Starting at the right place

Starting at the right place

A lot of times I ask myself how can we really change people’s mentality about stereotypes and prejudices through the power of conversation and whether that really works? I have been a blogger for four years now and most if not all of the interaction with my readers has been online. Unfortunately I have realized that this has programmed my mind to think that taking a stand and expressing my views would be much more useful in the virtual world. Let me assure you I was wrong.

In a recent gathering, one of my friends announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby girl. Of course I could not hide my enthusiasm and excitement being a mother of a two year old daughter myself and immediately began to share motherhood tips and advice. The mother smiled as the father joked about how he was “disappointed” when he found out they were having a girl and how there was still hope that in the last minute his baby would magically be transformed into a boy.

Now I know what you are thinking, how could someone in the 21st century think like this, well the truth is this was not the first time I had heard something like that. In Saudi Arabia the mentality of the “baby boy” being superior to a ” baby girl” is so entrenched in the society that when my sister’s doctor found out that her first baby was a girl she announced the news with a low pitched voice and a dose of sad eyes fearing that the news would anger my sister’s husband, when my sister’s second baby was a boy, the doctor could not be happier and was not hesitant to express her relief and joy.

The story of my friend and the doctor are not strange stories in our society, if anything they are sometimes the norm but I am not writing this for the sake of criticism but for the sake of taking a close look at myself and how I reacted to my friends story and the lesson this incident taught me.

Unfortunately I did not condemn my friends behavior nor did I stand up and argue that what he was saying was unacceptable. I must admit that I struggled with myself whether I should say something or not.  ” This is normal, he’s just joking and I’m sure he won’t think this way when she is born…”  are some of the things I kept telling myself hoping that they would be true in order to dismiss the inner guilt and the inner voice that was telling me that this is not Ok. The inner voice that was telling me that I should speak up and not allow this kind of conversation to even take place, even if it was a joke. But I silenced that inner voice and the guilt played its part all the way back home.

I kept asking myself why I didn’t say something, why was it so hard to just stand up and disagree and why was it so easy for me to “take a stand” online but not in real life situations? In one way or another and whether I liked it or not, by not saying anything I was saying that I was ok with what my friend was joking about and I learned that the hard way. I also learned that promoting change, voicing our opinions and expressing our beliefs is much easier thought than said.  To stand up to a group of your friends or colleagues and say that you disagree is not an easy thing to do but if we really want things to change then we have to start at the right place; with the people who are disappointed that they are having a girl instead of a boy, the people that believe that a hijab wearing woman can’t be Britain’s next great baker, people who judge and make assumptions. This is where we need to start , we also have to expand the conversation, whether it be through blogging, awareness videos, campaigns you name it. Some might argue that changing someone’s mentality is rather difficult but I’d rather give it a shot than just stand there and watch the future of our girls and their worth being threatened before they are even born and I hope you will do the same.


Let’s not talk about it


The discussion of why women in Islam wear the Hijab is one which I have unfortunately been trying to avoid. To be honest I was scared to death to even start the conversation because every time I would imagine writing the post all I would think of was that I am not capable of responding to conflicting opinions and that It would be too much to handle. I would panic at the idea that I wouldn’t be able to explain my self correctly, that I would be attacked from those against the Hijab and that things would just get out of control.

Lets just keep it nice and quite, lets not talk about the one question that crosses everyone’s mind and pretend that I am doing and excellent job in raising awareness about REAL Muslim women. The irony of this all is that this is a blog about Hijab related issues but not one post is dedicated to actually discussing the religious/social and ethical reasons Muslim women wear the Hijab and for that I am truly sorry.

So lets not keep it nice and quite and lets actually start the conversation. I am writing this post in hopes that you will join me these couple of months in discussing, exploring and analyzing the real reasons women in Islam wear the Hijab and here is my proposal:

1. I will start my discussion by referring to a book titled ” Islamic Hijab, Modest Dress” which discusses the subject in depth. In the upcoming weeks I will be sharing and discussing certain chapters from the book in hopes that you share your thoughts to enrich the conversation. I am not here to convince you of the Hijab but to share with you the philosophy behind it.  I have a lot of questions my self and I think one of the ways to get answers is by starting the conversations that tackle the tricky questions most of us want to avoid.

2. I am also interested in interviewing scholars, thinkers, religious figures and anyone who can shed light on the topic. So if you have any one in mind I would really appreciate it if you connect me with them for an interview.

3.  If you or someone you know would like to discuss how they view the Hijab whether positively or negatively I would love to hear from you. I am specifically interested in contributions from men because I think it is crucial that they be included in this conversation.

Why is it important that we start this conversation you ask? Well it is because for years we have been going in circles pretending like we actually are talking about the Hijab when in reality we haven’t even scratched the surface of it. We have headlines that talk about what it is like to wear a Hijab and how there are successful Hijab wearing entrepreneurs and so on but we are not talking about the Hijab itslef.

I bet you a million bucks that if you ask any American, heck ask any Arab if they ever wondered why women wear the Hijab and I am pretty sure 90% of them will say yes, ask them if they have an answer to their question and I am pretty sure they will say no. We as a Muslim community must answer these questions, it is our responsibility to do so even if we are not scholars and experts in jurisprudence we must be able to convey our message and I hope you will join me on this journey.

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Where are all the female film makers?


We need more women to tell our stories, to celebrate the hidden heroes in our society and what better way than through story-telling. The only problem is that we do not have enough story tellers. There is only 1 female director for every 15.24 male ones.What are the reasons that Hollywood is such a male dominated industry and what do we need to do as women in order to change that is what we discussed in this extremely interesting episode of “Evening”.

What do you think is one thing that is holding women back from becoming female film makers,share your thoughts?


Sacred Choices


The other day I was at my regular grocery store when the cashier lady whom I had been seeing over the past year asked me if I was a stay at home mom with a tone that was a bit degrading.Society is so harsh sometimes, if you stay at home to raise your child the assumption is that you are literally staying at home and doing nothing and that life is so easy for you. If you are a mother that has a job, the guilt treatment is the main resort from most people who will comment on how early you left your child to be cared for by someone else. I have experienced both worlds and here is what I have learned along the way.

I have learned that there should be no such thing as a working mom or a stay at home mom and I quite can’t understand the need to be labeled as this or that. We are all mothers regardless of our career and personal choices, we all love our children, worry about them and want what’s in their best interest and I am writing this post because I truly believe that something needs to be changed on how we treat new mothers specifically and mothers in general.

The most difficult thing that I experienced as a mother with a full time job was not missing my baby girl, it was having to deal with comments about how  early I went back to work and how I am missing out on the most important moments of my life and and and etc. Another difficult thing that I went through and I am still going through as a mom other than maintaining my sanity is dealing with the pressure of the need to go back to work and the comments about how I need to start doing something useful in my life and that I should be careful not to get stuck in the mommy world or else my career is doomed.

I have learned that as a new mother you are so fragile and overwhelmed that you really do not know how to react to the judgments from others and one of the most hurtful comments that I dealt with were ironically from other mothers. Two years later I began asking my self  why I spent so much time worrying about Justifying my family’s choices and seeking the approval of others just to be recognized as a good mother. At the time I was so overwhelmed as a new mom that I didn’t know any better, I look back now and realize that this was a very difficult experience that has taught me so much about understanding my self.

I have learned that the moment you give birth to your child you become an advocate, an advocate that fights from all her heart to do what is best for her family but along the way we forget ourselves, at least I know I did. I forgot that it is not acceptable to be labeled, I forgot that it is not normal to have to justify  your choices especially to people you barley see. I forgot that I can and should stand up for my self when I am criticized for my choices.

I have learned that the best advocate for mothers are mothers themselves and that real change happens when we fight for what is ours, our right to make our own choices without being judged. If every mother spoke about this with her friends with her colleagues at work, with her parents and in-laws we would be setting the path for more compassion and understanding.

I have learned that there is a pressing need for us as mothers to speak up as to what is acceptable and what is not and to not live in the shadow of being too busy or too tired if  we want to see things changing for us.

For all the mothers, the heroes, the invisible advocates and any woman who has fought with all her heart and soul to support and empower herself and other mothers and the sacred choices they make, this post is for you.

Happy Mothers Day,


Unveiling the Truth- The Hijab in America


I moved to the United States almost a year ago and it hurts me when I have to explain to my friends back home that I am much more comfortable being veiled here than I am in my own country. It hurts me even more when an American who knows nothing about Hijab or Islam is intrigued about my veil and politely asks me why I wear the veil versus a person back home who immediately judges you based on your appearance. I am not claiming that everyone in America is non judgmental and is understanding but this past year has taught me a lot about what its like to be veiled in the West. I have never felt uncomfortable here, rarely has anyone starred at me and not once has anyone treated me with disrespect.

The first week I arrived  we went to the mall and a lady approached me saying how beautiful my hijab was, she asked me where I got it from and wanted to know more about why I wore it. A few weeks later we were installing the cable at our house and just before the cable guy left he shyly asked me about my hijab and asked why I was still wearing it. Throughout our discussion I realized that he thought all Arab women are forced to wear the hijab and that when they come to America they can be ” liberated” and take it off. This sparked a conversation and as he left he apologized for asking so many questions and said ” I just don’t know anything about Islam or Muslim women and I have never spoken to a Muslim woman before, I was honestly afraid to talk to you because I was afraid I would offend you with my questions.”  I was so surprised with how little he knew about our culture and our religion and I just couldn’t understand how that was possible. I immediately blamed the media, I also blamed all the so called Muslim’s who had set a bad example about us and I questioned whether I had done a good job in portraying Islam in the 15 minutes that we spoke. You see it’s easy to start a blog and address your community, it is easy to stand in front of a crowd and defend the hijab especially when half of that crowd are people you know but when you are trying to explain the hijab to someone who has seen it for the first time that is when you are truly tested and I felt that on that day I failed that test.

All of this happened a year ago and since then I have been asking my self how do I better represent Islam and the hijab that I wear, what more can I do? Wearing the hijab in the United States has put me out of my comfort zone and has sparked an interest in understanding Islam on a deeper level and for that I am grateful.


A New Chapter in My Life


I recently began producing and presenting a TV show called “Evening” which discusses Women’s Rights issues on AL Etejah News Channel. This blog is what inspired the show and it has truly made me believe that every single individual can inspire change whether its through a blog post, an article, a speech or even the way we treat those who work in our household. I look forward to your feedback and ideas for the show are always welcome.

This episode is dedicated to all the men and women who leave their countries and loved ones in search of a better a life. To the mothers who stay away from their own children for years in order to raise children that are not theirs , to the hardworking men and women who work 14 hours a day for salaries that are below minimum wage, to all of the domestic workers that have been abused both physically and emotionally, I dedicate this episode in hope that it will shed light on this serious issue.


What we do for others- Lessons from Fatima


Yesterday I was vising a friend’s house with my baby girl. The visit was supposed to be a girl’s night out and a chance to meetup with good friends and have a good time. However having a 9 month old with me transformed the evening into an exercise session and I ended up chasing after her the entire evening. My night out had turned upside down and to make things worse Fatima started getting sleepy and I knew it was time to go home even before I  had a chance to sit for 5 straight minutes .

I went home feeling sad that I  had not enjoyed my evening, we got home and Fatima would not fall asleep in her bed . As soon as I picked her up she gently layed her head on my chest, closed her eyes and fell asleep. We stayed like that for about an hour before I moved her to her crib and in that hour I learned a valuable lesson.
The whole night I was thinking about me, I was thinking about how I wanted to have fun and enjoy going out, I was so concerned with my happiness to an extent that it was all I cared about that night. When I held fatima in my arms I realized that all she wanted was love and I harnessed the beauty of that moment that made me understand how selfish human beings sometimes are  . By going back home that night and holding my little girl I learned what Islam taught us, I learned that to truly transcend into becoming better human beings we must sacrifice some of  the things that we care about. This is one of the most important lessons Islam taught us and I am humbled that after 26 years my 9 month old daughter showed me what its like to give with no hope for anything in return. This is one of the many lessons Fatima has taught me.

Changing our diets


They say that to truly experience a new culture you must experience the food and the eating habits of this culture. Some people travel the world in search of new flavors, others purchase cookbooks of international cuisine in search of a new meal to add to their next dinner party. We live in a country where food is precious and each region in Lebanon is known for something, whether it is the “Sfeeha Baalbakiyi” or the “Southern Olive Oil”,there is always something new and delicious to discover. But how much do we really know about each others food and what does that have to do with stereotypes and discrimination?

A recent chat with a friend of mine who works as a dietitian made me realize how important food is in bridging the gap between communities and in making us closer to one another. “For the past 3 years I have been seeing the same patients over and over again, I have literally memorized most of the food they eat. Most of my patients’ culture and background are similar to mine. When there would be a holiday or an important occasion coming up I would know what foods to warn my clients from eating, however all of this changed when I started working a few hours a week in a new clinic where I had the opportunity to meet people who were from a totally different religious and cultural background. With every new patient I began to learn about the foods my patients were eating in different occasions and this made me better understand their traditions and culture. ” 

This idea of simply learning about other peoples food traditions opened my eyes to the simplicity of the solution that could solve so many problems. We do not need books or anthropologists or documented studies to learn about one another . We need food, music, holidays, events, clothing and anything that can bring us closer. We need to change our social diets, not only our food but also our approach to understanding one another.


How do we break the stereotypes?


The question of how we can break stereotypes has always been on my mind, even before I started this blog I asked myself this question and I have come to realize that doing so requires a lot of energy, patience and time. 

Blogging has been one way for me to express myself and what I believe in but I honestly do  not feel that it is enough. In my journey to change things around me I have made two mistakes which I believe most of us make. When someone would question my beliefs or my choices in life in a tone that I would find a bit provocative I would immediately get in the “fight” mode. Rather than listening to their opinion I would try my best to prove my opinion and why I was right and they were wrong and in return the conversation would turn into a debate where both parties gained nothing. Every time this would happen I would promise myself that the next time would be different, that I would try my best to be in a “listening mode” only to fall in the same mistake again. The second mistake I have been making is that I made my own assumptions about what people thought about me or veiled women in general and I never really had the courage to ask them what they really  believed.

I was recently interviewed in a TV morning talk show to talk about 7ijabi and I was forced to listen to what the “other” had to say, I was forced to be in the “listening mode” rather than the”fight mode” and I had the chance to listen to what others had to say.

For the first time I realized that to break stereotypes we must put ourselves in uncomfortable situations of confrontation were we actually listen to what the other is saying, where we have to engage in dialogue which believe me is much harder said than done.

That TV interview made me realize that to break the stereotypes that surround us we must interact rather than react and that we should initiate the conversation rather than wait for someone else to come and stand up for us. By taking initiatives ourselves we will become  one step closer to truly accepting and respecting one another’s differences and similarities and only then can we claim that we live in a civilized society.