Tag Archives: Sanctity

an-Niqab/the Islamic Facial-Veil: Endurance & Struggle vs. Ridicule & Opposition

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Sonyia Ali pic

Author’s note:

At the request of the sister whom submitted this article, I will keep her identity anonymous. She specifically wanted to not be known, for submitting this article, which I must/should respect. Furthermore, even though anonymous, it’s so important that stories such as these are told, as often as possible, to let people know that the Niqab isn’t just something that’s a simple as placing a covering over one’s face.

This is her personal-account of the benefits & perils of donning the Niqab:

“It was a sunny, spring, day, and I took full advantage of it, by deciding to visit my oldest uncle from my dad’s side. A few blocks away from my apartment I decided to head out and fulfill my duties as a Muslimah, by visiting the sick and trying to uphold the rights of family at the same time. It was a nice visit… always interesting for my uncle is the type to talk about history and I love history, and he loves to talk. Our relationship goes hand in hand. So he talked, and I listened. Feeling content after the visit I stepped out of his house and headed home.

On the way home I decided to call and catch up with a friend from England, chatting away on my cell phone I was oblivious to what was about to take place. Walking in broad daylight in a Jewish neighborhood, which has neighborhood patrol you’d have to be in the safest area in Brooklyn. But alas, Brooklyn is Brooklyn and you have to expect the unexpected. As I reached the middle of the street I heard a glass shattering and then a Jewish man walking in front of me yelling at someone behind me. I turned around to see what was going on and not even a foot away from me lay a broken glass bottle.

And at the corner of the block I saw a figure running away. I stood there in shock trying to let what I saw sink in. It’s not that serious was my first thought. And then I heard the kind man in front of me asking me if I was alright. I looked at him trying to answer but I just nodded my head. Yes… I managed to stutter. Then more firmly Yes I said. My senses started to kick in and I realized what had just happened. I had been a victim of a hate crime. I was attacked and barely escaped injury because I was a niqabi. It stood there for a few more seconds as I saw the Jewish man run towards the end of the block to see if the culprit was in anywhere in sight and of course he had fled. “ He’s gone”, the man called from the corner of the street. Are you ok? He asked. I’m ok I answered and started walking home.

The incident lay behind me, and I pretty much forgot about it. I was used to having people react to my attire. I remember in the beginning when I first started wearing niqab (at the age of 16) I would tell people to “f@*& off” if they cursed or spit or even stared too long. But as I grow spiritually I realized people were afraid of the unknown, afraid of things that were different so I let them stare and comment and even responded with smiles and laughs.

Then almost a year later I was waiting for a bus on the corner of an extremely busy street. While I was waiting I was reading a book that a professor had let me borrow. I stood at the window of a bank focused on my book. As I stood there, a man pushed past me to go into the bank moving aside I didn’t take any notice and kept reading. Moments later the same man, who had walked into the bank walked out, and as he started walking away from me he pulled my niqab from my face. He didn’t get to pull it all the way down but it was enough of a tug to expose my forehead. Our eyes met as he walked away and never in my life did I see such hatred and animosity in a human being. I was in shock. Frozen and taken aback unable to figure out what to do. He walked away into the crowd of people leaving to my stunned state.

Crowd of people. I was in a crowd of people and not one person came to my aid. Not one person asked if I was ok. Not one person even looked at me. I was in a crowd of people. It left me wounded. Where was the humanity in humans? Why wasn’t I helped? Why wasn’t the man stopped? Why did everyone look away? Was it because I was covered? Was it because I had it coming? That night I cried. I cried for all the sisters that struggled day in and day out with wearing their Muslim attire and having to face such hate. I knew I was lucky. The man hadn’t physically hurt me. I knew of sisters who had been beaten, sisters who had broken bones, and sisters who carried internal and external bruises. And regardless of their pain they still walked proud with their hijabs and niqabs. And I cried for myself, it was the first time in so many years that I felt afraid to walk out of the house because of my niqab.

In bed that night I thought things through. Even though I was on a busy street I was still alone, living in New York you can’t always have someone with you. So what would have happened if I was really physically attacked and pummeled? I’m 5’ 2”, less than a 100 pounds and all I would have done was taken the pounding, probably gained a few broken bones and a damaged mentality. I had to do something. I needed to be able to protect myself. So I made the decision of finding a place that held self-defense classes for women. It was a trip.

I googled and called and googled again. I couldn’t find anything in Brooklyn that had such a facility. I was disappointed.  But not discouraged. Maybe I can have private lessons… was my next thought.  I called Midwood Martial Arts and spoke to the sensei there asking for a female teacher who was willing to give me private lessons. And lo and behold, the sensei agreed.

I went to the dojo the following week and talked to sensei Alison who listened to my account of being attacked. We started training. I trained privately with her for about a month, as we trained I talked to her about how at first, I was looking for a female instructor and was also hoping that the class would cater to women only. Not just Muslim women but women who just felt comfortable with having a female class and a female teacher. And what did the sensei say?  “Soniya, if we can bring in women to the dujo for an all female class then I can bring myself into train them.”  From there slowly but surely we gained a class of women from Pakistan, Germany, Israel, Muslim women, Jewish women, Christian women, mothers, daughters, students, nurses.

Who would have known that an incident that kept me avoiding crowds, and kept me crossing streets to avoid people coming from the opposite direction would have led to something so dynamic?

Gareth Bryant/2013

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Children in Connecticut, children anywhere: They’re all children!!!

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Connecticut Shooting pic

This recent shooting tragedy in Connecticut, where almost 30 persons, Human beings, mostly children, were savagely cut-down by gunfire, reminds me of the malice that occurs the world over. There are places in this world, where people would probably say, “Almost 30 killed, and that’s it?!!! We get that in about 1/2 hour, everyday.”. It’s very morbid for me to even put that out there, I know. But, for a lot of people, in places like Somalia, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, these atrocities occur on a daily-basis, and much like what happened recently in Connecticut, most of the victims, at least 70-90% are in fact children.

My question, without getting into the possible-motive of this horrible act, is the following: When we hear, by word-of-mouth, or read news papers/magazines, or watch T.V. news, and we see these atrocities in front of our very own eyes, do we really make a distinction between those children & these children, as to say that a certain demographic of children are more precious than the other/others? This is obviously a question that we would all have to honestly answer for ourselves.

You, whom may be reading this may get defensive & say, “Of course not…children are children!!!”. However, if your heart bleeds less for children in Palestine, because these people are mostly Non-Jewish, or less for children in Somalia, because they’re largely Non-Arab, or less for children outside of your native countries, because they’re not citizens or your native land, than this is a hell of a pathological problem. We don’t want to admit this, but, we do pick favorites, especially when it comes to tragedies, and especially if/when it involves religious, ethnic, or national factors.

Each & every one of us have ties to all of the above mentioned. For example: there have been many Syrian & Palestinian relief-efforts, to help them in their hours of need, and rightfully so. But, when is the last time that we’ve raised money for people living in fear, poverty & oppression, countries like: Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Togo, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Angola, Jamaica,  Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc.? Why are we not quick to jump on the charity band-wagon for nations such as these?

Some of the answers are very simple:

1. General lack of global-concern for our fellow man-

It’s very easy to just go with the flow & support an effort, which is fueled by so much back-end/backroom politics & is shoved down the throats of the world, as a result of specific propagated agendas. But, what if we were to just step-back and be charitable to/for a nation that hasn’t really ever been focused on in the public-sphere, but, whose people are still in desperate need of urgent assistance? How about we try that. We won’t because we generally don’t see the relevance of it, because they’re not in the spot-light, or because they don’t share our respective religious, ethnic or national commonalities.

2. We are only reactive activists-

Many of us raise funds & go to rallies for justice & all of this good-stuff, when it is deemed popular to do so. But, what about when no else is talking about things that need to be addressed? It’s very clear, to me, that many of us are only followers, who just allow the whim of the day to dominate our activeness like a helpless leaf in the river: it’s just goes with the follow, where it decides to lead it…that’s exactly how we all are.

3. We are generally very internally biased-

It’s very easy to stick-up for someone whom is of the same religion, ethnicity, culture, nationality as you. But, let’s examine how often we actually jump out the window, to help those whom are outside of ourselves, our circles/cliques, or our (religious, ethnic, cultural, national, etc.) communities. We will find that it’s so much more challenging and that it’s a lot easier to give lip-service than to commit to action.  I mean, of course, it’s natural to want to help your own; but, at the same time, why do we not view our entire Human family as our own? Why do we make distinctions, based upon religion, ethnicity, culture, nationality, when the things which people anywhere/everywhere have entitlement to, as to who deserves what and at which time? Whenever, if ever someone is in need of something which is crucial to the preservation of their lives, then it is upon all of Humanity, to make sure that all of Humanity has all that is necessary for their general well being.

Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said it best, “None of you believe, unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”.(an-Nawawi) Unfortunately, most Muslims, think that this only applies to other Muslims, but think about it: We are, in fact, all Human brothers & sisters, by virtue of the fact the we all have the same common-ancestor…and, no…I’m not referring to the Great-Apes…I’m talking about the first Human beings, Adam & Eve (Peace be upon them both). We are all from them, and they are the parents of Humanity.(Qasas-ul-Anbiya’/Stories of the Prophets, ibn-Kathir) And, also, we know from the general character & actions of Muhammad, that he treated all people with a sense of respect, mercy, compassion, love, dignity, and as Muslims, we are obligated to follow in his footsteps, but, alas, we often don’t.

Let us learn from tragedies like this and learn to appreciate the fact that all of the creation of Allah has purpose, rights, relevance, significance, and beauty, and that whenever a tragedy that takes the life of any of Allah’s creation, that it’s not something to make a joke out of, or to think that it is deserved, especially in the case of murder. It doesn’t matter whether those murdered were Muslims or not; it doesn’t matter whether these people were Black or not, it doesn’t matter, whether these people were from wealthy families or not; it doesn’t matter whether it was only 20 something persons killed, or thousands upon thousands, killed in a war-torn nation; it doesn’t matter whether this tragedy happened in a suburb in Connecticut or in a bombed-out city in the Muslim-World; it doesn’t even matter whether the children killed in this tragedy were born to Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindhus, Jains, Shamanists/Tengrists, Animists, Atheists/Anti-Theists…what happened was a tragedy…what happened was a massacre…what happened was murder, and murder is a sin & crime before Allah, and Allah will hold those who sin against Him & His creation, on the Day of Standing.

Gareth Bryant/2012