After the service ended, the women gathered around us, talked to us about Islam, and answered any questions we had. The imam [a man, heard through the intercom], they said, was a doctor and usually left quickly after the prayers ended. In fact, three of the six women there were physicians but currently choose to be stay-at-home mothers instead. They feel that their families are financially stable enough to make that decision, and they value family life more than earning more money.
Most Muslims in Kentucky are immigrants and their children. These immigrants are admitted for their professional skills, especially in medicine, and perform a valuable service in underserved areas, such as Eastern Kentucky.
The United States will reap a great harvest for generations to come from this wave of smart, educated, disciplined Muslim families.
The Muslim women wanted to explain to the Centre College women their distinctive customs.
Foremost, they explained why they chose to wear a hijab. The woman whose husband is Pakistani and who accepted Islam several years ago, said that the hijab is worn for modesty. … All of the women were dressed modestly. … The two Indian-looking women wore beautiful clothing from overseas. Two other women with “ethnic” backgrounds wore pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a large headscarf that covered their hair and upper body. One woman wore jeans and a full-length dress and hijab; the woman still accepting Islam wore long-sleeved nursing scrubs and also put on a homemade skirt and hijab before the prayers began. For these women, it is hard to find clothing modest enough in America. The one woman who initially greeted us said she is almost six feet tall and has much trouble finding clothes in which she feels comfortable. She said she drove to Michigan once to pick up some clothes she ordered and otherwise she often depends on the two older Indian women to find her clothes from abroad.
I appreciate the emphasis on modesty, especially as a father, and commend the Islamic community for holding up that issue for everyone. A hijab is more covering than I think my daughters need, but in the great religious ecology of America, it is good to have a group of women who choose that discipline in dress for themselves. In other countries we might believe that men, backed by the religious police, impose these standards. This group of doctors, on the other hand, clearly choose their dress themselves.
I also enjoy the detail of how foreign customs get indigenized and made natural to Americans. The dress over the jeans is wonderful; the homemade skirt pulled on over nursing scrubs is touching. Islam is here to stay in small-town America.
[I thank Jessica for these details, which I would not have been able to collect myself.]