Destination Gauntanamo Bay

Salma part one. 

One day , out of the blue, my dad sat me down and told me about this lovely man from South Africa. Being the daughters of an imam one would assume arranged marriages would be the order of the day. But my dad always made our future our own decision but he expected us to meet the person who proposed to us.

A few years ago Luqmaan asked for my hand in marriage and even though I had known him my entire life I couldn’t see my self with him. For him women were only there to pleasure their husbands. I don’t blame him for his backward thoughts, the generations before instilled them. When he accused Rahim and Abdullah of belonging to ISIS, I knew he was still upset about the past. 

I made sure I read my Istigarah before my first meeting with Rahim. The night Rahim and his parents arrived at our home, I was completely at ease. A new country would be an exciting adventure but I was going into this blind because I had no idea who Rahim was and had never heard anything about him or even seen a photo. 

Who could have predicted that my destiny had been written million of miles away. Islam promotes independence for women but often people interpret their respective cultures as Islam, luckily Rahim was not one of those men.

Being a teacher is a blessing in disguise and as the years pass the kids realize that having my face covered doesn’t make me any different to all the other teachers. When I worked in a law firm I would get creepy comments from men I didn’t know, which often made me feel like a piece of meat. A year passed and the comments got worst. Even though I would wear maxi skirts and loose fitting shirts men would still make inappropriate comments. 

I finished Law School at the top of my class and was labeled by most people as a goody two shoes. When I started work I felt that I would be independent and couldn’t wait to get paid. My dad never took a cent from me even thought I often tried to contribute to the household once I started earning but my dad would leave me cute notes, telling me it was my hard earned money and I should spoil myself. Eventually I gave up trying to contribute and saved the money. When the war began in Syria I was heart broken. I wouldn’t be able to imagine having to leave my life and flee at a moments notice and so I sent my savings to the refugees. The cause I found especially touching was the lack of sanitary pads available for refugee women. Being a woman just the thought of being without a pad on a usual day was terrifying so I contacted the aid groups and began a campaign with one of them asking people to donate pads. The community both Muslim and non-Muslim came together  and we collected thousands of sanitary products which we then sent to refugee camps in Greece. 

Soon after I began wearing the veil. My dad was overjoyed but told me that it was not an easy choice and it wasn’t easy to change in a day so I should start by wearing the abyha and then see how it went. At first it hard because as a fashionista I kept looking at all the awesome clothing in the stores but soon I realised that I could be in vogue under my abyha and eventually I went into full niqaab. 

My boss wasn’t please and told me people need to see the people they’re confiding in. Life at the firm became difficult and I was called a terrorist and asked whether I was a Jihadi by many who didn’t understand the concept. 

My iman was tested beyond my imagination an there were times I felt that it would be easier to take It off and be the old me again. When I tried to go outside without my niqaab I felt like something was missing. Eventually I enrolled at teacher training collage and became a teacher. I still advised for pro bono cases in my area but appearing in court veiled was just not something I wanted to do.

 

Once I became a teacher many schools rejected me simply because they felt I was there to convert the kids to islam. In my despair I prayed for guidance. Soon the local school called and said that they heard from my dad ,who was involved in reading projects in many schools, that I was looking for a job. They offered me a job and when I arrive the next day the old Irish receptionist smiled and asked me to take a seat. We began chatting, she asked me how I would handle being at the morning prayer and I told her that it would be fine because we all prayed to the same God. She told me the job was mine and I was ecstatic, when I got home there was milkshake for everyone.

On my first day at school, some of the kids were afraid and others were in awe because they thought I was Batman. I lifted my veil and showed them my face as I met each class and with the younger classes I removed it completely. Kids are amazing sadly they learn hate and prejudice from the adults around them.

A month before I was going to meet Rahim my dad, mum and I went to Greece to help with the sanitary product distribution. When I got there I couldn’t contain the emotion. The human trauma was overwhelming. No one wants to be a refugee but in order to survive you have no choice but to leave. Many of these people would have never left Syria and suddenly they were forced to brave the ocean to get away from the war. ISIS was not making life any easier. I have no idea how they can claim to be a Muslim group when they are going against every teaching of Islam.  

I stood in the camp with those who had nothing. They had no food, no home, no place where they belonged and no one wanted them. The camps are overcrowded and lack all the basic amenities. Only the children have hope in their eyes. I seen mothers lie to their children about not being hungry and giving them their small pieces of bread. I have seen fathers distraught, unable to provide for their families. The refugee camps make people wish they were killed in the war. I vowed to Allah I would do everything I could to help these people. When I got home I set up a debit order to an aid agency helping the refugees in both Greece and Turkey. Every bit helps.

Soon after returning home, I met Rahim. It was amazing. We clicked immediately. The honeymoon was amazing I had been to Paris before but being in Paris while in love…is different. My life was perfect, God had been kind and I was so glad. 

One sunny afternoon while sipping coffee at a pavement cafe someone came over to Rahim and told me it was illegal to wear the veil in France. So I replaced my veil with a medical mask and asked the person if that was better for them. Upset he stormed off and blamed me for the Paris bombings. We laughed it off and Rahim called me Dr for the rest of the day.

Rahim made me feel like a queen, I had no idea he was such a romantic and I was happy for all of it. He was so into me and told me repeatedly how beautiful he found me , all of me. This was strange at first because before meeting Rahim I was worried about being overweight, people often told me that men didn’t want chubby women. One of my aunts said I was already fat and then I chose to cover my face as well, it was as if I want to stay single forever. Women are constantly bombarded by this western idea of ‘sexy’ and it was exhausting. I tried to stay strong and remembered Allah’s world m that he created us in pairs. This gave me strength, knowing that someone out there had been created especially for me.  

by mumtaz saley

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