Abstract Chatter

Shaking hands is forbidden, but dating isn’t?
July 24, 2009, 8:07 am
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Social norms can typically be described as both implicit and explicit behavioral expectations within society. They become the benchmarks for what is both appropriate and improper regarding one’s behavior, values and belief systems. What happens then, when one’s action goes against the expected norms? Deterrence from social norms seems to induce a certain level of fear amongst other members of the society. A fear of the unknown. A self-censorship limiting ones thoughts and actions due to these implicit rules can’t possibly be a progressive approach in resolving our problems.

The norms that I want to evaluate, critique and flesh out is dating within the “American-Muslim” context.  Where do I even begin to articulate the types of conversations that have taken place regarding this topic? How can I give this topic due justice when it’s discussed time and time again, most commonly through an agonizing tone of hopelessness (particularly amongst young Muslim women). There is an entire generation of Muslim youth who eventually reach a “marriageable age.” (I can rant endlessly about what the age is, but let’s glaze over this issue and assume it’s contextual.) How do both men and women move from casually chatting into marriage–or from completely segregated lifestyles into marriage? Where is the transition or the understanding of the opposite sex come from–and how do both genders move forward when society places such a taboo on these issues?

Various solutions to this topic have sprouted. It just seems unfortunate that most resolutions are bounded by extreme viewpoints hindering a holistic and comprehensive understanding of their environment, of the situation and of themselves.

Let’s take a case where men and women are never allowed to integrate or to interact on any social level. Whether this occurs due to the family enforcement or due to the female’s ideology– her ability to go out and meet men becomes occluded. For the sake of categorizing (because that makes our lives easier), let’s say the female herself falls under a potentially more “conservative” category. This eliminates the possibility of meeting men at clubs/bars. In this scenario, the main avenue of courtship is predominately through ones parents. But this poses a grave problem when expectations and standards are not aligned between the young Muslim and her parents. It creates friction between parents who desire certain criteria for their children while they, themselves (as young Americans) have created a vastly different rubric.

So if parents are not the answer, and neither is the club scene—what remains? How do we solve this societal epidemic where a multitude of bright, educated, beautiful women who want to get married – can’t find men of equal caliber?

It seems that those women who once placed “dating” under the category of haram or forbidden, are now much more open to the idea. But is dating defined the same way as it is in the “American” context? What makes it okay now? Is it once you reach the age of 25 and beyond?

Where do the arbitrary boundaries lie? When and how do we know if they are being crossed? Unfortunately, I pose these questions with no real answers. It saddens me to know that we have yet to begin a dialogue towards progress…



Water. Run. Dry
July 6, 2009, 1:45 pm
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Tears are sometimes the most refreshing medicine–free and natural. And once all your tears have run dry, you can’t help but feel a little more satisfied. A little more composed. Although moments earlier while the waterfall of tears flow, the vulnerability that surrounds you is all too encompassing.

I took a walk for lunch, with no particular destination, no specific place to go. And tears just flowed even before I left the lobby. Quiet tears at first. But the more I thought, the louder they became. Uncontrollable. Overpowering above anything else.

How can a person who brings so much joy—bring just as much pain? How can a person have so much say in your own thoughts, feelings and emotions? How can you take that control back? I have no answers. I have no response. Just thoughts. Just questions.

I halted at the stoplight. Too much oncoming traffic and honking taxi cabs to go forward. I just wanted to be. To listen to the songs that blasted through the earplugs from my iPod. To feel the warmth of the sun against my skin. I was distracted for a second as a woman approached me asking if I was okay.  I smiled through the tears and told her I was. Who would have thought that a random woman on the busy streets of NYC would care? That small bit of genuineness gave me a tad bit more faith in humanity. (It does exist)

I came across a park full of planted trees and benches. All I could think about was facing the sun. And wanting to absorb every bit of UV ray that it sprayed onto the earth. It wasn’t scorching enough to burn my skin, and the cool summer breeze dried away my tears. Sometimes I would catch people’s eyes. I saw pity, and confusion. Did my tears humanize a hijabi? Were they able to see that we too, are human?

I wanted to melt away. Become an animal that didn’t feel pain or joy. That just lived off of instinct. I didn’t want to go through the test of life. With its little pop quizzes every so often, leaving me to wonder if I was strong enough to overcome the growing pains of life.

How does one respond to the unexpected? To the pop quizzes of life? I guess I’ve found a temporary answer. Salty. Refreshing. Tears.