was divorced), her parenting style, foods we enjoyed, how she was glad to have moved to the USA; I even helped her find snow tires for her car etc. People came and went while we chatted in the gas station, sometimes for as long as 30 minutes and not one ever said anything ugly or even glared at her. They were always friendly and polite. One day I came in to talk with her and an older man was chatting amiably. The conversation was on the up and up and she was obviously comfortable with him. Hrrumph! She was my chat buddy…how dare he? LOL! I said hi and left and after that she must have gotten another job because she was no longer there. Not only was she NOT hassled, she seemed to be accepted nicely by the community and she told me people were pretty nice. This from a person who is supposedly facing huge racism.

    I didn’t mention it because most people on this blog know, but my husband is from India but could pass for Pakistani/Muslim. In fact, I am sure many people assume he is muslim. He told me islamophobia is not an issue for him as well as his partner who is Pakistani and Muslim. Neither get any hassles or comments…and not just while working in a professional setting, but while outside of that. Even right after 9/11 when we lived in the south (which is not as tolerant generally as other parts of the USA…sorry to any Southerners) he didn’t have any issues or ugly comments…and that was in a tiny, podunk, nowheresville town of maybe a few thousand at most. I was worried he might be a target…he said people would ask where he is from but never were hateful or mean and the staff was wonderful and kind. So I am not sure where this is going on though of course I believe what you say.

    Evidently, I am very lucky to live where I live. I wonder if it comes from a particular segment of the society..hmmmm…that would be interesting to know.

    I am not surprised by the issues with some soldiers and I imagine you are in a tight spot having to explain to both sides because you have a foot in each world. I commend you for seeing both sides of the coin because as Dr Phil says, “no matter how flat a pancake is, it has two sides.” ;-). That must be difficult. What I am very pleased to know is that even when it could be easy to allow oneself to go to dark places, especially in the pressure cooker situation soldiers find themselves in, many are not racist and are interested in the language and culture. That says to me that those soldiers have a clearly delineated idea of who the enemy is and why they are there and they are able to appreciate the indigenous people/culture and not look at them in a bad/hateful way or paint them with a broad brush. They cvan make the separation. Of course, there is the flip side of that which you described so well. I don’t feel proud of that at all. I think American soldiers are (or should be) better than that.

    I am also very pleased to know that the military emphasizes respect of the culture/people and won’t take any kind of nonsense like what you described happened to the two girls. Of course the news reports all the bad stuff so I am glad (and somewhat surprised) to hear that the commanders will take action against those being racist and hateful. I am also very glad to hear that the Muslim soldiers faith and religious rights are upheld. I like the story about the soldier who prayed with the people. That must have been a weird experience for them!

    The people who were concerned for your husband’s Thanksgiving…was it because of religion or because of nationality? I ask because my husband told me once that a patient asked him if he, as an Indian, celebrates Thanksgiving. He was like, “I am an American citizen…yes I do.” But I guess it is a fair question for people not exposed to that. Those people who asked him now ave an education! I do have another question…as your husband changed jobs (and increased earning power so I am assuming he was/is upwardly mobile) did he encounter less islamophobia? Were those around him more accepting/tolerant?

    I am sorry for the long post, but I REALLY enjoyed your comment/explanation and I am so glad you explained. If you can get the photos to post at some point I would love to see them. Good luck to your hubby!

  107. @Coolred…

    You didn’t butt in. 🙂 Because you have such extensive experience with Muslims I always like to hear your opinion and certainly think it is always interesting.

    Your point about arabs being “americanophobic” (is that a word??) and trashing every last aspect of Americans/America is a good one. So many people (arab or non) are happy to jump on the bashing bandwagon, but omg! say anything about them or their culture and you are a racist. Ummm….did they not just hear what they themselves said about others?

    Your experience is interesting in that you were on the inside while I am standing with my nose pressed against the glass looking in. I have a struggle with the Islamophobia label because I think people use it too often and use it to shut off any discussion or disagreement of Islam. I refuse to wear it and have it hung around my neck because I might have some negative thing to say about Islam. I find that obnoxious because lots of people criticize other faiths. Hell, even I criticize some of the aspects of my own faith. How can people police a faith if they can’t do that? And policing it keeps it on it’s toes so to speak and helps keep the faith (any faith) from getting too powerful. To not be allowed to say anything due to fear of Islamophobia label is another way of controlling freedom of speech and in my mind is no different than how Muslims are kept in line by others due to fear of not being seen as “Muslim enough”. Someone being rude to another person does not constitute islamophobia. People are rude to each other all the time. That might make them a jerk, but not an islamophobe. The remark to Susan’s husband about an arab is not IMO, a true islamophobic remark, but a racist remark. To say it is islamophobic remark is akin to saying only arabs are muslims. Insert another other race/nationality and all of a sudden it doesn’t sound quite so islamophobic but because arabs are linked that way in our minds it sounds islamophobic…and is probably the way the person saying it meant it. Then again maybe he hates foreigners and would say something hateful to a Mexican or Ethiopian both whom would likely be christians. Yes there is true islamophobia out there…don’t want to sound as if I am whitewashing it and pretending there isn’t any. But I think sometimes the line between poor behavior and islamophobia or criticism of islam is blurred and we need to vigilant to make sure we know the difference and not be muzzled when we see something that needs to talked about.

    Having said all that I think racism is everywhere. I don’t know why exactly, but it seems as if racism is perceived to flow from white to other races, from Christians to other faiths…particularly Muslims at the moment. But as you pointed out it is not one sided and I think in some cases it is worse coming from the other side of the fence. People all over the world are racist about someone. It is unfortunate, but somehow human beings seem to feel the need to be superior to others. It doesn’t help when a religion reinforces that.

  108. oby…thanks for the comment.

    My one question has always been…why is critisizing a religion considered a “phobe” or intolerant etc? Why are religions considered “off limits” and sacred so much so that we must tip toe around them…even when we don’t believe in or follow them?

    And all followers of all faiths don’t want to hear critical words against what they believe in for sure…but I find muslims especially consider any kind of critical word against islam to not only be “phobic” but a down right insult. You are personally insulting them simply because you have disagreed with their belief and are pointing out why you disagree with it. I do believe it’s this feeling of being personally insulted that really gets the goat of most people. From my own point of view…when I was brain deep into Islam…it bugged me considerably to hear people rant against islam because I chose it…I felt it was the best and right religion for me. I fell for it all…hook line and sinker. I was all ethnocentristic about it…and that’s pretty much what all followes of faiths are. My religion is not only the right one…it’s the best one. Fine. Feel that way…but don’t have this second belief that because YOU believe in this religion that everybody else must respect that belief.

    Why? Why must religion be respected? What has it done to earn that respect? And whether it ever had it…what has it done to keep it?

  109. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

    Sharia Alert from the Kingdom of the Two Holy Places: “Saudis fear there will be ‘no more virgins’ and people will turn gay if female drive ban is lifted,” from the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s Highest Religious Council (Daily Mail-UK)

    Don’t laugh. That wouldn’t be respectful. And you know how the Saudis, and Islamic supremacists in general, are about respect. Remember also that our president has assured the Islamic world that we will respect Islam — and also therefore Islamic law.

    But the best way to gain respect is to be respectable. This one, on the other hand, made me wonder if maybe someone like John Cleese or Eric Idle had gotten a job writing material for the Muslim scholars at the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council :)-

  110. Harry…I really thought you were having a go at us with that comment…until I read the article. My lord, why can’t clerics just have the balls to say what they really mean…we don’t WANT women to drive…period.

    They sound like a bunch of insane baboons…and people hand on to their every word. So glad my personal world is not affected by that horseshit.

  111. It’s almost too funny to be true but in actual fact it’s just really sick and frightening. Goodness, take away the promise of virgins and men will agree to anything to ensure that doesn’t happen. On the other hand if they knew that they might have a better time with someone a little more experienced ………..

  112. Is The Daily Mail a tabloid magazine like the Nationalk Enquirer? If so then we KNOW it’s gotta be true. Am I right?

  113. I still think the ”reason” for women not driving is that their hearts would give out because of the stress is the best one.

    But this is a good one. Maybe I should extend my video on women driving….
    For those who haven’t seen it:

  114. And the correlation between driving and virginity is what? women are now free to meet their secret lovers anytime they choose because they can drive there? Seems to me these same women will be busy doing what the average American woman does…work, pick kids up at school, run to the grocery store, dry cleaner and other shops, being a chauffer to take kids to friends or other extra curricular activities. MAYBE getting together with other mothers to have a “mommy and me” session in the park. I mean seriously! How does driving equal automatic loss of virginity? Oh I see… women might have some measure of freedom from under a man’s thumb and that just wouldn’t do would it? (Rolling eyes) How do I do that in emoticon?

  115. They come up with some ludicrous reasons why women can’t do things like drive. I was searching through US history court cases involving women’s rights and found this one. The conversation over this decision must have been interesting to hear!

    1924 Radice v. New York, a New York state case, upholds a law that forbade waitresses from working the night shift but made an exception for entertainers and ladies’ room attendants.

  116. Are we to believe that nonvirgins, prostitutes and homosexual behavior doesn’t exist already..and just the crime of women driving will cause those conditions to occur??? 😉

  117. Susan A…

    Having been a waitress in a former life, I am sure this is due to it being unseemly, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t because in restaurants the night shift generally makes more tips…so naturally the better jobs go to the men. Can’t be too liberated now can we? 🙂

  118. Lol, Oby, you may have the right of it. Of course, working as an entertainer at night wouldn’t be “unseemly”! Rather, they probably thought those women were a lost cause and the men making the laws wouldn’t want to do away with their nightly entertainment anyway. Restrictions on waitresses, on the other hand, were fair game!

  119. @Oby – dry cleaners pick up and deliver; restaurants deliver; mommy & me times would likely take place inside since during the day the heat is too intense and especially while wearing an abaya.

    I wonder though….for the women who are accustomed to getting dropped off and then collected at the door, if they would rather have that continue? In fact, many of the Saudi malls were constructed with drivers dropping women in mind. The number of available parking spots is pretty skimpy at some malls. (I’m referring to Riyadh)

    However, none of what I typed has any correlation to a woman losing her virginity by driving!

  120. @oby – ‘I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t because in restaurants the night shift generally makes more tips…so naturally the better jobs go to the men.’

    That’s what I was thinking. It’s probably true.

    @Carol – Even if ‘mommy and me’ meets indoors the women have to get there unless in Saudi Mommy and me, means just that. Mommy and ME, and that is all. But the thing is, if women ever do get the right to drive how many Saudi women would be driving themselves? Now their maids and nannies could drive and THEY could be the ones running to the stores, picking up dry cleaning or dropping the women at the doors to the mall.

  121. @Oby – do not get me wrong; I am for women gaining the right to drive.

    It just occurred to me, weekends are a popular time that Saudi men cruise on Tahlia Street in Riyadh. If women could drive, would they cruise too?

  122. “If women could drive, would they cruise too?”

    Maybe the young ones…the older ones are too tired or too preoccupied with caring for everyone else to cruise. (Or at least in america I just can’t picture older women cruising…by older I mean past mid twenties.)

  123. Oby, have you not heard of cougars???

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