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Posted by: The Anima | July 7, 2008


This convention will probably mark one of the weirdest conventions I’ve ever been to in my life.

Namely because things happened to me at this convention that have never happened to me before in an Islamic environment.

First off, my mother threatened to not let me go if I didn’t shave my beard. The whole debate thing went on for a few minutes again but I had to give in.

Then I left for Hasan’s house early because he wanted to go to Guitar Center and get something. We ended up staying there for like an hour and a half without buying anything and then leaving for Jummah.

The khutba was pretty good. I’d never heard of Sheykh Abdullah Idris before but alhamdulillah he’s a great speaker. I think he was the president of ISNA last year too… but I mean come on, I have an excuse to not know him.

Anyways, we left to go eat at Halal Wok, and then Hasan decided to go back to Guitar Center again so I tagged along. Turns out I end up buying a guitar for myself and Hasan buys nothing.

Then we head back again to ISNA.

Now I was asked to be a back-up moderator for some events on Friday in case they needed me. I get there and ask one of the brothers in charge of the volunteering and he said I wasn’t needed for any of them. I asked him if I could have a name tag for the lectures, but he said they had run out of the plastic things to put them in, so they weren’t really giving them out.

So I was like OK, I mean I look like a volunteer, I’m sure they’ll let me in.

I get to one of the lectures being held with Dr. Muneer Farid and Sheykh Abdullah Idris and I’m stopped by a sister guarding the entrance.

“I need to see your nametag.”
“I don’t really have one.”
“Then I can’t let you in, you have to have a nametag.”

Then for some reason I asked her where registration was, and she pointed in some direction. I walk away and then realize that I’m a volunteer, so maybe she’d let me in if I asked. I went back.

“Um.. I’m a volunteer.”
“Do you have a nametag?”
“Uh… they never gave me one.”
“So how am I supposed to know if you’re a volunteer or not?”
“Hm… I mean you could go ask one of the people heading up volunteering.”

Then she finally gave up and was like, ok fine just go in. Haha.

So I’m not really going to talk much about the lectures, but let me just say that I <3 Dr. Muneer Farid.

Nothing else happened on Friday, went back home and dropped Faizan off. Tried to set up the new guitar, broke a string because I’d never worked with that specific type of model of it, and went to sleep.

Now I had work on Saturday from 11-8 PM, but I was considering skipping because of the fact that I hadn’t seen some people in a really long time, and plus it was a convention with some interesting speakers.

I woke up the next morning and called in sick for work.

I went to get Faizan, then drove to ISNA. Now Saturday was much better than Friday, and also much more awkward, for various reasons.

We had really wanted to go to the gender relations lecture and the strengthening marriage one, but we came a bit late so we decided to just wait until the next lectures.

Then we both had to stay at the AlMaghrib booth for 2 hours. Wasn’t too bad, got to see some people I hadn’t seen since school ended.

Then came the best part of the entire convention, the MSA/MYNA group discussions.

They had both brothers and sisters all sit in a circle with chairs across from each other, and they discussed different sensitive topics, such as music, hijab, treatment of the other gender, etc.

The first one we went into was hijab for women. And it just so happened Rizwan Ali decided to ask me what I thought of hijab and if it should be mandatory or not.

I’m not a very good speaker in front of crowds or audiences, which is why I write a lot more, so I didn’t get to say all that I wanted.

I just said that in this time period, with the world as it is right now, I really think women should wear hijab because it’s the most important thing to guard your modesty than anything else. I could have gone on for like 5 minutes if I had been prepared but he just randomly fired away and asked me straight up.

Then there was a small debate between some people who thought it was mandatory and some who didn’t.

Then the topic changed to music.

The sad part of it was though, that they didn’t ask any of the brothers for their opinons on music. I think it’s because the hostess knew we weren’t going to believe music was halal in any sort of way, so she didn’t want to like break havoc on the entire environment. Almost every sister she asked said that music was allowed in few aspects and unlawful in many others.

I wish they had asked me because I had a freaking essay ready in my mind. Unfortunately though they ran out of time and it was time to switch to the other discussion.

This one was called “Gender Relations.”

They tried to get things started off by asked us if we had any questions. Now obviously, if you have a wall of brothers directly across a wall of sisters, it’s going to be really awkward if anyone says anything.

Coming from UH as well, I have this mentality in my head that it’s just really weird talking to sisters who wear the hijab. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not, because I don’t know where I’m supposed to draw the line. You can read more about that in my last post.

One more thing I remember is that I didn’t speak once that entire discussion.

I think one of the sisters even tried to get me to answer her when she was asking a question. Her question went something like, “OK, if you’re out at night, and you see a group of girls with a whole bunch of guys surrounding them and talking to them, what would you think of those girls?.”

But the weird thing about it was, she was looking directly at me when she asked the question. At first I wasn’t sure if she was just asking me, so I looked down for a few seconds to let her make eye contact with someone else. I looked up again, and she hadn’t changed. Even after she finished the question she was looking at me like she was expecting some answer. There was an awkward silence until Mahmood said something, thank God.

Even after all of that I didn’t respond with anything. I felt so uncomfortable in a sense, but also kind of relaxed. I guess because it was just testing my whole awkward mentality, that’s all.

Then they asked a few more questions, most of them having nothing to do with gender relations but rather cultural problems, such as why women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Anyways, we left that as well and just ended up sitting on one of the couches.

Me and Faizan were just talking amongst ourselves for 10-15 minutes until some brother came up to us. Now I noticed this brother came from the place they were holding the matrimonial session so I had a weird feeling in the back of my head.

He asked us how we were and everything and then finally came out with it.

“I know this is going to be coming from like, left field and I hope you guys don’t feel weirded out or anything but… are one of you guys in the marriage sort-of age group?”

I froze, mentally of course. Was this actually happening?

I looked at Faizan slightly and Faizan had this look on his face like, I’m not going to say anything to this guy.

So I felt I had to talk to him to try and make things as less awkward as possible.

“Well, not really, I’m only 19 so I have about 2-3 more years to go, plus I don’t really have a permanent job or anything so, yeah.”

He understood and then just started talking about how he was trying to find some brothers for his sisters-in-law. I told him conventions were probably his best bet so just keep trying.

He thanked us and gave us salaams. I looked over at Faizan and just burst out laughing. I kept yelling at Faizan and asking him why he didn’t say anything. He’d be much more qualified than me to say anything, but I know Faizan didn’t want a part of any of it.

Then, 5 minutes later, I’m just sitting there as usual and talking to Faizan, when Faizan says “Wait.”

I stop talking and Faizan gets up. “Get out of here.” “What?”
“Come on we have to go.”
“Wait why?”
“Look over there.”
“Oh… WOW.”

It turns out the guy came back with like 2 or 3 sisters walking next to him in our direction. I don’t know what they wanted, I already told the guy I was nowhere near ready.

Me and Faizan got up and walked so fast to the other side of the Galleria to the Ballroom. Crossing the “River of Fitnah” as I called it.

But then I told Faizan we should have stayed. It would have been an interesting experience to say the least. Then after that something else crazy happened.

We went up to the 2nd floor to see the college fair booths and to get some food. I grabbed a kabob roll from the volunteer table and sat down at the UH booth with Adeel and Hani, who was sitting behind the poster eating as well.

2 desi girls come up to the UH booth and start looking at it, playing with the pencils, and pointing at different pictures. Then they started asking us questions.

“So why should we come to the UH MSA?”

I gave them some random reasons and said it was a great MSA. They just nodded and were talking amongst each other.

“We’re planning on going to UH anyways.”
“Oh that’s good.”

“Hey, do you wanna go shopping with us?”


LOL. Let’s go back in slow motion as to what happens in this moment.

As soon as one of the girls says that, my mind goes blank. I notice from the right side of my eye that Hani, in mid-bite of his kabob roll, has stopped chewing and a small smile has come on his face.

At this point I start laughing out of the sheer randomness and awkwardness of the situation.

Then Adeel just flat out says “No,” in a serious/laughing tone.

The girls just say “OK,” and then walk away, leaving me, Adeel, and Hani with a story to tell.

Man, ISNA was crazy.

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