Who are we really as Muslims in America, really?


This afternoon as I was walking down the block away from my apartment building I started looking- really looking at the people that would come my way. I normally don’t do that…I just go where I have to and I leave the “Fashion” police to someone else.

But what struck me was that every one person was different from the next. Oh sure, some shared a language, a culture, a dress code (even our teenagers have their particulars)- but really no shared commonality other than living in the same area. Here in NY who people are, how they act changes from block to block; from uptown to downtown- east and west side. 

I can go to the upper West-side and feel all the Dominican come right at me- the language, the music, the clothes women wear; the clothes men wear- the types of shops and the restaurants- fast food or sit down- with some of them having the “Bellonera” or jukebox blasting the latest merengue or bachata. And for a quick moment I can identify with them because they are a part of my culture- but then I remember I have hijab on- and that immediately sets me apart. Some shops who have Spanish speaking Lebanese or Jordanian will Salaam me as I pass and I greet them warmly…they get few chances to encounter another Muslim in their daily work up in “Dominican City”.

Soho is a totally different world…you have the chic boutiques and cafes; the run down book stores every one loves to come into and just sit and read- or the posh stores like Dean and Deluca or the skateboard & snowboard stores my youngest daughter loves to shop in because they also sell the kind of clothes she wears. Here its white city- and by that I mean most who live in the renovated lofts and buildings of Pre WWI and WWII are upper middle class white. It is also close to NYU and you’ll see tons of students hanging about- doing what they do when not burning the midnight oil. There again once in a while you will see a hijab- maybe a student- maybe a vendor- or a sight-seer. But rarely in a large enough group- so when I go buy something I need I get the looks, sometimes the smiles of good morning- sometimes the looks of hatred…


When we sign up our children's life....

When we sign up our children's life....

I remember in one of those non-credit courses I love to take at NYU a very “red neck” ex-marine sat through one of our lectures on  Afghanistan; taught by a professor who has been going there on and off for the past thirty years and a journalist by profession. This “student” was an angry man an ex-marine (considering what my son has told me about that particular branch of the service -at times I don’t blame them)-but he felt that the Muslims in the class couldn’t identify with blood and gut mentality and that while some came from war torn countries- those of us “Lily White” couldn’t comprehend his view of giving your life for your country- And he asked me point blank since he knew I had been born in America if I had done anything for my country as a Muslim? I said yes- I had signed off my only son’s life to the US government’s Navy. That when it came to sacrifices that one was a good one- had he given up his only Son’s life for “the cause”? No- he had not…the man never bothered me again.


The professor was overjoyed when we would sit after class, those of us who were Muslims and sort of have a second class with him where he learned from us- as we were all as different as night and day. He learned of the things no one really knows about Muslims- their personal lives- the lives they lead in their homes; their personal thoughts and opinions…We would talk about what it was like in Turkey, in Afghanistan, India, Lebanon, Jordan and other places.  We would bring family photos for him to look at and it enriched his life he said in ways journalism had not- because as much as he had been staying in Afghanistan he only knew some of the men; and only in certain situations. The last question he asked us was “Who are you really- as Muslims in America?”

One young guy from Lebanese parents said, “I don’t speak for anyone, but I’m just an American who happens to be Muslim is all.”

And I have to agree, I don’t have a country that is my one and only home to go back to…this is it. America is my home. Yes, Jordan and Spain and even Yemen are my ancestral homes in my heart. Yemen because it is the homeland of the man I adore; Jordan is because half of my genes comes from there and my brothers now all live there with their families…and Spain because technically that is where my mom’s family came from as Moorish as they are.

The first, second generations, even the third generation Muslim families that have another ancestral home sometimes mystify their homeland, because it helps, especially for the first generation, to cope with living in the States- others because it is their subliminal message to their offspring to keep them attached to their traditions, culture and religion. To others, only Allah knows why they say what they say, and do what they do…it is what it is.

We are threaded to one another in a fabric called Islam by the faith and its precepts we may follow completely, partially or not at all…But many of us are also American born and bred here; we don’t have those threads that bind us more tightly to particular ideas, traditions and culture…I will not, nor ever will speak for another Muslim and be their spokesperson- because we are as diverse as the drops of rain that come down on a rainy day…we just have to understand that some of us will be standing in the middle of the umbrella; some of us on its edges; and others will just stand in the rain and let it pour on them…

That to me is Islam and who we are.


25 Responses to “Who are we really as Muslims in America, really?”

  1. April 25, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I love this post; it is just so beautiful. Can I link to this on my blog?

  2. 3 tanya
    April 26, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Great Post! Did you see all the hubbub when Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama and mentioned the new yorker picture? Your post reminds me of that. Here is a link to the picture – you should post it with your post – very relevant!

    • 4 INAL
      April 26, 2009 at 10:20 pm

      Welcome Tanya, make your self comfortable and can I offer you a cup of chai?
      I will put in my Picture Page and link it to the page!

  3. 5 Chiara
    April 26, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Wonderful, so many wise thoughts in a beautiful description: the diversity of New York, the struggles of an ex-marine, the limits of journalism, the different generations of immigrants, and the shared humanity among the superficial differences.

    Way to shut down a Marine attack, Inal!!:)

    • 6 INAL
      April 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm

      Chiara, Thanks that is how I see my home- and Dominican style- “Se me salieron los Platanos” I let it all hang out at that particular moment- the professor agreed later that he got what he deserved- or better yet what was coming to him.

      • 7 Chiara
        April 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm

        So many times one doesn’t have the necessary “return fire” at the time, though my mother once shut down 2 teaching colleagues who went on and on against Italians, by suggesting my father was on a first name basis with the local Mafia don. LOL 🙂 (He’s not but could identify him in a line up LOL)

      • 8 INAL
        April 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

        LOL- how long was the line-up?! Probably they were all the usual suspects and anyone of them would do!LOLOLOLOL

      • 9 Chiara
        April 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm

        You know how Italians are, they all look the same, and talk with their hands–wave, wave LOL :D) 😀 😀

      • 10 INAL
        April 27, 2009 at 10:55 pm

        They sound like the Spanish; Especially the Dominicans LOL Not to mention we speak a mile a second…that should keep everyone confused for a moment!LOL My boss always gets a kick out of seeing his wife and I converse- can’t get too close nor consider asking us to slow down! Gosh I miss him!

      • 11 Chiara
        May 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm

        I was only in the Dominican once for a 1 week vacation resort thing. Beautiful scuba diving, very nice people, and except for having to treat a woman with a panic attack during the stormy flight on the way there, a great holiday! 😀

        I hope you and your boss find each other, and in better health, and soon.
        How are the loopy meds treating you? Are they doing their job, or just creating side effects?

        All the best. Auguri
        (waving hands in Italian speak!! LOL 😀 )

      • 12 INAL
        May 5, 2009 at 11:38 pm

        I am glad you liked your trip Dominican Republic- Their resorts are pretty good- been to a few I really liked- others I was not so happy about- guess because of the area they were in 🙂 & 😦

        Boss is at home; not happy to be out of the loop, so to speak :)): We are threatening to tie him down…and I only email him one dissertation a day for him to read- that’s the daily dose…no more LOL

        Me, went for a third opinion – now have what it seems are the right & definitive diagnosis- the familial one stands though (loopy meds have been “time dose” modified so the loopy part is while I sleep -less embarrassing!)- the other will not, Thank God i won’t require surgery- I see too many OR theaters daily to last me a lifetime- but I don’t want to go into one again- been there too many times as a patient…so Physical Therapy and a tight regimen- basically a new lifestyle if I want things to last longer in a better manner… But its not easy thing to swallow- chew and digest- 😦

        Thank you for asking and listening/reading to my mini rants!

        Aburr! Aburr! (Santander, Spain LOL) hands waving on high! LOL 🙂

      • 13 Chiara
        May 6, 2009 at 9:35 pm

        Ah yes, side effects must always be planned for the sleeping hours! No surgery is a boon! Lifestyle changes are not for the faint of heart, but can make such a difference!
        Off you read your most recent posts!


  4. April 28, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Lovely post, I particularly like the last paragraph. 🙂

    • 15 INAL
      April 28, 2009 at 5:14 am

      Come Stand in the pouring rain with me Aafke- its loads of fun.
      Thank you- hope you got a chance to see all the pictures I have put up, actually had you in mind when I did

      • April 29, 2009 at 9:39 am

        And thanks for that one…
        It’s raining buckets now and I’m home from he market totally drenched!
        Love to have some chai, thank you! 🙂

  5. 17 always in the kitchen
    April 29, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Beautiful post!I hope many “Americans” will read it.

    • 18 INAL
      April 29, 2009 at 8:28 am

      Welcome, make yourself comfy- can I offer you some chai?
      May both our hopes come true! Becasue this is the only home I have, really.

  6. April 29, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Salaam! I came here via Achelois, and I’m happy I did.:)

    This is a beautiful post! May we republish it on Islam on My Side (www.islamonmyside.com)? We would love to have your voice!

  7. 21 curiousmuslimah
    April 30, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I got linked here and I just want to say what a lovely post this is. :)I hope you don’t mind if I add you to my blogroll!

    • 22 INAL
      April 30, 2009 at 3:42 am

      Welcome! Make yourself comfortable, can I offer you some chai? I would be honored to be on your blog; please come again and let me know what you think of this little corner of my world 🙂 Thanks again!

  8. 23 INAL
    April 26, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Thank you, from you this is a great honor… 🙂

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