As a Muslim woman of European heritage, I stick out in my native US and in most of the Muslim world. Wearing the scarf (hijab) constantly reminds me that I am "other". The most moving experience of belonging to the world community was when I made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The first three days all the men are clothed in two white sheets of terry cloth--no stitching, no hats, nothing to distinguish the street cleaner from the billionaire. I wept or laughed while we went about our ritual activities, at once overwhelmed by the spiritual sobriety of the millions of pilgrims and ecstatic with the joy of companionship. For once, I was in a place where I fit; I was welcome and comfortable.
After the third day, the pilgrims are allowed to change into their normal street clothes. Now their clothes reflected the extreme diversity of cultures that call themselves Muslim: the bright cotton wraps of West African women, the giant black turbans of Pakistani mountain men, the plaid sarongs of Malaysian men, the black abayahs and face covers of the women of the Gulf. By this time, the differences illustrated the unity of the Muslims and I prayed that we would all take that sense of fraternity back to our various homes and "pass the peace".
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