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A BRITISHER’S VIEW: A Brooklyn Woman Recalls the Hypocrisy of a Haj-Hopeful

The names of subjects have been changed to preserve anonymity -- ABV. On New Year’s Day, Rehana Haq received a telephone call from her sister, Noor Aziz in England. Noor told Rehana that she was going to haj the next day, and that the purpose of her call was to “restore good faith” between the two siblings, as required by Islam at the onset of the holy pilgrimage to the Prophet Mohammed’s birthplace. The two had not spoken since Rehana emigrated to New York more than 15 years ago, leaving behind her traditional Muslim family and a tight-knit Pakistani culture, which she felt had become a defective anachronism in her modern world. The passage of time had served to curdle her family’s angst. Their youngest member had left their Islamic fold, thumbed her nose at an arranged marriage and made a life for herself without their help, or blessing. The recriminations had been replaced by allegations of dishonor, which grew more sordid with each passing year. They fed their frenzy with fabrication, said Rehana, adding that her desire to liberate and distance herself from the stranglehold of her society and Islamic upbringing became the springboard for years of unjustified contentions against her, which ran the gamut from character assassination and moral turpitude to deception and lies. One year, Rehana learned to her horror that her family wanted nothing more to do with her because “a visitor” from New York had erroneously told them that their daughter had been spied in a nightclub with a drink in her hand, and now was akin to a heathen-hussy who was but steps away from a promising career in prostitution. Another time, the woman says that an aunt had called from Manchester in Northwest England with a horrific inquiry about an innuendo, which was falsely making the familial rounds: Had Rehana ever had sex with her older brother? Her matriarch and patriarch only fueled the fire with their complacency, Rehana asserts. Then, came the fundamentalism. When her family had moved to Great Britain from their native Kashmir in the late 1960s, there was no formed Muslim society to speak of, remembers Rehana. No mosques. No Islamic schools. Very few Muslims in London, actually. By default, her parents had presided over an ethnic household, considered reformed by strict Islamic standards. No hijabs. No Koranic hullabaloo. No five-a-day prayer sessions. No proselytizing. Says Rehana, her older sister, a second generation Muslim, had embraced a university education, enjoyed a career in high finance and, at the time, had vetoed the looming prospect of an arranged marriage with vengeance. The modern Muslim woman, recalls her younger sister, had aligned herself to her new British lifestyle, moved out of her parents’ home, traveled abroad on vacations with her British friends and romanced. A German-Swiss man she had met on holiday in Greece had even wanted to marry her. Noor “had her fun” with an assortment of “goriyas” (white men), recalls Rehana, but stopped short of committing to them because none were of her background. Then, came the third generation of Muslims. They eschewed western values and surrendered themselves to Islam with a new fervor. They found a firm footing in the Free World and shunned all desire to assimilate with former western friends, whom they now deemed “infidels.” Most important to this new brand of “yuppie-Muslims,” says Rehana, was a blind allegiance to a rocky faith and a capitulation to the fads, fashions and fancies of their newly-discovered convictions. “Once again, I want to apologize for any misunderstandings because I’m going to haj tomorrow, God is great…by the way, I’m staying in a four-star hotel in Jeddah,” Rehana recalls her sister saying as she culminated the telephone call. E-mail“A Britisher’s View” at BritView@courierlife.net. All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.

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