Sitting in the library yesterday I looked up to see my ten year old praying in a corner next to the circulation desk. The library is basically one long rectangle with the big circulation desk at one end, an L-shaped table covered in computers at the other end, rows of long tables with chairs in between, and full bookshelves all along the wall. There is a very small room annexed off this main room which houses reference books and new arrivals, and a lovely garden with cushioned seating off the main room. Little offices and other rooms are tucked away out of sight, but obviously they are there as the building is two-stories plus a basement.
I snickered a bit when I saw him praying there in the corner as he is who we, the family, call “The Oblivious Child.” Now, my little blog entry here could easily be spun into some pro-hijrah propaganda, but truth is- I’ve never seen anyone else pray in this small library in a huge city in a Muslim-majority country. I know there are other Muslims praying in there, there is always a little congestion around the one bathroom during prayer times and the tile floor often reveals the tell-tale puddle of the aftermath of several wudu-makings. When I pray at this library, I borrow a prayer rug from the security guards or the librarian and take myself out to a side of the garden where I am less likely to be distracted by hushed (and not so hushed) conversations and the sensing of people coming and going behind my prostrating-self. My thirteen year old follows my lead and heads over to the same corner when I hand him off the rug. But my ten year old is the only person I have ever seen openly, unabashedly praying in front of dozens of people in the library.
Of course I’m happy for him that he isn’t shy about who he is and what he needs to do, as he shouldn’t be—neither here nor back in the US. But the thing is- I can’t include this as one of the “Blessings of Living in A Muslim Country,” because, like I said, I’m not seeing this as normal behaviour ‘round here. His lack of conforming to social norms has much more to do with him being home-educated than with him being a Muslim, living in a Muslim majority country. I’m pretty sure he would have done the same thing back home in a US library, even though I know few people who do such things. Myself and friends have “hidden” ourselves away praying in the “stacks” at the university library and one student librarian told me about a woman actually be harassed by a lead librarian while the woman was praying in the ‘berry. Normally when I pray in public places, I try to tuck myself away a bit, mostly due to not liking “to be butt-up in the air” in public, but really I seldom saw anyone praying in public back home and not so much here either. Though theoretically it should be perfectly acceptable for us to pray in the Land of The Free and in the Land of The Muslims, that’s just not the reality for all, everywhere.
As we continue on this home-educating journey, one of the many things I try to objectively-as-possible observe is this interesting thing of when and where my kids conform and don’t conform. I fully admit to having to actively resist forcing trivial norms on them, like telling them to change their clothes or change their childlike legit, yet socially-unacceptable behaviors. I pray they are given the strength and wisdom to remain steadfast to the right things.