A Change of Clothes

This week at work we have been celebrating reading week. We have done D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read), had a book fair, and made plans for a parade. The Parade was a chance for students to dress as characters from the book and show other classes.

Our book was “How do dinosaurs say good night?” By Jane Yolen. We had 3 characters; Mom, Dad, and the Dinosaurs. I teach in a boys only class, in Kuwait, so they could dress and Dad or a dinosaur. I was to dress as mom because no one else could. We talked about how Dad would wear a dishdasha because that is what dads wear. Mom would wear an abaya and hijab scarf because that is what most mothers here wear. So I agreed that I would wear my traditional clothes to school.

This interesting part comes from the reactions of other people. From the moment I stepped on the bus to go to school to the moment I got off the elevator at my apartment there were questions and comments. Depending on who was making the comments changed the tone.

When I started my day one of the ladies on the bus asked why I was dressed as I was. I explained that I was dressed as Mom for the reading week celebration. She responded that she was a mom but would not wear an abaya. The thing is she is an American mom, it’s not in her culture. Her view of the abaya is different than that of Middle Eastern people. She wanted to know why I would even consider buying or owning an abaya.

That idea really struck me. I lived in Japan and bought a kimono that I occasionally wore when I dressed up, especially for something like fireworks or flower viewing. No one has ever thought that was strange or questioned me. I own sari and salwar kameez from when I participated in my friend Indian wedding. There were no questions when I wore them. When I buy and wear an abaya I am looked at differently because of what the abaya represents to so many people.

I had other various reactions from Western (non-Muslim) co-workers both positive and negative, but mostly neutral to negative. I had a few approach with questions. It shouldn’t surprise me but it does that people live here and don’t try to learn about and understand the culture.

In Islam both men and women cover their heads as a way of remaining in a state of spiritual readiness and receptiveness. Both men and women dress conservatively as a show of faith. The difference is women cover their neck and hair also to avoid becoming a temptation. Women cover up so they are not seen as objects of beauty or lust and are instead seen as a person with intelligence, value, and morale character.

When I arrived at school my co-workers from various Muslim countries had very different and positive reactions. They asked why I had dressed as I did and I explained again that I was dressing in my students vision of Mom. I did it to show respect to the culture and beliefs of my students. I was told how beautiful I looked dressed as I did, I was told how nice it was to see someone showing respect to their beliefs. I was even thanked by one co-worker for showing that you do not have to be part of a culture or religion to understand and respect it.

That struck me because of everything that is going on in the world right now. We need to understand that good people bring good things to life and religion. Bad, violent people bring that to life and religion. We need to be better and stronger then the people who hope to hurt us. Paris was attacked and many people were killed and injured. In retaliation France bombed Syria killing 3x more innocent civilians than died in Paris. People set a Mosque on fire in Canada and they attacked a mother picking up her children from school.

This is what ISIS wants. When you create fear and instability for people in a place where they are supposed to be safe you are creating more hate and fear. You are teaching those innocent people they will not be welcomed anywhere. You are driving many of them back to groups like ISIS so they have a place to belong.

We do not attack Christian mothers because the KKK attacks people. We do not burn churches because the Westboro Baptist Church holds a protest at a funeral. I treat these people as extremists and we deal with them as extremist. There are between 1.5-2.1 billion Muslims in the world, there are about 20,000-30,000 people fighting for ISIS, even is we use 1.5billion and 30,000 that is 0.00002% of Muslims belong to ISIS. Yet we do not want refugees to cross our boarders in fear they bring death.

In America they say they do not want Syrian Refugees because it would be to easy for them to get a gun. If that is the problem then fix it with stricter gun control. After all it is not just refugees that have easy access to guns, it is also men and women who are angry with the world and want to make others feel their pain and walk into elementary schools, universities, shopping malls, and movie theatres and open fire taking as many people as they can with them.

We need to love and support each other. We need to realize that religion and skin colour do not make people violent or peaceful. What is inside a person is violent or peaceful and they take that into their lives and into their religion. If we hate each other ISIS wins and we all lose. If we hate each other we will be fighting this war for decades to come and more and more government funds will be diverted from programs in need (like education and health care) to funding the war on terror.