Islam is my Louvre – Part II by Valentina Khan

I was once asked “why do I stay Muslim”? That was the question prompt, and it begged an answer…Reason #2: I believe Islam has vagueness in the Quran (I answered Reason 1 and 2 yesterday…)

What do I mean by all this vagueness?

First of all, Judaism and Christianity-based characters have made appearances in Islam by way of shared stories and prominent shared figures: Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Lot, Aron, Moses, Job, Jonas, Noah, Jesus, Mary and so on. Growing up Muslim, these prominent religious figures across the Abrahamic spectrum were names that were mentioned time and time again as part of the religious history and teachings. So I feel a sense of relief, that as a Muslim, we are not sailing alone in the sea of faith with no shared history with any other faith, but we are on the same island (so to speak) with our Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters. Continue reading “Islam is my Louvre – Part II by Valentina Khan”

Islam is my Louvre by Valentina Khan

I was once asked “why do I stay Muslim”? That was the question prompt, and it begged an answer. A deep, well thought out, articulate, and concise answer. Shamefully, at that time in my life, I was stumped. I was speechless a long while, because I couldn’t think fast or clear enough to answer with sincerity. At that time, whatever I wanted to say, just sounded like the “schtick” — for example “oh, yes I stay Muslim because Islam stands for peace, and I’m a peaceful person so this is my biggest reason..(next day – terrorist attack by “Muslims” totally negating my “why”)… and other similarly situated examples as such. So, I knew my why had to be more layered, more significant and pragmatic, yet exciting.

It’s been a few years since, and I have thoughtfully mulled this question over and over in my head. From my social context, as devout as both sides of my family are to the faith, I personally, grew up as a “SoCal” girl. For me this means, I have many non-Muslim friends, and I have influences from all spectrums varying from interfaith efforts to intellectual atheists. Growing up and still today, I have conversations with women, especially, that go beyond following any type of faith tradition. Many of friends within my circles have used their faith as a roadmap to a “higher frequency”. Tuning into the world, into humanity, eliminating draconian mindsets, and living today trying to be in touch with all of it, rather than just a section of “it.” Continue reading “Islam is my Louvre by Valentina Khan”

Don’t Be Surprised… by Valentina Khan

We are people, navigating in a large world filled with expectations, hopes & dreams. I find that happiness is comprised when we share our expectations with other people. I do think it’s right to expect things, and hope to receive things like love, respect, and honesty. However, I just want to share that when it doesn’t happen, not to be surprised… Continue reading “Don’t Be Surprised… by Valentina Khan”

When “Interfaith” Started Losing its Luster for Me by Valentina Khan

Interfaith, a wonderful term that brings only happiness to my mind. So many days spent sitting and planning out events at the local coffee shop (shout out to The Lost Bean in Tustin, CA. which was one of the first small businesses to support “interfaith work”)  and attending many meetings at various houses of worship. We worked year after year to promote one another. To get to know each other, to promote peace, and community building. I sat in living rooms, hearing different faith perspectives from many voices, from the young up to the old and wise. Each time it was refreshing to see the dedication and respect the participants had.

But, after 10 years of advocating for interfaith work, my light dimmed. For me in particular, Islamaphobia was on the rise. Terrorist attacks were plentiful, and I was out of excuses. How many times could I say “this isn’t Islam. These aren’t Muslims, this is not what the religion teaches, I would not be a part of a religion that promoted violence.” I was getting tired of showing up, explaining, defending, and leaving wondering if I made a difference or if another terrorist attack would simply negate everything I just said?  Eventually, I retreated into the cocoon of motherhood, and building my career. My days of community service within the interfaith context were done. I had no more mojo, encouragement or inspiration. I really didn’t. I was just done. My last speaking engagement was over a year ago to a group of Catholic moms, such a great talk but I didn’t feel the urge to go back and talk more. It’s like a flower that wilted. Petals fell off, and nothing was left to blossom.

Continue reading “When “Interfaith” Started Losing its Luster for Me by Valentina Khan”

Teachers by Valentina Khan

I recently told my 4-year-old son the following, “son, I pray you fall in love with someone you call your best friend. I pray you both never cross the line and say mean and terrible things to each other, I pray you are not constantly apologizing for your bad behavior, I pray you will complement and enhance each other’s best qualities, and lastly, I really hope you fall in love with a teacher!”

A teacher? Of course, a teacher! I have always loved my teachers growing up. I never had one bad teacher. Teachers are caregivers and authority figures children experience separate from their own parents. Each teacher brings his or her unique love of learning and educating to the students. I was influenced so much by the vibe of teachers. And in the journey to my “career,” I became one myself….a yoga teacher.

A yoga teacher? Yes, a yoga teacher, which eventually led me to coming a ballet barre instructor. This all happened when, after a tedious and challenging few years of getting myself through law school, I rewarded myself with an entire summer off to become certified to teach yoga. Yoga got me through sticky times in my young adulthood, from soured relationships, to poor scores on my legal exams. It also kept my feet on the ground when I was flying high, whether from planning my wedding or completing my studies. Yoga was the antidote in my life. I cherished not requiring medication for all the different feelings I’ve had throughout my adult life; whether it was anxiety, depression, loss of focus, too much energy, or the run of the mill aches and pains, I always turned to yoga. The feeling of stretching and flushing out toxins, negative energy, frustration, while building strength and teaching myself how to breath, were all things I wanted to learn in more depth and, eventually, to teach. Continue reading “Teachers by Valentina Khan”

Being a Woman & Using Certain FOUR-letter Words by Valentina Khan

Throughout my life I refrained from hard core cursing and substituted certain four letter words with modified publicly suitable words. I just didn’t think it was becoming of me to curse, but if and when I did do it it was about something pretty major, and I would softly let it out.

Being a woman and holding yourself with “old world” elegance means to negate any kind of cursing. I’ve always thought that until the last four years of my life. My cursing content has gone up 10 times since I became a mom. Suddenly it felt so much more potent to add f-ing to the word tired. Or instead of saying, “wow, that really sucks” and replacing with “that’s bullsh!t.” My choice of curse words has no boundaries anymore as it once used to. I feel sad about that. Like I’ve lost discipline–but in a way I also feel liberated.

It’s now a new year. The season to make changes to makes oneself better and to make progress to a healthier state of being. I could say, OK I’ll go back to my innocence, so to speak. I’ll refrain from cursing, since it’s totally taboo in my family to begin with, not really appropriate in my field of work, philanthropy, and simply not lady like. It really isn’t. But, I still enjoy it when I feel like using those words.  Continue reading “Being a Woman & Using Certain FOUR-letter Words by Valentina Khan”

Consideration by Valentina Khan

Yesterday I sat in my car, buckled and ready to reverse just when I looked out my side window to see the people getting into their car next to mine.

There was a very elderly lady being seated in the back ever so gingerly. Her caretaker (that is what she appeared to be) carefully buckled her in, and then offered her a sip of ice water. Meanwhile I was in mid reverse, my engine running, on the go, and yet the ladies didn’t notice anything around them.

Simultaneously the elderly lady’s wheelchair didn’t have its brakes on and rolled into my rear side door. Instantly, I thought OK a little rude, these people aren’t really being considerate of the tight space we are sharing, should I roll down my window and say with as much patience as I can “excuse me”? Or should I let it go? I let it go. Those immediate feelings of impatience and annoyance washed over me, because I made myself stop and observe the situation, and the details of these ladies. Continue reading “Consideration by Valentina Khan”

Human Trafficking by Valentina Khan

Valentina KhanRecently I saw SOLD, a movie based on human trafficking taking place in Nepal and India. Within the first thirty minutes of the movie I was cringing, holding my hands, shrinking into my chair. Naively, I begged the question how families could sell their innocent children to strangers, even if they are fed the lies of working for pay? I am a mother of two children, who are my heart and soul. Deep inside I feel that if we as a family were in desperate times, I would rather sell myself than my children, or I would escape with them, and if we die, we die together. Yes. So extreme. But I can’t fathom letting my children go. Not for any amount of money, no matter how dire times were. I wouldn’t be able to live not knowing where they were, what they were doing, and with who. Just writing this or thinking about it, churns my stomach inside out.

I feel bad to make such statements and appear as if I am passing judgment on these mothers and fathers, who are living in desperate conditions, not knowing what else to do but to sell their flesh and blood to this multi-billion dollar industry. Many are not even aware and might truly believe that their children will go off to earn money for the family. As I write this I have a more informed position, because human trafficking is not a problem concentrated in a certain area of the world, this is a world wide epidemic with mostly women and children being bought and sold not just far away but here in my backyard, Los Angeles, California. Continue reading “Human Trafficking by Valentina Khan”

The Evil Powers are Well at Work and I’ve Lost My Spirit… by Valentina Khan

Valentina KhanIt has been over a year now that I haven’t been actively a part of my interfaith community. I find that especially odd since I graduated last May from the Claremont School of Theology with a Masters in Religious Leadership. I had hopes that I would be empowered by new education to go out and do more for my community, be invited to be a guest speaker at local houses of worship, or sit on panels; all the things I used to do more frequently and now have all stopped.

I am mostly to blame. Although my personal life has definitely changed with the birth of my son, two new businesses for my husband and me, and the ongoing pressure I put on myself to study for the bar exam any free moment I get (I really don’t have any leisure time to study, but thinking about it takes a lot of energy!), and now expecting my second child, I stopped attending my monthly meetings– whether it be with the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, the Muslim-Jewish forum of Los Angeles, or my own beloved organization “I Am Jerusalem.”

Continue reading “The Evil Powers are Well at Work and I’ve Lost My Spirit… by Valentina Khan”

“Dear Terrorist: Keep Up the Good Work” Said NO ONE by Valentina Khan

Valentina KhanHow much longer do I as a Muslim American female, have to deal with the “gang-buster,” terrorizing, “Satan” worshipers high-jacking my faith for the sake of trying to supposedly ‘preserve’ it? Who are these wackos and why do they seem to represent my faith in mainstream media? Where did they all come from? Which terrorist schools have they all graduated from and what truly is their agenda?

I don’t know how else to say it- I’m so disgusted and fed up by the heinous acts of the terrorist mentality coming from what appear to be Muslim males– who really knows? ISIS, for example, with their masked individuals carrying out barbaric crimes could actually be another race or religion for all I know. Regardless, as a female, I want nothing to do with them. As an American, I want to go to war with them. As a Westerner, I want to hide in my Orange County bubble and only watch Bravo TV- just to get dumb and numb to the problems- and turn a deaf ear and blind eye to world events on the news.

However, as a Muslim my heart aches. My body trembles and my mind is terribly puzzled. How can all these awful events happening around the world come from people who claim to be Muslim, as I am? Didn’t they grow up reading the Prophet’s Last Sermon, as I did? Did they miss something? Did I miss something? Why are murder, beheading, and stoning things to be prideful about on social media? Why are they playing God and taking the lives of others in the name of a higher power? Why are they casting judgment on cultures and people when really they should start healthy dialogues in order to resolve differences of ideologies from one socio-cultural context to the next? Unfortunately, lunatic terrorists with apparently nothing positive going on their lives feel that their suicidal guerrilla warfare style of killing to avenge their faith is the ticket to authentic belief and entrance into heaven! Continue reading ““Dear Terrorist: Keep Up the Good Work” Said NO ONE by Valentina Khan”

Recession Proof Devotion By Valentina Khan

This  post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Valentina Khan is a first year Master of Muslim Leadership Context student at the Claremont School of Theology.  She is a co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, an interfaith organization which promotes friendship, understanding, and striving for the “greater purpose” by dedicating time to community service and social justice. Born and raised in Southern California, to Iranian mother, and Indian father, Valentina has a diverse background that helps her identify as a “citizen of the world”. Valentina hopes to mediate conflicts between intra-religious and inter-religious groups and cultures, via conflict resolution, as well as promote the peace she knows can exist between people if they just put in the effort. Valentina is a yoga teacher and the creator of Enerji barre, where she enjoys empowering her students to love their bodies, appreciate their health and live in the moment!

“I Am Jerusalem, that’s it, we got it, I Am Jerusalem! You are Jerusalem! We are all Jerusalem!” My best friend Sarah and I exclaimed on our yoga mats one day after a 90 minute intensive Vinyasa flow. Sarah was raised as a Christian, and I as a Muslim. It was when we were in the 7th grade when she asked me the heavy question, “so do Muslims believe in Jesus?” This question was the common theme in my life, growing up in suburban Orange County and surrounded predominately by white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants. As a child, and still today, I can look up and down any major street in my town and find multitudes of churches: Trinity Presbyterian, a progressive church, First Church of Christ, Christian Science, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Methodist, and Catholic, all within a 5 mile radius. I remember we had to drive about 25 minutes to get to Sunday School at the local Mosque, and I wished so much to just go with my Christian friends down the street, after all God was the same…right? Continue reading “Recession Proof Devotion By Valentina Khan”

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