Sunday, June 8, 2003

Muslim girls in CA organize a prom -

with everything except boys, of course.

Ms. Haque and her friends may have helped initiate a new American ritual: the all-girl Muslim prom. It is a spirited response to religious and cultural beliefs that forbid dating, dancing with or touching boys or appearing without a hijab, the Islamic head scarf. While Ms. Haque and her Muslim friends do most things other teenagers do — shopping for shoes at Macy's, watching "The Matrix Reloaded" at the mall or ordering Jumbo Jack burgers and curly fries at Jack in the Box — an essential ingredient of the American prom, boys, is off limits. So they decided to do something about it.

"A lot of Muslim girls don't go to prom," said Ms. Haque, 18, who removed her hijab and shawl at the prom to reveal an ethereal silvery gown. "So while the other girls are getting ready for their prom, the Muslim girls are getting ready for our prom, so we won't feel left out."

The rented room at a community center here was filled with the sounds of the rapper 50 Cent, Arabic pop music, Britney Spears and about two dozen girls, including some non-Muslim friends. But when the sun went down, the music stopped temporarily, the silken gowns disappeared beneath full-length robes, and the Muslims in the room faced toward Mecca to pray. Then it was time for spaghetti and lasagna.

The most interesting part of the piece involves the girl's decision to embrace what her mother had rejected:

Ms. Haque, who will attend the University of California at Berkeley in the fall, is one of a growing number of young Muslim women who have adopted the covering their mothers rejected. Islamic dress, worn after puberty, often accompanies a commitment not to date or to engage in activities where genders intermingle.Her parents immigrated from Pakistan, and her mother, Shazia, who has a master's degree in economics, does not wear the hijab.Ms. Haque's decision to cover herself, which she made in her freshman year, was nuanced and thoughtful. "I noticed a big difference in the way guys talked," she said. "They were afraid. I guess they had more respect. You walked down the street and you didn't feel guys staring at you. You felt a lot more confident." Her parents were surprised but said it was her decision.