وَإِذَا حُيِّيْتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّواْ بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيبًا
4:86 But when you are greeted with a greeting [of peace], answer with an even better greeting, or [at least] with the like thereof. Verily, God keeps count indeed of all things.
I’ve had the experience of traveling abroad, living in Arab societies, and staying in Arab homes both abroad and in America. I am particularly fond of three families that played important roles in the formation of the community that grew from masjid an-noor to the MCA. The Arab Americans I came to know in the Bay Area are some of the most hospitable and honorable people I know. Over the years I developed friendships and bonds with Arab, Black American, African, South Asian, Indonesian, Pacific Island, Eastern European, Vietnamese, Chinese, Latino/Chicano, and White American Muslim women with the start of a simple greeting. That greeting is the universal greeting that Muslims exchange by saying, “Salaam alaikum!” (Peace be upon you) and the return, “Wa ‘alaikum salaam” (And upon you be Peace).
As a religious minority in America, everyone I know who wears hijab, including myself, gets excited when someone greets them with respect and honor. It especially means a lot in this society where you get a lot of Americans cutting their eyes, looking at you with pity or apprehension because your outer garments displays your religion. Some ethnic groups are more enthusiastic about their salaams, while other times it is really about the fervor of an individual Muslim.
Arabs are known for elaborate and long personal greetings and farewells. They are also very polite in their speech, with honorific terms denoting class and gender. In Muslim societies, people don’t salaam everybody they encounter on the street. If they did, you wouldn’t get anywhere. Maybe it is possible in the village, but in large cities, you go about your business and only give greetings in personal encounters. But often, a person arriving into a small store, shop, class, or gathering will give salaams, and everyone returns it. Everyone returns it because they have at least the requisite knowledge that the return of the greeting is their religious duty.
In Philadelphia, and especially in the area where I live there are a lot of Muslims. Black American Muslim men occasionally greet me on the street. Muslim men don’t always greet each other and vice versa because it may seem inappropriate to talk to the opposite gender. But that problem doesn’t exist whenever I see Black American Muslim women, where they often give me warm enthusiastic salaams. The White American Muslim women I encounter within stores will break a small and offer salaams. I’ve seen women from South East Asia whose faces have brightened with wide smiles as gave me the universal greetings of peace. But there is a big problem with Muslim greetings in one high profile group, immigrant Arab women who happen to wear hijab. Perhaps it is a Philadelphia thing, but I have heard of similar things in places like Chicago and Detroit. I’d further this by saying that the problem is not with Arab men. I may be wrong, but I haven’t heard of Arab men refusing to greet Black men in this city. The other day, I was walking with my husband and an Arab cab driver honked, waved, and gave us the fist. I see this problem as gender specific. Nor do I don’t think it is is an immigrant women versus Black American women thing. Little South Asian aunties will return salaams too. And on college campuses, such as UPenn and Temple, Muslim girls from all backgrounds are all happy to give salaams and even break out in a smile when they see a Muslim. I’ve experienced it and have spoken with some Black American Muslim women in Philadelphia who have noticed the reluctance of some Arab women to give greetings and the refusal of some to even return someones greetings and salutations.
My personal experience brought it home. On our way back home from errands in Center City a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to stop by the Trader Joe’s which was right by the trolley stop. As we walked to get the front door, an Arab women in hijab came out and I said out loud, “Salaam alaikum.” She just walked straight past me without acknowledging we existed. My husband said maybe she didn’t hear me. As he went to get a cart he repeated the greeting. She acted like he was invisible. We are supposed to make seventy-something excuses, right? Let me think of some: 1. she was deaf, 2. she was blind, 3. she was mentally disabled, 4. she never read the Qur’an all the way through, 5. she never read a book about how to be a Muslim, 6. she never picked up a hadith book in her life, 7. we scared her by saying salaam alaikum too loud, 8. she must have saw me and thought I was one of those hijabi bandits 9. ummmm, I am running out of legitimate excuses… The reality is, my cousin who is Muslim and has lived in Philly all her life has had several occasions where Arab women have refused to return the greeting. One woman in a halal store refused on three separate occasions. One time, the woman saw my cousin from behind and mistook her for someone else and said, “Salaam alaikum!” When my cousin turned around and returned the greeting the woman looked in disgust that a Black woman gave her the greeting.
As I run my social experiment, I am still waiting for my hypothesis to be verified or falsified. But for the most part, whenever I’ve encountered immigrant Arab women–no matter how piously dressed–rarely initiate greetings. Since I’m trying to avoid confrontation or feelings of anger, I tend to pass them by without giving them salutations and greetings. I have either two options, to woman up and nurse my wounded feelings as I get dissed on a regular. Or I can tighten up my Arabic so I can give them a mini khutbah on the rights of their brothers and sisters.
The irony of this is that the above mentioned verse in the Qur’an states that you are required to return greetings in kind, but it is better to extend them. The reality is, even if you had a major dispute with another Muslim if they were to give the greeting, you return it because it is their right. The refusal to return greetings is a sheer sign of arrogance and prejudice. To me, it is a major sign of hypocrisy. It also sows seeds of discord and mistrust within our community. I think it should be addressed by the imams and religious leaders because this is not a way for any Muslim woman to conduct herself. This is why I hope that this post trickles up, that people read it, that they remind their moms, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, and friends that this is their brothers’ and sisters’ right.
60 thoughts on “The Problem with Muslim Greetings”
I’ve wondered about this too. I encountered this growing up in Philly and I still encounter it now as an adult woman in the Midwest. I don’t understand it at all. Why the reluctance? Do Arab women only give the greeting to other women they know? Maybe that’s it. When I was in college, Arab women that I knew did give me the greeting. So maybe that’s it.
This is not something that I have particularly noticed in Memphis, maybe because I generally “know” many of the Arab sisters that I encounter. But I’ll test this out now. But I have heard from many brothers and sisters of this happening.
I’ve noticed this quite often, even among Arab women I am acquainted with. Here, I think it has in large part to do with the “born Muslims are better than converts” attitude (I’m, like, the only convert in this whole town…although black men and women as well as Arab men have always been quite warm in greeting me, whether I know them or not). They usually just look at me like I’m an alien (or a piece of gum on the bottom of their shoe) and keep walking.
You want to hear something funny? In the Twin Cities it’s not the Arab women who won’t respond it’s Somali sisters. I’ve just stopped trying with them unless we’re practically face-to-face. So many times I’ve salaamed them and gotten nothing in return. Sometimes, they’ll respond with “hi.” Excuse me? I’ve tried to ask what the refusal to return a salaam is about but no one will give me an answer. They just say silly stuff like, “Maybe she didn’t hear you.” Really? So, almost every Somali sister I encounter, who refuses to respond to a salaam can’t hear me? Incredible!
If I see any other ethnicity of Muslim woman in the TC- Arab, SE Asian, White American, South Asian, African-American etc. they usually will return the salaam if they don’t offer one first. It’s the strangest thing.
Salaam,i am an African muslim and i thought i was the only one who had experienced this before, i thought it was something the matter with me.
Well i have been lurking on your blog for a couple of years now and i think its time to out myself.
Yes, this is one of the most irritating experiences. This has happened to me on a number of occasions.
On campus I really don’t have a hard time having (some) sisters greet me. Yet there are times outside of the university where I get all fumbled about whether I should give the greeting because I am so used to certain sisters directly avoiding me.
It is almost like you start to sense from the beginning that they DO NOT want you to speak to them. Although you are most certain that they see you-suddenly the neck gets real stiff-the eyes are directed forward-and you are invisible. It is so strange.
Stranger still-has been incidences when the sister is avoiding me and then her husband approaches. He will greet me and then she will give a small smile and the faintest “Assalaamualaikum.”
I am not a Black woman, so I cannot speak to that experience but am not surprised by what you have enountered. I do know that for me, only Black and African (Somali, Sudanese, etc) women respond or offer salaams to me in a public place. Arab/South Asian/Bosnian and white convert women (unless it is someone who actually knows me and I walk right up to them) practically run in the opposite direction when they see me. In fact, several years ago my non-Muslim father was highly offended on my behalf when we went to a community thing that the masjid was participating in and the women were overtly hostile to me and refused to serve me all together (paying for food, but they’d just skip right past me to whoever was behind me and keep going) until a brother came from the grill to serve me. My (now ex) Nicaraguan husband noticed this everywhere we went: women turned away from me, or if they could not then they just ignored my greeting. Unfortunately, the same is done to him by brothers of all colors. Men are very quick to greet me even to “chat”, but they ignore him altogether, even when he is standing right next to me, even when I introduce him as my husband to a brother I know, even when they should recognize that they see him with me frequently. And yes, that includes the Black brothers. The only exception, ONLY brothers in this city who have EVER greeted him are the brothers at two African stores and the brother that owns an Ethiopian restraunt.
This issue extends to the masjid even, so I know what you are describing is true. When you step into the masjid, you greet and everyone returns it. But this does not happen to Black & African sisters. They are ignored. We also go around the room, shake hands, hug, give individual salaams. Well, the Arab sisters do not come to “Black corner” (which is typically where I am also) but they wave to me! Because I go around and greet everyone (and stand to offer the greeting first to the older aunties as they come in) I know that some of the Arabs shrink from shaking my hand if I’ve just shaken hands with an African or African American sister, and early on I was actually told that “those women” are dirty!
As salaamu alaikum
Wow! Yet another post of whinning Angry Black Muslim woman crying about someone not acknowledging her or them.
People please is there nothing else to whine about?
You seem to think “all Arabs” are perfect and just because they are your role models, dont make it so for others. Why do you spend so much time whinning about Arabs? Why? Your only duty is to give the greetings. If they don’t respond, would you lose anything?
I read this blog and the comments from your regular fans who comment, and I seriously think a lot of you sisters are.
has a grandiose sense of self-importance
is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
believes that he or she is “special” and unique
requires excessive admiration
has a sense of entitlement
is interpersonally exploitative
is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Get over yourselves man! This “I’m perfect and can’t do no wrong, but others are always picking on me is old.
If you want to talk, start talking about some of your personal issues you are dealing with. You would find you have many personal issues you have to fix, versus always talking about others.
Also, so what what if other nationalities dont return your greetings. So what? You can’t force people to speak to you. Actually, some Blacks dont speak to each other. Do you worry about them or go on? I know plenty of Salafi sisters who wont greet you if you are not Salafi. Why? because you are a person of Bidah. LOL! I know plenty of Sufi who don’t speak to so called Wahabis, so please. Stop with the Arabs don’t do this, Arabs dont do that, lol! You give those kind of Arabs way to much “attention” lol!
I lived in Egypt for a while, and always heard Egyptian women complaining about “Emiratee Women” coming to their country for vacation, spending their oil money, some thinking they are better than them. Okay, so what’s the point? Even if she thinks she is better, is she? lol! This crap is a joke I swear. Do you go home and cry all night to because an Arab woman didn’t return your greetings? hahaha! This is to funny.
Since the Prophet Mohammed(pbuh) is not a liar.
Read what he said about greetings.
I really hope this helps you sisters. I trust in Allah(swt) and I trust in the Prophet Mohammed(pbuh)every words. If you do also. When you see things it wouldn’t affect you as much.
If you read the reading selection you posted closely you will see that the text that you yourself picked out is an admonition. It is in 100% accordance with what I’m saying. Clearly I touched a nerve.
Wow. Another highly ignorant, self-aggrandizing, self-centered comment on a topic of which it appears you did not even read. The issue here is not “whining” but rather addressing something that is lacking in our community. Countering the observation that Arab women here in Philly don’t return salaams [something that is encombant upon a Muslim], fails to look at and address the issue raised here.
What does any of this have to do with Sufis? Or Wahhabis? That is not the point being addressed here and a mutatis mutandis rebuttal does not apply here. In fact, the critique is a not an a priori critique but rather addressing something that deserves addressing. The main issue here is not “about the Arabs”, but about adab and akhlaq – it doesn’t matter if it’s Arabs who do it, or Somalis or Blackamericans. Don’t loose sight of the backbone of the argument here, though that would be hard to do if you read the article in the first place.
I think that Arab American women who grew up or went to school in the US are likely to return salaams, and the young Arab women were active in youth and student leadership are also excited about seeing other Muslims in the street. My hypothesis is that these are women who are culturally Muslim who,
I haven’t ran into too many Somali women here, but a long time ago I gave up trying even get a return smile from most Somali women. They just look at you dead pan, like you’re crazy. I’m still cracking up at getting a “Hi” back.
I completely understand your sentiment. I think you beautifully described the ways some sisters tune out your humanity. In the Bay Area, for the most whenever I’ve encountered a Muslim on the street or in a store, there is always at minimum a smile. It’s like we’re both saying, “Hey, there’s another one!” We’re kind of rare out there. But in Philly it seems like they are embarrassed that we exist.
Ya Allah! Those are terrible stories. I’m really sorry that you and your ex had to go through those experiences. Some converts act like Islam is a Black religion and only they have ownership of it. It really disgusts me that they would disrespect him like that. What makes it worse is that they would chat it up with you and diss him. Honestly, I hope this issue gets addressed by the imam at your masjid. This is not how the Sahaba treated Bilal and therefore it is not becoming of any of us. May Allah guide them and us all!!
In response to the post by the other Fatima, i don’t think this is about whining about arabs and nor is it an attck on Arab women;rather it is a comment on how we as Muslims could learn to accept each other.Of course we are cognizant of the problems we have as a community and no one is turning a blind eye to them.I don’t see why one of us women would be attacked jus because she dared to write about an issue that obviously should be talked about.
I understand the concern about a general lack of, as Marc called said, adab and akhlaq, but I think that this particular issue is overblown. I admit that I do not give salams to people I don’t know unless they do it first and it is, apart from being an obligation, rude to ignore people like that, but if that was the worst I got from muslims I would be a happy person. I remember being an idealistic new muslim and having other muslims belittle and attempt to humiliate me in front of others.
I think it is interesting also that some nationalities give salams regularly and some don’t. I know a number of Iranians and unless you give them salams they will say allo and khoda hafez. Bosnians don’t seem to give salams except in explicitly religious events either. There are probably lots of other examples but those are the one I have most experience with.
To be honest I think that the main point is very valid, but it is trivialized a little by the example used. Then again I don’t normally greet people I don’t know unless there is a reason for it, so haven’t really had much experience in being shunned this way.
Wow, the above is an example of why a person should review what they wrote before hitting the submit button!
I am sorry for making so many comments, but as soon as I got up and left I realized how unproductive my previous comment was.
I think that regardless of who is doing it there are problems with the type of adab people have and I think that is rooted in how Islam is taught and presented in a lot of contexts. There has been so much focus on how Islam is growing a beard or wearing a hijab (not to denigrate either of those) when Islam is, as the Prophet said, good character. Its easy to change some externals without being ourselves changed and that is a problem that we have as individuals and as a community.
Islam needs to be seen as an integral whole that helps us grow to our full potential inwardly and outwardly. A few less khutahs on clothes, politics, or how everything is haram and a few more on developing good character and manners and the growth and development of the self would be a good start.
Taking this further gets back to what Marc discussed on his blog in regards to spirituality.
This is interesting too: Now its Black vs the African, written by an African American Male of course, lol
Revisting History About The Differences Between Blacks And Africans In America
Posted in: Unconventional Perspective
Dawud Walid | Feb. 11, 2009 | 2:49 PM (11 comments)
A strange marriage between White supremacy and White guilt led to a conscious distinction drawn between Blackamericans and Africans going back well over a century, which in turn imposed a clear distinction within the psyches of the two in America
Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI). He is frequently quoted in the media regarding civil and human rights issues facing Muslims and has penned articles that have appeared in various publications.
Although this perception may be waning, there has always been an historical difference in how American society has viewed Blackamericans, the offspring of slaves, with naturalized citizens from Africa, the literal African-Americans. This divide of perception was driven home for me during the previous election cycle and eventual victory of President Barack Hussein Obama and the discussions, which took place as to whether he was “Black enough”, not only because of his upbringing but also because of his lineage. Such discussions related to our president are not new, but part of an old American conversation, which I hope that Muslims will begin in a positive, constructive manner.
Let’s face, there is not much African about most Blackamericans. Many have only a smattering of West African features based upon genetic mixing of African blood with the genes of European slave masters and Native Americans. Most Blackamericans can not name even 5 countries in West Africa, much less what tribes their forefathers came. Moreover, very few of the cultural traits of West Africans exist among 21st century Blackamericans. Blackamericans were formed into a new people or tribe based upon a process not instituted by themselves.
A strange marriage between White supremacy and White guilt led to a conscious distinction drawn between Blackamericans and Africans going back well over a century, which in turn imposed a clear distinction within the psyches of the two in America. One such example of this phenomenon can be found in the life of Cassius Clay, who later became the world renowned heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali.
When Ali was a young man while boxing in Kentucky during the era of the Jim Crow South, he decided that he wanted to eat in a “White-only” restaurant. Obviously, he could not do so as a “Colored” or Blackamerican, so what Ali did was place a sheet on top of his head, pretending to be an African or Arab then entered the establishment speaking with a bogus foreign accent (like how some Blackamerican Muslims do today). Ali was served by a White lady in the restaurant on the basis that he was not a homegrown Black though he was no less Black.
Malcolm X told similar stories of how African and Arab diplomats visiting America would be harassed by Whites upon the misperception that they were Blackamericans until the bigots found out that they were not homegrown. I have personally heard a story from an older Muslim couple, who were able to stay in a “White-only” hotel in Florida in the early 1960’s because they pretended to be from an African royal family, wearing African garments while speaking with a fake accent and using Arabic terms. Very plainly, there was a level of access not afforded to Blackamericans that Africans and Arabs, who looked Black, were afforded, not just in eating at restaurants and staying in hotels, but even in regards to economic opportunities.
To digress for a moment, the early proto-Islamic and heterodox Islamic movements recognized that there were social advantages in separating themselves from the regular Blacks also. Hence, the Moorish Science Temple called themselves “Moors”, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam referred to themselves as “Asiatic”, and Ahmadi Blacks in the early 20th century wore the attire of people from South Asia, not in the name of dressing “Sunnah” but as point a cultural demarcation. Perhaps, this unconscious inheritance may be a partial explanation of why some Blackamericans Muslims today are more Senegalese than the Senegalese and more Saudi than the Saudis.
This history may also partially explain the historically poor relations or lack of interaction between Blackamericans and Africans. Since being labeled Blackamerican was a liability towards achieving socio-economic progress, many Africans and Arabs kept their distance. This in turn led many Blacks to have animosity towards them as many in the hood still articulate. “Those Africans don’t accept you as one of them;” “those Africans [usually Nigerians] are so arrogant!”
Black History Month is a great time for us to reflect on the history of race relations in America. History is a wonderful teacher for those who ponder and dissect it. As we continue to evolve into less racial stratified country, I hope that the Muslims community will begin to have some honest dialogue around race issues. In this case, perhaps Blackamerican Muslims can find receptive partners for this discussion firstly with African Muslims, who have immigrated to America.
Nice fan club!
If you keep up the asinine immature comments, they will be edited. You have nothing useful to contribute, as have demonstrated that you lack the intellectual capacity to even read an article before developing your conclusions. Please read my rules for commenting because you have already violated my rules for commenting.
You clearly have not read Dawud Walid’s article either.
Although a bit snarky, Fatimanur has a point. We do tend to harp on things that really are just human nature. Muslims are human and really you just can’t expect them to be perfect. I think we would progress tremendously just realizing that and just moving on to more important issues. We only have so much time and energy so the trivial things should not take up that precious resource.
Would you say that Aaminah’s stories are trivial? I guess you’re going to categorize and prioritize the Prophetic traditions about adab and our responsibilities towards each other as Muslims.
Besides, who’s harping? Nobody is saying that every Muslim has to give me salaams. But it is down right rude and unIslamic to not return it. I’m sure this is one of the few times you’ve ever heard someone address this issue on the web. I’m bringing up this issue because if you ask some of my Muslim relatives why they don’t go and march for Gaza, they will refer back to some racist encounter they had with an Arab on the street. The ways that these women treat their Black american sisters is reflective of the fragmentation (and in my opinion disfunction)of the Philadelphia Muslim community. If we are going to make claims about ummah, unity, and brotherhood, then the first we can at least show minimal respect by returning a greeting.
Sister, as always I must applaud your patience and compassion.
I for one could care less what a non-AA muslim thought of me or said to me.
I do not even put non-AA muslims on my radar. I wish you success in trying to establish this discussion though.
As Salaamu Alaikum:
Blatant refusal to return the salaams is very hurtful, especially when it’s racially motivated 😦
I am a white sister. When I’m in Philly, it’s the niqabi sisters who I have problems with regarding the salaams. Not all of them, but quite a few of them. They usually look me up and down (at my non-black clothing and bare face). Usually, I repeat my salaams with a big smile on my face and then they do usually return the greetings.
The non-niqabi black sisters always return the salaams in my experience. With a big smile!
I have never had someone flatly refuse to return my salaam, but I have had the “wa ‘alaikum” or just “‘alaikum” response, usually from Pakistanis. They don’t expect a white person, even with a beard, to be Muslim, and that’s really all there is to it even though they know there are white (and black) converts and have probably met several.
I don’t know if Ron has had any of these problems with white converts or just with Arabs and Pakistanis, but in my experience, the people who don’t return salaams are immigrants (and not their British descendants); others, especially converts, do return salaams unless there’s some reason. In some cultures younger people do not give salaams to elders, but to say “wa ‘alaikum” in response clearly has nothing to do with that.
Well this is not the first time its been written or discussed. Its been discussed ad nauseum. Its an interesting blog post and yes this does occur. Fact, lots of Muslims are racist and classist and will not speak to you if they don’t know you. This is particularly strong with immigrant Muslims. And…. what after that. Thats her point, are we going to harp on everything that hurts our feelings. It seems a bit juvenile. I am an AA Muslim and I have gotten ignored by AA Muslims because I’m not in right clique or given a weak “wa alakum” in response to my Salams. Thats on them, not my problem. I did what I was supposed to do. You can’t change other people, you can only control your behavior and how you let it affect you. I don’t care that a lot of Muslims have issues. A lot of Muslims don’t and I focus on developing friendships with them.
Please show me where this issue has been discussed ad naseum. Also, please show me some Islamic proofs where we as Muslims are just supposed to see our brothers and sisters wrong each other, act classist or racist, and we are supposed to condone the behavior by being silent. Where is this live and let live policy in our masajid?
You can’t change other people, but you can tell them they are committing a wrong. We as Muslims are told to enjoin the good and forbid the wrong, and I’m doing my part. Now if someone is going to tell me how to dress, even wear my hair under my hijab, I think I have a right to remind my sisters that Allah commands us to return greetings in kind.
If you want to discuss further, please email me and we can continue the discussion there.
To all the people complaining about the subject matter, this is a personal blog. Margari can write about canned tuna if she wishes. Part of wanting for others what we would want for ourselves is to respect the feelings and concerns of others.
Actually, living in a city with a large Muslim population, I’d gotten a bit lazy about giving salaams first (but I’d always returned them), it was the example of an Arab sister, which reminded me to start giving them again.
Before I wore hijab, I never got salaams returned to me. Now I do wear it, I find younger Muslimahs are better at returning it then others.
I’m just going to try to extend this image to Eid prayers. I’m in a small community, so all the nations come together in one hall for eid prayers. When it’s time to stand up and pray, the brothers pretty much get up uniformally, make their rows and pray proper. The women, oh man, you would think they were from another planet. You’ve heard this all before–they will actually step away from each other, have half rows all over the place, totally uncovered, etc.
I attribute the differences to brothers ATLEAST coming to Friday jummahs and therefore having some semblance of the order of prayer. Because they do pray together regularly this may extend to their having some sense of brotherhood and therefore more likely to salam their siblings, while many of the sisters are just completely out of the loop with the pray and unaffected with a sense of sisterhood.
When the brothers who do make it to jummah or some jummahs are regularly quite ignorant in areas of faith–what are their wives, sisters, daughters, mothers going to be like? So that is how I extend excuses to these scenarios–ignorance.
Love and Peace
Okay, also–I think it’s interesting that in other venues people have argued vehemently that the salams are for everyone– not just exchanging the greetings amongst Muslims, but salams should/have to be given to non-Muslims too–and then you see here how hurtful it is when we don’t exchange salams amongst the Muslims. Subhanallh, it does seem like such a shallow thing, but obvioulsy there is great wisdom in the adab of giving salams.
Margari-Asalamu Walaikum sis and kiss, kiss on each side of your face too.
Salaams! Thank you so much for this blog. I live in Philadelphia and I also see this too much, but not just with the Arab sisters but also the niqabis. For example I was at Lemon Hill (Fairmount Park) yesterday and there was a bunch of niqabi sisters and none gave salaams to me but they all stood up for each other and shook hands. I’m 18 and a very new convert and this type of behavior scares me from befriending Muslimahs. Maybe I’m overracting.
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I have to agree with Fatima. I really don’t like this racial categorization in your post. Reading the comments, it seems to me that, at the end of the day, everyone has encountered a problem with a member of another community. Trying to point out a specific one (Arabs who are not educated or Arab women who wear niqab etc.) is pointless. And if it was done about Blacks it would be resented as racism (And I am black). A more general comment on blogs: At first, i was really pleased to see that some bloggers (muslim women especially) shared some of my concerns. But very soon, the negative and quite paranoid rethoric annoyed me a lot. “Arabs do… I met a muslimah who did … those who defend palestine are too … Immmigrants are so…”. Our communities are not perfect and are not meant to be. So please stop these negative (not critical but negative) posts! They won’t help anything.
I totally agree with you. We should focus and give a greater voice to those who are examples in our community. I think that it is a much more efficient way to make progress in our community than pointing our fingers at those who don’t act in a islamic way. What we need in our community is building trust and confidence. One way to do so is by acknowledging those we can set up as examples and who actually help us improve ourselves.
As salaam alaykum,
Arab is such a broad category. In my experience it’s only Syrian and Lebanese women that behave that way. Generally I’ve found the many other Arab groups I’ve dealt with to be pretty eager salaamers :0).
The post is not about what “you like”, but rather about what “is right”. And the tasliym is a haqq [a right] that is encumbant upon the believers. If it happens to be attached to some peole of a certain ethnic group, then it should be addressed. Moreover, the reason for bringing this up is not to attack the Arabs. But rather to fix an issue, a problem in our community so we can make it better! Perhaps, Khadija, if you were to settle your thoughts you would see that the reason for bringing things to the surface is so that one, they can be made clear and two, something, in sha’Allah, can be done about it.
Both Margari [my wife] and myself associate with a complete allotment of people from Arabs, Desis, Blackamericans, Whiteamericans, Asias and so forth. The wali for our wedding was an Egyptian. Take a moment to reflect on what’s really being said here – as one person pointed out above, it is hurtful to some people when the behavior runs contradictory to a religious mandate [i.e., a basic right] and it also happens to run along racial lines unfortunately.
Read. Think. Contribute.
In Morocco, a “good” woman does not speak to others in the street, and tries not even to make eye contact with others, particularly men. But I am very surprised that in the situations you have described that the women do not return a greeting.
Margot in Morocco
As a white non-muslim American woman living in France, I have read this entire thread with interest. For several reasons:
First with compassion, because I know what it is like to not receive what one expects as civil responses to our greetings – regardless of the basis of our expectation. As an American in France, I can tell you that there are enormous cultural differences that dictate how greetings are exchanged in the two cultures, and the initial reflex of this American is that often the French are rude or impolite. In reality, some of them are (as in any group), and more often, it’s genuinely a cultural difference – Americans definitely have a reputation for being way more “friendly” than the French – as lots of French people do say.
I also read with some sadness because the culture in which I was raised implicitly taught me to greet or to return a greeting out of joy of encountering another human being on this planet – much like one of you described that for you seeing another visibly-identifiable Muslim woman is like seeing someone who is like you.
And so I also read with some troubled feelings, because while I understand the complaint and the hurt of feeling rejected by the one who does not say “Salam” back, I also am saddened that the realm of expecting this kind of civility and connection is reduced one’s faith group.
I grew up in a racially diverse environment and come from a family which has several interracial couples and children. I have noticed more and more in the States that some Black women will greet each other but will not greet me. I experience a bit of disappointment, but I also understand where this comes from and that, hey, as a white American, I’m just getting a miniscule taste of what it’s like to be a person of color in the States – especially African American.
I look forward to the day when we can all greet each other, sisters of humanity, with the joy and exuberance of crossing the path of an another human being, without thinking about if they belong to the same group (of any basis) as us.
Peace and blessings all and thanks for stopping by,
Saliha, I agree with you Arab is a broad category. This is why I focused on Philadelphia as a city. I can’t always easily identify the geographic origin of the Arab women I encounter here, but for the most part they don’t initiate. Like I said, I don’t have an issue of them not initiating, being eager to give salaams. My problem is when they don’t return a greeting.
Margot, I agree with you. That is why I pointed out that most Arabs don’t give salaams on the street. I’ve been to Morocco and as a woman of color who was easily mistaken for Moroccan, I had to learn to avoid eye contact with others. I’m not going to lie, we even had to avoid veiled women in traditional Moroccan clothes because often it didn’t matter how neatly dressed they were, they would harass us and start asking for money. And in Egypt there was less street harassment, but you also avoid eye contact. At the same time, women will stare at you on the metro. I guess staring is not the same thing.
Thank you for visiting my site. I think your response is interesting for several reasons. And I, too, am both empathetic to some of your experiences and troubled your assumptions and the attempt to use a universal humanist approach to erase differentiation, such as race and religion, which is natural to the human family.
I am first troubled by your assumption that I reduce civility to my religious group. I find that accusation puzzling. I was not writing a cultural critique about urban spaces, had I done so you would have read a more universal message. Nor was I telling Muslims to not greet other people. I believe I addressed the issue of public civility in America. I suppose you overlooked this quote:
That means, we are happy when someone, anyone, smiles at us or extends a warm greeting and we return it in kind. But it is easy to make the assumption you made if you don’t want to recognize cultural difference and diversity. This blog entry was focused on a particular group, one that you don’t participate in. But is it a group that has an open membership and is by no means exclusive of race or gender.
Also, I am troubled that you associate the lack of greetings you receive from Black women with the racism and oppression that Black Americans have experienced in America. I don’t think your viewpoint and attempt to identify with the discrimination that Black Americans experience is coming from a bad place. But I do think it is a bit misplaced. Also, I think that you assume Black greetings are automatic. Perhaps that is because you lack the cultural nuance, I think you might have missed the signals that Black people send each other in encounters in white majority environments. Before a greeting occurs, there has to be eye contact, either a nod or smile. Somebody has to initiate. I wonder how often do you initiate greetings with Black women you encounter on the street? I can tell you that is rarely happens, but I do get a lot of awkward and odd stares. Years ago, I’ve had someone bark at me, “I don’t speak to n**ers!” And that encounter made me less likely to greet or ask elderly white men the time, unless they seen approachable and appear to acknowledge my humanity.
Like you, my family has a lot of interracial relationships. In fact, I come from a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-faith family. So, my bonds and linkages with humanity transcend ethnicity, religion, and gender. Ethnicity, race, religion, age, and gender determine how we greet each other. I don’t say “Salaam alaikum” to my non-Muslim mother. She does not speak Arabic and the greeting does not have much meaning for her. My love and greetings to my non-Muslim sister and brother are no less enthusiastic then when I say “Salaam alaikum” to my Muslim husband.
Finally, your focus on gender still reminded me that you weren’t quite fully committed to the humanism you seem to espouse. But before we go around chastising others for not applying universal humanistic principles, we should take be committed to those same principles we espouse.
Overall I appreciate your contribution. It’s given me a lot of food for thought and some issues to explore.
I don’t know about other people, but I honestly don’t like “salam”ing strangers in middle of the street. I don’t like saying Hi to random people either, and fortunately most people don’t. But besides the inconvenient factor the “salaam” is annoyingly conspicuous… like okay, you can tell I am a Muslim, good for you, now run along… geez.
I should add that (1) I do reply to salaams, even though inside my head I roll my I and that (2) I avoid the Muslim community like the plague (hard to do when you wear the hijab and random people think you share some sort of a bond with them, but a few annoyed glances does the trick), but what you’re describing as someone in the community is definitely problematic (when people ignore your salams, while they greet each-other).
I have experienced the opposite extreme _sometimes, fully covered women who don’t return salams to me when I discover, even partially!! my neck. Maybe they think I’m not a muslimah but a partially covered woman, althoug, what’s the issue? Even if I wasn’t muslimah I was giving them my peace wishes anyway!
On the other hand, as I introduced, I’ve happened to found the kind of arab-spanish girl that makes a crusade on educating us new muslimahs. And it’s so sad to hear “salam, sister♪ Your t-shirt went down while you were bowing for salat”, “sister♪, your pants are too tigh”, “sister♪♪, you look like one of those feminists”. And the very best, “Sister♪ I don’t know what’s your deal and I don’t want you to explain, ba-bye, salam”.
In part I have to agree with Mei partially. I do love greeting people, I think it’s nice to have nice words wether muslim or not, and say “salaam” is as good as any other chance. But maybe I am too white-skinned, too un-arab looking, for a place like Madrid where 90% of the muslim community are arab-originarians and use Islam as a way of preserving their roots.
May Allah guide us all.
When you separate yourself out, and make something a big issue like this, you don’t do anyone any favors. Although the one commenter was a bit harsh (Fatima, I think), she made some good points. Just don’t worry about it. Who cares? The sin is on them, not you. Do the best to be a good Muslim and leave it at that. Every time someone brings up a racist or nationalistic issue it just makes the problem worse. Its not going to make it go away, its just going to make you and others more angry about it, which just causes division.
And yes, 70 excuses sometimes are hard to take but really, its what you are supposed to do, so relax and get on with your life.
We are all Muslims. Lets not label our selves Arab Muslims or Pakistani Muslims or Black Muslims… that is a disservice to the ummah, and to ourselves.
“We are all Muslims. Lets not label our selves Arab Muslims or Pakistani Muslims or Black Muslims… that is a disservice to the ummah, and to ourselves.”
It’s not a “disservice”, what does that even mean? And of course we’re all Muslim, who is claiming otherwise? I am a Muslim woman. Is it a disservice to label myself as such, because it is a label that separates me from the male Muslims? I mean, labels are not all bad!
I think some commentators are projecting a bit here. Some are reading things into the original post that are not there.
For me, this post has made me think. I have usually avoided being the first to give salaam, although I’ve always returned it. For me, it’s an issue of shyness, but reading how people can be hurt by it, and how nice it is to hear salaams (which I know I feel when I hear others greet me), I will make more of an effort to do so.
After years of sojourning with many diverse Muslim women from many countries, I learned to separate bothe culture and our way of life Islam. I went to a used bookstore and bought many books. Books about women of Algeria, Morrocco, Saudi Arabia etc. Through this study I came to understand the under development of Islam in all of us. That we definitely do not identify each other for who we really are. I will offer one example, Algerian women who struggled with their men during the Algerian struggle had many issues to overcome as women after the war. These struggles affected how she as a woman had to work with these new found changes. It made me more understanding , therefore less judgemental and helped me to take a different approach to how I would become an example and teacher. I am an African American. I don,t assume that everyone among us have good manners. Prophet Muhammad salla lahu alyhi wa salaam was sent to perfect the character and manners. Knowledge that is not put into action is for naught. But, just I understand what the Sisters are saying, I have seen all of these behaviours for years. Each time we give salaams we are rewarded by Allah subhana wa Ta Ala, and I will take your reward for not returning it to me.
Wa Salam, I’ll take this for a personal mantra, sister ;D
Each time we give salaams we are rewarded by Allah subhana wa Ta Ala
Good post, might make a post on this on my blog.
Here is my excuse:
The sister did respond to you and your husbands salams from her heart and not her mouth. 😀
I have gotten this from all quarters. I dont think any one nationality or racial group has a strangle hold on this.
I have had women from all different racial and national groups refuse to give me salams back. I take this two ways, one that a woman doesnt want to communicate with a strange man. Second, I am a white man and post 9/11 people might fear I am playing games, ect.
Muslims are just like anyone else, they have their own personal issues and it effects their behavior.
Personally, I find that in talking with immigrant Muslims a constant refrain with them seems to be a disdain for the fact that so many Americans are overweight. Everyone sins, but the obvious visual nature of those who are gluttonous sticks out. Maybe this, along with racial hang-ups could be why some people are ignored?
Anyway, we cannot control what other people do. We must strive to do what is right, no matter people’s response and teach those whom we are responsible for proper manners.
At age 3 my boys are already learning this common courtesy that so many Muslims forget.
I agree with you. Nobody race has a monopoly on rude behavior. At the same time, I’m talking about my experience in Philly and the experience of a number of White and Black American converts. But as you noted, women may not give you salaams for two reasons, but now that I wear hijab I am clearly Muslim and a woman. I’ve heard the American gluttony thing. But you’ve been to the Middle East, diabetes is a major problem and a number of problems related to obesity. Sure, they don’t have specials with one ton Saudis airing on tv, but it is not like they are the fittest people. ha!
assalamu alikeum sis
been a long time since i’ve been checked out the blogspehere. i know this is late, but mabrook to you and marc lol. i always thought you two would make a nice couple lol.
neways, regarding the topic at hand, erm how old were the sisters in question? i ask, because i swear i think its a generational thing. When i give salams and get blanked, its pretty much by every race/ethinic group lol (including my fellow somalians) but one thing that those who blank me have in common is their age groups. I find that younger sisters regardless of background tend to give salams back, and if were’re in a busy area or they’re at a distance, they’ll smile or give a little heads up and acknowlegde my presence and i do the same likewise.
Its usually those in my mothers age group (45 yrs old and upwards) that blank me. I swear, they’ll be times i’ll repeat my salams, thinking: “oh maybe they didnt hear me.” and then they’ll look at me, face to face, straight in my damn eyes and then turn away and i’m left there thinking: “well WTF was that?!”
I say this not to discount your own experiences. I mean i’ve definatly seen what you mention, in times were i’ve been in the masjid, although in my case it tends to be desis. But i find that its less of a problem with the sisters who were born and bred in the U.K (or the U.S where your at).
Its definatly frustrating though when it happens and its sometimes kind of embrassing when im in a public, busy place and you greet someone, twice, only for them to kinda snub you like that and when i’ve been with non muslims friends, they’re like: “what’s up with that?” cos they know that as muslim like we’ll greet other muslims, even if we’re strangers, with a salam and they kinda end up feeling pissed off for me (usually muttering “facety bitch” lol)
It used to irrate me before but now im just like whatever. But my mum, it infurates her. She’s like: “how dare they!”. My mum is the type of person who will go out of her way to give salams to another muslim, whoever they are, even if its the local drunk somali guy (whom we all know) who’s got a can of beer wrapped up in his brown paper bag. She’s like: “well even that drunk brother, he’s still a muslim and deserves our salam even if he’s not practising.” and thats a nice thing mashallah.
Its just a shame you know that sometimes that we treat one other like that. I mean i seen plently of times some people who’ve blanked me, who live in my community, and they’ll be nice to say the cashier at the grocery store- and theres nothing wrong with that, but yet that same person can’t even have the decency to return the greeting of salams to another fellow muslim who gave them a salam a few moments earlier. For every salam you give, you get ajar from allah, so if for anything thing, well why not do it for that?
anyway, just keep giving salams, cos even if they dont return it, you get twice the reward sis.
Wait-is being fat a reason to not give the greeting? Prejudice has no ends.
Too funny. This fat girl Muslim has never run into that problem.
The correlation that you make between the sin of gluttony and body size is a little suspect Abu Sinan.
Try reading Dr. Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight and other recent studies that are not fueled by the American diet industry. Just a little food for thought (pun intended).
My ex-wife once broke down in tears because of a similar incident. We were new converts and very proud to be Muslim. Everytime she saw a Muslimah she would give salaams with a huge smile! Then she started encountering Arab Muslimah’s and one day, one sister got so nasty with her at the grocery store like “how dare you speak to me” that she came home crying. I didn’t know what to say. Let’s just say the rose colored glasses that many new coverts have, started clearing for us that day.
as salamu alaykum and hope you are well bi’idhnillah.
I’ve experienced this from Arab women, Pakistan and Indian women, and a few occasions with white convert sisters (who have been converts for a while) and even African ladies. We really are disconnected from one another.
I think it is important that we focus more on being adamant about giving the greetings in the most sincere way possible for the sake of Allah. I give salams to every sister I see and if they don’t hear me I say it again. I’ve seen some change in some sisters that weren’t too responsive in the past here. InshaAllah if we remain persistent fillah and put aside our ego we will be able to connect better with each other.
Salaam, just a week ago I was talking to an African Muslim who’s studying in America. We live in the DC Metro area. I am a Muslim black american and we talked about the proliferation of “immigrant masjids” in Maryland and we can’t take it anymore. They are racist and rude. Period. I’m tired. She said to me-“Arabs always think they’re better than other Muslims.” Then shared a little more of her experience. I find that many South Asians in Maryland aren’t educated, don’t speak English (Urdu or Farsi or something) and are not cordial Muslims. By what standard pray tell do they have the audacity to act, think and believe they are better than other Muslims from a different ethnic background. I won’t say this of Virginia, as class plays more of a role than race. Why if you are educated you have to choose for comfort level it’s sad. I like the common sense of small town or people from humble American backgrounds but I can’t stand ignorance. I like that when I’m in Virginia I can speak of variety of topics of travel in and out of Muslim lands, speakers and future goals but not the materialism.
I kind of gave up on greeting sisters in general. I thought it was just me. But I was at the Mall and saw a Turkish woman at a distance in hijab–I was in a different section when I looked towards that section of the store a South Asian woman in hijab appeared and didn’t greet that sister. Then (I was observing) I came a little closer to the purse/bags section and say it again. I thought, hmmm it’s just not me who get snubbed. South Asians in MD are rude to most people. The woman kept staring at her like she was waiting for acknowledgment.
A different time I was in a department store and there was an African (different one) sister in hijab looking at scarves. I stepped out of the norm and greeted/spoke to her because she seemed nice. She was, I had to tell her I usually don’t speak to Muslim women because they’re rude, refuse to greet you back and act racist. She was visiting from a European country and she said since she’s been here she’s noticed it. The ummah is messed up and many of us don’t have the courage to look inward to address our defects. To those who state why we have to air the dirty laundry–it’s because that’s how we get people to address it instead of people pretending we comprise some Islamic utopia in the West where “there’s no racism in Islam” but plenty of racist Muslims. Just like when Bill Cosby made those controversial comments about Blacks and people were upset. To quote Malcolm X: The dog that yelped is the one that got hit by the shoe or something like that (the ones who are upset that we’re talking about it are likely the ones guilty of it). Sometimes I wish Allah just destroys it all and start over. Guess that’s what the hereafter is for, I’m tired of dealing with this. We already have to deal with the crap of non-Muslims and then others want to bring more crap. The best Muslims I’ve met are the ones who don’t attend masjid, because they don’t want to be invovled in the phoniness or ‘groupthink.’ It’s a lie and Allah is the author of Truth. Allah is busting it wide open. Subhan’Allah.
The more I’m reading this and thinking about it, I’m wondering if this is more of a percieved “class” in these foreign Arab women difference than a “racial” difference.
I too have experienced many Muslim women who did not return the greeting to me as well as some Arab men. I used to become become very much offended and even times hurt when I would give them the greeting 2 or 3 times to make certain they heard me. Especially, knowing that it is “obligatory” for a Muslim to return the greeting when it is given.
However, my attitude quickly changed. I stopped caring and I still don’t care if a person gives me the greeting or not because that is on their soul, not mine.
We cannot force anyone to speak to us. So, I wait until other Muslims speak to me and then I return a better greeting.
Furthermore, there are many Muslims or so-called Muslims who think they are better because they were born into Islam. However, those are the ones you see in many cases violating the basic principles such as not speaking to other Muslims. As for those who feel that way let them be, God always deals justly.
I believe that your actions must be in accordance with what you say you believe. So, it matters not the color.
many muslims are culturally muslim. if u come from a country/culture where everyone is muslim you take something like the salaams for granted. it’s not a race issue. it’s a cultural issue.
many muslims i notice in big cities tend to not really give out salaams.
As-salam alaykum bros&sis in Allah’s deen. A lot has been said on this and i think all contibutions have points of consideration. As far as i’m concerned two main factors are responsible for a muslim of whatever race/culture to ignore the command of Allah and that of His last prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdullahi, and these are total ignorance/incomplte knowledge and the deception of the devil. With the right knowledge no muslim would ignore another muslim’s teslim. But with the skills of manipulation of the devil, even the most knowledgeable muslim would easily justify his/her actions of wrongdoing. Ma salam.
Asalam, the issue boils down to ignorance and superiority complex.
we should be reminded that colour, tribe etc are mere for identity. the best in the sight of Allah is the one with taqua. This means that a black man is dearer than a white Arab man based on his taqwa and nt colour. Also, we should know that racism is a sin in Islam with element of kufur (disbelive). As long as we r muslims, we r brothers and we should learn to interact without prejudice.A soft smile to ur muslim brother, the prophet says is sodaqoh. Whoever therefore fails to respond to teslim of his muslim Brother is owing him till d day of accountability. If the prophet can respond to d teslim of a kaafir, wht stops us from nt responding to that of our muslim brother in d name of racism or colour?
Not a Muslim, but as an African American woman, I have encountered a lot of racial prejudice from Arabs and other middle easterners, mostly Muslims rarely but sometimes from middle-eastern Jews and Christians – I guess most middle-eastern Jews and Christians can identify with being a minority. Anyway, I’m not sure if this prejudice is limited to African Americans and caused by white American anti-black propaganda, which our country has been spreading around the world for a hundred years, or if it originates within Arab culture and targets all black people but I know it pisses me off. It’s like our government thinks we don’t have enough racists in this country already so we need to import more. Sometimes I think our immigration department has an “Are you a racist?” question on immigration applications and anybody that answers yes is an automatic admit, no matter how poorly educated or lacking in skills the person is. I know Muslims think of this as an internal Muslim problem, but know that non-Muslim black people are getting seriously pissed off about Arab and middle eastern Muslim immigrants coming into the US because of this racism so y’all need to do something about it.
As salamu alaikum
Was ! What is this hate sisters ? You just made a big nameem on your sisters in Islam . Who are you to say that these arab women who did not return greeting are hypocrites ? All this article about non giving Salam ! I am not surprised because I live in Philly and I saw some black women who wear niqab treating very bad the Arabs because they think that to not wear a black abaya and niqab is a sin. Well, this is idiot because the sahabiyat were wearing orange and yellow so before judging someone else, you should correct yourselves sisters.
Making fornication and wearing hijab is bigger then to not say Salam so what you do not talk about it ? African American muslims who pretend to be salafi are still making this big sin . I a, not saying all but many …
I am so tired of all these comments , I am arab married with an American from Philadelphia so you guys, if you do not like us, chill out . You should be ashamed , this is not the good way to talk about your sisters in Islam but I guess you need some knowledge from Quran and Hadith .
Mind your business and take care of your kids, your home, your husbands, do something .
Did these Arabs hurt you ?
Did these Arabs take something from you ?
Let me remind you something, the Arabs would open their homes for you if you were in their countries, you would never be hungry or homeless but here, in Philly, I never saw hospitality from black muslim women, we are your guests, so may be you should learn more about Islam .
I hope that this mentality will change because we really do not care about what you think about us. We care about what we do for Allah .
By the way, there are many black Muslim women who do not give us Salam but we do not make that a big deal.
I thought it was something about me. Here in Raleigh not Philly. Im white, blue eyed and have been an official convert for less than a year, but had been slowly immersing myself in Islam for four years. Before I started wearing hijab, Arab women were at two polar extremes, they loved me to death or ignored me. Muslim men of any race loved a white woman learning Arabic and about Islam. The niqab women were also kind (mostly black muslimahs). Then when I started wearing hijab, I noticed that Arab people specifically were even less receptive except the elderly. I feel they liked me learning about them but becoming a convert was stealing their thunder. Its ok I’m learning not to take offense, it’s not me, it’s them lol