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On being visibly Muslim in America

Three years ago, I posed for my old digital camera and has made it a habit since. You might be familiar with my face cropped photos from my Facebook page.

“We are Muslim!” Yells Mei at the top of her lungs, accompanied by an ear to ear grin and an up and down jump. At this point not only does the Trader Joe’s cashier–that Mei was announcing our unneeded religious affiliations to– starts to visibly observe my headscarf, but the neighboring shoppers too. Encouraged by my daughter’s announcement.

It’s cute and sweet and heartwarming to know that my girl is a proud Muslim. It’s just that her mama prefers the hidden glances after she walks past. I am suddenly surrounded by a circle inquiring about when I have to cover my hair, and how I manage the headscarf in the heat of Midwestern summers. Thanks Mei!

In my first couple of years, I had to answer questions like these all the time. My face hurt from my non-stop smile to promote that I am in fact friendly and won’t bite. As time went by, so did my FOB aura. People stopped caring about my presence (well, maybe they still did, but if they took a second glance it was possibly after I walked past) I liked that a lot. I enjoyed not having to show my scarf pins that hold the wrap in place, or answering for all Muslims, although I’m pretty sure I unwillingly still silently do.

My girl will also announce to random strangers on the street that I am Egyptian. “Right mama? You ARE Egyptian.” To this people will smile and walk past.


I was at an interpreters conference today. It was really interesting to be in a room full of people from all over the world. Everyone there spoke fluently, at least two languages. I spoke with a guy who was comfortable in seven– he had a large head although I’m pretty sure it’s unrelated.

One of the attendees was curious about which sect in Islam I belonged to “Sunni or Shia?” The question was a strange one for me. In all my years of being visibly Muslim in America, I was never asked about my sect. It was a refreshing question, also a very easy one to answer:


“These things never make sense to me, Sunni, Shia…”

“Well, there are sects in all religions, it’s a natural progression of religions…of humans, Christians have sects too”

“Yes, and it doesn’t make sense either”

“I would argue that Religion does not make sense…”

He smiled and agreed with a confused look on his face. I never had a chance to finish my thought, we were interrupted by conference stuff…

If we weren’t interrupted, this would have been my next line:

Faith is the foundation of religion. And faith comes from the heart not from the mind. When the mind seizes to make sense (afterlife? whatdawhat??) That’s where faith steps in. Sects however are the making of man.



About Muslim Hippie

Hello and welcome, you have landed yourself on this virtual space designed by your humble servant to try and escape life's unpleasantness through: selective memory musings, snippets of the world that surrounds me, and occasional insights when the light blub in this strange brain of mine flickers. No real names are displayed I'm afraid, why bother?

6 responses »

  1. Salaam MH

    So wonderful that you daughter is proud to be Muslim 🙂 God willing, I hope to pass the same pride on to my daughter. Love your blog and your blog name ! I am a muslim hippie too 🙂

  2. me too. i enjoy your blog so much even im christian. bye the way, i love your pants. what do you call them
    peace, christiane

  3. DEEP BREATH… I like your blog a lot for a variety of reasons. I can definitely relate to that feeling of having to answer for all muslims, it becomes a huge emotion zapping abyss some days. your pants ARE awesome and look terribly comfy. perhaps there is still some, erm a lot, of residual hippy left in me from my childhood. 🙂 You made me smile today, something that hasn’t happened in a while. Jazakallahukhairun.


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