I can here the adhan being called in the masjid one block down every morning I wake up to write.
So, I don’t practice Islam anymore, and I don’t even believe in g/God, yet, every time I here the adhan coming from that masjid, I am comforted. I know why. I do. Still, it amuses me.
Well, what amuses me is that I find myself praying to a g/God I don’t believe in, sometimes. And even though I have an aversion to most things religious, I still wanted to live somewhere at least nearby Muslims and Middle Easterners. There is a feeling of home and safety. I get why people self-segregate. I don’t have to explain myself to any other Middle Easterner or any Muslim. Well, maybe some Muslims wonder why this white looking girl is saying Salaam-alaikum to them, but whatever.
The more time I have spent away from the community I grew up in, the more I realize I miss it. There was this automatic sense of well-being, of safety. Yes, there are thins I disagree with, and people I don’t care for, and things about me that would keep me from being welcome if they were known, but that is still my home.
And there goes the imam, singing the adhan, right now. 5:32 am. I don’t even know if that’s really prayer time. I think what I love about it too is that this is Brooklyn, NY, nor Iran or some other Muslim country, but New York. And here are these Muslims saying “fuck yourself” in their own way. If anyone here doesn’t like us, too bad, you can hear our adhan. And this masjid is just part of the man rows of apartments and bodegas. I remember masjids in Virginia, ones sitting with space between them and the surrounding buildings and/or houses, were quiet on the outside, yet still received complaints from neighbours. That lady said it best in Bend it Like Beckham, “English people always complaining when we have functions.” Well, so do their ancestors. So, I love this masjid and its occupants. They do not give a damn. They are proud Muslims.
As this neighbourhood becomes more and more gentrified and the working white folks and the hipster white folks and the white folks in general keep moving in, will this masjid remain? Will the Muslims be pushed away like all the other folks of color? Will they keep singing the adhan?
I always imagine that gentrification pushes poor people literally off the land, into the ocean. It’s the visual image I get. And here I am, a part of it, whether I want to really admit it or not. And as I move around in NY, which may happen in the next month, or the next three, I will continue to be a part of it. Though, again, I would like to find a place like this, with my people just a block away. But if they keep getting pushed out, and I keep moving in, with whom do I stand? I know who, in my thoughts and my heart, but that’s bullshit when it comes to actions.
Here I am again, in that liminal space I know I occupy, and Tara and I have talked about. I look one way to most people (though some Middle Easterners can read me, as can some other mixed folk) and yet am part of something completely different. Now that I no loner cover my hair I am privy to things that were once hidden. I am no longer followed in stores. I am no longer stared at with judgment, hate, wonder, or “does she speak English?”, I am no longer automatically targeted for hurtful comments. Now I know all the little things I had been missing. What a sucker, when all these years I could have been mistaken for white and not been ignored when I need help in stores, gotten treated great by all forms of customer service. As long as they don’t hear my name, I am golden. White people don’t know how great they’ve got it. Or they do and they just act like they don’t.
So now, now that I get to experience these privileges I have to know what to do with them, and with myself. Now the people who stare at me are those with whom I used to be categorized, the Others. And I know what those stares are, cause I still do it too when I see white folks. It’s fear and “god, I hope they just leave me the fuck alone.” I still think og myself as wearing a scarf. And when I get stared at like I am white I have to remember that I am and that there is no hijab on my head. And what a privilege too, right? To forget how I look, to be able to align myself with whom I please.