You know, dear readers, in my 23 plus years living here in the gulf Ive witnessed and been effected by many an Arab/Muslim tradition/culture/Islamic experience that has left me either happy, unmoved, or totally pissed off and wanting to vent like crazy. Ive been in arguments, debates, lost friends, gained new ones, learned much and wish to learn more...all in the quest to gain more knowledge about these people and their culture...and this religion. (not always two distinct entities mind you).
This particular post is just going to touch on one area in which an issue has been festering much too long. Ive tolerated this for 23 years and I dare say Ive damn near had it. Basic manners people...thats all it takes...basic manners.
Manners are taught to us from the time we are old enough to learn to say please and thank you. Manners are instilled in us so that we can learn to be sociable creatures that can get along in this jungle we call civilization. Most cultures out there, Im assuming, take great stock in manners...we pride ourselves in presenting a well mannered persona to those we know...and even those we dont know but may come into contact with for just a few minutes. Those few minutes can make the difference between leaving that "stranger" with good thoughts about you, your culture, your religion, your parents, your character....whatever...people pretty much make a snap judgement about you in just a few seconds/minutes of being in your presence...so make it count (if it matters to you).
My rant right now is about saying hello...or in this instance...saying salam or salam aleikum when you are faced with another person. We are taught at a very young age that when you approach someone to engage in conversation...or even just passing but want to acknowledge them...you call out "hello" or "salam aleikum". Muslim/Arabs are particularly sensitive about this issue...Greeting family, friends and strangers alike with proper salams is something you learn from the cradle. If you leave the house for an hour and come back...salams are given. If your walking from your house to the car and you see your neighbor, salams are called out. If your standing in the store aisle waiting your turn to check out and you see someone you know...salams are shared...even if the person in front of you is a stranger and happens to look at you, possibly to get your attention that the cart needs moving ...whatever, a quick salam is given and then the problem stated. If you enter a room full of people and neglect to say salam...or in some cases...go from one person to another extending personal salams to each one...you might be considered rude...and it will be remembered.
In other words...proper greetings are given a lot of seriousness and thought in this country/culture/religion. Hadith from the Prophet mention time and again to return salams with similar or even better ones...not to mention just minding our manners and showing respect etc. The Quran is full of information on how to act with proper manners etc...its not like Muslims dont know...do they?
So I seriously dont understand my fellow Muslim sisters (Im speaking directly to sisters here as I dont generally have a problem with men in this regard)...why is it you find it so hard to not only acknowledge my presence when Im standing right in front of you...but even if you do SEE me you quite often dont bother yourselves to extend salams to me?
Now, my friend gives me every excuse in the book as to why these Muslims are being so rude to me...many of them are her friends...sometimes her family...she doesnt want them to look bad in my eyes...but this has been happening to me for 23 years...20 of those while wearing hijab...so I dont understand what excuse there is. Muslims give Muslims salams...simple. Muslims should, in the very least, convey a smile or similar welcoming greeting to a person standing right in front of them...even if the arent Muslim...its called courtesy...manners.
She will tell me that they are shy cause they dont know English...well...hmmm? Last I heard salam aleikum was Arabic not English. Im not asking them to discuss the origins of life with me...just a simple salam to acknowledge they actually see me. I might even accept a simple smile to at least break tension...but no..nothing.
Now let me remind you dear readers that this is not a one or two times thing...this has been happening for over 20 years.
Ive been sitting with women at a table and other women will come....give salams...and not even eye contact with me...I will be in a room full of women...someone enters...extends salams...goes around the room for personal greetings...but for me...nothing. Its happened so many times that I cant assume its nothing but personal...but what have I done to deserve it? I dont know.
People DONT see me!!! Im starting to wonder if Im invisible...seriously.
It happens to be one of the hardest to bear experiences I have had living here...being made to feel invisible...like I dont belong...arent worth being acknowledged.
Like I dont count in their eyes...so why should they bother to greet me.
So my friend tells me...I should be the one to greet them if they dont greet me first. I should be the one to smile and show manners since they apparently arent going to. Ok fine...I can do that...not a big deal...but its rather hard to smile and be friendly with people that just rebuffed you for whatever reason....it comes off fake...not to mention humiliates me that Im forced to make them acknowledge me when clearly they did not want too. She doesnt understand how I feel since she has never stood in my shoes.
Anyhow, Im sick of it. Had enough. I told myself the next time someone deliberately refused to SEE me...to offer salams etc while I was right there in front of them...I would make sure they knew just how rude they were being.
I was with my friend yesterday...and 3 ladies came up to her for a project of some sort. They gave kissy kissy salams Arab style...Im right there...they know Im with her...they interrupted us to greet her...so why no greeting for me too? I dont expect the familiarity of kissy kissy salams Arab style...but still...Hello? Something?
So I loudly told my friend..."I thought Muslims learned to say salam from a young age...where are these ladies manners? How rude of them they didnt give me salams."
She tried to smile and cover up my talk while apparently hoping they didnt understand English enough to know how RUDE I was being...go figure.
Anyhow, anyone out there have this problem...invisibility among Muslims (in my case Muslim women generally)? It doesnt happen ALL the time to me...but enough times to really cause me grief and deeply hurt feelings towards these so called Muslims. I cant find any acceptable excuse for not extending a basic salam to someone...ignore the language barriers...whatever...I can say hello in 7 different languages even if I cant speak anything else in that language. Its an ice breaker to greet someone with a hello...its a sociable concept to acknowledge their presence and include them in your talk when you walk up and face them with one or two others. This is shunning pure and simple...and I dont understand the reason for it.
Before anyone makes the excuse....maybe they dont know your a Muslim. My answer...whats that got to do with anything? Seriously. Dont even use that weak argument with me. Are we to believe a basic salam...or even an English hello...cannot be spoken to a nonMuslim if that is the case? Are Muslims so miserly with their salams and who they give them too? Is it too much of a language barrier to utter "hello" to someone...or even just smile at them if you dont know the language or feel shy?
Seriously people...what the hell is it? Is it me? Am I wearing a sign that says "hostile combatant" on it or something? What?
Im 40 years old. Ive spent 23 years of my life being made to feel invisible for some reason by assumingly ordinary basically good people. I dont know why.
What does it take to be SEEN over here?