So we were in a workshop in one of the hotels in Nyali the other day and we were having lunch when one of my mates in the table I was seated in asked me, “Do you remember the three ladies that were seated by the pool yesterday, dancing so provocatively and smoking?” Yeah…I did very well remember the ladies because who forgets pretty ladies in short dresses above the knees, with long hair, grinding and dancing provocatively in broad day light? Then he tells me, “turn around…can you believe those are the same three ladies?” I turned around to see the same ladies in buibuis and in very well tied hijab. I stared speechless for a long while and I kept glancing at them till the last moment they left the hotel.
“Are you sure they are the same ladies?” I asked for the a hundredth time.
“Yes they are…they invited me to their room yesterday evening,” another European mate answers.
“Out of curiosity, what did you answer them?”
“I told them I am sorry, I am married and I really like her (my wife)”
“That’s why I don’t trust women in buibui. They hide so much inside. It’s a shocker,” the other mate says.
So they go on and talk about how pretentious Muslim women are and I am left there totally speechless because I can’t even justify anything. It’s the truth…and we all know it. And there came the topic of Somali ladies and how different they are; talking of the ones from North Eastern and the ones from Nairobi and Mombasa. All this while I hear them talk about this and I am just as helpless. I walk away to go wash my hands when I am called to another table of my other mates of the project. The table has four other people and they welcome me to sit with them and that they wanted to question me.
So they ask me, “did you see the ladies?”
Yeah. I saw the ‘famous’ women.
“What do you have to say about it?”
I keep quiet for a while. “It’s sad” That’s all I could say. That’s the best that my mind could produce at the moment.
“Those three ladies came to me yesterday. I didn’t get a room in this hotel so they invited me to spend the night with them, in their room. And do you know where they asked me that? Right there at the reception, right in front of all those people at the front desk, in broad daylight. And now I see them in buibuis I am shocked! Considering what they were wearing yesterday and what they were doing, is this what women in buibuis hide underneath?”
“That’s just the wrong display of the attire. The wrong judgement.”
“So if I wear a kanzu, is there a way that I should behave in it?”
“Yes…that’s an identity to us. The buibui and the kanzu is our identity; and that’s just a misuse of it.”
“So if I want to hold your hand, how should I do it?”
“Don’t do it.”
“But I meant how should I hold it such that it doesn’t offend you?”
“JUST DON’T DO IT.”
So they started questioning the wisdom behind not shaking hands, about clubbing and having fun. And of course, they referred back to their Muslim friends whom they go clubbing with and drink with, whom they hug and have fun with. And one went one to explain that actually, it is Muslims that are best to have such kind of fun with and of course, without the mention that some have dated Muslim ladies.
For a moment I felt intimidated and greatly challenged, because I was one against two while the other two just listened. So they went on, “So you don’t go clubbing, you don’t shake hands, you don’t go dancing…what do you do for fun?! You read?”
I knew that was meant as a sarcasm but I still said “Yes, I read.”
They stared at me and I asked, “why are you staring like I am from another world?”
“Because you are from another world.”
“And are you planning to stay like this till you get married?”
“I pray so.”
The other laughs and says, “you are the kind that will one day break all the rules and maybe even run away from home…”
Well, the conversation didn’t end there but I felt I was being interrogated and intimidated because not only do people want to understand why Muslim ladies don’t act as expected; a jewel covered in a veil, but they also want to understand WHY in capital letters you are different. I will not judge the ladies nor all the others who do the same because in the end of the day, we all trip and lose our way at some point in life instead we should pray for them and including ourselves. Anyway, this isn’t about them or even what happened it is about how impunity has become so common to us and within us to a great extent that we no longer are surprised about it. We see it as normal, especially in Mombasa right?? Well, this SHOULD NOT be normal. It should haunt us and worry us and irritate us and pain us because declaring this normal shows that we gave in to Shaitan.
From my own experience in several places of work, this topic keeps coming again and again. They will try to provoke you and make you feel like you are missing out on the world. That you are not living life to the fullest and they will always compare you to the other Muslim ladies who do everything that you don’t.
They will want to understand what makes the difference and why shouldn’t a lady go for just what she wants. And probably this is one of the biggest challenge of a Muslim lady especially in a work place or in universities. These conversations keep freaking me out because the more they talk about it, the more I am made to feel that at some point I am going to fall short as well. Yes. They totally get into your open door in your mind and poke your deepest weaknesses because they very well know we, the Muslim career ladies, are never really prepared to answer these same questions.
Maybe we really need to think about it deeply; get intelligent answers that will make them understand. One thing though, is that we can’t really blame these people. We can’t. Because we have brought this to ourselves. I can’t blame them for asking all that they asked me at the lunch or the so many times before because even if I were in their place, I’d be curious to know what is the real story about the Muslim ladies in buibuis. I can’t blame them for all the times they asked why some do this and some do that. None of us can really.
However, the commonly asked questions are:
1. Why don’t you shake hands?
2. How comes others do and even hug?
3. Are you a racist?
4. I’ve dated Muslim ladies, gone clubbing with many of them, drink alcohol with them why won’t you?
5. Is it because I am a Christian?
6. Would you accept a Christian if they converted?
7. Why do some wear very tight fitting buibuis?
8. Why are Muslim ladies so pretentious?
9. At work place are you also going to refuse the boss’ hand? Or someone like the president?
10. What is wrong with dating?
The questions go on and on but even without being judgmental, I’m hoping that one day the Muslim ladies that are portraying the wrong impression of Islam would understand how the same non Muslims that they go out with and have ‘fun’ with use them as examples all the time and not just as examples; but as bad examples; portraying Muslim women as very cheap. And this is not just for the ladies but also for our Muslim brothers who do the same actions which are regarded as inappropriate in Islam and still expect to get good wives. How do you drag other people’s sisters to the clubs and ruin their dignity and still want to have a chaste woman?
I’m hoping that they realize how much the Muslim ladies are being talked about like a dirty toilet rug that should be stepped on. I’m hoping that we can be more responsible on how we portray our identity as Muslims.I’m hoping because I realize the challenges out there especially when you are a lady of both principles and dreams. I’m hoping because I fear for my own self. I’m hoping as much as I am praying that God guides us all. Ameen.