Thank you for introducing yourself to me on the school yard when I was new to the community. Had you not, I don’t know if I would have extended a hand.
When I initially saw you in the neighborhood, I avoided eye contact. I couldn’t see passed the hijab. Your headscarf represented to me a religion of negativism and extremes, a culture of anti-Semitism, and a stifling of the modern woman. I passed judgment, was ignorant and afraid. I quickly concluded that we were from different worlds, and hence unable to find common ground; until we did.
Our sons’ fast friendship, much to my surprise, led to ours. Several conversations, a few CrossFit WODs, and a shared hookah later, I learned some things.
First, your commitment to Islam is rooted in a spirituality that transcends all religions.
When I recently asked, “What did you learn from making pilgrimage to Mecca?” you shared with me along with the young people at the local mosque that in light of the experience, both positive and negative, you returned grateful for the gifts God gives us as free, healthy human beings and with an understanding that He loves us, imperfections and all.
At home, modesty, daily prayer, study, and diet are the tangible rituals you choose to demonstrate your love for God, but that love is also deeply evident in the thoughtful way in which you respect yourself, interact with others, approach parenting, nurture relationships, and care for patients.
Your words and actions remind me that we are all connected; Muslim, Christian, Jewish or otherwise.
Second, you have an open, accepting, and generous heart.
As a Christian woman raising Jewish children married to a man with a strong connection to Israel, I was worried that friendship might be tricky. I was wrong.
From day one, you welcomed my family into your home. You share your culture, answer questions, appreciate our traditions, and join us for holidays. When my son swallowed a marble, you were at my door despite having worked a full day to help out and offer advice. When I had jury duty, you spent the afternoon with my boys even though your children had busy schedules of their own. You think of my family whenever you cook or travel, and thanks to your charming sweet tooth, my children affectionately refer to you as, “The Candy Fairy.”
The goodness that emanates from you inspires me to be better.
Third, you are an advocate for women; a role model for your son and daughters.
Your dress might be traditional, but your ideas and actions are progressive, willful, and strong. I was moved when in an effort to understand practices, question inequities and evoke change, you approached Muslim women in the streets of Mecca and asked how they felt wearing a khimar, a long garment covering their head, neck, and shoulders, ran errands in pants to encourage dialogue, and questioned local leaders about the sanitation of the city.
Every day I watch you work tirelessly to support your family, use your education to help others, handle conflict and struggle with grace and perseverance, tackle new adventures with uncanny energy, act zany, be fun, and simply love life.
You are an exemplary, modern American woman who I am proud to call my friend.
Connection and communication helped me to confront prejudice, challenge stereotypes, and understand a culture that I knew only through media, politics and hearsay. I have renewed hope for future generations when I see our sons playing, laughing, and treating each other as brothers.
The hijab is not a symbol, but a frame; for the beautiful person you are outside and within.
It’s folks like you that will, eventually, save the world–or, at least, make it worth saving.
Very sweet of you to say. Thank you for reading!
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Red, I am so touched.
I thank God each day for the lovely friends my children and I have here in this community. You and your family have certainly enriched our lives and we are very thankful for your genuine friendship. You and your family are simply marvelous. It never mattered to me from the first day we met where you were from or what faith you practiced. All I truly wanted to accomplish for that day was to gently welcome you into our neighborhood. As you stated, we are all human beings and appreciate a kind word, a smile. I too, have learned a great deal from you. You are an inspiration to your children, and mine and to our community as well. It’s the effort and time we take to learn from and about each other that builds relationships and friendships despite geographical backgrounds, religious practices and head-coverings. Each experience and difficulty in my life has taught me to look beyond my own struggles, negativism, and judgments, to do good without expectation and to whole-heartedly make a difference in this world. Each individual can indeed implement change. If I can recall at least one good deed at the end of each day, then I’ve had a good day. Knowing that I can help my neighbor and good friend in anyway and that she can call on me anytime, is a good deed and a wonderful feeling.
I am forever grateful for your kind words and hopefully, ever lasting friendship!!
Your Palestinian American-Muslim friend,