On November 8th , I woke up excited, giddy even, anticipating the events of the day. I felt hopeful, encouraged, and part of something much bigger than myself. I waited anxiously to get the call from my husband, saying he was ready to take his lunch break and go vote. I had asked him to meet me at the polls, because for the first time in my whole life, I was a wary of going by myself. Not afraid, but just a little unsure of what may happen, or if someone may see a Muslim woman and her two young sons going in to vote and hurl hateful words at us, like has happened so many times before as we shopped for our groceries, or walked to our car in a parking lot.
Thankfully, all went well at the polling location, my husband and sons went in and he proudly voted, and then asked our neighbor, who we ran into outside, to take some photos of us. My husband went back to work, and I took the boys home, feeling as if the sky was the limit. In the early morning hours of November 9th , the world seemed to be a different place. “Is this truly how my fellow Americans feel about me?” I wondered to myself. “About my friends from around the world? About my El Salvadorian neighbors and my Mexican classmate?” I expected love to win, and instead I laid staring at the ceiling in my bedroom in a pool of silent tears that would not stop flowing. I felt defeated, alone, and unwanted. I felt betrayed by my family and by my country. I cried myself to sleep.
In the coming days, I began to see some amazing things taking place. I saw women giving money to causes they believed in, meeting with strangers to discuss what could be done to make a difference in their communities. I saw them wearing safety pins as a silent gesture that they cared about me and valued me as a part of this country. Then I saw a post in a secret facebook group I am a part of, where a woman from SC asked if there was any way she could help the Muslims in her community. She offered to be a safe person that they could call if they needed someone to go shopping or run errands with them. I agreed to speak to the Muslim sisters I know on her behalf and offer her services to them, and as I continued following the post, the comments of support and willingness to help came flooding in.
I shared this kind offer with some of my Muslim sisters and asked them if it would be something they would be interested in. While we were all touched by the gesture, the reality is that life goes on. We have to buy groceries and run errands and we can’t call someone to go with us every single time. Even if we could, what kind of life is that to live, feeling afraid to leave your house alone? We all agreed that what we wanted the most was for people to know us, to try to understand that we are not so strange, and not so different from them. So I replied back and told these kind women that what we would really like is for them to come join us for our Friday prayer service at the mosque as a simple way of saying, “we love you, we support you, we value you as a part of this country, and we want to know you better.” The response was phenomenal.
Because I currently live in Charleston, we invited women to the Central Mosque of Charleston first, on November 18th . At least 25 women and one man showed up, and tears of joy were shed. We had over 150 people show interest in joining us, but many people had to work or were out of town, so we plan to do more interfaith events in the near future. As many women who asked how they could help were from Columbia, SC (and I called Columbia “home” for my most of adult life, we are also having an event like this at Masjid al-Mulimiin in Columbia on December 2nd (1929 Gervais Street at 1:30pm).
We are calling this an event, but it is important for everyone to understand, that while we do have specific days and events geared toward non-muslims (Masjid al-muslimiin puts a lot of effort into Share Islam Day every year), this is simply our weekly prayer service. We are inviting you to come and attend with us and want you all to know that you are welcome any time, not just this week. We simply are inviting you to come observe some of our traditions, and get to know us a little. There will be a short sermon, and then we will perform our afternoon prayer together.
Afterwards we go outside to socialize and eat together, while the kids run around and play on the playground. There will be a sisters’ class at 3:30 and the women are welcome to stay and sit in as it will be geared toward both muslims and non-muslims this week.
The purpose of organizing a specific week for you all to visit is that I feel like the number of open minded people who love and support us will be apparent by having so many of you there at the same time. Also, as a former Christian, I have met many different types of people in my lifetime. I know some amazing Christians who model Christ and strive to love and understand all people, and I know my Muslim brothers and sisters who are gentle, kind, loving, and accepting of all people as well. The fact that so many of us do not know each other makes me sad. I hope that we can start getting to know each other so that when we pass each other in the grocery story we can feel safe, wanted, and loved.
I also have more unity events in the works, so stay tuned! I have some new contacts with the Jewish and Hindu communities in Charleston, and we will be meeting next week to discuss ways that we can bring people together and tear down stereotypes while we work to build up our communities together. Please email me if you would like to be added to the mailing list!
For those who plan to attend: Women please wear long sleeves and long pants or skirts. Headscarves are not required, but I feel like they do show a great deal of unity and solidarity. It is completely up to you if you want to wear one or not. You will have to remove your shoes when you enter the mosque, but socks are not required. The men and women have separate sides of the mosque, so the women’s entrance is labeled “Sisters’ Entrance,” and has bright yellow barricades around it. Children are welcome, but there is no childcare, so I usually bring something like a small coloring book to keep my kids occupied. There is a Facebook event page called “Columbia United,” and I also created a new facebook page called “Muslim Community Events in South Carolina,” in order to keep anyone who is interested informed about our upcoming events. Thanks for the love, Columbia, I look forward to meeting many of you on Friday. God bless.