Dear Ali: I am a non-Muslim European expat who respects the culture and beliefs of Muslims so much that at the start of Ramadan, I wore the hijab. As a result, my manager said I was offending my Muslim colleagues and asked me to remove it. I was offended and hurt by this request, as the hijab reminds me to live the same way as Muslims. I am considering whether to convert to Islam. Is my manager right? NA, UAE
Dear NA: Don't worry, you're not offending us. Actually, it makes us happy, and as long as you truly intend to become a Muslim, you shouldn't encounter any resistance.
Perhaps it's worth talking to your boss to make him understand that you were wearing the hijab not only to comply with Ramadan, but also to see if this would lead you to embrace Islam. Therefore, he shouldn't have asked you to remove it because no one has the authority to stop someone from wanting to convert to Islam.
In fact, we all support those who want to do so. If he understands your intentions, then he might not have been so uptight about your decision to wear the hijab. The important thing here is your intentions and actions, and making sure that you don't misrepresent the hijab.
Remember that those who will object to your wish to wear it might be people who are upset about the women in our country who wear the shaila and abaya, and whose behaviour does not necessarily represent our sisters, mothers and daughters.
As a result, there are some people who act aggressively towards non-Emirati women who observe our dress code. That's why I keep advising my expat friends: "Trust us, we don't mind you wearing what we wear but it is the values we live by daily that you should observe, not just how we dress".
Consider doing the following to strengthen your knowledge about Islam:
1. Ask yourself how serious you are about this. (I hope it's not because you think the hijab looks cool on you, but for holier reasons.)
2. Attend Islamic sessions for people who want to convert.
3. Get in touch with good Muslim friends. If you feel ready to convert, then keep the hijab until God guides you to embrace Islam, inshallah. However, if you feel you are not really engaged in Islam, then I would advise you not to wear it.
Dear Ali: Apart from the festive lights on the streets, what are the symbols of Eid and how is it a festive occasion? For instance, when you think of Thanks- giving, turkey comes to mind; or if it's Christmas, it's the pine tree. DK, Um Al Quwain
Dear DK: Our Eid focuses on the act of giving and being surrounded by our family and loved ones. To us, when we think of Eid, we immediately envision our wives and daughters baking sweets the night before, filling the house with beautiful aromas. We envision random children knocking on our doors asking for Eidiya (monetary gifts), just like Halloween's trick or treating, except that it's always a treat.
Houses are nicely decorated, and women choose glamorous henna designs to wear. The smell of incense takes over as we prepare to receive guests and welcome them in the warmest hospitality. Eid to us also means new clothes, as we celebrate the month after the fast, and usher in the renewed version of us. All these contribute to the atmosphere of Eid and our actions speak even louder.
Park or garden
This was my favourite word when I was a kid. Going to the park was second best after a grocery store visit, where I would buy all the sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps I wanted. I would always nag my father (may his soul rest in peace): "Yalla nseer al hadeeqa" which means "C'mon, let's go to the park". To me it was the perfect place to run wild and play as much as I wanted, without my mum having to worry about where I was.