The meeting room was big enough to accommodate a big oval meeting table which can house 15 people comfortably. The windows were left open to allow damp summer breeze to enter the meeting room of this isolated seminary. At 9.00 am, participants of a short summer course entered the meeting room one by one. They took seats nearest to the window causing a fly and a couple of bees to fly away into the wood outside of the retreat house. A few seconds later, a black figure glided into the meeting room. Her black blouse and long skirt a picture of elegant and a grey abstract-print scarf gracefully shaped her oval face. The smile that was on her face made the two bees regretted that they had flown away. Softly she lowered herself into a swivel chair at the head of the meeting table. All eyes were fixed on her. As she sat down, she uttered “Good morning” with an air of authority even the dogs which were yapping outside of the meeting room had to listen and obey.
Soon after, the organizer walked in apologizing for being late. She introduced herself jovially. She explained that the course would be conducted informally and in relaxed mode. She asked the participants to introduce themselves one by one beginning with the one seating on her left. He was Justine, a young man from Chicago with hair that rabbits would love to chew. Next to him was a lady professor from South Korea named Daeryun with skin as smooth as a virgin mango peel. Two beautiful women from Italy, Lisa and Roberta proved descriptions of goddesses by Homer might be true. Then, a friendly young man told his name was Dan from New York. Beside him was an energetic lady from Istanbul. From her look and dress, she could be mistaken for a non-Muslim lady from Serbia. She introduced herself as Nina, a Muslim professor from a prestigious university in Istanbul. Next to her was a petite young lady from Portugal; she mentioned that her name was Margie.
Then all eyes were directed to this unassumingly simple with no façade to hide behind yet stunningly elegant lady. She spoke with a tone of voice so soft that they had to open wide their ears but her words were firm and authoritative. The smiles on her face a depiction of sincerity. She said in fluent American English, “I’m Hajr from Malaysia. I’m a full time homemaker doing PhD because I’m a Muslim”. Hearing this, the jaw of the professor from Istanbul dropped in astonishment. She boomed with a heavy accent that even a buzzing bee could hinder one’s effort to understand her, “What do you mean? The scarf on your head is a symbol of your husband oppressive iron curtain he casted over you”.
Despite this rude personal judgment, Hajr was calm as if she had heard this 1000 times before and she was prepared to face this offensive remark. She spiced up her smile with a tinged of smirking and responded with conviction, “I understood being Muslim as being intelligent because seeking knowledge is obligatory based on the teaching of my Prophet and thus my husband is required to provide the financial support for my education. And if my husband were to force me to take off this piece of cloth on my head which you despise so much, I’ll divorce my husband…There is no obstacle between My God and I”.
TO BE CONTINUED