Thank you for introducing yourself to me on the school yard when I was new to the community. Had you not, I don’t know if I would have extended a hand.
When I first saw you in the neighborhood, I avoided eye contact. I couldn’t see past the hijab. Your headscarf represented to me a religion of extremes, a culture of anti-Semitism and a stifling of the modern woman. I quickly concluded we were from different worlds and hence, unable to find common ground – until we did.
Our sons’ fast friendship led to ours. Several conversations, a few CrossFit WODs and a shared hookah later, my eyes shifted their focus.
Your commitment to Islam is rooted in a spirituality that transcends all religions.
When asked, “What did you learn from making pilgrimage to Mecca?” you told the young people at the local mosque that in light of the experience, both positive and negative, you returned grateful for the gifts God gives us as free, healthy human beings and with an understanding that He loves us, imperfections and all.
At home, you demonstrate your love for God through modesty, daily prayer, study and diet. But that love is also deeply evident in the thoughtful way in which you respect yourself, interact with others, approach parenting, nurture relationships and care for patients.
Your words and actions remind me we are all connected.
You have an open, accepting and generous heart.
As a Christian woman raising Jewish children married to a man with a strong connection to Israel, I was worried my friendship with someone of Palestinian descent might be tricky. I was wrong.
From day one, you welcomed my family into your home. You taught us about your culture, answered questions, appreciated our traditions, and even joined us for holidays. When my son swallowed a marble, you were at my door despite having worked a full day. When I had jury duty, you spent the afternoon with my boys even though your children had busy schedules of their own. You think of my family whenever you cook or travel and thanks to your charming sweet tooth, my children affectionately refer to you as “The Candy Fairy.”
The goodness that emanates from you inspires me to be better.
You are an advocate for women; a role model for your son and daughters.
Your dress may be traditional, but your ideas are progressive, willful and strong. I was moved when in an effort to understand practices, question inequities and evoke change, you approached Muslim women in the streets of Mecca and asked how they felt wearing a khimar, a long garment covering their head, neck, and shoulders, ran errands in pants to encourage dialogue and questioned local leaders about the sanitation of the city.
Every day I watch you work tirelessly to support your family, use your education to help others, handle conflict and struggle with grace and perseverance, tackle new adventures with uncanny energy, act zany, be fun and simply love life.
You are an exemplary, modern American woman who I feel proud to call friend.
Connection and communication helped me confront prejudice, challenge stereotypes and understand a culture I knew only through media, politics and hearsay. I have renewed hope for future generations when I see our sons playing, laughing and treating each other as brothers.
The hijab is but a frame for the beautiful person you are outside and within.
By Jennifer Reinharz, M.S.Ed