especially in the
If it were not
for the hijab, or headscarf, people would probably make no
assumptions about Ameena Jandali. But because of the way she
dresses, they do.
"Just last week I
was dropping someone off at the airport," she said. "I was
waiting in the back seat because my baby was crying. You know
the airports now -- you're not supposed to stay too long. So the
security guard came and said, 'You really need to move,' and
said, 'Can you drive?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm 40 years old and I can
Jandali was born
to Muslim parents in Colorado. She has a college degree, has
been married for 23 years, and is the mother of five children.
She was in high school when she decided to become a practicing
"I made that
conscious choice," she said. "I saw the benefits of practicing
Islam. I saw the truth of Islam."
Christy Chase, an
IT manager at the NASA-Ames Research Center in Mountain View,
was not born a Muslim. She converted 19 years ago.
"As a Christian,
I was always waiting to be saved," she said. "I heard these
wonderful stories about the sunlight coming through the window.
I kind of waited for my moment to have that great moment of
being saved, and knowing I found the truth, and it wasn't
anything that exciting."
Chase married an
immigrant from Egypt with whom she has seven children -- six of
them girls -- all being raised as Muslims.
Focusing on School
At the age of
puberty, Muslim girls are required to begin covering their heads
in public. It's a concept that for many non-Muslim women appears
to fly in the face of women's equality. But Muslim women
disagree. Jandali says the hijab is "for the purpose of raising
a woman above her sexuality -- so that she is not viewed or
judged or related to based on the way she looks -- and to get
away from some of the tendencies in society to misuse women's
bodies, to abuse women's bodies."
Muslims are not
allowed to drink, smoke, or date casually. How does that sit
with Chase's 16-year-old daughter?
"You know, I
really don't miss out on dating. I don't date," she said. "I get
a lot of 'Don't you really want to date?' No, from watching you,
your boyfriend, not really. Men take too much time. I'm focusing
Most teenage boys
and girls do plan to marry someday, but the Muslim way of
choosing a mate is generally motivated more by personal
histories than hormones.
the relationship with the basis of marriage in mind," Chase
said. "Rather than, 'Let's date and have a good time and see
where this goes,' the idea is you see if your goals are aligned,
and then you find out if you're compatible, and attracted to
each other, rather than the opposite."
And if you think
a modestly-dressed Muslim woman wouldn't be interested in a red
party dress, then you'd be wrong.
Islamicly, you're home, you're dressed nice. You do your hair,
even makeup," Chase said.
Culture has a Strong Hold
American Muslim women feel they have plenty of freedom and
independence, but are well aware that's not the case for Muslim
Muslim men are
able to marry up to four wives. But the Qur'an says that the man
must treat each wife fairly, and that means financially and
emotionally. Because it is illegal in the U.S. to have more than
one wife, many American Muslim scholars say a Muslim man here
cannot marry more than one woman, because the other women would
not be treated fairly under American law.
women say theirs is a religion that respects women and elevates
them to a special place. In Islam, they say, they are equal to
men, but different from them.