What Are You Doing To Improve the Image of Islam?

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I really try to stay out of the comment section of all social media sites. It can be much too painful for me, someone with quite a sensitive and soft heart, to see how much hatred there is in this world. Hatred of non Muslims towards Muslims and hatred of Muslims towards each other. It’s too much for me. I am naive and I like to believe in the good in people. Alhamdulilah I try to surround myself with diverse groups but those who have some percentage of the Light of God or at least a positive energy about them. 

But, today, I couldn’t help it. I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across a video of a fellow niqabi. I naturally had to watch. The video was beautiful. It detailed the interaction between a niqabi and an originally pessimistic islamophobe that complained of the woman’s covering and asked her to leave a Kohl’s. The niqabi responded with kindness by asking to hug her and explaining that she’s not oppressed and instead niqab is a symbol of being empowered. (I can attest to this.) I finished watching the video with a renewed sense of optimism about interactions between the different religions and faith in humanity.

I jumped to the comments to write something positive and there they were. 

70% of the comments negative - claiming the woman was lying or that she was a propagandist or that niqab is only oppressive. It broke my heart. 

What breaks my heart more is a lot of those comments are from Muslims.

Whether or not you agree with niqab, you have to agree with its existence amongst the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) and at least acknowledge wearing it is a religious choice that has some wisdom behind it (whether you agree or not). I am of course biased as a niqabi myself. 

What really hurt me was to see a fellow Muslim talking about how niqab is something only worn by extreme religious groups and Muslim women should remove it to distance themselves from these threatening groups.

Bruh, you’re so wrong. 

Do you know how powerful it is to wear niqab and to talk to people like a normal person? To be educated and eloquent? To be polite and personable? Can you imagine the power in that instead of just taking it off?

Don’t you see that when you give in and change yourself you’re not curing the illness, you’re simply hiding it and covering it up? I don’t want to be closer to non Muslims because they see me without niqab and now have respect for me. I want us to get along BECAUSE I WEAR IT. I want them to see the truth: my face covering or head covering is not to be associated with hatred or terrorism or oppression, because it simply is not that. It should be associated with the times we give in charity and the times we support other faiths and the times we are just normal freaking human beings, because that’s exactly who we are. A piece of cloth doesn’t change our hearts.

Trust me.  It’s not magic. It’s 25 riyals at Bedoon Essm. From my understanding, magic is a bit more expensive. 

The guy opposing me mentioned that he wants to distance himself from Islam so as to not raise red flags. That’s his choice, but he’s only protecting himself and doing very little to actually help the real problem. He wears glasses and, as I explained, it would be like one day there were a lot of bad people who wore glasses and were doing something bad. Would you stop wearing glasses? He didn’t have an answer. 

He also proceeded to ask me what exactly I’m doing to help the image of Islam. Good sentiment, but unfortunately for him, he asked the wrong person. “Oh not much just had a television show about the normalcy of life as a convert, writing a popular blog about the subject and being interviewed dozens of times by multinational news sources on Muslim related issues...”. 

But honestly? That’s not really that special. Or, if it is, that's such a tiny piece of what I'm really doing.  

What I’m really doing to help is that I’m refusing to “blend in.”  I’m showing people around the world that Muslims (and hijabis and niqabis) are so freaking normal. We shop for sunglasses. We drink Blueberry Bliss smoothies from EarthBar. We get our oil changed. We compliment your cute shoes. We open the door for old ladies. We smile (you can tell - don’t act like you can’t). We cover your groceries when you're short a few bucks and you're in front of us in line. We let your children ask questions. We let your children sit on our laps (happens to me regularly). We give water to stray cats. We’re the best, just like most other people that are on this earth that we are blessed to call our brothers and sisters. I’m not the crazy people that the American media likes to emphasize - whether I look like them or not. And I’m so proud and honored that God blessed me to meet you and show you what reality is like and how inconsequential this piece of cloth is in the grand scheme of things. 

I’m the bee’s knees. Just keeping it real.

And I promise to do everything in my power that I can to show that to my brothers and sisters in this world. Representing Islam is a tremendous pressure but also a tremendous opportunity at this point in history.  I won't let all that potential air slip by and neither should you.

Please join me in doing your best as well. 

If your name is Mohammed, don’t go by Moe. If you don’t want to pray at work because it’s awkward, make accommodations. Help an old woman when you’re wearing hijab. Smile at a kid when you’re rocking a hardcore sheiykh beard. Live the example of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) and other amazing Muslims that came before us.  Be the light that you want to see reflected in this world. 

Don’t hide yourself or blend in. Be proactive. Help to cure the greater illness. There will be a reward for it. It’s all a test. 

May Allah swt make us all worthy examples of His beautiful religion and may we inspire one another. May He improve our manners and our treatment of one another. May He open our hearts and help us to understand one another’s spirits. He created us to worship Him and part of worshipping Him is loving one another.