I hesitated before making a commitment to this wonderful project of Religion News Spokane because of two things.
First is the language; I honestly do not have much experience writing fluent English, as I was not able to speak English before 2006. Most of my thoughts are made in Arabic or French. In fact, the main reason I came to the U.S. was to learn English as my skills in this beautiful language did not allow me to pass an English test when I was a student in France. With that being said, please forgive me if I don't seem to be linguistically correct sometimes. The second reason it took me sometime to decide to join Religion News Spokane is the fact that I was never engaged in theological discussions even though I was born a Muslim to a Muslim family that is conservative to a certain degree; so Islam has always been natural to me in a society where most people take their common religion very seriously. I never had to answer questions from people who are curious to know why I pray five times a day or why I fast the entire month of Ramadan.
When I moved to France (from Morocco) I shifted a little bit from being a “regular” Muslim to a more casual one, even though my faith had always been part of who I was; and continue to be. When I moved to France the majority of my identity became secular. My life in France took me away from practicing my religion properly. I can't really explain why except that perhaps I was too busy with my engineering studies and my work to afford a truly Islamic lifestyle. Maybe I somehow adopted a French secular lifestyle or maybe as a young adult on my own I sought out independence. Even though I was always surrounded by friends from my home country of Morocco, I wanted to partake in a new culture. Coming to the U.S. and specifically to Coeur D'Alene isolated me even more. My family was farther than ever before; my friends were scattered across the globe. The realization that home was more than a cheap Euro flight away became apparent. Fortunately, when my husband came home after work in the evenings, my loneliness was not as arduous. When I started working, my life started to be less boring. I found myself engaged in a very busy lifestyle, maybe it didn't seem so to others, but at least for me it was the case as I was still a student.
The good thing is that it was an opportunity for me to get out of my house and interact with people. But I always felt that something was missing. It is not easy to explain, I had everything a normal person would require to be happy, a great job, a heavenly place to live in, etc. My husband started to look for a mosque in the area and found that the construction of Spokane's first mosque had just finished. This was great news for me, I never thought there might be Muslims in this part of the world. So, I started attending the Spokane Islamic Center and it became very special to me, it allowed me to revive my faith and awaken a part of me that was hibernating and causing me a lot of pain. Going to the mosque also allowed me to meet with many people from a vast range of races all united by their faith and their life in the U.S. They are all part of the community of Spokane as staying at home mothers, doctors, engineers, students, or unemployed. Although they all belong to this community, families lead different lives and deal with different issues from one another. But all the families and individuals are facing one common problem and that is the struggle to balance their religion and their American life in a post 9/11 world. It is undeniable that the event of Sept. 11 was a devastating tragedy (in which Muslims also lost their lives), but the truth is that it has been more harmful to Muslims nationwide because since that day, many Muslims are suffering from the aftermath – from Iraq to Afghanistan, from France to United States. Every time I see a bumper sticker telling me to never forget 9/11, I ask myself how could I? Muslims around the world are barcoded with it.
The consequences of this tragedy erased the entire history of Islam, even though one of every four people on this planet is a Muslim, many people did not know anything about Islam until that sad day. Extremism of all types and ideologies is a dangerous phenomenon to any nation, but only after Sept. 11 the world began believing that Muslims are all extremists. Islam is now being watched and is found guilty of preaching violence, oppressing women and, worst of all, spreading the message by the sword. As a Muslim living in a country with others who hold many other beliefs I see myself required to talk and share what Islam is really about. It is my duty to clean the garbage that has been dumped on me, us and our faith. Stay tuned. – Hanane