Monday, January 01, 2007

American Muslim?


Our travels in India stayed within the boundaries of New Delhi. Across from the Red Fort is the Jama Masjid and a subject of our sightseeing my second to last day in India. You could tell that we were getting to the Muslim section of town because the type of dress began to change for the men and women....loosely veiled women transformed into tightly veiled women....sikh turbans morphed into prayer caps. The first photo here is of the Red Fort from the opening of the gates to the Jama Masjid, the next photo is of the gated opening into it and a view of not only the mob of people there, but the vendors that were there as well. The shopping was pretty good, I purchased several prayer rugs for the house at rock bottom prices and got a little something for Mr.3...which I can't detail here because he will probably read this before he comes home and can open the gift for himself.
I find it strange that I am consistently reminded of how comfortable I feel in an Islamic element. I was reminded of it every minute that I was in India (and during Dione's wedding mass I also felt it keenly). I know that I am not the best or even the most conventional of Muslims, but I am sure in my heart that I have made the correct decision for me.

Now my traveling buddies were all based out of China or somewhere in East Asia and it was nice to be able to point out to them the differences between Hindi and Islamic culture as they didn't recognize what they were seeing. John even went so far to having me help him find a hijab to take back to show his mom. I was tempted to buy some of the outfits that I saw for work, but I was running out of money. In any case, I looked at the items closely enough that I can form a pattern from what I saw and make something to put in the Outreach closet. It is funny how everything I do revolves around my work in some way.....

I digress.... I gathered alot of looks to begin with in India, and it also held true for our time at the Jama Masjid....except this time the curiosity was with me being obviously American and shockingly Muslim at the same time. I took a photo of the front of the Masjid but did not take photos of the inside courtyard area...for two reasons. One, I have issues with taking photos of places that feel sacred to me and/or a place that I actively intend to pray in, and two...some guy wanted to charge me for taking photos.

I took off my shoes, covered my head, and walked in. As I got through the main foyer some guy tried to sell me a tour of the place. When I asked were the women go to pray he was shocked, and then tried to tell me some nonsense about the women's area being on some balcony....in an area that clearly had no balconies. It was a massive courtyard exterior for the prayer area. Everything in India is open air and this was no exception...I walked past dozens of people who were staring at the strange American with her head covered. Finally I found a small alcove, away from prying eyes, and took a brief respite. As I follow the sufic school of Islam, I don't pray in the traditional manner (I hadn't done my absolutions anyway, and wasn't wearing enough to comfortably pray in public). I simply sat and centered myself....focusing on each breath, silently saying "Allah" to myself with each inhale and exhale (this is called the Dhakir).

I met up with my friends about 10 minutes later....John was negotiating with some guy who was trying to charge him for watching his shoes outside of the mosque. I got mad at the guy.....because it was absolutely outrageous what he was doing...you don't charge people to take off their shoes in front of a mosque! It sickens me though, because you know that plenty of tourists who don't know better fall pray to that scam everyday.

As I was putting my shoes back on, several Muslim women kept giggling and twittering next to me....each pushing the other to go and talk to me. When I addressed them "Assalam al walakum" (Peace Be Upon You-the traditional greeting to another Muslim) they fell silent and ducked away, too shocked to answer me back. Which was pretty much the case for everyone there.

I felt in my element, but the entire time I was walking around I felt like I needed Lenny Kravitz behind me singing "American Muslim" instead of "American Woman".

1 comment:

Oguz said...

"One, I have issues with taking photos of places that feel sacred to me and/or a place that I actively intend to pray in, and two...some guy wanted to charge me for taking photos."

I wonder which was the bigger deterrent... :D

You should watch 'searching for comedy in the muslim world'. Most of it was shot in Delhi, and if I remember correctly, there was a scene in the very mosque you write about.