Apparently, I have been a practicing Muslim. The one who prays their 5-time prayers, who covers her head and try to dress modestly, who doesn’t shake hands with men other than her closest relatives, who doesn’t eat pork, who doesn’t eat meat of any animal not slaughtered according to Islamic laws, who doesn’t drink and who doesn’t attend any gathering where alcohol is served.
Please please don’t think that a practising Muslim is the one who ONLY has the qualities mentioned above. I’ve mentioned ONLY the things that differentiate a Muslim from others in general, because this article is not meant to discuss all beliefs, practices, moral values required to be a Muslim
Anyway, so as a Muslim, of course I’m asked if I have faced any discrimination at work or elsewhere. So, I decided to write my experience of 2.5 years as a practicing female Muslim professional. This is only MY experience. I’m only sharing what I’ve seen and situation in general, could be totally the opposite. So, please don’t base your judgment on this post only.
In summer of 2012, I had applied to a company that builds software for state workforce agencies. Cleared a screening test and got called for an interview. The person who came first was my to-be manager. The first thing that I had to do was apologize, bow a little and tell him nicely that I don’t shake hands with men. 3 people were going to interview. Then came the next guy who was a Software Architect, this time it was a little more awkward because I bowed a lil and said I’m sorry but when I looked up, he still had his hand extended. It was so embarrassing, probably he didn’t understand or heard me. I had to say that again explicitly that I don’t shake hands with men. But, to this day, I really appreciate that guy for not letting that initial awkwardness get in the way of the actual interview. Thank God the 3rd guy, Senior Software Engineer, was probably told about it already and I took a sigh of relief!
I was very satisfied with how the interview went with respect to the questions asked. And, with the way they accepted my reservation about hand shakes, and carried on the interview, I had no doubt that they would reject me just for not shaking hands. And, Alhamdolillah, I did get that job.
I related this interview incident just so that if somebody fears that they may be rejected just for not shaking hands with the interviewer, then don’t fear, it doesn’t happen ALWAYS. And, if Allah wills, you will get the job. I know it’s not as easy when somebody’s desperate for a job. But do put the trust in Allah and see how it goes.
First Team Meeting Awkwardness
Okay, so I got that job and on my first day at work, there was a meeting of all Software Engineers, the regular weekly team meeting. There were about 10 engineers. So, when my manager introduced me, one of the engineers sitting in the front, extended his hand, and of course, I had to say I’m so sorry I don’t shake hands with men. And, that guy said, oh don’t worry, I have worked in Saudi Arabia and I understand that. And then my manager told me that you don’t have to be sorry and told the team so nobody does it. That ended well.
Asking Manager for Reserving a Meeting Room for Prayers
When at that new place, I asked my manager if I can reserve a meeting room for 15 minutes or so for noon prayers. He not only said yes to that but also told me that “if all meeting rooms are busy, you can message me and pray in my room while I go grab snack or something”. Even though, I never had to ask him to pray in his room but that small gesture meant a lot to me. And, I won’t forget the kindness.
Meeting with the Vice President
This was probably one of the worst ones in terms of the level of awkwardness, even though only 5-6 people were there, but that included the COO, and other top managers. And VP was going to present, so he was standing and he was meeting me for the first time, so, he introduced himself and extended his hand for handshake. That was the most awkward handshake offer that I had to refuse. Felt weird for days, but that gave me the confidence to face even weirder situations.
I wore a black knee length loose coat everyday with a different head covering and no one ever had a problem with that. I remember tutoring Math at a center run by an Indian and after a month or so, I was politely asked if I could wear something other than that black coat. So, nobody interfering with my dress code for 2.5 years was very important to me.
Discrimination, In General
0% discrimination if you ask me. Thankfully I have not experienced any discrimination ever because of being a Muslim. I have to admit, I worked with some very kind people. May everybody find such great colleagues to work with, so you look forward to work everyday.
Lately, I have been hearing about Whole Foods a lot. A little mention here and there in reviews/blogs etc. I wanted to go to Whole Foods, but never really made it because it was 20 mins drive from home and usually not in our way. Until recently, it opened near our area.
I was expecting high prices, organic products and some vegan stuff.
Yes, most things were priced higher than your regular grocery store. But I think if you compare them with the prices of other organic products in the regular grocery stores, you won’t find much difference.
There were two things that I liked the most about Whole Foods:
1. There were tens of items that I could buy as little or as much as i wanted. For e.g., Flours, rice, nuts, spices and a lot of other things. You just get as much you need, it could be a pinch or a pound. I just got shredded coconut.
2. Stuff was very very well-labeled compared to what I’ve seen elsewhere. Most products I touched had “Non-GMO certified” stamp right on the front. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know exactly what GMO was. But, now I know. Also, most things if they were vegan had Vegan explicitly mentioned. I have seen Gluten-free stuff clearly labeled at other places too, but very few products explicitly mention Vegan and Vegetarian. Also, other labels too like Kosher, No-MSG, All-Natural ingredients and stuff like that.
I had almost stopped buying crackers and chips; not just because of health concerns but also because if you see Lays’ list of no-pork snacks, you would realize that it’s not very big. And, it was surprising that just simple flavored corn snacks were not part of that list. That made me realize that they did give the no-pork list probably because of some people’s religious restrictions. But similarly there could be other vegetarian-looking snacks that may contain animal ingredients other than pork. That was one eye-opener after which I tried avoiding these kinda snacks as much as I could. I started buying pop chips as they are one very nice brand, but I’m one of those people who get tired of snacks and need change frequently.
Anywayy, I told this whole story just to mention that I did buy a couple of snacks from Whole Foods as they were very well labeled that they’re vegetarian.
I also bough frozen pizza that I had also stopped buying from other grocery stores because they didn’t mention if their cheese was vegetarian friendly. Most cheese stuff at Whole Foods if they used microbial/vegetable rennet in cheese, they mentioned it. So, I bought a frozen spinach pizza that had mozzarella cheese which was not made with animal enzymes.
All these dietary restrictions that I had put on myself of avoiding animal products actually made me adopt healthier and home-made alternatives. I’m not very health-conscious but I think I have a right to know what I’m eating and I really appreciate Whole Foods in making sure people know what is in their food!
I was gonna write about things i’m proud of, but who are we to be “proud” of anything. nothing in the world is ours and no accomplishment is actually ours. Whatever we achieve is through His blessing. So, here are few of the countless things that I was thinking of lately:
- I’m grateful that even though, we’re a young couple, we own a place to live. There’s mortgage on our property but Alhamdolillah we’re able to pay it with ease. The view from our windows is beautiful, if not breath-taking.
- I’m grateful that for 2 years, I did a job that was high paying than a lot of my family members who have been living here in the US since forever. It’s not something to boast about, ’cause things are not always in your hand. When you’re choosing a career after high school, you’ve no idea what the job market will be like in 4 years. And your field of interest may not be high-paying even though you’re great at what you do. So, i don’t think i can thank God enough for my job, specially considering I did my education from my own country, and landed a great job relatively easy in the US. Currently, I’m taking a break.
- I am married for 5 years and happily so. We don’t have kids yet and happily so. We’re now planning to have kids and happily so. May Allah bless us with kids that are able to serve in His way, insha’Allah.
- Our marriage hasn’t been a fairy tale. But it has been working out good.
- One of the things that I’m proud of is that we still don’t have a tablet in our home. We upgraded to smart phones in 2012. And have two laptops. But, no tablet. Don’t think we need it. After thinking for a long long time, I’ve finally bought the most basic e-reader. Hope that doesn’t count as tablet. Does it?
- It has almost been 3 months since I de-activated facebook. Yes, there have been times when I logged in and de-activated again. But the account has yet to see a whole day of activation. So, whatever. This is an achievement. I didn’t think I would be able to do it. And, even though, I’ve re-activated so many times but I’ve always de-activated right after. And that had helped in controlling the time on facebook A LOT!
- I’ve completed 2 books on my e-reader. One of them very long! Don’t know after how long have i finished a book. I feel great about that.
- My stack overflow points are 550+. Never thought I would be able to earn anything!
.. More to come later.
Okay, so I don’t usually browse products in Walmart’s mobile app, as it isn’t a lot of fun. But, it does come in handy. As they have the feature of searching a product by scanning a bar code (just like Amazon).
However, my favorite feature of the app is the eReceipts and Savings Catcher. How it works is, you can just scan the QR code on the receipt and you now have an eReceipt. No need to keep saving the receipts anymore to return stuff. Added bonus is that Walmart looks for advertised deals within the area for that week, and give you money back if something you bought was priced lower somewhere else. Win-win situation for you!
The savings aren’t huge. In about 15 receipts, I’ve only got $1.48 back. But, to me what’s more important is I now have electronic record of the things I’ve bought. So if I need to look back, it’s far easier.
So, I de-activated my facebook/twitter accounts so i can concentrate better on the work that I’m doing. It’s work with little to no accountability and I’m working from home. Although, no one is home for a good 9 hours, I still felt very distracted and little hiccups in the work would have me lose all concentration and in case, i’m waiting for download/build, I completely get lost in browsing.
Now that the biggest distractions are gone, my sub-conscious is finding other distractions. I will open YouTube for no reason. Waste time watching one video after the other. I was a very infrequent YT user, but in the absence of other distractions, where do i go?
I have decided that whenever I encounter the “wait” time. I will come here. Write something. Since I’ve never been good at writing, and don’t enjoy it. I will be in the “can’t wait to go back to work” situation. HOPEFULLY.
I recently deactivated some accounts. I would never admit it to ANYONE, and surely nobody knows (Thank God, God is a secret-keeper) that all I used to do on those forums was stalking! Duh, what else are they made for?
I was never one of those people who would share their personal photos, or their achievements or their love for their friends and family, so what am I supposed to do over there?
It’s not that I wouldn’t like to share my achievements, but you know what, I never wanted to make anybody jealous. And if you don’t already know, there’s something called evil-eye. Whether you believe in it or not, I just don’t want to be the target.
I live in North America, and most of my friends are from sub-continent who are living in sub-continent. Even sharing photos of beautiful views here would make them jealous(is there a milder term for jealous? because, that may not make them really jealous but you know, somewhere along those terms). So, I didnt want to do that too.
As for sharing thoughts, unless I had something really good to say, I would avoid saying it. You lose the importance of your words when you utter a lot of them. Also, you get judged more often. Also, there are more chances of you saying something wrong. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything but think before you speak. Since, it’s easier to think before I write, I tend to make more mistakes while speaking.
Okay, so I was just there checking it a thousand times a day for what?? Once in a while, I will benefit from something great that somebody else shared. But other than that. I just wasted time.
As they say, time is money. I was wasting money. Oh, sh!t.
Don’t know if I would able to do anything big with the saved time. But let’s hope I make some good use of it. The first good thing that came out of de-activation is the first proper blog post. Not that anybody’s interested. But, who cares? Wait, who doesn’t?
Whatever, see ya later.