As-Salam-Alikum is a greeting in the Muslim
faith when you meet a friend or even a stranger, and the response
is Wa-Alikum-as-Salam. This means Peace to
you and the response is Peace also to you.
Awni Alkarzons wife, Manal, told me she was pleasantly
surprised to be greeted this way by someone while shopping in
DeKalb. It turned out that person had spent some time in Saudi
Arabia and knew that greeting.
When I inquired about the hijab worn by women of their
faith from about the age of 14, I was told that this is the custom
for most women to wear this head scarf when outside the home,
even after they are married. But only in Saudi Arabia will you
find the burka being worn, which covers all of the head except
for the eyes.
Arab coffee along with the dates are traditionally
served guests in the Alkarzon home.
(Photo provided by family)
The girls in the Alkarzon family said when they came to
DeKalb in 2009 they were the only ones wearing a hijab at Jefferson
School. They were glad to have students inquire about their head
scarves so they could explain.
Asked about the five-times-a-day prayers observed by Muslims,
they said that the school here permits them to go to an empty
library room at noon to pray and since there is clean carpeting
in the room a prayer rug is not necessary. The other four times
they pray are early morning before school, then right after school,
at sunset, and later in the evening.
Ramadan is like the Christians season of Lent, and
is observed from May 27 through June 24 this year, which falls
in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
During this time, they fast from sun-up to sundown, but
can partake of food and drink before dawn and after dark. At
the end of Ramadan on June 25 they celebrate Eid al-Fitr when
they join with other Muslim families in social activities. At
that time, they often present gifts to the children and any married
daughters, mostly money or gift cards.
They explained that they do not eat pork and others in
the schools here have been helpful in pointing out any of the
cafeteria food that may contain pork.
As I finished my interview, they served me a small cup
of Arab coffee and a dish of dates from Saudi Arabia. This is
a custom in the home when someone visits. Awni explained that
although these were from Arab countries, they also buy their
dates and coffee here in local stores.
I look forward to seeing them again some Friday night when
I am able to take part in the Network of Nations potluck. It
is not only an opportunity for foreign students and their families
to practice conversational English, but also a chance for us
to learn about their countries and customs. Network of Nations
has been a tremendous help in introducing Northern Illinois Universitys
foreign student population to the American way of life. Its founder
Ruth Scott deserves lots of praise.