Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 58: Muslim Bazaar

So today I attended a Bazaar at a mosque with the woman that I sat with at the Ramadan dinner. The night of the dinner she invited me to attend this Bazaar with her and I have never been to something like this before and I've been enjoying learning about Muslim culture so I decided to attend.

Just to clarify before we get into this deeper. I have no intentions of becoming Muslim. As those of you who have been reading this know, what I am really interested in doing is LEARNING. Lets go back in time a little bit... when I was in 8th grade, I participated in a friend's Catholic church's Christmas play. I dressed up like an angel, learned dance movements to the Hail Mary, processed down the aisle in front of the entire Christmas services, and participated as one of the angels in a church whose religion I don't even follow's Christmas play.

In college, my freshman year, I joined a Jewish sorority. GRANTED, I didn't KNOW it was Jewish at the time I joined... but it really made no difference to me whatsoever once I found out. I consider myself lucky to bave had the privilege to be exposed to Jewish culture and tradition through the friendships I have made through my Jewish sorority and through the years of planning parties around Jewish holidays and daily sayings or practices that I've had explained to me.

Now I really am just continuing on my lifelong practice of exploring other religions and learning more about other ways of life. I find it interesting that nobody ever asked me if I was considering becoming Jewish even though I spent so much time around Jewish people while at Syracuse. I attended Hillel sometimes, I ate the Jewish meals, I've had motza and eaten at Pickels plenty of times. I planned the damn Hookah for Sukkot event for petes sake! But now that I'm just starting to spend time with some Muslim friends and learning about Muslim culture, numerous people have asked if I plan on becoming Muslim.

So anyways, the Bazaar was really fun! There were different tunics, scarves, and more traditional Indian dress for sale, BEAUTIFUL and exquisite jewelry, henna tattoos, purses, food, etc. The event was only for women and although there weren't many white people there (or people not dressed in traditional Indian clothing) I didn't feel out of place and I was welcomed by everyone.

I have never really seen people dressed in traditional Indian clothing in person... I've seen people wearing the long robes and head scarves but not the dress clothing, and seriously, everything was BEAUTIFUL. I wish I could have taken pictures but I didn't want to feel like a tourist at this event. But the colors and the beading and the patterns and the accessories... everybody looked so amazing and some of those women were drop dead gorgeous, I just wanted to stare. And OMG, the little kids all dressed up? Priceless.

I really enjoyed myself and loved getting to know this friend more. She is really sweet and really makes me laugh. One of the most interesting conversations and also the saddest conversations that we had was with one of her friends. I made a comment about how I am very friendly to everyone I meet and will talk to anybody... my friend commented that she had heard that is the way people are in the South all the time. I asked if she had ever been to the south and she laughed, as did her other friend and they commented that there was no way that they could ever go down and live in the south and they woudln't even dare visit there for fear of being discriminated against. They told horror stories of friends they'd had who had visited the south/gone to school there but dropped out. The joked about the KKK coming after them and what would happen if they walked down the street in their traditional dress.

I stood their awkwardly, wanting to stop them from saying these things, but not really sure what could I say. That this isn't true? I've never been to the south and I especially don't know what its like to be a Muslim in the south or a Muslim here. I felt terrible. The last time I felt like that was in the winter when I had a conversation with an African friend about being discriminated against. It makes me feel guilty, resentful, unappreciative, angry, torn apart, to have these conversations with people.

Someone once told me that the advantage that white people have is that they DON'T have to think about certain things. They DON'T have to think about if they were pulled over because they were driving 5 miles over the speed limit or because of the color of their skin. They DON'T have to think about whether they got their job because of their merits or because of the color of their skin. They DON'T have to think about whether or not they can travel to the south because of the color of their skin (unless they are worried about a sunburn).

And that right there. Is something to think about.

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