From the beginning of the book Princess I was curious as to Saudi society.. one who buries its women in unmarked graves, supports prostitution, sexually exploits children, exploits the weak among them and oppresses its women on multiple levels. As an outsider getting a glimpse of this world at such a young age it had me wondering – Is this Islam?
I had to find out more – mind you this is the mid 1990’s- what can be found about the Arab & Islamic World, Saudi Arabia and Islam in the local library and bookstore- fit maybe one shelf. The first major interaction American’s see between the Islamic world and the United State on TV in my life span is that of the Gulf Wars – I and II.
So I had to make do with what I could find since more scholarly texts were unknown to me and I was only 10 or 11 – and with my over protective mom – its not like I was going to go find the local Islamic center and go raid THEIR library. So I had to make due with the books I could get access to like my grandmother’s and my mom’s – my grandmothers library proved the most useful – giving me access to Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody and Behind the Veil by Lydia Laube. So began my journey of studying Islam through the lens of the cultures and nations that have accepted Islam.
My family wasn’t nervous or really thinking that I would ever convert at this age. My mom mostly thought it was a part of my natural curiosity. My family like I think most American’s view Islam through the lens of American values which I feel are mostly dominated by the ideas of independence and freedom. So my mother, aunt and grandmother had very critical views of women in Islam and Islam. They wondered and still wonder at times why I would ultimately choose Islam as my religion. I too had opinions that were highly critical of Muslim’s and Islam- I still do.
During this journey I began to study the basic tenants of the faith I found a distinct contrast between Islam and how people implement Islam in their communities, lives and countries. At the same I was diving slowly deeper into Islam, I had reevaluate how I viewed my own family and the different types of families that exist around the world with my mom sharing that she was a lesbian when I was eleven.
Personally it was very challenging for me to deal with this news. I was very resentful about it because it was yet another thing that I knew would make me different. Especially at a time in the US when being openly gay – was less accepted and in the gay community- it was a rarity to be a parent and raising a child. At the same time, I was now a part of a new community – the LGBTQ community, I was now learning about a new culture and community vicariously through my mother and by my own interactions and experiences.
What I have learned being related to someone who is openly gay is that although the LGBTQ community has its issues like any other community generally the lesbian community is more accepting and less judgmental than your average community. I was doted on as the daughter of a lesbian – all my mother’s friends – kept an eye out for me and took care of me -from making sure I didn’t get lost on the way to the bathroom at Pride in Chicago or letting me wander around by myself at Michigan Womyn\’s Music Festival .
I have been to many pride parades in Chicago, Denver and San Francisco both before I accepted Islam and after(See the post for more info on that experiance –I don\’t care what you think.) I also learned to be selective in who I shared information about myself and my family with because I had to learn that lesson the hard way. I shared this information with someone I thought was a friend and they used the information to back stab me and increase their own social status among our peers in grade school. I also quickly learned that people have some very strange ideas about gay people and the community – especially people who have never knowingly interacted with anyone who is gay or lesbian.
Eventually I got to the point of acceptance of my mom being a lesbian. My mom is one of those individuals who is lucky enough to enjoy long monogamous relationships (See my post – Married twice isn\’t that nice? for the current status of my mom’s relationship- if your curious) and so occasionally I ended up having two moms – although not in the normal Islamic manner- but me being me – I never really regarded those individuals as a mom – that lovely responsibility and title goes to who else? My Mama!
My mom being a lesbian doesn’t change how she cares, loves me, protects me, her sense of humor, her outgoing personality, her incredible artistic abilities, her pack rat nature, her stubbornness, her ability to parent or call me out when I do something I shouldn’t or something I was supposed to and use my full name doing so. My mom being a lesbian doesn’t change her essential nature which is a good person.
Just to push my readers to critically think for a minute – here are somethings to think about:
To those reading this who think being gay or lesbian changes your essential nature -My question to you is does being a national of a specific country change your identity as a Muslim if you view being Muslim as your essential nature? Most likely the answer is no – same with my mom.
I also dare anyone to blame crappy parenting and screwed up kids on an individual’s sexual orientation – because if that IS the case – I feel sorry for everyone raised in a heterosexual household since statistics tell us that most gay or lesbian individuals are raised by opposite sex couples and I feel sorry for them because the majority of abuse cases are reported in these homes.
Indeed my mother’s “sexual orientation” or what ever a person would like to call it plays a major role currently in my life as a Muslim and in my decision to be a Muslim but not perhaps in the way you might think.
Continued in the next post – The Unlikely Convert Part 3