There are a bunch of things I've been meaning to write about, including Breast Cancer Awareness Month commercialism and Ramadan, though the two topics are mutually exclusive and the entries are completely different. I've also been meaning to post links to my latest multimedia projects, which of course I haven't done yet. Here's a teaser: most of my latest projects are about strong, interesting women who have overcome challenges to achieve great things and/or win awards and/or educate people about peaceful, mainstream Islam in our post 9/11 world. I took a lot of pictures of one of the women with her horse and her seeing-eye dog. Shocker!
Strong Women! Ordinary non-terrorist American Muslims committed to outreach and social change! Seeing-eye dogs! Horses! There's a pattern here!
The thing is, I love doing those kind of assignments, so my editors throw them my way. And we need to see more kickass, differently abled woman in the media. We need to see pro-active, peace-making, non-burqa wearing Islamic woman in the media, and we need to hear them discussing their activism while their husbands wash the dishes. So I'm glad I get to put those things out there. Actually, you know what? Zena is so cool, I AM going to link to project that features her here. You have to watch the "At Mosque" Section first, but then her family comes up and you can see for yourself what I'm babbling about. I'll update the sidebar links tomorrow, so you can "meet" Jody and Alison. Also, a young man is the third son in his family to join the navy, preschoolers go apple-picking, and I cover the first swim meet of the year. Woo!
I WAS working on a slideshow about Osie Ro'Donnell (strong woman!) opening a children's center (achieving things!) in a low-income community (social change!), but then she didn't show because The View decided to do a double taping. Then my laptop ate the login code for the audio program, and a plane flew into a building on the Upper East Side. There were like, 5 staffers geographically closer to the city at the time, but I was on call in the event of the Apocalypse. So no Rosie, and no slideshow.
Oh, but the thing I wanted to say about Ramadan was this. Because of this work that I love, I get to spend time with the ordinary non-terrorist American Muslims (different family in a different county; do you see the repeating themes?) during their standard, nightly Ramadan prayers. Not everyone gets that kind of opportunity, so I'll tell you what it's like.
Because this is Stepford, the homes I'm in are large, oh-so-tastefully decorated McMansions with finished basements. Several families get together at night to pray and break their fasts and recite parts of the Koran. I start by hanging out in the basement with two college-aged sisters who are home from SUNY schools for the weekend because of the holiday. his particular basement has a full kitchen adjacent to it, even though there's one upstairs, like Nanny's house. Another sister comes down stairs with a pitcher of water and stacks of plastic cups, (because everyone will be THIRSTY and drink as soon as they can break their fasts) along with a message from their mom to change out of their college logo hoodies and pajama pants because "guests are coming."
People file in. There's a lot of hugging- left, right, left again- particularly among the men. This is my usual crowd of contacts, the same people who do henna at school fairs and organize interfaith dinners. I am greeted enthusiastically with the same "As-Salaam-Alaikum" (peace be with you)/Alaikum-salaam (and "also with you"- I KNOW! Like the Catholics!) as everyone else, and one of the men rubs sandalwood on my wrists as he makes rounds to everyone in the room. Being included in both customs gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. The college-aged sisters are back in trendy, flowy outfits and there's a lot of breathless catching up with an old friend who just took Metro-North from NYU. One of them is waiting for a guy to call, "OMG, he texted me, but it's not the same!"
A guy from the mosque begins the tri-tonal call to prayer over a portable karaoke mic, a cue for one of the dads to tell his 10-year-old son: "Stop playing foosball and help me with the prayer mats." A lot of people are late, but they all know to use the side entrance directly into the TV room, like at Gwen's house. I can hear the signature beeps and shutdown songs as Verizon, Cingular and T-Mobile cell phones are turned off just outside the door before latecomers enter and take off their shoes.
As usual, the women's side is having more fun. After the first prayer, there's a short break. Some people keep praying individually through it, but the hostess of the house jumps up and stirs something on the stove in the basement kitchenette that smells like cinnamon. The girl waiting for The Call from the Guy (OMG!) silently checks her cell phone for a message during the break. Her sister raises an eyebrow. In response, she shakes her head with an exaggerated "sad face." Their friend whispers something about accidentally eating a Twix bar ten hours ago and they try not to crack up.