Channel: Lauren Booth
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Welcome to heart and soul with me, Lauren booth your place to reflect. When I accepted Islam six years ago, my daughters then aged eight and 10 years old had three questions for me. The first question they asked was, Mum, if you accept Islam, will you still be our mummy? I think they thought that Islam was a country they were going to go to and I'd vanish into it. The second was this, Mum, if you're Muslim, will you still drink alcohol? Well, I guess that gives an indication of how important alcohol was in our household at the time. And then the third question, really surprised me. Mum, if you come to Islam, will you still show your chest in public? I looked at my daughter and
I said, firstly, how dare you ask your mother such a rude question. And secondly, what do you mean? She said, Look, you wear these low cut tops and it was really embarrassing and our teachers can see everything and we don't like it. I said to my daughters, look, if I become Muslim, I will stop drinking alcohol. I'll still be a mom and I will be dressed from head to foot. Every time I go out. They said we love Islam. Now this was from children. But I wonder what does modesty this seemingly outdated concept have to offer a modern life? Joining me today to explore the Islamic concept of modesty and and its practical applications is Kathleen to me from Australia. Kathleen is a PT and
aquatic instructor by profession, but she holds a BA in Islamic studies from Omdurman, University of Sudan. Kathleen is currently working alongside Mark has been Zaid Islamic Center on its Islamic and cultural public programs. Welcome. Welcome. Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Alan. Good to be lovely to see you. Now. First of all, you're from Australia. And I'm looking at you now and I can see that you are wearing niqab which in the West is symbolic now with oppression. Are you feeling oppressed today? Not at all. In fact, the opposite feeling is the liberation sounds a bit strange in the net,
coming from that side of the fence, so that side of the world and especially for my own background as an Australian and just contemplating how I introduce my profession, you know, as a personal trainer and an aquatics instructor. And
really from my past, you know, I was the the beach girl, you know, it was right out there. So to be it's such, it's such a contrast now, you know, to be as you said, sitting in in this situation, which is something that I must say that I never really imagined.
Can you talk us talk us through that change from a kind of Baywatch Bondi Beach girl, to to wanting to cover everything up in public? Was it just a physical manifestation? What happened in your mind and your heart to come to where this is a comfortable place, especially in a hot country. I just remember sitting on a bus once in Florida. And there was an American lady and I was taking my kids to one of the Disney places and she turned to me and she was staring and I thought, Okay, this is a great opportunity for her to ask me a question. I said, please. Any question at all that you have about Islam? I won't be offended. I've heard it all. I'll be happy to answer it. And she stared at
me. She said, y'all are hot, narrow What? And, you know, I was a compassionate moment, because she just wanted to know that poor woman is sweating more than I am so so how does it How did it come into your heart and your mind to do this? Well, I mean, looking back at the past and the beach days and things and its relation with hijab and how I am today, you know,
I have to say,
All thanks to God in that sense, you know, it was a big thing for me and still is today, you know, to exercise take care of myself and and I have to say one of the first questions for me exploring Islam initially was, Do I have to give this up?
Because exercise is my life looking after myself and my house and I believe that that was the right way to live and, and I wanted it you know, and and when I found out No, on the contrary, yes, you know, Muslims should be
be taken care of their health. I was like, great, you know, that's an extra plus, can we backtrack a little bit and tell us? How old were you when you began looking into Islam as a as a face choice, perhaps for you? And what background did you come from? Well, to be honest, I wasn't looking for any faith, other than what I already had. And, and I was actually quite a staunch Catholic, to be honest.
I was one that just never looked left or right, in terms of other faiths, you know, and
as I said, you know, my own day to day lifestyle socializing, you know, as you'd mentioned earlier, on the typical sort of Ozzy thing, beach, going out to clubs and things like that. So, you know, for me, although I had that, and that was part of the society, you know, in Australia, it's quite an outdoor society, very active. And I was into all that. And,
you know, to sort of think, how does that work along with my staunch religious beliefs? You know, really, there was sort of one world and then there was another one. So there was a disconnect between what you were spiritually told should be happening on what you physically saw, huh? Yeah, yeah, no doubt, for sure. And, for me, I have to say, it was one of those gradual clearing of the fog. As I say, you know, it wasn't any lightning bolts in terms of, of my change of faith, that
continual I had to say, actually, when I finally did get interested in reading about Islam, it was really through social interaction, you know, being a social person, you know, I traveled at the time, I was living in Malaysia, and
doing my swimming thing, you know, I was basically sort of what I took, and, you know, as a job when I worked around various places I traveled and, you know, along with that, but it was observing these people, you know, how they were the way they treated me. You know, I was, I come from a big family, you know, there's seven of us, you know, Mom and Dad nine. And like I said, a strong practicing Catholics, I took my religion wherever I went, although, there was that other side of life. And then, for me, I guess it connected, you know, in seeing the Malaysians who are Muslims, and the lifestyle, they live, the generosity, their hospitality, you know, me being a woman alone, living
and working in their country, you know, trying to embrace the culture and the lifestyle to a degree of course, you know, but
being a social person, one who's interested in learning and things, I really enjoyed that I really enjoyed embracing the culture, Island language, you know, I lived with Malay people, and really, that helped me to feel more a part of the society, a part of being with the people and learning there what seemed to me at that time to be a cultural way of living, you know, but as I then you know, further went on to, to learn about Islam then, okay, the connection comes together, you know, of being able to still have my social life to a degree, or an or maybe I should say, still have my social life at a slight adjustment on that social life, and still have that connection that I really
wanted and needed with the Creator. Did anybody at that time say to you, you have to be Muslim? Or it's haram what you're wearing or, or make you feel unless a person because you weren't following that path? Yeah, of course, they're always like the Malays around you know, in one year, come on, be a Muslim, be a Muslim, you know, you're a good person, this and that. And then there was the other side, my other friend saying, don't you did today, you know, like, they're gonna make you Muslim, you better stay away, they're gonna make you Muslim. Like, you know, that it's an entry to a club or, you know, you're going to be hijacked and and put into a faith place. Yeah. And that's ironic
the way you know, there were locals, you know, the locals were saying that Indians and others, you know, because it's an Indian and Chinese culture as well, you know, to sort of say, yeah, you know, for them to some of them to note that difference that Oh, it's as if it's forced on me. Let's just make it clear here. differences are good. God has created us all in different tribes and cultures to share each other's tastes and flavors and dynamics and languages and how dull it would be if none of that existed if there was only one type of tree or flowers were only red, this is a dynamic and, and beautiful place to live and we celebrate diversity. I was thinking that and he just the other day
about being in Qatar, you know, and and it's kind of the hodgepodge as they say, right of all different nationalities fades Of course.
fights and things, of course, ultimately, you know, he being in a Muslim country, but there are others who come and live here and live here happily, you know, and and embrace the, the the way of life, you get to get to a level of understanding and feel comfortable, you know, maybe which might have seemed alienated initially, and I kind of felt that way first, you know, going to Malaysia in that regard. But, you know, I looked around me, I noticed, you know, this is how the people dress, this is how the people act, and I just kind of blended in with it all, you know, so, but but you know, what the the niqab is very, very rare just to describe that, in case you're not aware of the
term. It is it includes the face, veil, and the the modesty of black loose clothing. So that so that the the physique and the face are covered apart from the eyes and the hands. And no, nobody is quite intimate to nobody, but it's very rare in Malaysia to see this. So. So when did that become part of your path?
Wearing of niqab? You mean? Yeah, well, in Malaysia not. So it was really more when I came here to the Gulf. In looking at the contrast in the society, definitely, after I became Muslim, took me some time, you know, in terms of modesty, when you talk about that, it was like, as I said, it was a gradual progression for me, like, I sort of went from, you know, shorts to pants to skirts, do you know, long shirts, and you know, scarves, colored the plane, and then eventually, you know, a buyer. And then of course, coming over to this part of the world then
starting to wear makeup the face? Well, can we talk a little bit about how it feels to be a woman and go out in the clothing? Because you can't communicate with your, your face? And look, beauty is really important. It always has been and it always will be it carries a lot more weight in the current How should we say paradigm? Women's beauty, you get paid more than more beautiful, you are these business facts? And young you're choosing to cover that completely and take that out of the equation, how does it feel to go out and interact with people when they can't? No, no, you in this society, you mean in general, or I want to know about in this society and also about when you go
home? Well, as I said earlier, you know, the beginning, being in this situation of covering I feel that much more liberation, much more freedom than what what I had previously, to be able to move about get from A to B when I need to move in public and, and just say, not to be bothered in a way that I can just get on with things get the job done, if they want to say and, and feel and feel that respect, you know, that I get, especially from the males of the community. But I can also say even without no carbon when I was an Australian and wearing I'm wearing a bio wearing
Hijab wearing a fake scarf, is that funny to say what I observed was the same kind of respect from a community predominantly even when I'm not in a Muslim area. And to me, what triggered to me was like, You know what, that's just the nature you know, something I guess similar when they see the nun, you know, walking down the street, center everything, it's just like a normal reaction of a reverence or I type of respect say, Hey, you know, this leave this woman type thing to what she's doing. And and you know, anything get like guys moving to the side of the road, like on the path from the path, they'd step to the side? It was that was that prejudice and feel you actually felt it
was no sort of respect? Yeah, I felt it as a as a respect for sure. I didn't feel that at all. Now, I'm not gonna say that maybe some people may not have experienced that, but from my experience, definitely, it was. It was something that I could see was an automatic reaction that you know, hey, let me be the gentleman here. I guess if you want to put it in our terms like that it was more reminding them or they their natural reaction of being the gentleman you know, moving aside for the woman letting her leave her way and get on with her business and never have to say when I go back to the UK I do miss that. I I you know, when you get pushed and pulled about and you think wow, to be
offered a seat would be really nice. I've never been one of those women, by the way, who said don't offer me a seat. I'm as good as any man. I'm like, there are times you need to sit down. You know, I've been pregnant twice. You know, those are months of sickness followed by a lot of hard work. I quite
I like a chivalrous society. So what we're going to do now is we are going to do here some spoken word on talk Islam. It's called my hijab and we'll be back with Kathleen to me after this.
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You're listening to heart and soul on Qf radio with me, Lauren booth, sharing some gems of knowledge with us. Today is Kathleen to me. Welcome back, Kathleen. Thank you. We were talking before that break about the beauty of chivalrous behavior and of being left alone when you go out. I mean, I did feel a loss when I went from young and beautiful to slightly less young and slightly less beautiful, but there was also I have to be honest, a sense of relief at not being whistled at. Oh, yeah, definitely.
I think we can, you know, fully agree with that. I mean, you know, looking and thinking about actually, you know, the nature of women and how they do want to be admired. They do want to be told how beautiful they are, and, and things like that, but at the end of the day, you know, there's a level of it, right? They're not necessarily looking for the other things that come along with it. Right. And so definitely sure, when the whistles and advances come with that. It's like, yes, you know, we say, Great. hamdulillah thanks, God, you know,
For hijab, for the for the covering that we say, you know, we can move around and not have to worry about those things, but yet we feel that respect, like I was mentioning earlier and really over time of, you know, wearing Hijab and learning about Islam is really helped me to understand that aspect of respect from the nature between men and women. I mean, I was thinking earlier about myself, you know, as I say, going out being social being the beach girl, but I also because I grew up with four brothers, you know, so I was very much a tomboy type thing. And, and I was, you know, I'm pretty much the smallest in my family. So, I was always felt like, I had to prove myself, I had to
challenge other people. So if men wanted to do things for me, as we were talking about chivalry, the gentleman approach and things, I would be like, No, no, it's okay. I can do it, you know. But you know, now, you know, the beauty of Islam and the respect that that Islam gives it God gives to women in such a way that I say, you know, today, you want to carry my bags, carry them be my guests, you know, and it is so much nicer. I mean, just the reaction of men. Anyway, when we look at the nature of men, they want to do that. They want to feel good, they want to feel admired. So let us let them do their job, I think is one of the many positives about being in the Gulf, and specifically being
here in Qatar, is that you get looked after, as a woman. Somebody packed your bags, and then they carry them for you. And if anybody can help you out, they'll help you. I remember trying to go for a walk one day, mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun style. And it was summer. And my daughter and I were trying to have this walk and the cars would stop. And I realized the men were actually traumatized and thought, what terrible thing is befell fall in these two women that they have to walk around trying to help. And I think that's a beautiful concept. for women to be cared for by society. We don't have to listen, neither Kathleen or myself would consider ourselves
shrinking violets. We're not going to faint outside the door. And that's unnecessary. We, we are sick, Allah protect us from that we're going to get on with our lives. But how nice to have the rights of one another respective? Yeah, sure. I mean, I remember when I first came to Qatar, I was like, Why are these women being dropped at the front door of the shopping mall? A walk, you know, being a person of exerciser, I'd say, Come on go Park, and you're blocking the traffic Anyway, you know, but as you rightly said, you know, here, it really emanates the position of the woman, the Muslim woman here, the woman in general, but especially the Muslim woman in the sight, as you said,
walking on the street, like, I gave that up straightaway, like I knew that, hey, this just wasn't befitting for women here and in this part of the world, and it's not because they look down upon it all. It's not because they are looked at something inferior. The opposite. On the contrary, it's so opposite, as you said, you know, it's something to raise them that they're that they're
important to the family, but they are to be protected, or they're interested to be looked after by the men in the home. And I think that's wonderful, you know, coming from a society that just says, Hey, good luck, but go for it. Duffy, final thought saw perhaps some pieces of advice for young women out there who either feel nervous seeing women in niqab or perhaps are considering changing their own exterior, what advice would you give? Well, I would say, you know, thanks for bringing that up. Because I I have come across people, I wouldn't even say they're not necessarily people aren't Muslim, even Muslims, when you talk about the face veil, you know, I'd say ask, you know,
come and ask us, let us let out, or let us know, how you feel or your questions as to why this, you feel uncomfortable about it, and things like that, and we'll gladly explain it to you and, and we welcome that type of approach. And please don't ever feel inferior, or feel or I'm going to be upsetting. You know, we'll gladly explain how it is. And as I said, you know, from the beginning, like the freedom that we feel for this and the respect and honor that we get as as women in the society, it's really something you have to kind of feel I mean, I would even say hey, go out and try it for yourself, you know, really go out wearing a bio, you know, if you want to go and try the
face, okay, go ahead, but even just wearing their bio on the scarf, and there's such a contrast, you know, I've had many people mentioned that and really, I would encourage it go out, try it, see for yourself, you know, we can only say so much but you know, proof is in the pudding right? Perhaps perhaps as is something with cultural center can do try hijab day. I know. I know universities in the UK have done this sister Kathleen to me. Thank you so much for that insight into modesty and what it feels like to be dressed in this way does Akela hire me I love the provider pool his abundance upon us all and guide us all to the best way of living together as humanity
That's all from heart and soul today, more tomorrow Assalamu alaikum. The producer for this series is a have a chef