Colorado Middle School trip to Mosque gets My Seal of Approval

Maybe I’m jumping on this a little too quickly, but I think that this is 100% worth talking about as soon as possible.

Yesterday, on January 13th, a middle school in the Douglas County School District sent a class of students studying world religions to a mosque in the area to learn about Islamic tradition. Part of the mandatory dress code for the trip was that females had to wear a headscarf, in keeping with the traditions of the culture. Naturally, some people didn’t like this, and it resulted in a community-wide aneurysm. Most parents had four things to say about this:

  1. The school district is forcing students to abide to sharia law, which should not be tolerated in a public school in America.
  2. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack last week, this trip should have been cancelled.
  3. It is a travesty that the school district appears to ignore Christianity in other school activities, and
  4. Feminists should be outraged by this decision for the young women to wear hijabs.

 

I don’t agree with how this event has been reported. Mostly because (and I say this being very aware of my political bias) one of the first articles I read was from the Tea Party News Network, and I haven’t heard of them being entirely moderate with their politics as of late. There are other reports as well that are equally as unhappy about the proceedings, and make it very clear to their online audience.

A picture of students at the mosque in Colorado.

 

So let me be clear, in response.

Religious tolerance is not a bad thing. This trip could not have better timing, in my opinion. If the school district had decided to cancel the trip to the mosque in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack that occurred last week, it would have perpetuated the misconception that Islam is an inherently dangerous religion. Instead, this school trip introduces the reality of the world to its students: Islamic terrorists are the minority of practicing Muslims in the world, and the traditions of Islam are unique and representative of a culture that is beautiful and peaceful. We cannot continue living in a country paralyzed by the foreign. Do you remember World War II, when Japanese Americans were placed into internment camps because they were Japanese? We may not have done that to Islamic traditions in such a tangible way, but Anti-Muslim sentiments are just as good at creating division within American society. Educating America’s youth is a brilliant step in the right direction.

Wearing a headscarf in a mosque is no different from wearing a modest dress to a Conservative Jewish synagogue (which I have done on multiple occasions).  Participating in communion at a Christian service without being a baptized believer is a pretty not okay thing to do, either. There are rules in each of these religions, and as a guest in their sacred place, it is our responsibility to follow them. If you can’t follow the rules, then you get in trouble, as you would in any other social situation that demands an ounce of social awareness and respect.

As for the absence of Christianity in the school curriculum? According to a report from the PewResearch Religion & Public Life Project, 78.4% of American adults are Christian in some way, shape or form. This doesn’t mean that everyone practices on a regular basis, or that every person is an expert at their religion. But it does mean that the majority of the adult American population already has some background in Christianity. Taking the time to talk to children about other religions that they may not experience at home or in their communities is crucial to creating an informed and respectful society. I can respect the frustration that the adult community may have felt, but I fail to see the harm in focusing on other religions as a means to understand their importance in a larger social context.

Speaking as a feminist, I do not feel threatened by this mandatory dress code at all. This is cultural appreciation, not a brainwashing exercise designed to rewire the brains of the young women attending the mosque.  In fact, in other parts of the world, the hijab is being used as a symbol for the Muslim feminist movement. I think that it is about time that everyone, including feminists, should sit and try to understand these traditions from the perspective of someone who lives it everyday, and not just apply our moral code and standards to their lives. It can be enlightening, entertaining, and an opportunity to  connect to women and their struggles around the world.

So, she decided to have fun with it, and started tweeting out some very sassy Snapchats.

Yasmeen, 18, posts selfies online to chronicle her life as a hijabi in America.

 

Finding a Purpose, or “Does the name still fit?”

So.

Y’all ready for this?

I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads with this blog and also the rest of my life. This really shouldn’t come as a shock to me, since  a) I decided to pursue medical school after college, b) I started this year as a resident assistant, or RA, at school, and c) I managed to become so busy that even Netflix lost its appeal as a procrastinative crutch in my life. Perhaps crossroads is the wrong word — maybe “four-way-intersection-with-two-lanes-of traffic-in-every-direction” is a more apt (albeit exhausting) phrase. I think it’s a more accurate representation of the cognitive racquetball game I’ve played against myself for these past few months, anyway.

My life described by automobile.

 

The halting progress that I have made on this blog since I completed my Keystone project is an excellent example of what I feel as an overwhelming lack of purpose in my life. Writing in this medium helped me contribute to the big picture of public opinion in American society, but I reached a point rather recently that made me question how I fit into the public opinion in real time. Originally, this blog was designed to point out underlying social and cultural norms that impact and are influenced by women. It was once a space that exposed the design flaws in society that most people take for granted and accept as fact. I have not lost that interest in studying society and the people that help shape the public consciousness, but I feel that in many ways, my past focus has become somewhat obsolete.

This is primarily due to the fact that, at least in my life, women’s issues are becoming far more prominent and important in the news than they have been in a long time. It seems that every day I see a news article that immediately receives coverage and opinions from big names and bigger personalities scattered across the internet. Most of the time, I can’t keep up with the news — every time I think that there is something worth writing about, it appears that approximately 90 people have already done so, whether it is as a video or an opinions page or a Buzzfeed article. (That’s hallowed ground, right there — to see a news story you saw briefly become permanently fixed in the annals of a Buzzfeed article.) It’s like the internet has a personal vendetta against my desire to say something.

That is a borderline paranoia of mine, and it isn’t true. The only thing preventing me from writing about what I see is my perceived lack of new ideas or thoughts on a subject. That, and the fact that there is a lot on my plate already. However, I have also realized that part of what is making me feel so unproductive and purposeless is that I am falling prey to my own inertia. I’m not exactly in motion with anything at the moment, and it is easier to stay that way than to pick myself up and get things done ASAP. This inertia is also bound to pitch me off the deep end like a homemade slingshot in the hands of a sadistic 7 year old, if I allow it to happen. And that doesn’t sound like very much fun for anyone except said hypothetical kid.

I am going to  make some changes to the site and see what I can do to remodel it to what I want it to be: a source of information and commentary on news and subjects that I find relevant to everyone, women most especially.  The woman’s image in society won’t be abandoned as subject matter, but new areas of information will be provided as well. It’s like unhemming a pair of pants once you’ve hit your first growth spurt — it’s going to look odd and feel weird at first, but eventually you realize that it works even better than before.

To new pants!