Tuesday 19 April 2011

An English girl in Algiers....Alternate ending

A year later, in Regents Park Mosque, Steph and I both covered, sit and wait anxiously in the Imam’s office, she surprised me the night before with the news that she has been studying Islam since we came back from Algeria and has taken the decision to revert to Islam. It took an English girl to get me into a mosque.

The reason for my presence apparently is that I helped show her a different side of Islam, a more moderate approach to practicing Islam, whereby you can be a believer and practice moderately and judiciously. She was drawn to the peaceful side of Islam and decided to look into it.

Imam greets us, takes a seat behind his desk, questions her motives and knowledge, apparently he had previously advised her to study Islam and its history for a year before she makes this decision, he seemed satisfied with her knowledge. I had no idea, I was shocked and embarrassed, Steph had amassed more knowledge on Islam than I ever did in all the years of being a Muslim (31 at the time), yet I would defend my knowledge so blazingly against any other Muslim who dared debate me, notably non-Arabs, as though Islam belonged to us Arabs only and nobody but the Arabs.  Reasoning behind it is that the fact that I read Arabic I can understand the Quran when I read it and can understand the message conveyed whereas anyone who cannot read Arabic, their knowledge was tainted with their clerics distorted images and meanings were lost in translation. I have since come to revise my slightly stubborn reasoning.

Steph’s conversion ceremony takes place, I sign the certificate as her whiteness and we proceed upstairs to the ladies prayer hall, the lady keeper of the mosque welcomes us in, and shows us around, she offers us some paper to dry our arms and faces after the ablutions, curious onlookers, some ask us if we were newly reverts and congratulate Steph when I announce that she had just reverted today.

We enter the praying room, floors lined with red carpets, book shelves filled with books and Qurans stand against the back walls, some old women sitting in their chairs praying, some holding their prayer beads and whispering prayers, all smile at us politely, it feels very friendly and quite diverse, I can hear so many accents, middle east, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, English and me the Algerian.
We go to the front row, pick a spot on the prayer mats facing the carved wood wall, and get a glimpse of the mosque and the men’s prayer hall, lined with lush red carpets, a vast dome decorated with mosaics and a beautiful crystal chandelier garlands the centre of its ceiling. We look at some of the men praying and getting in line, forming solid rows as the imam clears his throat and tabs his microphone to check the sound

We pray Maghrib (sunset) prayer, three bows and three prostrates, a girl from the row behind me tabs me on the shoulder to instruct to uncross my feet as it was not sunna (1) and the women to my right without notice starts fixing my head scarf, apparently it was not done properly presumably because my earrings were showing, “breath, breath and don’t respond we’re in a mosque” whispers Steph as she makes a muffled laughing noise, knowing how I would react as the original “Muslim” girl with all the knowledge, I smile at the lady on my right and say thank you out of sheer respect because she was older and as you know Algerians are plagued with this respect your elder thing; then turn around to the girl behind me and unleash a look of death to this 14 year old preacher, I mutter a very obviously sarcastic “thanks” and hold myself back “we’re in a mosque for god’s sake Dz-chick calm down” as I talk to myself  astakhfir allah (2) and leave the mosque swearing not to come back “this is why women are supposed to pray at home, you can’t even get a moment alone with your thoughts without some know-it-all- new born Muslim preacher coming to show you how to raise your hands the proper way or how to cross your feet when prostrating”
I leave disappointed, I let them ruin my visit to the mosque and feel like swearing out loud, but I restrain myself for the sake of Steph and God of course. Steph thanks me for the experience, sarcastically I am sure.

We decide to celebrate with ....coffees. Feeling under the shock still and in need of something stronger than coffee, but cannot confess this to the newly Muslim girl, we stay alcohol-free for about 5 months before we fall off the wagon and have a glass of wine. Oooops

3 years later, Steph remains single and looking for her perfect man, a Muslim man nonetheless, still living in London; she makes her pilgrimage visits to Algiers every year.
She feels a strong connection to the country and the city where she discovered Islam and the Algerian culture she learnt to love so much, it is her adopted home; she hopes to meet an Algerian man who is moderately Muslim like her and live happily ever after or until one of them gets bored, cheats or decides to leave.

She is quintessentially the English girl in Algiers, albeit just another single girl in London...
(1) Sunna - the way of the prophet Mohamed (SAAW)
(2) forgive me God


  1. wow...lovely...I d like to meet u both...I like the fact that she studied Islam before embracing it. Ahh the mosque, I have not been to one here in england since 4 years for the same reasons..the thing that annoys me much is that a girl u dont know who the hell she is..she comes and hugs u and assalamu alaykom and mashallah..i know it is polite but i so hate it..it is like do i know u ?..but i used to have a quite corner since then..i go to mosque only when i go to algeria (quite corner too, otherwise they start asking where u from or u married or not)...Regarding the wine, I do not particularly agree with it but everyone is free..I like the fact that u open about it...lovely...keep posting please...Haniya...xxx

  2. Hmmmm... Everyone is so quiet all the sudden.

    I'm not too much into religion, but enjoyed reading this alternate version. :)

  3. @ Dz-Chick raki dawakhtini too many End's - dgoul rana fi film handi.

    Gringo, you're really slow... Algerians work with a fast-forward imagination, therefore, Dz-Chick is already spoken for and I am at the baby's naming stage. Furthermore, I am sure I will do better than 'the darling' Tarek. As for DZ-Chick opinion of me, I am sure once she dippes her perfectly manicured toe into GMDZ Lake, dry land is never the same again.

    Anyhow, this is my off the cuff plan( I have to consult the real boss first).

    - Gringo would you like to be our page boy? ;)

    - Star, the ring bearer?

    - Allison maid of honour?

    - As for your friend Steph, she's not invited... sorry no gingers are allowed. I will compromise on everything ghir el rojos NOOOO.

    -Ooopss! I forgot my favourite persona non grata(Naima-el kavia) will be our mobile phone greasy hands cleaner.

    @ Dz_Chick, one tip I've picked up over the years when it comes to the first few dates, wakalhoum bach mayahadrouch bazaf and they won't be asking too many personal questions too soon.
    My to do list:
    1- Initial presentation speech جيتكم با لحسب والنسب؛قالولنا راكم خيار الناس………………………………….. work in progress;
    2- What should I wear??? A very tight trousers is a must to divert my future inlaws eyes from my Algerian nose to my gear box;
    3- Honeymoon booking within the parameters of Algiers love triangle( Baraki, Kahwat el Chargui et Dar el Bidha).
    Khamssa fi 3ayneen el 7assadeen ;)
    Mooto bel Ghira ya Prince William and Kate Simpleton.

  4. Please, translate the (written) arabic part. Some of us here don't get it! :)

  5. @GMA : LOL!
    You both would make a perfect match. 1 is so down to earth and the other couldn't-care-less-type (aka "y dreb denia be koudpié")

    Good balanced couple!

  6. @ Haniya: thanks and am glad you relate to the story albeit not fully ;)

    @Allison: it's a story and there is some truth to it, sometimes it's good to touch on different subjects like religion...good to know u enjoyed this ending better, I did too.

    @ Geneticall modified husband: aka the feeder
    Lol @ film Hendi and look forward to our honeymoon in Baraki

    @ Allison: who is down to earth? Me I presume! It can't be crazy GMA surely ;)

  7. @ GMA, dude u need some help..surely Dz chick is smart enough to deal with you....

  8. @GMA: think am a bit old for being a page boy lol - how about you hook me up with Haniya? she sounds like my type of girl ;).
    I don't understand your comments completely btw, guesstimating a lot of the time (i don't really understand arabic or much darja)

    @DZC: whether fact or fiction, this ending is really good. why the hesitation to post it right from the start, if i may ask?

    oh and you do make a lot of typos (am saying typos coz am giving you the benefit of the doubt :p )

    regarding the Quran, i think it is a fallacy for anyone (arab or non-arab) to think they can read the Quran and understand it fully. scholars spend years and years studying to get islamic theology knowledge (just like in scientific fields). would you expect someone to fully understand all the laws of physics if they read a physics textbook in their native language? i don't mean to be contentious or pretending to know anything at all, just stating my opinion :).

  9. what a nicely written blog DZC! just discovered it today and spent a good time reading it. Keep up the good work!

    ps: hopefully would love to read about you getting married inchallah!

  10. I did not know he connects people together but anyhow..

    @ Raul we ll see if approves...and you have to tick several boxes so you will be considered :)



  11. @ Raul: I hesitated because it was a bit on the religious side, but as you say it's just a story.

    As for my typos, where in the posts on the comments? I usually publish rough drafts and then go back and spell check etc...you must be one of the first ones to read before they get tweaked.

    As for the fallacy you’re referring to, well of course I agree, as I said I had come to revise my reasoning on the subject, anyone can excel in the understanding and knowledge of the Quran and Islam without having to speak/read a word of Arabic.

    So this blog is turning into a matrimonial site I see...

    Thank you Mounir :)

  12. @DZC: don't worry about the typos, i actually believe they are typos ;). i'll cut you some slack because you're a BBBB (blackberry blogger binti bladi) or so you claim. i could go on but i think 4Bs are enough.

    there is a prevailing malaise among some of us (including me sometimes) to talk about religion. why is that?

    @ Haniya: what boxes?

  13. Show me these typos!?? I would rather know so I can fix them! Thanks

    Religion is always a heavy subject and it is my personal belief that a lot of people are just embarrassed to bring up the subject for fear of being labelled (religious, islamist, fanatic, old fashioned or just boring) or it could also be because we don't have enough knowledge and therefore avoid to debate a subject, in which you know have weak capabilities and high chances of getting humiliated or even worse; taught ;)
    But please don't get me wrong, I am willing to be taught...

  14. @Dz-Chick, “I am willing to be taught...." ohhhhhhh, you're opening yourself into a different sphere as far as I am concerned. I will be the first to plant my flag on Terra Dz-Chick ;)

    @Allison, I am the down to earth kind of guy, but I blame Dz-chick for getting the worst out of me.

    @Anonymous,"dude u need some help. Surely Dz chick is smart enough to deal with you...." I plead the Fifth.

    @Raoul, If you're not Algerian than you must be Staifi!

  15. @Dz-Chick, ya djadak maraki diri walou fel khadma, bayna takhadmi either fel HR(Human Remains)department or IT ( Incapable Technologically Department).

  16. just get someone next to you to read them or something, they're just little mistakes, no biggie ;) . normally they don't distract the reader from the conveyed meaning so i don't bother telling you about them.

    e.g. that emobobied satisfaction

    yeah i agree completely :) .

    re: matrimonial hahahaha

  17. @ GMA: the 5th amendment? Lol Right…if it’s going to be like that I want a divorce.
    loool@ Staifi

    For the record, I am a multitasker, and the notifications come to my work email (not HR or IT) so all I have to do is click publish, I am also not very busy and I am off on holiday tomorrow - yeah

    @ Raul: thanks for that, I didn't even pick up on it and it’s good you agree, so we understand each other ;)

  18. @ Dz-Chick, the biggest myth of all is the notion of women and multitasking. I always ask myself this question,if women are so good at multitasking, how come they cannot have a headache and sex at the same time?

    Wellah, I am flying tomorrow to Vancouver from Heathrow Terminal 3; Check me out!! I will be the man with serwal mzayer, sabat yabra9 and ki n7ok my eye n'bouss sba3i straight after...I will buy you a coffee and a chocolate twist at Costa's.

  19. I laughed out loud at the rubbing your eyes and kissing your finger straight after, tbaye3 khasreen hadouk

    I will be in T4 flying somewhere I cannot say but it's long haul, perhaps I'll write about it later...

    @ LOL @ Headache and sex at the same time, damn there goes my excuse!

  20. @ Raul, I am sure you know what I mean...Compatability...educated..sexy...etc etc...and if am happy u ll be considered for an interview :D...3andak bark yasralak kima hada :D...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHy06FMsezI&feature=related...

    @ GMA, loool 3la Staifi :D...LOOL 3la ki n7ok my eye nbouss sba3ii...yakhi hala yakhii....:D

    @ Dz Chick..have fuuuunnnn and write when u r on the plane so we know who u met :D...Solo Holiday or with some friends???


  21. @Everyone:

    my personal (darja/arabic) translator is busy (he's working hard bless him) at the moment so i can't quite decode all you're saying.

    What's Staifi? according to french wikipedia it's Algerian? am not Algerian ... but I have (like Chinese as DZC would say) straight hair lol.

    @ Haniya: Will you pass the interview?

  22. @ Haniya: Solo obviousely :)

    @ Gringo Raul: Staifi is someone from the town of Setif in east Algeria; they are known for swearing a lot, stubbornness (if they are Chawis) and crazy driving.

  23. and how does that relate to me :P ?

  24. Not totally sure Raul, ask GMA

  25. "@Dz-Chick, ya djadak maraki diri walou fel khadma, bayna takhadmi either fel HR(Human Remains)department or IT ( Incapable Technologically Department."
    MBD! (Mtertek be dahk!) Ben oui, waghlech on aurait pas nos buzz words nous aussi?

    Wellah GMA you're right about the meaning of HR and IT!

    @Dz-Chick : Have a safe trip and drop us a line when you can.
    We're gonna die if this hilarious blog stops for a while!

    Wonder where Naïma is hiding. It's been a while...

  26. @ Allison: aww how sweet, I will come back full of life and spam you with my stories...I will be away for 10 days but will try to blog from the beach ;)

  27. i don't swear (not here anyway ;)) and don't drive like crazy i don't think. i might be a bit stubborn,

    lol @ Allison's last sentence: i am banned from making such remarks par la maitresse des lieux :P

  28. @Raul: freedom of expression...wallah wallah I believe in it. go on ..say it

  29. actually this time i didn't have anything to say ... for once :P .

    this is my kind of music :).

  30. Well DZ-Chick,I hope you have a nice time and I wish you a safe journey.

    Ya la mhibla, I give you another tip on how to spot an Algerian while on holiday. Choufi ki tchoufi wahad yasma3 fi la music fel bar ou 7arak rassou in circular motion ..hadak bla djadou ghir bni 3amiiis.

  31. @ Raul...no doubt ;) lets if u will.. ;)



  32. Merci GMA, I am so excited about my holiday :) enjoy Vancouver.
    See you guys in a few days xxx

  33. ahahhahah....hilarious...that is the charm, but don't worry i am genuine..
    I will email you later tonight when I am bored reading the news...!!!
    Yes DZC, confirm please :D

    Have fun !!!


  34. @ Hanya: TontonDw is Gringo Raul
    I say, Go forth, conquer and multiply
    I just better be invited to the wedding!

  35. hahaha, thanks for confirming...I am difficult and I d ont think he will pass...
    loool @ wedding :D...


  36. oh thanks for the vote of confidence.
    take your time, no rush ;).

    DZC: don't you worry chrikti; you're number 1 on my list.

    GMA: enjoy your trip chriki ;) . be sweet to DZC tomorrow, she's fragile beneath her seemingly tough carapace.

  37. @GMA, have fun mate...make sure u get the red rose for DZC...do ur hair...and please don't wear the shiny shoes...:D...

    @ DZC..go pack and relax..have fun girl...


  38. Ok I am officially on holiday, did not pack yet or located my passport in the midst of the chaos that is my room right now!!

    I am not meeting GMA guys, he's travelling from T3 and I from T4 and that is not the only reason :P

    Your favourite Blackberry blogger :

  39. Hi,
    What do you think has Steph found in Islam that she could not find in Christianity? Could you please ask her?
    I am Muslim but I never understand the motives behind conversion. Since most monolithic religions offer the same thing.
    I see a lot of cases of social misfits or pariahs unfortunately.
    I have never seen an educated or middle class Muslim convert. Of course as a Muslim I have no interest in converting other people, only in respecting them, but I would rather if our religion attracted la crème de la crème or just normal people.
    fyi my girlfriend is Christian and I can’t think of bringing myself to be as arrogant as to suggest for her to convert.
    Good luck to you and Steph

  40. I cannot say precisely what it was that attracted her to Islam, and I won't pretend to answer for her, so I invite Steph to come on here and answer herself. She is not scum, she is a very educated person with high morals. Steph I let you take care of the rest...

    I must really get back to packing :)

  41. DZC: Don't tell us he's married :P - anyway take it easy.

    if you could delete that comment with the email when you have some time, would be great, thanks. will miss you ;). laters.

  42. Raul, I deleted your comment but it had the best compliment you made :( being the best blog hostess and all that...damn!

    Who's married? GMA? probably who knows! my luck is even my virtual flirt is taken! na3dine!!

  43. Come on guys!
    How are we supposed to follow the plot if you keep deleting some posts!? Arrrrr!!!!

    LOL @ na3dine!

  44. LOL!!na3adine!!!
    I like this end of the story.


  45. just discovered you, didn't know cool algerians like you existed in London, i feel less lonely here :)

  46. Thanks Maleko We (you and I) are certainly not alone :)

  47. It's that rare mixture of belda+geeza-lahya-loughatelkhachabdesarko :)

  48. Maleko: is that ur perception of me through the blog? Lol if it is it's brilliant :)

  49. @ MAlek and DZC...walah me too..it is so nice..xxx

  50. well I could make a more complex equation being algerian :) but that sums it up. It's quite refreshing to be algerian with a british perspective and not the neurotic chain smoking colonial uptight french take on the world :)

  51. Oh somebody has a little thing against the french!! I expect that I would have been writing in French and probably with a wholly different perspective if I lived in France instead of England.

  52. I like French food :) what I mean is probably some algerians get their world and life view secondhand through the french media and education :)I prefer free spirits like yourself, or should I say I prefer spirits !

  53. and how come I dont bump into folk like you when I fly home instead of the usual moustaches in a primark suit :)

  54. DZC come back..so boring without u around...hope u having a blast...xxx

  55. @ Maleko: thanks :) I am a girl so I probably have more chances of bumping into "interested parties" moustache and non moustache....or maybe am just tired! I had a busy day....are you not a free spirit yourself?

    @ Haniya: soon hon very soon! with a nice story hopefully!

  56. I like to think I'm a free spirit too !! I have no moustache and look good in a primark suit :)

  57. are you too busy preparing for the royal wedding? looking forward to your next posts

  58. Hey Maleko, I am on holiday actually :) I only write when am in the office, inspiration comes better when I know am getting paid! arbiya wesh t-hab ;)

  59. you can take dziriya out of dzayer but you can't take dzayer out of dziriya :) enjoy your holiday, hope interesting stuff happens to you by the time you're back !

  60. DZ-Chick,

    I have never been to a mosque. Unfortunately I knew Muslims before discovering Islam and what can I say?! It was simply a put off. Growing up hearing that everything is haram somehow didn't entice me to become a practicing Muslim.

    It's great that your moderation has risen your friend's interest in Islam.

    Your anectode at the mosque is hilarious and so is your reaction! Typical mosque goers and you typical Algerian ;-)

    People tend to avoid discussing religion as it generally contributes to zealous arguments. J'ai eu a maintes reprises des disputes vehementes avec des membres de ma famille au sujet de la religion.

    I have a point to raise though.....technically your friend did not revert but convert.

    Brilliant post DZ-Bansky

  61. Miss Polemique I am not the most religious of people by a long shot, but I know my fair share and do my fair bit. I do not try to represent Islam or Muslims, I am only responsible for myself and my actions are mine and mine alone. If moderation is the answer than I have cracked it a while ago.
    I tend to avoid religious subjects because we never agree and they don’t want to agree to disagree, preachers always insist on being right and remind you might be tanning in Hell. Ah that old chestnut.
    Revert vs. Convert…refer to my previous paragraph (re: not discussing) ;)
    Thanks La miss P

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