Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Would America Be Better Off With An "Appropriate" Dress Code Requirement?

Last time I visited Dubai I attended a wedding. For those who do not know, weddings are usually a lavish affair in the Middle East. The expected dress for men is at least a suit and for women somewhere along the lines of a prom dress or a straight up ball-gown – regardless of age. Depending on the family or individual preferences, the dresses can be anything from short dresses, to mother-in-law dresses, to dresses conformed to full coverage complete with the scarf.

To be clear, the religious service has already occurred, so by American standards this would be referred to as the “reception”, but within the Muslim culture, this is referred to as the “wedding” because it is considered the “big announcement” and “first public appearance” of the couple as a bride and groom.

This wedding, as is usually the case, was held at a very fancy hotel in a banquet hall.  Usually the banquet hall is set up like any traditional banquet, large tables around the room, but with a stage as the main focal point. It may also include a dance floor as well as Disc Jockey or live music performer.
Once the majority of people arrive, the bride and groom usually make a grand entrance and take their seats on the decorated stage where they can observe their guests together.

Throughout the dinner service, usually a buffet demonstrating generosity toward the guests, guests will approach the bride and groom to give congratulations. Following dinner, the bride and groom will often start the first dance, usually slow, and then guests will join them on the dance floor.  There are exceptions to the dancing part, but usually, even if the bride and groom choose not to dance, they will still set it up for the guests’ enjoyment.

Likely this sounds very familiar to most people - though surprising that this is how the majority of weddings transpire in the Middle East. But it is true. I can, and plan to, share such shocking revelations about the reallife, and diversity, of Muslims in a lot of my writings.

But let me get to the point of the story.

We decided to leave the wedding and go home. As a group of us waited at the valet for our cars, I noticed the hotel had a club. Yes, a dance club. The entrance was near the area of the valet stop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Do You Prove A Negative?

I find words very interesting. When I am speaking about relationships, I often point out that men and women “do not speak the same language.” Though they use the same words, their interpretations of the words are often very different. In social communication it is the same. Some people take words literally and while others have extensive meanings attached to individual words.

Over the years, words and expressions have been given new meanings. In my youth, “bad” was actually a negative, but as an adult I found the youth using the word as a positive. The examples of this are rampant.

Language grows and new words are added to describe new ideas or developments, as well as old words being attached to a new idea or development. This makes things extremely complicated because the new “meaning” of the words does not always spread as fast as the use of the word itself – resulting in people using the words but not always interpreting the words the same.

Several years ago I attended a guest speaker lecture at Arizona State University about the threat of radical Islam in the United States. The speaker made the statement that almost all Muslims in the United States were militant Islamists.

I will be honest, it was the first time I had heard the term “Islamist” so I really had no definition or meaning attached to it, but I did get the clear understanding that it was not a good thing.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Can Talk About More Than Just "Women's Issues"

I read a headline for a Hilary Clinton Blog read “Women’s Issues Are Family Issues, and Family Issues are Economic Issues.” That the statement even has to be made is a sad commentary on how far [not] we have come.

But we do have to still make the claim don’t we? Because there still exists a strong social insinuation that “complicated topics,” like the economy and global politics, even understanding and explaining religion, should be left to the men. Somehow we still have to tie everything to "family issues" to justify women's participation in the discussion.

I usually just scratch my head and wonder what exactly are  “women’s issues?”

Several years ago the City of Phoenix asked me to organize a presentation at their Faces of Diversity Brown Bag lunch series that is recorded before a live community audience and later televised. Another Imam (male Muslim religious leader) and myself worked together on the presentation. We worked on it for a little over two months.

Two nights before the presentation, after five in the evening and on my cell phone, I received a call from the Brown Bag organizer, a state employee, informing me that he had spoken to another Imam and had decided to change the presentation. I was informed the other Imam would not only be a presenter but he had provided a new outline of the presentation.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Blessing In Disguise

Recently, I attended at dinner with some other Muslim women of various ages. A couple of them were unmarried and we were talking about their experiences in the “matching-making” scene. Generally, Muslims are mentioned to each other through family and friends, and then one or both decide whether to ask for an introduction to the person or their parents.

One of the girls, who happened to wear the scarf, was telling us about a lady that had said her brother was looking for a wife. As they discussed her brother, it came out the guy did not want to marry a girl who wears the scarf. When asked why, the sister replied that the brother felt that people stare at girls with scarfs too much and it would make him uncomfortable.
If he found the scarf unattractive, I would have no problem. We can have our personal attraction preferences. I do not even mind if his belief system does not include the scarf as a requirement – yes, some Muslims have rejected the idea. (Not all Muslim women wear the scarf and not all Muslims agree about everything in Islam – shocker!)

Friday, September 25, 2015

21st Century, Religion, and Blue Laws

In 1993, while attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), I decided to do a work-study program abroad for credit over the summer. I chose the United Kingdom because my sister lived there so housing would be cheap. My sister, whose husband was in the military and stationed at a U.S. Military base in the UK, lived just outside Harrogate, about three hours north of London. The program, which included working for non-US companies, was for three months.

Living (very different from visiting) abroad for any length of time is always a very interesting experience and I highly recommend it. Even living in a country perceived to be similar to the United States in background and language, is in fact very different than expected in many ways.

For example, the vast majority of people in the UK were off work on Sundays. The normal activities on Sundays were visiting family and friends, picnics in the park, attending boot-sales (literally people would gather with the cars in a parking lot with their boots, trunks, open to sell items), and window-shopping in the towns because the shops were closed.

At the time, the UK had a law prohibiting retail shops from opening on Sundays. Violators were subject to hefty fines. However, because so many people were out walking by the shops on Sundays, and no one was open, several shop owners had determined the amount of sales that could be made on Sunday far outweighed the fine – so some did begin to open.

This caused quite an uproar. The politics and social discussions about whether shops could open on Sunday were heated – sometimes resulting in both verbal and physical violence.