Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Kindergarten Jihad

It pays to get enough sleep each night.  You never know when or where you're going to have to fight a jihad.  Look at the above picture of nice little kindergarten kids struggling for the sake of Islam.  God bless 'em!  Shouldn't they be watching Dora with a plate of milk and cookies?

Today, I fought a jihad in my school.  That sounds like silly hyperbole but it's true.  Just as a refresher, let me remind readers where I am and what I'm doing.  I left America, where people don't understand or often don't respect Islam.  I'm teaching immersion English in KG1 (pre-kindergarten) at an Egyptian school.  I have my daily hardships with children but the biggest upsets are always with the adults.

Our school is in super high gear getting ready for an accredidation team to come evaluate us.  Hey, the truth is the truth is the truth.  Frankly, if we are good enough, then it's something which is going to shine through no matter what.  Likewise, if we are not good enough, then that too will come to light.

But we're in Egypt where the rule is HIDE BEHIND A FACADE even if one isn't necessary.  Think of all the beautiful brown brides who pretend to look clown-white for their wedding.  Think of all the fancy paint jobs on beat-up jallopies.  And, of course, think of all the Muslims who don't really practice their faith but carry around prayer beads for show.

I work with Muslims.  I work with Christians too.  For this jihad story, though, I wasn't fighting the Christians.  Sure enough, I was fighting the Muslims.  Some were wearing hijabs and some weren't.  It doesn't matter that much what's on a woman's head.  It matters more what's in it.

The entire length of my room's exterior wall was decorated today in preparation for the accredidation team's benefit.  There was the word EGYPT on posterboard stuck to the wall along with the pyramids made out of foam core board.  There was ENGLAND and a double decker bus.  There was AMERICA and the Statue of Liberty.  AUSTRALIA with a kangaroo.  INDIA and the Taj Mahal.  All perfectly good ideas.

Ready for the bad one?

BRAZIL with the cut-out shape of a man looking like this:

Actually, I'm showing you the back view.  I will not be showing you the face.  Why?  Because this is a statue of a prophet (astragferallah).  We, as Muslims, don't believe that we honor the men of God by making likenesses of them.  Infact, we think it very dangerous as those statues become idols and idol worshipping is exactly what leads society to forget to worship The One True God (astragfearallah).

The image on the wall showed the eyes, nose, and mouth of a man whom we love so much that we cease to think of his physical being.  We think of his essence of love.  Jesus; Prophet Isa was all about love, forgiveness and praying to The One True God.  He didn't die on the cross so his body in the shape of the cross is not what I need to share with students.  Infact, none of this is appropriate on a school bulletin board.

So, I walked out of my room to view the display at the same time as our school's principal.  She asks me what I thought...and you know it's infront of everyone...the two ladies who worked so long on it....my supervisor....a couple other teachers.  It's hard.  I had to think whether or not I'd brought my super sharp sword----I mean, mind.

"It's really so nice and so much of it looks very good.  The one thing, as a Muslimah, that I disagree with is using a picture of Isa (allayhi salam) since he's a prophet and it's haram to make a picture of a prophet."

They brushed it aside.  A hallway of Muslims didn't really take me seriously.  Why?  I'm not yet 10 years in Islam and they are "born Muslims".  Maybe that's it.  Maybe it's because I'm American.  Maybe it's because they were tired and overstressed.  Whatever the reason, they weren't going to do a thing to this haram image outside my room.  My sense of deep injustice went in one ear and out the other. 

Frankly?  I can't work in a school which doesn't care.  I decided that I would do my best to have the school take it down.  If I was successful then there was still a place for me.  If I was not successful then I would need to leave.

That sounds drastic.  Leave three years of building an educational program?  Leave without any sense of where I could work next year?  I searched my brain and my convictions.  Yep, I felt this strongly about it.

So, I talked to those who I see making wudu quickly so they can pray in the store room on their breaks.  I talked to the nannies who fast twice every week.  I talked to my son's Arabic and Islamic Studies teacher.  I talked to the other Arabic teachers in the staff room.  I talked.  I made my case; Mom always wanted me to be a lawyer.  I did what I could.  I told everyone that I didn't want to be the only one speaking my mind.  If they didn't want it up then they also had to complain.

The issue went to the Headmistress.  I don't know why but it did.  She said to take it down.

Yes, alhumdulillah I fought.  Seriously, I didn't fight for me personally.  I fought because I can't be quiet when I feel deep injustice.  Alhumdulillah others spoke up too.  Alhumdulillah the haram is gone and a soccer ball is up instead.

So, as I leave you once again, I'm going to ask for you to consider what your jihad will be today.  Do you know it now?  Would you know it if it came your way?  What will you do in that moment?  Are you ready?

Oh, Allah help us to be ever vigilant how to serve You and protect the names and memories of our beloved prophets (peace be upon them all).  We do not need to make images of Greatness or goodness.  'It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'


Anonymous said...

May Allah reward you greatly for taking action and being presistent that chnage happens. Ameen.

Anonymous said...

Mashallah! Your strength inspires me....may I be ready for my jihad when Im faced with it

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom to You Two,

"Allahu Akbar" is the azan right now. Alhumdulillah that I'm in a country which has a call to prayer. It reminds us all to be on the straight path.


With the utmost of sincerity, I'm going to thank you from the bottom of my heart for commenting. I feel very solitary at this moment. Being sure of your convictions can make you feel unsure of who anyone really is anymore. Astragferallah.

A petition went around school today asking the admin to replace the picture of Jesus (AS). I told her why it was haram but she thought that was just the ruling for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She didn't know. She wanted to talk about what she thought was true for her and her faith---as if she gets to pick and choose from a buffet of Islamic options.

So many Muslims signed it. Why? Because they want to "be accepting of others". I was asked to sign it without the organizers knowing I had been the one to ask for its removal. I saw the names of so many Muslim co-workers...people I thought I knew but I don't.


I'm lost a bit.

The principal wanted to tell me that not making images was back then....not now. People don't pray to statues now, right?

Of course they do. We know they do. I've been in the same rooms, churches, and parties where people stopped their lives to pray to a statue.


I tried to make the principal understand. She agreed that a picture of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would be in bad taste. Somehow we allow a picture of Jesus (AS)...though we are to revere all prophets equally (pbu them all).

Again, I'm lost. I've prayed istakkarah. I told the principal I would be praying for guidance. I told her that maybe the time has come for me to leave.

I put up with Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. I put up with no in-school celebration for Muslim holidays (because that would offend). I put up with scantily dressed teachers while I have to avoid looking like my dresses are too much like a galabiya. I put up with opposite sex teachers mixing, flirting, and carrying on. I put up with no place to pray and no time to pray. I put up with A LOT.

I only asked that they respected the tenets of faith, which they agreed to respect since they are Muslim.

If you say you are Muslim, you can't decide NOT to buy into a part of the package deal. It's an all or nothing. If you want to tell me that we are fine with images of prophets, then I tell you that I'm not buying the Islam you're selling.

And I'm not wanting to teach at your school. Not tonight. May God help me to understand tomorrow and the day after.