Monday, October 12, 2015

Does Teaching Religion In Schools Help or Hurt?

In the United States, every child learns Christopher Columbus discovered America. When I attended school, the books talked about the Native Americans that were already here, but it was presented in such a way that we totally accepted the “reasonableness” of taking over the land. It was not until later, outside of school instruction, that I learned about Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci's historical omission is rather puzzling considering the continent is named after him. It was also not until later that I understood how the Native Americans suffered as a result of Columbus’ “discovery.” The Columbus story told in schools is somewhat a useful fairytale.

Every child is also taught about George Washington. When I went to school, the schoolbooks wrote beautiful things about him. I never read a bad word about him in any school book. There was a reverence quality to the descriptions of the “Founding Fathers,” especially Washington. But I also remember my Social Studies teacher mentioning Washington was the “father of America for more reasons than one.” She explained he was full-on adulterer who slept with any woman available, and even some that weren’t. I had never read that in a school textbook!

The first time I heard about Islam was my sixth grade Social Studies class. The subject was not actually Islam but cultures around the world. The most I remember is what we learned about the Middle East - that the women could only wear black, were forced to wear a scarf on their head as a form of oppression, were the property of men (first their fathers and then their husbands), and had to walk two steps behind men with their head down. That is what the book said. I remember asking Mrs. Carroll why women had to walk two steps behind men and she replied, “It is required by their religion to remind women of their low status.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why is the Head Scarf Taboo?

I was reading an article by an aspiring journalist who decided to wear the headscarf (hijab) for a month and record her experiences. In her resulting article, ‘Undercover in hijab’: unveiling one month later, she mentions that none of her classmates or co-workers asked any questions and made no comments about her suddenly having a scarf on. When she asked some of them later “why,” “several said it was too ‘touchy’ or insensitive to bring up.”

I have observed this myself. Much like the aspiring journalist, I too forget I have it on. Sometimes when I return home, my husband will ask me where I am going. When I reply, “no where,” he will ask why I still have my scarf on. I forget I have it on, so I sometimes forget to take it off.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Should We Bomb The Wedding?

While in law school, I took an intercession class. It was a class cramming an entire semester of legal knowledge into one week, 8am until 5pm. The class was International Human Rights Law.

For half of one day, our class agreed to help another class with a role-play simulation. The Modern Terrorism and International Security class needed opposing groups for a mock national security meeting. Members of that class were assigned various roles in the United States government: State Department, Department of Defense, Secretary of State, Presidential Cabinet members, etc. The professor played the President. Members of our class were assigned roles in various international organizations: United Nations, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Boarders, Human Rights Watch, etc.

In real life, the organizations my class represented would never be invited to such a meeting, but the professor wanted to open up the discussion to more perspectives.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Moderate, Backhanded Compliment?

While scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post with a half and half picture. The top was a picture of the Ku Klux Klan all decked out in their white sheets, with the statement, “No one thinks these people are representative of Christians.” On the bottom was a picture of ISIS all decked out in their black ninja-looking out-fits, with the statement, “So why do so many think that these people are representative of Muslims?”

I had seen the post before. I casually scrolled down, planning to move on to the next post, when I happened to notice the comments.

Commenter 2:  too many people behave like lemmings.
Commenter 2:  they don’t think for themselves
Commenter 3: It boils down to racism. Plain and simple.
Commenter 4: Maybe because “regular/non-violent/moderate muslims” don’t speak out or condemn them. Or maybe the afore mentioned muslims seem to turn violent so easily or often.
Commenter 5:  Many “moderate” Muslims speak out. They are just not given much coverage in the media.

Several things crossed my mind.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Do I Tell My Mom I Changed My Religion?

I became Muslim in the fall of 1998. Though I had been interested in Islam for many years, it was not until I moved to Arizona, from Arkansas, that I converted.

But I had not told my mom.

I was very blessed to have mentors who truly understood the essence of Islam in addition to the teachings. I was never told I had to wear the scarf.  I was taught to study Islam first - to understand the teachings and essence of Islam – the reasons for everything, including the scarf.

This fit into my personality perfectly. I asked a lot of questions. I always ask a lot of questions. I need to understand things, the reason behind things. Even my mother will tell you I loved the question "why" and always had a problem with “because I said so.”

In December 1998, I decided to go back to Arkansas to visit her for Christmas. I was worried about how she would react. What would I say to my mom when I got off the plane and she saw me in the scarf?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are We Doing the Mechanics and Missing the Message?

A lady I know called me to ask for advice (as a person not an attorney).  We will call her "Ann." Ann’s family is very religious. They pray regularly and often refer to God in their daily lives, decisions, and conversations.

Ann gave her adult son, we will call him "Joe," a car registered and financed in her name. She is making the payments and told him the only thing he had to do was pay for the insurance.

Surprise, surprise, he failed to keep insurance . . . and rear-ended another lady.  His car was a little banged up and, according to him, “she just had a couple of scratches on her bumper.”

Joe talked the lady into not making a police report, getting an estimate, and letting him pay directly for the repairs.

A week or so later the lady came back with an estimate for $1,200. Joe told her he did not have the money and wanted to make payments. The lady responded that she wanted the whole amount.

At that point Joe decided to tell Ann.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Do You Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right?

I saw a post on Facebook about the right way to put on a bra.  I did not click on the story but happened to read a comment as I was passing by.  The comment said, “People put their bra on backwards and then twist it around?!”  I stopped.  “Ummm, there is another way to put on a bra?” I thought. I cannot even remember how or when I learned how to put on a bra. Nor has it ever entered my mind that there were other ways to do it. [Surely it is not a shocker that, as a woman, bras are part of my life . . . ?]

Funny how we take things we “know” for granted. Another example is when I first moved to Arizona and ordered a soft drink at a restaurant. I asked the waiter for a coke. She said, “regular or diet.” I said Dr. Pepper. She said, “You want a Coke or Dr. Pepper?” I answered, “Dr. Pepper” . . .  and then sat in slight bewilderment.  I had never thought about it.

In Arkansas when someone takes a drink order, it is normal to answer “a coke.” The server then asks, ”What kind?” To which I would reply, “Dr. Pepper.” I never thought of it any other way. I did see in movies people calling soft-drinks by other names: soda pop, soda, pop, soft-drink, etc, but it never really registered.

After I got married, I explained it to my husband.  He thought it was one of the craziest things he had ever heard. “Why would you order a Coke if you want a Dr. Pepper?”  Yes, I do now realize the irony but to us coke was what we called all soft-drinks. It just was.

This is a recurring theme in my life. As a speaker and attorney, I interact with a very large and diverse group of people so I encounter different perspectives, and different ways of doing, or thinking about, things - a lot. It keeps me on my toes.  But it also reminds me that humans are a very diverse creation and cultures are the result of more than just ethnicity or religion.

That understanding is why so many questions I answer are multi-faceted and multi-leveled.  It almost always “depends.” (Yes I am a lawyer but I spoke in “ it depends” long before I went to law school).  It depends on culture, background, beliefs, situation, justifications, personal preference, and even personal decisions, among many other factors. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

You Can Call It "Apples," But It's Still Hate

There is a social event I attend somewhat regularly. A Muslim man also attends and always searches me out for conversations. I have a hard time shaking him off – though I desperately try. He has only two topics of interest: Shia and Islamophobia.

Of the two, Shia is his favorite topic. He wants to tell me how bad the Shia are. I do not happen to be Shia.  He will tell me stories and constantly pull up ‘YouTube’ videos on his phone to show me how bad they are.  Usually, I try to change the subject.

Recently, I guess I was just tired, I decided to ask him some questions.

I asked, Why do you hate Shia so much?”

He replied, “I do not hate anyone. Islam teaches us not to hate. I just really don’t like Shia a lot.”

I replied, “Your obsession demonstrates otherwise.”

He replied, “I am not obsessed.”

I asked, “How many times a day do you look at, or search for, videos about Shia? You understand those videos are not posted by Shia but by people who want to show Shia are bad? If you just didn’t like them, you would ignore them – not look for more and more reasons to justify why you should dislike them. And you would not want to always talk to everyone about how bad they are. This is the very definition of hate.”

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Are You Working for a Living?

I often speak on relationships. Sometimes I specifically talk about marriage relationships. A lot of people who know me ask me about marriage relationships because my husband and I have been happily married for just under two decades – despite not having kids within two cultures (mine - Southern & his - Middle Eastern) that place a high emphasis on having kids. [A common joke is that the day after the honeymoon, people start asking the girl if she is pregnant yet . . . if they wait that long.]

Anyone who knows either me or my husband will testify that I work, hard. I am the worker-bee. I have taken on that role. [My husband and I travel a lot for work, separately, and while distance "may make the heart grow fonder," it also makes the "connection grow weaker" unless you work at it.] 

Before I entered law school, I made the conscious decision that, despite the massive workload and stress of law school, my marriage came first. [Law school and the legal field have one of the highest, if not the highest, divorce rate.] That did not mean I slacked on my studies, but rather, that I was clear on my priorities and had very clear expectation discussions with my husband.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Do Women Even Know What Rape Is?

Dr. Phil had a couple on his show where the man had “trapped” his wife into marriage by getting her pregnant. That is not my interpretation; the show was actually about people, men and women, who “trapped” their partners with pregnancy.

The man did not believe he could keep the girl, so while they were dating he got her drunk and coxed her into having sex without birth control, both of them knowing she was within her ovulation time. She did get pregnant and they did get married.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Would Outlawing Guns Be Enough?

I grew up around guns. In Arkansas, my grandparents and parents were avid hunters. My grandmother was a “Hunter’s Widow.” Every November my grandmother would pack food for my grandfather and he would leave for deer season, usually at least two weeks at a time. His CB Radio name was “EightPoint” because he had shot an eight-point deer and had the antlers hanging in his living room. He hunted during other seasons throughout the year too.

We had guns in the house, in a large unlocked gun case, but my parents constantly reminded us that the guns were never to be touched. We never did touch them without our parents present. We knew better. [My parents instilled a very strong belief in us about their punishment in general.]

From a young age, my family would take us out to the woods to target practice. I remember the shotgun was heavy and I often got bruises on my shoulder from the “kick.”  The pistol was better, but still heavy.

The Clash of the "Rules"

A while back I was at the hospital with a young pregnant couple [just the woman was pregnant, not the husband].  She was pregnant with twins, not identical. Her pregnancy was very high-risk for several medical reasons, including a tear in her uterus causing her amniotic fluid to leak. She was on bed-rest most of the pregnancy.

At 26 weeks, the doctors performed an emergency C-section in an attempt to save the babies. They each weighed about one pound and both were on every life-support machine imaginable. Both had under-developed brains and lungs. One had brain bleeding. Both had jaundice, in addition to many other medical issues.

Several doctors were on rotation at the hospital as well as the primary doctor - and each had an opinion of the current situation and the potential outcomes. None of the opinions were the same. One doctor was adamant that at least one of the twins would not survive and firmly believed both would be faced with extreme developmental problem – mental and physical. On the opposite end was a doctor who simply said he had seen children in similar condition radically improve and others in better condition worsen. The majority of the doctors were somewhere in between. All within just a few hours of the births.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Did You Learn In School Today?

The school “zero tolerance” discipline policy has gotten out of hand. I have been watching it the last few years and am constantly astounded by who gets suspended and for what. 

[Disclaimer: I know there are many teachers who give their very soul to their job and, in general, I am not talking about teachers so much as policy makers and administrators practicing excessive “zero tolerance” policies.]

The policy, though effective in reducing administrative entanglements and time investment, does nothing to contribute to the positive development of our children.  It does, however, encourage “failure to use a brain,” massive abuse of authority complex, and hiding bias behind policy - not to mention teaches our children to feel, and accept, injustice.

I doubt people even know how the policy began, and for what reason, much less how it has evolved.

I remember when it first started. I was in high school.

Sometimes kids fought at school and the administration would question them about who started it - who threw the first punch. The child that threw the first punch would be suspended.