Muslim for a Month

I teach Social Studies in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at a very diverse high school. In an attempt to better understand a significant portion of the student population, I have undertaken the idea to become "Muslim for a Month"; hence the title for this blog.

Location: Fairfax County, VA, United States

Friday, September 29, 2006

More generosity: a gift of dates from the Arabic teacher/MSA sponsor, Apricot Paste from a student, scarves to borrow from a fellow teacher along with the offer to give me hijab pinning lessons. These three women have already given me so much (materially and informational-ly) that my debt and gratitude to them continues to grow. Additionally, a former student who is herself Muslim told me that she was proud of me for what I was doing. I am glad that my intentions have not been misunderstood by the Muslim community within my school – I have been made to feel so welcome, so included, that it has been a wonderful experience so far, and no one has, to me anyway, conveyed any disapproval of my endeavor since Ramadan has begun.

I have decided to speak to the school newspaper, mostly because I feel comfortable enough to do so, but partly to dispel rumors that are circulating around the school among faculty and students. Apparently, one story is that I married a Muslim gentleman and that is why I am wearing hijab, another theory is that I personally converted (no man involved). That is one thing about working in a high school – the teachers are as bad as the students in the way that we gossip and speculate about each other! Some adults have come up and asked me about what is going on, and I have happily explained. I do understand that many people whom I do not know that well may not feel comfortable broaching the subject with me; but I guess I feel that if you want to know the real story, you should go to the source rather than gossiping about it (which I know from personal experience is easier said than done!).

In terms of being treated differently I believe it is too soon to tell, and I need more outside-of-school experiences to see if I feel I am being treated differently. But in school I have noticed (or think I have noticed, it could be my overactive imagination) that other females wearing hijab look at me with a glance of recognition, an identification that we are similar because we are wearing scarves in a world and a school where we are a minority. Hijab is fairly common at my school, and I could not hazard a guess at percentages, but I would say it is in the dozens rather than the hundreds.

Friday prayer is conducted each week in the Student Commons across from our Cafeteria (also where the Muslim students who are fasting congregate during the lunch periods during Ramadan so they do not have to be in the Cafeteria). I am going to attend today for my first exposure to collective Muslim prayer. Up to this point, I have been praying on my own at home, so this will be a new experience. I am both excited and nervous, as with much of this experience to date. Excited for the additional knowledge and understanding this will afford me, but nervous because although I have been following a guide to do my prayers I continue to worry that I am doing something wrong and will therefore blunder in public.


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