This is the type of thing that happens everyday. Well, maybe not every day but quite often. So I’m sitting in the Masjid with my sister watching our kids play and Arab woman enters. She asks a few questions concerning when the program will begin and I answer her. This is the first time I am seeing her. I neither know her name nor exactly where she is from. All I can tell about her is that english is not her first language and she has features of an Arab. She sits down across the room as the kids play. She looks at me and asks me if I am American. I answer her and then ask her if she is new to the community and her name. She answers and then asks my name. I say “Aneesah” and then surprisingly she says “Oh you have an Arabic name”. I let her know I am aware of this and she asks if I have an “American name”. I’m not sure exactly what an “American name” is but I can assume its not arabic. So I tell her “no” and that my parents gave me this name. At this point her astonishment seems to deepen and I prepare myself for the questions to come because I know which questions will follow. “You were born Muslim? Your parents are Muslim?” “Yes, yes” I answer initially wondering why the latter question was asked after I’d answered yes to the former. The only excuse I could come up with is that it is an Islamic belief that all humans are born Muslim (one who submits to the Oneness of God). She then tells me she thought I had converted to Islam. I smile and say “many people think so but I was born Muslim”. I excuse myself with the intentions of later finishing the conversation.
My thoughts are this: When moving to a foreign land maybe its best to learn a little about the history especially as it pertains to Islam. The extent of the United States is not Tourist sites and converts. There are indeed American Muslims who have generations of Islam in their families. Although America is not a Muslim nation, I couldn’t see myself traveling to a “Muslim” country and assuming all Christians are converts. In these situations it’s better to not assume because at some point it may become offensive. Especially if one is constantly speaking to you as though you know nothing about Islam and you need to be “taught” something. I will admit I don’t know everything about Islam as I have not studied the religion in depth but I am aware of the basics. So if I am meeting you for the first time and its known I have a daughter from a previous marriage, don’t assume my ex was not Muslim because I was born Muslim and I am aware of the rulings concerning marriage. The bottom line is this: we are all different here in the U.S. Some of us are reverts, but there are many of us who are born Muslim. And Yes to Muslim parents.