al-maraya at Bidayah wa Nihayah and PM at PM's World have written about a subject near and dear to my heart - the Universality of Islam and the culture of the convert wife. I have noticed a tendancy of my convert aquaintences to adopt completely the cultural trappings of their husband, or at least squash most of their previous "jahilyyah" culture in favor of becoming a pseudo arab or pakistani. Heck, sometimes this happens even without marriage. Around the time of my conversion, professor told me the story that still sticks in my mind today, of a single american woman who had converted to Islam and adopted the culture of Saudi Arabia. She wore the complete Saudi outfit, cooked only Saudi food and would only allow Saudi Arabic in her home (which was quite difficult for her and the kids at first, not knowing Saudi arabic). Islam is for all times and places, but all too often, we restrict it to a narrow subset of muslim cultures. In order to be muslim, one must be arab, or be pakistani, etc.
As a girl growing up in the small town midwest, my idea of diversity was lutherans and catholics with a side of chinese food once a month. But, alhamdulilah, my parents raised me to be very open minded. Sometimes, I bet they wish they didn't raise me quite so open minded to have embraced Islam, hehe. I have always loved to explore new culture and new ideas, and with islam came a bunch of new cultures and things to try. I enjoy wearing abayas and jelbab, but I look terribly silly in salwar kameez. I really dig afghan food, kabob, briyani and shwerma, but I can't stand moloqiya. However, even when exploring new cultures, I've always maintained my identity as an american muslim. Sure, I wear abayas on occasion, but I'm just as comfortable in a jeans, long tshirt and a scarf. I love going to the gym or out for a run with my husband.
Alhamdulilah, I'm married to a very sweet Egyptian man, but he has never expected me to be an Egyptian wife. He immigrated to the United States in 2005, and alhamdulilah, he's found america to be pleasantly suprising. He takes the good from this country and our culture, and leaves the bad. If anything, I think the american-ness dominates in our apartment, as opposed to egyptian-ness, and that's unfortunate. I've been to Egypt 3 times, and I love it more each time I'm there. We watched the Yacoubian Building a few months ago, and I felt homesick for Cairo. I need to learn arabic, inshaAllah, not only to read Qur'an but also to watch Egyptian movies with my husband. My Egyptian cooking needs help. I can make tamiyyah and muddle my way through fried cauliflower, but yet can't manage to make foul out of the can taste good. Oh, heck, to be honest, my cooking in general needs help, lol.
I have this dream of a raising bicultural children in a bicultural, bilingual house, children who are proud to be Egyptian/Italian/German/Norweigian Americans and American/Italian/German/Norweigan Egyptians. It's definately a balancing act, but it's a challenge I'm willing to take on. Viva the bicultural muslimeen!