New York Stories: Boricua Girl, Yiddish Muslim and Uncle Omar

I love New York. In New York I feel alive and I feel that there are no limitations on my dreams and my achievements. In New York I can be me, and no one will look at me with that judgmental eye because they have seen it all before, and in New York all things seem possible.

Of course my New York is not what you see on Sex in the City, Seinfeld and Friends; you will not see it on TV or read about it unless you look very hard. The New York I know is in the outer-boroughs, amongst the people; where it isn’t uncommon to see packs of Muslim sisters in niqaab walking down the street passing by Jamaican food stands, kosher delis full of observant Jews, halal diners serving everything from fried chicken to shawarmas with brothers with big beards and kufees outside sellin incense and oil, Latino Pentecostal churches, Puerto Rican girls with all the right assets, dollar cabs with Haitian or Bengali drivers going like crazy up the street, Yemeni and Dominican bodegas, pizzerias ran by Albanians or old school Italians, delis ran by Greeks, Irish cops gawking with menacing looks, groups of young men marking their territory on the corners, kids playing wherever they can find a few extra feet and the like. Of course this New York that I love may not be long for this world; as bobos are arriving in NYC in droves and driving the working-poor and middle-class out of the city. But for now; this is the New York I love.

In this New York, like anywhere else, there are problems. Over the last few days as I plan to visit New York I have been briefed on a few such problems. For those of you unfamiliar with some of the more grimy stuff that goes on in the Muslim community, especially as it relates to the thoughts and actions of horny Muslim men, allow me to take you where you have not been.
The Muslim convert woman is coveted amongst the men in the Muslim community like a Yemeni bodega owner covets the next shipment of khat. If the sister looks good then she will receive the attention not only of single brothers, but of many married brothers who are looking to pick up a deuce to have something halal to hit on the side. Now, if she doesn’t look that good, then she will become the target of older men, broke men, and brothers looking for a Green Card.
A young eighteen year old Boricua Girl in the Bronx just took shahadah. Now, like many men (including myself) a lot of Muslim men love Latin women. When a Latina sister converts she is often the object of fierce competition amongst the brothers as to who will marry her. When the girl is eighteen, and men being men (no matter the religion) then the desire becomes even more intense. Unfortunately when these sisters first become Muslim they are relatively naïve and maybe they trust people they shouldn’t trust. The men they may be trusting may be plotting on their bodies in reality or may be trying to hook-up one of their friends.

It would be better if some responsible people in the community would sit these sisters down and tell them to wait on getting married, they will not explode if they go a year without being married. Learn the deen, befriend some Muslimas with knowledge, and then make a wise choice on who you marry. The reason this does not happen is that many of these Masjids are ran as boys clubs and they are all trying to hook up their boys. Apparently in the case of this sister, she got dawah from some hardcore Salafis from a Masjid I know well (and like most of the brothers) and she has said that she will not marry any brother who even trims his beard, which is her right, and she is looking for a brother “on the dawah” as they say. I just hope that she is careful insha’Allah.

This brings me to the Yiddish Muslim. This brother from Brooklyn, whose name I will not reveal, is a real mensch, and one of the most intelligent, nice, and warm-hearted brothers you will ever meet. He grew-up in Boro Park Brooklyn to a middle-class Jewish family of liberal educators and he became Muslim at age fourteen after he was given dawah by some Yemeni bodega owners ( May Allah reward them). From that time on he studied Arabic, and within a couple of years he was speaking Arabic with no accent whatsoever. He then went to study at the Islamic University of Medina but dropped out in order to travel the desert and hang-out with the Bedouins which led him to Kuwait. He moves back to BK and then returns to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a brief stint as a student in Qatar. His Arabic by that time has picked-up a Gulf Arab accent and his knowledge of Islam has come to a very high level. In New York, he has a ton of Muslim friends because this brother is just so easy to love and so friendly. Speaking for myself, this brother is someone that thinks like me and has big dreams, unconventional thoughts, likes to study other cultures and likes to laugh. The American shabab love him; but many Arab Muslims see him as a novelty. Like 90% of Arabs I have ever met, the Arab Muslim brothers in Brooklyn are pathologically anti-Semitic, but nonetheless they enjoy the company of a Jewish kid who became Muslim. Do they like him for him like me and others who like him because he is the nice guy that he is or do they look at him as a freak novelty? When they first meet him they get a kick out of asking about how angry his family was at him for becoming a Muslim (and are let down when he tells them that his parents are relatively supportive) and stories of his previous Jewish life ( Did you really drink the goyim blood at Pesach, did you?). They take great pride in hearing him condemn Israel, or them calling for the destruction of Israel in front of him and looking for a reaction, and the like (although this brother has never been politically oriented and I haven’t heard him address this topic).

Unfortunately I know that many of these Arab brothers are fake. They have told me to watch out for him and say “you know brother he may be the Mossad” and I am not the only one who has been told this by people that were supposed to be his friends. It reminds me of a Muslim sister of a Jewish background in Maryland, who donated her kidney to a sick Muslim, and even after that was repeatedly accused of being the Mossad by many stupid and ignorant Muslims both Arabs and non-Arabs.

It makes me sad that this shy but bright Muslim brother, who can talk about anything at length and can keep you laughing all night long, has not found a wife even though he has desperately looked for one for years. Why? Well, for starters, those good Arab brothers who are supposed to love him so much will not even think about helping him to marry an Arab Muslima and this brother is too shy to go out and to try and find a wife by himself. So the brother is lonely and looking for a wife and I make duah that Allah will reward him with a good Muslima.

However, he now has more problems than trying to find a wife and being surrounded by a lot of fake Arabs (and for the record some of these Arab brothers really do love him I believe). Because of all the places he has traveled, and he is a Muslim, and he has a big beard, and he is the son of a well-known Jewish-leftist, the NYPD and the Feds are monitoring him and have came to his home on a number of occasions and this has the brother paranoid. He is now scared to talk to brothers he has known for years and doesn’t leave the house unless he has to. Believe me, this brother is about the farthest thing from a terrorist that you can find, but he fits some kind of a profile and they are watching. Such are the lives of Muslims in America.

This brings me to Uncle Omar. For the record, Omar is not my uncle, but is the uncle of a close friend of mine in the Bronx. He is the son of Turkish immigrants to the US who were hard-working people who found a home in a working-class section of the Bronx that at the time was all Italian but now is made up of mostly blacks from the Caribbean. His Turkish Muslim father was a World War II Vet, and Omar fought in Vietnam in the army himself. He grew-up surrounded by tough blue-collar kids in the Bronx as an outsider and had to be tough just to survive. After coming home from Vietnam Omar went into the grocery business and eventually owned two C-Towns (a popular supermarket chain in New York) and then sold those for a lucrative snack distribution route in the Bronx, Westchester County and Rockland County. Omar got married twice, once to an Italian daughter of a well-known mobster and once to an unfaithful Turkish girl and then he called it quits with marriage. He moved back in with his parents and took care of them in their old age until they died and this has now left him kind of old and lonely. The thing I always think of when I think of Omar is how he reminds me of myself; he is an avid reader like me, he thinks big but has often found nobody to discuss his ideas with, he has always been surrounded by people who have no interest in the things he is interested in, we both have bad experiences with women, and we both know a lot more than the people around us give us credit for including our families.

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One thought on “New York Stories: Boricua Girl, Yiddish Muslim and Uncle Omar

  1. Salaam Alaikum,

    Masha Allah, I love your descriptive writing Umar. I feel like I’m actually there in front of these people.

    You wrote this a while ago, could you possibly give us an update on how they’re doing now?

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