Sometimes I wonder if the loneliness of being a revert will ever go away. It isn’t simply the absence of ‘flesh and blood’ that share my vision of the hereafter that pains me, it’s the absence of belonging. Nomenclature aside, my values were developed in the home I grew up in. Although disagreements arise from the details, to my parents and brothers I am always welcome. It’s my global wanderings that have got me wondering.
Where do I fit in?
My “American-ness” is questioned on the daily, sometimes for stupid reasons. A semi-inflammatory example perhaps; I don’t drink beer, eat pork hot dogs, and stomp all over people on Black Friday, which I never did as a non-Muslim either (well perhaps a LITTLE stomping on Black Friday). Don a headscarf and people interpret actions differently. By the time we reach the “what do you mean you don’t date?” conversation and my fellow Americans have usually written me off as a joyless weirdo. Or brainwashed ninny. Or both. The good news is Americans and other Westerners are usually quite polite and shy about questioning my life choices.
On the other hand, my “Muslim-ness” is constantly called into questioned by the conservative Saudi society in which I live. Because I wear bright colors and don’t cover my face, some question the validity of my hijab. My piercings and love of skulls also causes discomfort and garners quite a bit of attention. A common criticism self-proclaimed ‘Salafis’ throw in my direction is that I shouldn’t wear bright colors, my sparkly nose ring, or a smile. Which essentially means, don’t do anything that comes naturally to me.
The reasoning provided by my critics is that hijab is designed to remove women from view and to allow us to fade into the background. And I always argue about it, because I don’t think hijab makes sense as a religious requirement unless women are out and about in the world. Why would we receive a verse about concealing our bodies from others, if we were to never be in the line of vision? Otherwise wouldn’t “women stay inside your homes” be easier and less open for interpretation?
I pose this question because I think my loneliness has to do with the fact that being an American Muslim living in Saudi — kindred spirits are far and few in between. One thing thing that has come from this experience is that I’m making a commitment to myself not to fake it. I could spend my entire life oscillating between two extremes to please everyone else, but what good would that do?
I used to let the loneliness drive me to seek friendships that were unfulfilling at best and soul-sucking at worst. I just cant do it anymore. I will just have to keep seeking out those other weirdos with lonely souls like mine. My energy is a precious gift and I don’t intend to waste it.