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Epic Battle: Soccer Versus Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver.

Yusuf’s best buddy, Joe has all the important things that four year old boys must have in common with Yusuf: cars, blocks, making ‘whoosh’ sounds as they wave their hands in an impromptu reenactment of  an Iron Man movie they’re not allowed to see and random yelling while running.

But this friendship is more than a symphony derived from seemingly chaotic sound and movement. Yusuf is connected to Joe in an indescribable way. They aren’t children who play together. They're friends. Real friends. Once, I noticed that there was a new child in Yusuf’s class and I asked if he had talked to the new girl and tried to make friends. His response was that he was trying to “work on his friendship with Joe right now” and he didn’t have time for new friends. 

Full on bromance, yo. 

As the bromance buds and relationships are worked on, Joe and Yusuf find themselves standing upon the American rite of passage from which few children and their hapless parents have managed to escape: an organized soccer team.  This wasn’t my idea, and, surprisingly not Tariq’s either. 

Yusuf has been obsessed with soccer for over a year now and his favorite team is an English Premier League team called Crystal Palace. Yes, Crystal Palace. There is a very specific kind of cringe that comes over you when your child is screaming “Yay, I love Crystal Palace!!” and all you can think about is that scene in season one of “Breaking Bad” when the meth head hooker approaches Walter’s son in the parking lot of the seedy motel of the same nickname.

First soccer practice was this past Thursday. I couldn’t make it because I hate taking my children to athletic practices more than any other aspect of parenting, er, I had a doctor’s appointment.  Around 6:30, after my appointment, my cell rang.

“Hey, how was soccer practice?”

“Oh, it was great. They had a lot of fun.”

“Yeah? Did they play a game?”

“It was a bunch of four year olds, they just ran around and kicked the ball… but there was a scuffle.”

“A…scuffle? What do you mean a scuffle?” Who says scuffle? 

“Well, I was talking to [some kid’s mom], I looked over and I saw Joe laying on the floor and this kid was sitting on top of him and I realized Yusuf was on top of that kid and he was kicking him.”

Times like this, I have two reactions which operate simultaneously. One is audible in my head and the other is audible in… well, in general. Please tell me I’m not the only one that does this.  

Caps and bold will be used for inner dialogue for your confusion-free pleasure.


“I’m sorry, did you say kicking someone?”

 "He wasn’t kicking exactly…”


In here means in my head. Because outwardly, I am not losing my shit. My inner dialogue curses but she doesn’t like it when I type bad words out. By the way, her voice sounds just like Eartha Kitt and I like to imagine she looks like Sigourney Weaver in "Working Girl." Shoulder pads and all. 

“Okay. What was he doing… ‘exactly’?” 

That last “exactly” is a small break in the auditory space reality continuum in which Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver and normal, nice Faiqa converge into one reality. I think there was a Star Trek episode when that happened and as you may imagine -- very bad things happened. 

Luckily, my husband missed the convergence and explained that the boy who was sitting on top of Joe was doing so because he was mad at Joe and our son was not kicking, but using his hands and feet to pry the boy off of his friend. Tariq further explained to the parents of the boy who was not “exactly” kicked that our son was just trying to help his friend and in a way that is characteristically pleasant implied that their kid had started it. They hadn't even noticed that anything happened at all. I write this without an inkling of judgment. I'm pretty much a zombie at any kind of athletic practice that my children have and I have no room to talk.

It seemed to have turned out fine. I think they all agreed that our son is not, in fact, a budding soccer field serial killer. Tariq told me that he told Yusuf that he’s proud that he has a son who sticks up for people he cares about, but it’s not okay to kick or hit people. To which Yusuf, according to Tariq, strongly asserted that he didn’t kick anyone but someone was hurting his friend and he was just trying to get the kid off of Joe.

Full.on.bromance, yo. 

But Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver would not let that go. I mean, on and on, worrying about what the other parents thought and exactly how did Tariq explain the situation to those other parents and for God’s sake since when does our son think it’s okay to use physical force on people to resolve differences and this is totally our fault because we tried to spank him that one time… and, ugh. 

I told you, this woman in my head is relentless. 

About half an hour later, the children came home. Yusuf ran to me and gave me one of his trademark hugs. They’re the kind of hugs that have made me yell, “Love doesn’t hurt!!” because he squeezes with all his might It's not that he's trying to hurt me, but it’s like all of the love in his body is physically trying to escape from his cells and plant themselves in every cell in my body.

He starts telling me all about soccer and how he scored twenty two points (I’m no soccer expert, but, twenty two, really? Were the other children Ents?). He tells me how he and Joe ran so fast with a ‘whoosh’ like this. He kicked the ball so many times. He ran so fast. It was all so awesome.

And. Then.

I said something colossally stupid. 

“So, I heard something surprising about what happened at soccer. Did you get in a fight and kick someone? I didn’t expect that you would be someone who uses force to solve his problems.” 

Auditory space reality continuum convergence. 

I’m surprised I didn’t add an Eartha Kittlike “daahling” at the end of that sentence.

Maybe you’ll tell me that this wasn’t a stupid thing to say. That I shouldn’t be hard on myself. You need to be vigilant. You wanted to know about it. You wanted to talk to him about it. You were just concerned. Know what word is coming up over and over again there? You. All of those sentences are about ME. Not about my child whom they should be about.

More importantly, he did have a concerned parent who handled it. His dad. My absence from the handling of this situation in no way indicates a lack of handling. It only indicates that I had no control over the situation and that I am clearly uncomfortable with this despite the fact that my husband may be the best dad that ever lived.

In a split second, Yusuf’s face fell. Just crestfallen. Anger, shame and maybe… is… that… disappointment on his face? I had used that word “surprising” on purpose. I do it with my students at school, too. I use it because I don’t want to imbue the statement of an action with judgment and alienate myself from potential communication with the child. But I don’t add that small minded, “You should’ve known better part.” At work, I'm careful to lead children to identify their own mistakes so they can be the ones who makes plans about how to fix them.

But at home, my knee jerk go-to is to be a parent. Becaue, duh. That's what I am at home. I'm not that teacher who comes from a place of curiousity, but a parent that can be worried and afraid that people won’t like my son because they’ll think he’s a bad boy who kicks people. 

After I was done talking, my son quietly got up, walked to the door of my room and said with his back turned , “I don’t want to talk to you right now. You’re hurting my feelings.”

He went to the living area and started playing with his sister. And I think I actually heard my heart break. I’ve always imagined that sounds like glass. But it actually sounds like Eartha Kitt and Sigourney Weaver doing head butts until their heads crack open. 

As the boy turned and walked out of the room, I realized his dad had been at practice, he had explained what had happened to the other parents, he had taken care of it and it was over by the time they got home. But I had to go all Investigative Discovery on the boy because Eartha Sigourney Kitt-Weaver needed to put a red stamp of approval on the resolution of the event. I imagine the stamp is red. All caps. “HANDLED APPROPRIATELY. MOTHER APPROVED.”

I ran out of the room and touched my son's shoulder. I got on my knees and I looked him right in the eye and I said something I have never heard my mother say. 

“Hey, I’m sorry.”

“No, you hurt my feelings!” he squeaked out with damp eyes.

“Really, Yusuf, I’m sorry. I know you worked it out with your dad. I know you did your best. I believe you were helping. I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings.”

And I wasn’t sorry for my child’s feelings being hurt, although that sucked. I wasn't sorry for wishing he had handled it with words instead of feet. I was sorry because I should’ve just asked what happened instead of deciding what had happened and offering a premature opinion.

I’m raising this sweet, sensitive boy who worries about “working on his friendship with Joe” and says things like “But love is everywhere in the world” when he hears my Pandora station playing Foreigner's “I Wanna Know What Love Is”… I should’ve known better. I should've asked when he wasn't positively glowing about how much fun he had. And I should've asked because I wanted to know what happened, not because I needed him to know what he should or should not have done. That was a different conversation that could've been had on different day.

And these should haves are a set intentions and promises I plan on keeping.

I said sorry. And he said it was okay. So I guess it was.  

We hugged it out, and he went back to playing My Little Ponies with his sister.

Which is his dirty secret and if you tell anyone I’ll have to kick all of you.

My Hero, 2012



This blog is seven years old. That’s, like, thirty eight years old in human years. Its knee is really starting to act up when it’s humid... 

I started Native Born because I had thoughts worth sharing. As a stay at home mom at the time, I wanted an outlet that where thoughts that went beyond nursing babies, playdates and photos of my children could take hold in the human consciousness. (Go big or go home, people).

 In fact, I think my first post was something about envisioning yourself outside of being a parent in those few moments you had to spare. I waxed philosophical about how too much emphasis on the children put pressure on the children and omg stop writing about your kids all the time — AND DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN! I said. Or something similar. I read that first post yesterday and am overcome by the same feeling I had when I stumbled on my high school journal. Something to the effect of, “Ah, you’re a sweet kid.”

The spirit of my blog in its infancy gave me a good footing in the social cosmos of the Internet. I pontificated on politics, religion, economy, injustice. Not to appear completely alienated from the vast majority of bloggers, I threw some posts about my kids in there for good measure. I’m a decent writer, so the subscribers grew quickly. I know because I looked at them every day.

I got some paid writing gigs. I got some paid editing gigs. I got followers on Twitter. I got lots of likes on a Facebook community page. I started calling myself a writer. I won an award or two. I got to speak at conferences. I got so much respect. So much.

And then I stopped in July. Like, just stopped. 

I quit all the things. I got off Twitter and Facebook. I stopped reading blogs. The Internet had magically appeared, sprinkled fairy dust on my keyboard and taken me to the social media ball. And then there came a day when I looked at my watch, saw the clock strike twelve and found myself with pumpkin guts all over my slippers. I guess this happens to a lot of bloggers. Busy. Lack of inspiration. Pumpkin guts.

Not me. That’s not why I quit. I conscientiously quit without even doing the requisite, “I’m going on a break, see ya when I see ya” post. 

You can probably imagine, this isn’t actually that hard. It’s kind of like breaking up with someone by not returning their phone calls. There were a few people who e-mailed and asked me what happened. I’m so grateful for those connections that I still maintain. But I didn’t really go into the why. Because I didn’t know. It’s taken me all these months to figure out why.

I believe that the Internet is a real community. I believe that it is a real society. It’s one that supports you and accepts you. It’s one that rejects and condemns you. And it’s also one that will tell you who it thinks you should be and will passive aggressively punish you for being different than what you are supposed to be. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Don’t retweet. Stop commenting.

Damn, the Internet can be a bitch.

 I think I fell out of love with the Internet the day that I realized that people were referring to me as a “Muslim blogger.” 

Look, I’m proud of being Muslim and Pakistani American. That is an important part of who I am. But I cannot be that person for you. That identity is useful to me in so many ways, and if others find it useful that’s a great little side effect. But that’s not the point of those identities, and being on the Internet was turning that aspect of me into some kind of commodity and to put it as poetically as possible, “That is super gross.” 

Visibility is important. In the climate of rampant Islamaphobia, it seemed like a good idea at the time to focus on these aspects of identity to foster awareness and tolerance. But, you guys, I am so much better at just being funny and relatable and having a good time. I’m not that "break down the barriers" gal. There are loads of other Muslim chicks out there that live, breath and eat the politics of tearing down those walls. It is an effort for me that is beyond the scope of my inner calling. If that makes sense. I promise it does to me and that’s what matters.

I’m a thoughtful, introspective human who is constantly evaluating my relationship with God and I refuse to do this in a public space anymore. God is between, well, God and me. If you hate Muslims, too bad for you. You miss out on a lot. It’s no longer my responsibility to make you un-hate them. Maybe, it's someone else’s job. And I will support that someone else as best as I can. But I want to be known for who I am in my entirety. I'm not your Muslimah Che. Or female Cat Stevens. Or, I don't know, Muhammad Ali. You know what I mean.

If you’ve been on Facebook, you’ll see that the hijab is an on and off again character these days. And the reason is… gasp… none of your business. If you have questions, I am cool with that. Ask them in an e-mail. But I will no longer be a symbol for you.

I cannot substitute for the very real experiences you must cultivate with people in your physical proximity. You want to know more about Muslims? Invite one to your home. Go to their home. This is not the space where connections like that can be made. Even with the podcast, that wasn’t about my being “the Muslim” even though we said that in the episodes. Mike and I were two people having an actual conversation. Sometimes we talked about Jewish-Muslim stuff and sometimes we talked about vampires. Friendship with the whole. That’s what that podcast was about. It was about cultivating an “in real life,” intimate relationship with someone unexpected.  

Have you ever walked into a room, and felt like everyone has already decided who you are and what you’re going to say? It’s a hollow, sad feeling. It’s a stifling feeling. It is the exact opposite of the feeling that kept me blogging so excitedly those first few years.

You go to these conferences and they talk to you about “branding” and “your brand” and you start to think, Whoa, that makes sense… people should know what to expect when they come to the site because that’s what makes them come back. But you forget, you aren’t selling anything. 

A brand cannot be vulnerable. I can think of a very few exceptions, of course. But, mostly, a brand can’t tell you the truth about when she’s scared or upset with herself. A brand has to appear to know what she’s doing. A brand is someone who does not actually connect, but wears connection as though it is a beautiful winter coat that protects her from the discomforts of true vulnerability and transparency.

I’m not a brand.

I think when they say brand at the conferences, they mean “values.” They’re saying you should stay true to your values. Ask yourself if your content matches up with your values. I get it. But just because I get it doesn’t mean I’m going to accept this terminology. I will not take the word integrity and dress it up in clothes borrowed from marketing jargon. If you want to make money on your blog, this is obviously a good strategy. But my space here isn't about money and it never will be.

This word "brand" in the space of personal blogging? It’s a mask, people. It’s a mask that keeps you from being vulnerable and open in a moment in our history where vulnerability and connection are in existential crisis.

I’m living a real life over here and I want to chronicle it. I want more than just the religious stuff, the political stuff, the controversial stuff to be here. I’m just done with tracking page views or writing/editing posts for money. I want you to be here because you want to be here and NOT because I constructed a brand that appeals to some specific need you have.

Because between you and me, you probably have everything you need already.

Be here so we can connect as humans. Tell me your stories. Listen to mine. Let's bring the personal back into personal blogging. It's not an exercise in narcissism. It's a an exercise in return. We erupted from the same tiny speck of energy billions of years ago. Could we, you and I, find each other again?

I started this blog when I was thirty one with a specific agenda, and that agenda doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I’m not too old to care about diversity and multiculturalism. I’m simply old enough to know that the only way to honor something is to live it, to tell its story and to not limit its definition by allowing it to define you completely.

Life. As it is lived. This is a personal blog and it will now become personal. 

A lot of you have been doing that for a long time.

You are an inspiration as you bring your lives into the light so that we may know the truth of what it means to be human.

All of those years, you have been my teachers. I may have looked like I was napping in class, but I promise I was paying attention.


I’m ready to be one of you. 


Ramadan Mubarak. Mubarek. Okay, Blessings.

I talk about it on last week's podcast of Hey!That's My Hummus.

This Jewish guy that's on the show talked about some stuff while I updated my Facebook status. I joke, I joke.

For more episodes of Hey! That's My Hummus! an interfaith podcast hosted by myself and Mike Scheinberg, check us out on iTunes.


On #Trayvon. And Us.

In a nest made of a pretty little river, a dozen or so golf courses and several lakes that are best kept secrets, the place of my becoming exists. For twelve years, I lived two minutes outside of Sanford, Florida. For the twenty three years before that, I lived about thirty minutes away. 

Sanford has a quaint, little downtown where there’s a lovely library carpeted with that weird brown material that was so popular in the 80s. When Nuha started preschool, I would take Yusuf to this library for children’s programs. Sometimes, we would visit a park nearby and I would push him on a swing until it was time for a snack. Sanford is a sweet, unassuming town. It doesn’t really stand out in any real way — save the fact that it is so unremarkably unremarkable. 

It’s cute. It’s simple. It’s just… Sanford.

I got a ticket about four years ago for speeding. I elected to take the driving course so I wouldn’t have to get the points on my license. I had to go to the courthouse to pay the ticket and show my driving course certificate.  The security guards are friendly and will make jokes with you if you appear game, as I often do. The staff there is professional and courteous. The courthouse has the usual mix of the mundane and exciting that a courthouse can offer. It wasn’t really busy. It’s a nice courthouse. You probably have one like it in your town. It, like the community it serves, is generally unremarkable.

But today, Sanford is not unremarkable. 

It is spotlighted. For some, it has become the staging ground for battle. It’s become emblematic of everything that  is right or wrong about our society. It has become the place where people point and say, “See, this is what we mean when we say that the world is this way or that way…” In a short time, something I knew as unremarkable has become quite remarkable in what I think is a very unfortunate way.

I spent a lot of time on Facebook tonight. I noticed comments about riots. About dead children. About self defense and self loathing. About prayers for peace for this side or that. The new, remarkable Sanford had made what is normally my unremarkable Facebook wall a very remarkable place, too.

“Nice job, Florida.”

“Well, don’t go to Florida if you’re wearing a hoodie!”

Hey, Americans of Facebook? Violence, racism, discrimination, bias… these are not the province of the newly remarkable Sanford, Florida. This is our national problem. We own it… as a nation — no exceptions. Everyday, people in this country are deemed threatening because of their appearance, their name, or their culture. They are dirty because they are poor. They are violent because they are black. They are angry because they are Muslim. They are racist because they are white. They are deviant because they are gay. 

These ideas and words are crimes against you and me. They are not so apparent as a grown man operating within the context of some irrational application of an ill conceived law provoking a child to violence and then killing that child as reprisal. But they are crimes, nonetheless, of which we are all victims and perpetrators.

They are the crimes that divide us. They are not as quick to kill as a bullet to the chest, but they do kill. They kill slowly and their death toll is in the thousands. And they cannot be prosecuted in a court of law.

And here’s the real clincher: the perpetrators of these crimes are almost always acquitted because the jury is too sympathetic or apathetic to convict. 

You acquit. I acquit. We acquit each other when we look the other way when a remark is made about “those people” and why they are “that way.” We acquit each other when we accept the idea that “race is not an issue.”

I want to tell you all, for your own good, stop saying that. If you think race isn’t an issue, then race is most definitely an issue for you. When you pretend something does not exist, you give it power. That’s why Harry said “Voldemort” instead of “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Be Harry. You cannot destroy that which you think does not exist. You cannot heal a sickness if you refuse to believe that you are sick. You deny a sickness, though, and it only grows.

A trial in Sanford? That is, at least, some accountability. It’s a few moments when someone says, “Well, let’s try to figure out what went wrong here.” So maybe they don’t figure it out and some bogus verdict sends us all in a tizzy …just long enough so we get distracted from the many acquittals we dole out on a daily basis.

We then focus on the big remarkable event which is just really the outcome of all the acquittals we dole out in the unremarkable moments in our lives.

Someone pleaded today, “What can I do?”

I’ll tell you. 

Hold yourself accountable for the tiny ways in which you might be making this problem bigger. You’re not a racist, of course. I’m not either. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t unconsciously harbor sentiments which are so deeply ingrained with racist ideology that it is no longer visible to us. I think, too, and this is going to be controversial… we have to let go of relativism when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. Be unrelenting. Be ever vigilant. But, of course, be kind.

Look at what you believe — observe yourself, your words and your ideas in the context of humankind’s very necessary journey to a peaceful existence. Our continued existence is fully determined by our ability to take a stand in the service of our preservation.

One remarkable acquittal is enough. 

Let’s not acquit ourselves, too.



Let me see if we can both make sense of this.

I’m okay. Like, there are definitely no major life crises going on at this moment. 

Let's talk about our classroom’s pet, the adult female corn snake. I’ve never much cared for snakes, and I don’t know a lot about things I don’t care about. When you take over an elementary classroom, though, you have certain responsibilities. The absolute biggest of which is making sure the children don’t die or something. Somewhere after that is the care of the fauna and flora of the classroom.

When our corn snake stopped eating her delicious meal of dead defrosted rat in the late winter, I got concerned. Was she sick? Developing an eating disorder? On a hunger strike until her and her fellow classroom pets were liberated from bondage?

I was informed by the classroom assistant, who does care about things like this, that this is perfectly normal. Apparently, this is “shedding time.” When a snake starts to shed, it does certain things. Like not eating. Also, its skin dulls. And its eyes get cloudy, too. I was thrilled to find out that the cloudy eyes thing was normal because the solutions to feeding a corn snake with sever cataracts its bi-weekly meal (did I mention it was a dead rat? That we have to dangle the rat? And that she dislocates her jaw and swallows the whole thing?) were utterly terrifying.

I’m like a snake when it comes to emotional evolution. When I shed, I stop eating rats and my eyes cloud. Metaphorically speaking. It’s the reduction of input. The quieting of the outside so that the inside may flourish. Also, rats are just gross and I firmly believe that everyone, even a snake, deserves a break from that sort of dietary hell.

Something else our snake did this spring was lay eggs. That was super weird because, as far as I know, there are no boy snakes hanging out in our classroom. My first inclination was to shout loudly to the global snake community, “Be not afraid; behold, I bring you great tidings of joy!” circa my 1984 stint as the Angel of the Lord in Daytona Beach Baptist School’s Christmas production, whose other lesser known title was, “Angels Have Brown Hair, Too - Even if We Are Baptists.” I suspected that such a proclamation should be backed up by at least some degree of research, though, so I decided to Google “virgin corn snake eggs.” 



That was an unexpected first. 

Anyway, the egg laying was not, in fact, a messianic miracle, but a natural occurrence in which the snake is shedding the inner lining of her reproductive whatchyamacalits and what I am trying to say is that our classroom snake DearGod,AreYouThere,It’sMeMargaret-ed and went and had her first snake period which resulted in the laying of fake eggs which would, thankfully, not be hatching. I say “thankfully” because dead rats are expensive and that snake doesn’t have a job and I am not running a welfare state classroom over here.

I have a point. 

I promise.  

I imagine it took the snake a lot of work to lay those eggs. Eggs that would not hatch. I wonder if she got mad at herself, at first. “I cannot believe I went on this stupid rat fast just so I could push out ten eggs that aren’t even going to hatch.” And, then, maybe when I found her hovering over them, she was all, “Whatever, I’m just going to sit in my fake little plastic rock cave and be pissed off about having worked so hard only to find that all of this was fake.” And , then, she fell into a dreamlike state in which she envisioned one of the children leaving the lid of her cage slightly ajar so she could slither off to a place where they actually have corn, like maybe Iowa or something, and be impregnated by an actual boy snake and have free babies without the marks of bondage like those humans in Matrix III. 

I’ve sort of gotten of track here. Like Jane Goodall forgetting to number the chimps, but naming them Rudolph and Blitzen and being all unscientific. I’m trying to tell you that I thought that I thought one way  and found that I don’t actually think that way even though, really, I should and I was upset about it for a while, but now I’m fiiiiiine.

A person can write about her birthday while telling herself that she doesn’t care for the approval of others. But, then, she comes into contact with a person here or there that doesn’t just hold lukewarm feelings about her but actively hates her and finds ways turn hate into direct action despite, for real and seriously, all of one's best efforts to find common ground and, at least, come to some sort of mutual understanding that doesn't involve mental torture.

One realizes, then, that one can make proclamations about one’s self esteem and confidence all one likes while one inhabits a vacuum of love and a carefully constructed reality but when the pressure is on… one cares, and rejection doesn’t just sting… it devastates. 

That devastation then colors the world. 

One begins to see rejection where it does not exist. 

One’s self worth becomes not something which one brandishes happily, but something which one must actively fight to preserve.

One feels ashamed for being so weak as to be affected so severely by someone who they did not much hold in high esteem, anyway. And that last part about not holding them in high esteem actually makes one’s shame take on an exponential quality and begins to transform from shame into just feeling dumb which one is rarely accustomed to feeling.

And one does not prefer to do such things in public. Ever. 

One prefers to hide even from those who have never been anything but lovely to her in the solitude of her cave.

On top of her fake, pseudo-messianic eggs.

While her skin sheds and her eyes cloud.


One does come out when she is done with that.


Hark the Herald; Angels Sing...This Totally Happened