Buttons for Solidarity with Muslims

If you want buttons to share with your community, please contact me at maryah.converse@gmail.com or purchase them here.

There is renewed interest in Peace Be With you buttons due to the recent uptick in violence against Muslims (e.g. here, here, here and this one that was actually probably not a hate crime) and the recent bombs in New York and New Jersey. I have more informational cards and literally hundreds of buttons to give away, already paid for by the Women's Alliance of the Unitarian Church of All Souls, NYC.

I am covering postage costs. If you would like to make a donation, please go to LaunchGood.com and give to a project in a Muslim community of your choice. The team at LaunchGood, led by founder (and my friend) Chris Abdurrahman Blauvelt, work with each campaign to make sure that they are both as successful as possible, and that all donations go directly where they are needed. Your gifts there will be tax-deductible.

Recently, I gave a presentation to the Women's Alliance of All Souls Unitarian Church about some pins I made with some other New York City Unitarian Universalists made to wear in solidarity with our Muslim and Arab neighbors. These buttons are meant to say "You're safe beside me" to Muslims and other Arabs we see on the subway and elsewhere.

The Influence of Islam on my New York Unitarian Life

All Souls Women’s Alliance luncheon
I am so delighted to be speaking at the All Souls Women’s Alliance and joining a distinguished list of speakers, among them a wide range of speakers on international affairs: last month my fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Catherine with the long Nigerian last name, the month before Rev. Carol Huston on the International Women's Convocation. Last year I made extra sure to be here for Marilyn Mehr speaking about Polish Unitarians. Another memorable luncheon for me was the author of the Gaza Kitchen cookbook a couple years ago now.

So when Betty asked me to be your speaker, I was delighted. In the internationally aware tradition of both the Women’s Alliance and my own tendencies as an activist, I want to speak to you about a few ways that Islam and Arab communities have influenced me as a Unitarian Universalist and as a New Yorker.
An appreciation of Islam, oddly enough, has been part of my Mayflower-descended family since long before I was born. When my mother was a senior in high school in Massachusetts in the mid-Seventies, her family hosted an exchange student for a year: a young Afghan woman named Fakhria.

I grew up with many stories about Fakhria. One of my favorites is the first time the family took her into Boston. She looked left and right everywhere they went, and got increasingly agitated. Finally, Fakhria said, “Where are the beggars?”

She had filled her pockets with nickels and dimes, as she had always done in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Her parents had taught her that as a Muslim, as a Pashtun and as the daughter of a family of privilege, she had an obligation to give to the less fortunate. She wanted to know where the homeless were in Boston so she could contribute.

I think of Fakhria often as I pass the homeless in the New York subway and am confronted with the question,
What am I doing with my privilege to serve others?
For me, that’s a theological question — maybe THE theological question of Unitarian Universalism.

Pets and Other Critters: Goats

Part 1: Houseguests | Part 2: Pets | Part 3: Goats and Chickens

It is a truth universally acknowledged that tourists love camels and goats. I confess, I’m no exception. Sid Muna commented once, as ustaadh Imad was driving us down to the Directorate of Education, “Every time we pass a herd of goats, you turn your head to look!”

I especially liked to watch the sheep and goats come home. Several families would send their goats with one shepherd out of town, perhaps as much as several miles, to graze on what brown remnants were left of the grasses and flowers that had blanketed the hillsides in April. About an hour before the sunset adhan, they would return with their flocks up the roads that radiated out of town.

The shepherds sauntered casually at the back. The first time I visited my PCV friend Lynn in her village, she described to me how her elderly downstairs neighbor clucked and tsked at his flock from behind, and they just knew whether to go left or right, to stop or move faster. The sheep and goats would trot single-file on the roadway. As they passed their home pens, a line of sheep and goats would peel off to the right or left, single-file to their dinners.

Everyone else chuckled at my fascination with goats, but it was what finally allowed me to have a relationship with Osama.

No thanks to his big brother, though! On the first night I ever spent in Faiha’, I was sitting in sid Muna’s dimly lit living room after dinner, tiny glasses of hot tea set out before us on her colorful Persion rug. Samira brought out apples, oranges and little cucumbers on small plates, one for every two people in the family room.

In the middle of our conversation, mostly in translation via Abu Alaa because my Arabic was still minimal, a head popped around the corner. He was tall, with thin cheeks and bright dark eyes, and he was asking his yumma (sid Muna) for something.

“Maryah!” exclaimed Alaa, a big grin on his broad face and an elder brother’s glint in his eye. “Look!” he said, pointing at the head peering ’round the corner. “The enemy, the enemy! It’s your enemy Osama, ya Maryah!”

Poor Osama flushed red and his head popped back out of sight. He mostly stayed out of my sight for months. I would see him at dinner sometimes, but he ate faster than anyone I have ever seen — his even skinnier sister Samira was almost as fast — and would go immediately back outside. We rarely spoke.