Mocking Others and Arrogance

Ten years ago, five years ago, yesterday… This is a problem I really struggle with.  Being American, we have a culture of joking that often involves mocking others, and I am one of the guiltiest people for using this style of humor. Additionally, I have a terrible habit of enjoying the blessings Allah has given me as far as skills and whatnot, and being arrogant about it, even if I don’t voice it.  I hope this video is a good reminder to those like me that all Muslims are equal in the eyes of Allah, be you revert, born muslim, hijabi, non-hijabi, black, white, asian….the only thing that separates us is fear of Allah (Taqwa). Inshallah we are all blessed with a great fear of Allah and live our lives accordingly.

Being neutral does not mean supporting…a word on Turkish gov’t

Today I was watching a video on The Young Turks youtube channel, one of my favorite places to get my news (the anchors are hilarious).  I watched a segment on some events going on in Turkey, and I made the grave mistake of looking at the comments.

Just for a little background if you don’t already know:  Turkey is a majority Muslim country with a secular approach to government.  It has been as such since WWI when the Ottoman Empire was ousted and Ataturk, “father of the Turks”, took fledgling Turkey in a more westwardly direction, culturally.

Anyway, in the comments I witnessed some viewers commenting on the current governing party in Turkey.  I couldn’t tell if these folks were Turkish, living in Turkey, or whatnot, but their handles/usernames were not Turkish sounding.  I digress. The comments were expressing a grave concern about Turkey being made more religious/islamized/ whatever wonky word you would like to use, because of the religious agenda of the president/PM. Now, I only know a bit about the current president/PM, and politics being what they are, I don’t feel comfortable giving my own opinion on the governing group because I just don’t know enough.

Personally, I believe that religion belongs in the home/community, and not in the government.  I don’t think anyone has any business telling me to abide by their moral code, and the same applies to me.

Everyone can have their own opinion on the Turkish government, and that’s ok, but what REALLY infuriated me was commentary on a recent law that was passed (early 2014 I believe).  Previously, it was illegal to wear hijab at public universities and federal buildings.  Now, thanks to the current governing party, it is not illegal. I know, this seems crazy considering Turkey is a secular country with soooo many Muslim citizens (around 98%), but it’s the truth. No, not all Muslimahs cover their hair, but when I was in Turkey I saw plenty.  That is a lot of women to bar from higher education and involvement in federal affairs (be it as support staff or political careers).  This brings us to the comments from the unfortunately narrow-minded peanut gallery.

According to them, Turkey was being made more Islamic, and religion is being forced on the citizens because covered women are allowed to enter these locations.

I CAN’T EVEN

  How can anyone draw the conclusion that giving freedom of religion equates supporting, nay, pushing any religion on the populace.  How ignorant can you be?!  So if you aren’t oppressing the people, you are glorifying them? What happened to neutrality? Non-discrimination?

  My heart rate just sky-rocketed and my brows are furrowed as I assault my keyboard.

  If you want the right to live your life the way you want to, and be given every opportunity to succeed in it, you should do the same for me and others.  I honestly cannot understand people who think it is right to shove their way of life in the face of others, and expect the receiver of this behavior to be happier for it.  Just stop. Stop it now.  You will see me be the first to stand up for the rights of others who don’t live by my rules, do the same for me.

I’m sorry you have to do that…

Lately I’ve noticed a new face around the building (a small building consisting of four laboratories and a few professors’ offices).  Maybe in her mid to late thirties, I had never met this woman nor been introduced, but heard she is working in one of the neighboring labs down the hall from ours.  Today she stopped me in the hall to compliment my henna/kina that I had done on my hand yesterday, just for fun.  I smiled and thanked her, and she also complimented my scarf and how I always look so nice. I smiled and thanked her again, and then she said-

I’m sorry you have to do that, but it really does look nice.

Uh, what? Hold on. What did you just say? The earnest smile dropped from my face and was replaced with an incredulous smirk. “What are you  sorry for?” I asked with a bit of cattiness in my voice.

You know, I’m sorry you have to cover your pretty hair.

At this moment a divine wave of patience washed over me and I paused.  If you know me, you know that this is incredible. I am the first person to shoot off my mouth when someone offends me or someone I care about. But this time, I waited a moment before responding with a smile, “I’m not sorry. I spent 23 years being a regular old American girl, and I am very happy with how I am now.”  This elicited a sympathetic (or perhaps embarrassed?) smile from the woman and she proceeded to ask me about my family, if they are religious, etc. She validated her point of view by telling me about a world philosophy class she took once, and that she isn’t trying to be rude but she has a lot of questions.  I encouraged her questions, saying it is better to get the facts from the source. She even asked me how I deal with people approaching me about terrorism in the name of my faith (at least she asked first if I was muslim) and that all religions have weird and disturbing parts (actually I’m very pleased with mine, thank you).  At this point my non-american, non-muslim friend who was going to eat lunch with me arrived and pointedly stated we had to go. Even she was offended for me. “She doesn’t even know you.” She exclaimed hotly after we left.

There are so many other ways it could have gone as soon as that unfortunately ignorant statement flew out of her mouth. First off, I know I’m fabulous, all day every day. Also,  I don’t have to do anything. I mean, religiously hijab is required (majority opinion), but no one is threatening my life if I don’t wear it (this is America, people.  I’m sure that it happens sometimes, in some places, but don’t assume you know all about my experiences based on my scarf.). To me, that statement is as ridiculous as “I’m sorry you have to put on clothes and not walk around butt naked in the street.” Maybe I don’t want to show my hair and skin? Is it not possible that this is a choice I made all by myself- between me and Allah?  It is my privilege and honor to don the hijab and be recognized as a Muslimah, even with the current climate of Islamophobia.  And asking about how I deal with other people’s questions about terrorism? Well- no one else really asks me, because they have enough sense in their head to know that 0.0019% of “Muslims” being terrorists (I quote Muslims because Islam is a peaceful religion, despite the many battles at its onset due to people trying to KILL THEM [Muslims] and CHASE THEM FROM THEIR HOMES) doesn’t mean the rest of us use our faith as a way to mask our political aspirations.  And the “not trying to be offensive” boat already left the harbor when you apologized for my life decision for me.

And here I was thinking that ignorance about Islam and Muslims was a thing of the past, despite all of the stories I’ve read, and that it wasn’t so bad everywhere. I have never been approached in a judgmental or apologetic way about how I dress or what I believe. I mean, colleagues have asked me politely about why I wear what I wear, and other Muslims have asked about my experiences that brought me to Islam since I was raised Christian in America… but I have never been approached by a perfect stranger.  I’m not sure if I should be flattered that I seem welcoming enough to speak to, or angry that someone tried to force their ideals on me.

Either way, I hope my responses and patience have given this woman some insight about Muslims and Islam.

#hijabiproblems

When is “enough, enough!”

  Dangling at the precipice of a looming graduation, we stare down the barrel of a big decision.  

While a May (Spring) graduation was not meant to be, I will most likely be graduating inshallah in August 2015.  Yes, that is only a few months away!  While I am very excited to take my degree, that leaves us in a precarious situation.  The time has come to make a decision about Turkey.

The hubster has shot his final bullet, attempted the last remaining problem that he could think to take on.  His adviser was very supportive of this topic and he has been working on it since November 2014.  Come to find out… it has been solved already, two years ago by a research team that he knows, in Turkey.  The day we found out was devastating.  I can’t even find a stronger word to describe the inner turmoil.  With only one year left on his visa/ scholarship and nothing to show, we are left with the soul-crushing decision of “is enough finally enough?”  When is staying in the US doing more harm than good?  For me? Well, I will be graduated in August inshallah and it makes no difference for me.  To be quite honest…this would be a good time for me to uproot and leave.  If we were to stay another year, I would have to find a job and a source of insurance due to the new “you must have insurance” law (at the moment, the school provides it for me). This would be the ideal time to make a clean break…well, as clean as it can be when you are leaving your home country to start a new life.

But for him. For him…no.  There is no clean break.  There cannot be a clean break until he obtains his PhD.  At this point…is it even feasible?  That is the question we are saddled with.  The psychological damage caused by our latest revelation, along with years of abuse from his adviser (see previous posts for those stories…some were not even mentioned), he can see no shining light at the end of the tunnel.  This leads us to ask- is staying in the US another year worth the time? We aren’t getting any younger.  True, if we stayed another year that is more money in our pocket to help start our lives in Turkey…but that is a year of “working debt” that he has to endure, regardless of what degree he returns with.  Even more, if he wants to continue pining for his PhD in Turkey, that is a year he could have been working on it there.  We are wondering if staying is just prolonging the inevitable defeat.  Of course, being the optimist, I am always encouraging him and telling him that his degree is still possible.  But it would take a miracle.  I’m constantly praying for one.

At the moment he is saying that going back to Turkey is the likely choice (we’ve given ourselves until April to decide).  But we both know that his heart is not in this decision, and it is still clinging to the chance at a PhD.  I can’t even describe my frustrations at this situation.  He isn’t lazy, he isn’t stupid.  He is one of the smartest people I’ve met in my life mashallah and if this life was fair, he would have his PhD in hand by now.

Please keep us in your prayers as this life-changing decision looms before us.

——-~———

As stated above, the time is coming for our departure (either now or a year from now), and we could use your help.  If you are looking for someone in need to donate your sadaqa (charity) to, look no further. In order to start a new life abroad, it costs money.  Beginning your life over with nothing but two suitcases is a challenge.  We have some funds, but two plane tickets would go a long way in helping us out.  Visit the link below to donate.  Even $5 can help us.

When in Turkey… we need a hand!

Life Isn’t Fair

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that almost nothing in this life is fair.  Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people…you try and try and try your hardest to achieve a goal that someone else cheats their way through.  No matter how hard you work to do the right thing, good things may not come to you.  This is a difficult struggle that anyone and everyone of faith has no doubt experienced at least once in their life.

I guess you just have to find the good in it… or believe that, when we are all called to account for our actions, that fairness will finally be shown. But how do you get through the days until then?

One year hijab anniversary!

Today is my one year hijab anniversary (give or take) and also World Hijab Day 2015!  While one year is a short time in comparison to the 24 years I’ve been on this earth, I must admit that I have learned a lot in that small amount of time. Not only have I learned more about myself, but also a LOT about other people and their perceptions of the world and me, in hijab.  I thought I’d hash out a few of the things that I have come to find out in these last 365 days.  I hope this helps others as they embark on this journey of hijab as well.

1.  You can’t (and shouldn’t try!) to please everyone.

Even when wearing hijab, if not because of it,  people will love to judge you.  The worst part is that most of the judgement will come from other muslims! One person will think you are too conservative because you wear hijab, but the next person thinks you are too liberal because you wear jeans.  But you know what?  Their opinion doesn’t matter!  You didn’t put on hijab for people, you put it on for Allah, because you feel it’s important for your growth spiritually. As long as you feel good about how you wear your hijab, no one else’s opinion matters.

2.  You are a strong and independent woman! Skin doesn’t determine your strength!

Don’t be fooled by cultural feminists, you don’t need to show some skin to show your strength and independence as a woman.  While some women feel that showing cleavage and leg empowers them as women, I feel like my hijab empowers me.  While this is a topic for its own post…in a nutshell, hijab doesn’t mean you can’t speak out or have an opinion.

3.  Fabrics matter.

Check out my previous post on fabric choices for keeping cool despite the weather.  Yes, it makes all the difference!

4.  You will be treated differently

No matter what people tell you, you will be treated differently.  Your friends will need to adjust to you as a hijabi (if they knew you before covering), especially if you partook in activities that are unbecoming of a muslima.  For instance, now that clubbing and drinking are a no-no, some friends may not find you as interesting or fun to hang out with.  You know what? That’s ok.  For every person that thinks you are boring, another person finds you inspiring! I have a friend who loves to discuss my (and her) spiritual journies, including coming to hijab. Once on the city bus I saw a girl wearing a scarf loosely over her ponytail, and when she saw me she straightened the scarf to cover her head completely, and then smiled at me. I smiled back.  You are making a difference, whether or not you see it.

Also, sometimes you get the stink-eye, but other times you are treated with the utmost respect.  I was flabbergasted when a young man (maybe a bit younger than me) stood up on a crowded bus to give me a seat.  That never happened to me before I covered.  Could it be that maybe there was just one gentleman on the bus that day? Maybe, but when it happened a few more times I started to think it wasn’t coincidence.

5.  People are going to assume

People are going to assume that you think a certain way or believe a certain thing because you wear hijab.  They think they know why you started to wear it (ESPECIALLY if you just got married to a muslim). Don’t let that get to you!  If you weren’t being stereotyped for wearing hijab, you’d be stereotyped by your race, or your style, or having tattoos, or your hair cut, or your accent… people always want to fit others in a little box, and you don’t need to worry about that.  Just keep on keeping on, sister. Their assumptions don’t define you.

6. Everyone’s journey is different

Some people struggle with their hijab, but others find it easy.  Just because you are having a hard time and those around you take it easily doesn’t mean that you are a lesser person or your iman (faith) isn’t strong.  Similarly, if you find hijab easy while others are struggling, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing it wrong.  Everyone’s journeys with hijab and iman (faith) are different, and you can’t always compare your experience with someone you know.  However, there is someone out there who feels the same as you do, so don’t feel alone!  Some days I find hijab easy, while other days I get so frustrated with it I don’t leave the house!  We will even fluctuate in our feelings sometimes, and that’s normal.

I hope these insights help you, and I still have much to learn.  If anyone out there is reading this, I would love to hear your own lessons you’ve learned in the comments!

TMJ update (15 week checkup)

For those of you who have been following my progress after my athrocentesis for TMJ, I had my final check up at 15 weeks yesterday!  From my perspective, I haven’t been having much pain for the past month and a half.  Every now and then I get a dull ache after a lot of chewing or talking, but it usually dissipates within an hour without medication, but its not a frequent occurrence.  Also, the clicking/popping/ squishing sound in my joints have also abated, and only occur sometimes.

Anyway, the doctors said that my range of motion is back to normal (jutting the jaw out and wiggling side to side) but the opening is even smaller than my previous check up (only by 1mm).  I explained how the opening varies by day but it is, on a good day, only approximately 2.5 fingers (I don’t have any other way of explaining it).  However, there’s no pain per se, but a bit of a stretching, irritable feeling when I try to open my mouth wide, on the side of my procedure (but as soon as I stop trying there’s no feeling).  Apparently, when I was sedated during the procedure, they were able to open my jaw 3 fingers wide, which is the norm.  Because of the lack of pain, they believe that the inability to fully open is possibly due to my own stress and the muscle acting up, as opposed to the jaw.  They prescribed muscle relaxers (Flexaril) to take at night and see if it improves the opening the following day. I did so last night, and this morning I can fit 2 fingers loosely in my opening, as opposed to a tight fit yesterday.  We will see if it improves as I continue taking the medication.

Long story short, although I’m not 100% back to normal, the athrocentesis procedure helped me tremendously.  Anyone with TMJ knows that the pain can be excruciating… and honestly, I can live with a small opening but NOT with that pain.  So for me, it was a great improvement and the right decision to have the procedure done.  The healing process (especially the first 4 weeks) was a nightmare, and I was double guessing myself…but 15 weeks out I am very glad I did it.

Will update with the effects of the muscle relaxer in a few weeks

Turkish Military Service Waiver/ Bedelli askerlik basvuru NEW YORK PROCEDURE!

If anyone who is reading this is planning on going to NYC to pay their turkish military service waiver (bedelli askerlik basvuru), READ THIS FIRST!  The consulate website doesn’t include everything and is very misleading!

You will need (before you go)

  1. Turkish ID (plus one copy, front and back)
  2. Turkish passport
  3. Social security card (US) (plus one copy)
  4. Drivers License/ US ID
  5. 3 copies of the printout from e-devlet website
  6. $48 USD application fee

You must do (before you go)

  • GET AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE TURKISH BANK YOU ARE PAYING THE FEE TO (we went to Vakif bank)

If you just walk in, they wont take you.  We found this out the hard way.  However, you can (it seems) go early on your appointment day and they will process you.  You don’t need an appointment for the consulate.

While there you will

1. Call the bank the day you are paying your fee for the exchange rate (TL->USD). Don’t get it from your US bank, call the turkish bank!

2.  Go to your US bank and get a cashiers check payable to the bank you are going to (e.g. Vakif Bank New York) with the memo section saying Military Service (your name)

3.  Bring all your documents and the cashiers check to the turkish bank you are paying the fee to.  They will process you and give you documents.

4. Go to the consulate with your application fee and all your documents.  They will process you (they close at 1pm!!)

and HOPEFULLY you’re done!  If you have everything together and an appointment this can take half an hour.

hayirli teskereler! :)

Turkish Military Waiver

Greetings and Happy Holidays all!

If you have been following Turkish news, the government has recently offered a brief window during which qualified male citizens may pay a fee in order to waive their required military service (a must-do to maintain your citizenship).  Well, hubby qualifies, so we are off to New York soon, inshallah!

The window of opportunity is from December 18 (last week) until February 18, 2015.  Still, the consulate doesn’t seem to know what is going on.  In Turkey it is simple, go to the office where you register for military service, obtain paperwork, go to the bank and pay your fee, and bring your receipt and paperwork back to the registrar.  In the US, however, it seems more fuzzy.  As it stands, it appears that we are to obtain the paperwork from the Turkish Consulate and pay the fee at a Turkish bank.  Both are available in NYC, which is why we are going in January!  It isn’t clear whether or not one needs an appointment with the consulate, or with the bank…or if it is a walk-in type ordeal.  Hopefully it will be completed in the several days we will be in the city!!

We have every intention of doing a little sight seeing as well :)

Updates as they come!  If anyone knows about the details for the US process let me know!

Buying scarves

A problem that I sometimes have, and I know ya’ll have had before, is finding the right scarf.  Personally, I stay far, far away from polyester and other synthetic fibers because they don’t breathe well for me.  Limiting myself to rayon, viscose, and cotton can sometimes make scarf shopping difficult.  If you are in the US, here are a few shops that you MUST visit when looking for a scarf.

1. Charming Charlie

Don’t be fooled by the website, this store has a great selection of scarves! At my local store (just opened) they have a full palette of slightly shiny solid color scarves made of viscose with tassels.  I love these scarves, althought I’ve only limited myself to purchasing one at the moment (ice blue, fantastic!).  They also carry an assortment of patterns in other materials, but these soft and light viscose scarves have me hooked.  I will certainly be back for more!  When I visited Charming Charlie it was during the Thanksgiving Weekend, so I’m not sure if the scarves were on markdown, but they were 10$ a piece, very fair price.

2. Burlington Coat Factory

The downside of resale stores is that the inventory is always changing. But isn’t that also a plus?  For cheaper than department and specialty stores (Around 7.99$ or less), you can find a plethora of scarves depending on the season, all in different colors, patterns, and materials.  This can vary by store, so if you are willing to make a day of it, you may find it worth your while to visit more than one!

3. Ross

Similar to Burlington Coat Factory, Ross is a resale store with ever-changing merchandise and competitively low prices.  I usually come across polyester scarves here, but on some occasions I have run across a lovely piece! I purchased one of my favorite scarves, a french vanilla rectangular scarf with tassels, from Ross.

4. Platos Closet

If you don’t have a Platos Closet in your area…it is definitely worth the drive.  Platos Closet is a brand-name thrift store with gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories.  If you have a problem wearing hand-me-downs, this is not the store for you…But when I began to wear hijab I bought half of my scarves from Platos Closet with bargain basement prices ($3.99-$5.99).  Again, the merchandise changes, but the prices of this store cannot be beat.  When it comes to purchasing clothes such as jeans, dresses, tops, jackets… this is where almost everything I own comes from.  You seriously need to make the trip to a Platos Closet when you are on a shopping frenzy- you can stock your entire wardrobe on under 100$ if you hunt for bargains.

#hijabiproblems