outed by Ben Stein

Have I ever told you all the story about how I was outed by Ben Stein?

No, not that kind of outed, sillies, outed as a muslim.

Some time after converted, I transferred to my beloved University of Wisconsin, Madison.  My dear sister began her freshman year at that same time, so we made an effort to hang out at least once a week.

When I began school in August, I wasn’t wearing hijab, but I felt a pull to put it on.  Since I hadn’t told any of my family that I was muslim, I couldn’t very well put it on trad style and have lunch with my sister.  Instead, I chose to wear scarves as a bun.  This worked well enough.  Some people asked me if I had cancer, but in general, I got few questions and only a few raised eye brows.

Until Ben Stein.

He came to speak in November (I believe), and my sister and I went together.  Afterwards, we waited in line to have him sign his new book. When it was our turn, he looked at my scarf and asked, “Do you wear that for religious reasons?”

I don’t do well under pressure.  I could have lied, but instead I got flustered and managed to stutter out that yes, I did.

So naturally, he asks which religion?

Now I was trapped.  I couldn’t very well lie about this, so I looked down and mumbled “islam.”

I think he mistook my shyness over being outed as a muslim in front of my sister as thinking that he didn’t approve of muslims.

He couldn’t have been nicer about it though, saying growing up, there was a very nice muslim family that lived near him and how he was friends with their kids.

So he signed our books and we left.  And there I was, alone with my sister, faced with a walk back to campus and lots of unanswered questions hanging in the air.

Alhamdulilah, she took it well though.  She didn’t freak out, and she didn’t threatened to tell my parents (they would find out about my conversion a few months later when they snooped through my email over Christmas break, rrr).

And now, all these years later, my sister is still awesome.  She’s out in DC, working for the Ag Department, and apparently she’s crossing paths with some muslim movers and shakers.  She promised that if/when she gets to know them more, she’ll put in a good word for me :)  Alhamdulilah!

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3 thoughts on “outed by Ben Stein

  1. Tim, a well written account that makes mine look like a 3rd grader’s scribbling :)

    Candice, it was quite traumatic when it happened, but in the end not so bad. It certainly saved me the trouble of figuring out a way to tell my sister about my conversion, ha.

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