The Growing Trend of Islamic Weekend Schools in Massachusetts, USA

Are You a Hijabby or a Hijatty?


Faten Ramadan is the founder and designer of Fetoun—the latest no-pin headscarf for Muslim women. She designed a revolutionary head piece, which includes 27 parts as opposed to the one-piece under scarf sold in the Islamic fashion market. Ramadan calls her product a Hijat with a T as opposed to the common Hijab with a B. While a one-piece under scarf is sold for $3, Fetoun’s no-pin Hijat is sold for a minimum of $38. Is the creativity behind the no-pin Hijat worth the switch from the simple under scarf?

Only recently has Islamic fashion taken a sharp turn to modern styles, and yet maintaining its modest signature. Ramadan spent the last three years creating her Hijats. In 2000, Shukr, a new Islamic fashion brand was created. It focuses on designing conservative full length dresses for young women with a contemporary look. Silk Route, another Islamic designer brand, was established in 2006. Before the two latter rival brands, Islamic fashion was “grandmotherly-like”, as Tabassum Sedqui, Shukr’s designer, describes it. Creativity and modesty are finally walking hand in hand, and that’s how it should be.

“I am selling comfort,” said Ramadan standing behind her booth in a bazaar during the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) regional convention in Connecticut on 22 March 2014. “95% of the women who try it [Hijat] end up buying it.”

Ramadan emphasizes the features which make her Hijat unique: no-pins are required to wrap the headscarf, its comfort lays in its light weight on the head, and it is a total makeover to the common headscarf.

“I love my Hijat. I bought the FH853. My hair is very hard to tuck into under-scarves, “ said a review on by Amy R. “But since the 853 is open on top, I easily pulled it down around my neck and then pulled it back up, holding up my hair. It felt so much better than wearing my hair in a ponytail or bun.”

When I visited Ramadan’s booth during ICNA’s regional convention, she had me step into a tent she set us as a changing room. She had three chairs and three mirrors hanging in the ventilated khaki tent. She asked me to take my headscarf off and undo my bun. She then took three head measurements. First, she took the measurement of my head circumference, second, she extended the measuring tape from my right ear to the left, and third, she took the measurement of my back profile to measure the amount of hair I have.


Faten Ramadan, Founder of Fetoun. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

Ramadan stepped out and came back a few moments later with a dark blue Hijat. She put it on my head and asked me how it felt. I usually need to use a pin to adjust the size of the under-scarf I wear, but the Hijat she put on felt like it was custom made for my head. After that, she gave me a tutorial on different ways to wrap a colorful shawl around the Hijat, by simply pushing the piece of fabric twice through a sewed in loop and securing it with an attached clip. When she was done, I hardly felt like I had anything on my head, and my hair was free from a tight ponytail or bun.

The only concern I had was its cost. Thirty eight dollars is certainly not within my budget. I’m used to buying an under scarf for three dollars. I will at least need four different colored Hijats to go with all my shawls. That’s $140 more than if I were to buy four regular under scarves.

“The only way to drop the price on all styles permanently is to manufacture it in low cost (slave) labor countries,” said Ramadan.  But that is against her principles. Selling it in large volumes is another way to reduce consumer prices, Ramadan suggests. Let’s not forget, sponsoring Ramadan’s initiative to revolutionize the headscarf will not only help make Hijats more affordable, but will also encourage Ramadan to continue finding cheaper innovative ways to design her product.

Put price tags on the side, the Islamic fashion market is in need for more daring designers to take up the challenge of envisioning creativity within modesty. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, encourages Muslims to take care of their outer appearance as well as their inner selves. As a Muslim woman living in America, I am constantly playing the role of an ambassador for Islam. Looking the part is as important as playing it. Leaving a beautiful impression through a fashionable and respectable wardrobe is a vital first step to diminishing the false stereotypes the media has spread about Islam.



NuDay Syria


Nadia Alawa, founder of NuDay Syria. Photo by Janan Zaitoun

Danish Syrian, Nadia Alawa, is founder of NuDay Syria–a non-profit organization which helps alleviate the humanitarian suffering that has been taking place in Syria since March 2011.

In this slideshow, Alawa explains what NuDay Syria does, and promotes the products it was selling at the Islamic Circle of North America’s regional convention in Hartford, Connecticut on the 22 March 2014.

NuDay Syria Slideshow

Islamic Circle of North America’s Regional Convention


Imam Yusuf Estes giving his lecture called: The Prophet – His Message for Our Time, during the Islamic Circle of North America regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, Connecticut, March 22, 2014. Estes converted from Christianity to Islam in 1991. He was a Muslim Chaplain for the United States Bureau of Prisons through the 1990s. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

On 22-23 March 2014, The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held a two-day regional convention at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The event throughout the day included: main sessions, parallel workshops, youth sessions, a sisters-only workshop, and a bazaar. The theme of the convention was “Prophet Muhammad: Mercy to Mankind”.

The previous eight annual national ICNA conventions were all held in Hartford, CT. This year, the 39th annual convention will take place in Baltimore, Maryland on Memorial Day weekend in May, 2014. Muslims from various New England states approached the ICNA board members and asked that a regional convention be held nearer to them in March.

“Last year, we were 18,000 at the [national] convention,” said Naeem Baig, president of ICNA. “Today [at the regional convention], we will have 2,500 to 3000 [attendees]”.

ICNA was established in 1968. The organization initially focused on educating its members about Islam and creating a supportive Muslim community in America. Along with its headquarters in Jamaica, Queens, New York, ICNA has 30 physical offices around the U.S.

In 1978, ICNA—Sisters Wing was established—an organization providing an environment in which Muslim women in America work together on Islamic projects. The latter organization then created Muslim Children of North America (MCNA)—an organization for children ages 5-15.

Upon entering the convention center, one could see registration booths that had been set up  in the lobby for the attendees. On another side of the lobby, Islamic music could be heard. Tables had been set up near the source of the lively music. A volunteer, Aiza Zia from Pakistan and a student at Simmons College,  stood in front of the table that said “Helping Hands for Relief and Development (HHRD)”. She was handing out brochures for HHRD, a global humanitarian relief and development organization responding to human suffering in emergency and disaster situations around the world.

Three of four signs segregating attendees based on gender at ICNA regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

Three of four signs segregating attendees based on gender at ICNA regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT, March 22, 2014. There were close to 3,000 attendees in the regional conference. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

When the attendees entered the main hall, four signs directed them where to go. The first two said “Sisters”, while the other two said “Brothers”. A long blue curtain in the middle segregated the two genders.

“The best day is the day you learn something that will help you get closer to Allah,” said Imam Yusuf Estes, a Texan and former preacher of Christianity, before stepping onto the stage in the main hall to give his talk called: The Prophet – His Message for Our Time. He explained: “In this conference, I am looking for that.”

Upstairs there were five other parallel workshops. Each room had three speakers and one main topic.

“The prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—was even merciful to those who opposed him,” said Palestinian American Muhammad Baajor  in room 24 during his talk about Prophet Muhammad’s manners and dealings. “After he had been stoned by the people of Ta’ef, he made the famous prayer [for them to accept Islam]”.

During the first hour in room 25, the talk was about Muhammad: Dignified by the Divine, while in room 26 the talk covered Muhammad as a Political Activist. After prayer at 1:15 pm, the two other parallel sessions began. In room 27, a sister-only workshop dealt with issues Muslim women face in America. While in rooms 11,12, and 13 a Qur’anic competition took place.

Sister Suzy Ismail giving her talk, Muslim Entrepreneurs in America, during a parallel workshop in room 25 at ICNA's regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

Sister Suzy Ismail, left, giving her talk “Muslim Entrepreneurs in America” during a parallel workshop in room 25 at ICNA’s regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT, March 22, 2014. Ismail is the author of several books such as “9 to 5″ , “When Muslim Marriage Fails” , “The BFF Sisters” and other works. She is a visiting professor in the communication department at DeVry University and is the curriculum developer and instructor at the center for Muslim Life. Photo by Janan Zaitoun.

Nadia Al-Jam, a Syrian living in Massachusetts, attended the conference with her husband. Al-Jam was in favor of the short 15-20 minute talks and the Q & A segment at the end given in the workshops. However, she criticized the absence of the Q & A segment at the end of the lectures given in the main hall.

For families, a bazaar and inflatable slides for children were set up. There were close to one hundred tables, each displaying cultural products from Muslim countries. Some sold raw honey, ethnic jewelry, clothing and colorful headscarves. Vendors  explained to passers-by why their product was more unique.

Faten Ramadan, who was born in Lebanon but has been living in the U.S. for 39 years, advertised her first-of-its-kind no-pin headscarf “Fetoun”.

“It took me a year and a half to create this,” said Ramadan. “I sewed 27 pieces in this headscarf to get the comfort and design I wanted.”

 Faten Ramadan selling her no-pin headscarf during the Bazar at ICNA's regional  Convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT. Photo by Janan Zaitoun

Faten Ramadan selling her no-pin headscarf, Fetoun, during the bazaar at ICNA’s regional convention, Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, CT. Fetoun was established on April 15, 2009. Photo by Janan Zaitoun

Unlike all the other tables that were selling headscarves, Ramadan invited women to step into  a ventilated changing-room tent, complete with chairs and mirrors. She had them remove their headscarves and then took different measurements of their heads. By referring to a chart she has been developing over the past three years,  she then chose the correct sized headscarf for each woman.

At the conference, diverse ethnicities were obvious and several spoken languages were heard.

Toward the end of the first night, while standing behind the podium in the main hall, Baig said: “During last year’s national convention, we conducted a survey. We found out that there were 80 different ethnicities attending, and 44 different languages spoken.”

Deema Hajjawi, Host of Chef Wanted on Abu Dhabi TV



Courtesy of Deema Hajjawi

“Not everyone gets to see me like this,” said Deema Hajjawi in Arabic when her video camera on Skype turned on. She was wiping off her makeup. “But it’s okay. I’ve already warmed up to you,” she said after only two minutes of talking to me for the first time. Her humble and friendly nature during my interview with her was clear from the beginning.

Hajjawi, 36, is a well-known Jordanian Cooking Specialist in the Arab world. She is host and judge of Chef Wanted, similar to Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. The show is currently being aired on Abu Dhabi TV. The show was shot in 5 star hotel restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In each episode, two contestants compete to impress a hotel restaurant chef. The winner has the opportunity to work at the restaurant with the chef.

In 2000, Hajjawi’s first TV appearance was on Dubai TV hosting a show called Cinema, Cinema. Later in 2003, Hajjawi appeared in a cooking show on Jordan TV as a host with other chefs. But in 2012, Hajjawi appeared on Roya TV, a Jordanian satellite channel, as the main cook. She cooks during the morning show’s cooking segment, three times a week.

Hajjawi is author of two cooking books: Tasty Temptations, 2009, and The Secret Ingredient, 2012. Both books consist of Arabian recipes in English. The books target English speaking Arabs, and foreigners living in Arab countries. She is currently working on her third book, this time in Arabic. It is due for publication in June 2014. Her books are sold online at:

Born and raised in Jordan, Hajjawi was raised by Palestinian parents from Nablus. Both her parents worked in Jordan TV. Her father, Bassam Hajjawi, a TV producer, was one of Dubai TV’s founders.

As a child, Hajjawi went to The Ahliyyah for Girls high school in Jordan. When she was 17 years old, Hajjawi’s parents sent her to stay with her aunt so she could attend Lucie Clayton finishing school in London. In 2000, Hajjawi graduated from Al-Ahliyya Amman University in Jordan. She majored in English literature.

Hajjawi met her husband through a friend and married Hassan Hamdan in 2000. Today, they have four daughters. Hajjawi encourages her daughters Nour, 12, Nadia, 10, Aya, 8, to be in the kitchen with her. Her youngest, Zain,is four years old.

“The first time I ever made anything was when I was in 6th grade,” said Hajjawi. “I made French toast.”

In 2000, the same year Hajjawi got married, Hajjawi’s husband and brother established a business, Flavours Catering, which was the first door to Hajjawi’s cooking career. She helped with the family business, and her passion for food blossomed. That same year, she published her first cooking book.

“We worked on the first book as a joke,” said Hajjawi switching between Arabic and English. “We never imagined that it would be a success. We only printed limited copies.”

Hajjawi’s husband took pictures of her dishes with his camera, and then they ate whatever she made afterwards. Her husband, a graphic designer, designed her first book. The first book’s success pushed Hajjawi to work on a second one.


Courtesy of Deema Hajjawi

“My favorite American chef is Martha Stewart,” said Hajjawi. “She’s consistent. I also like Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten, and Tyler Florence.”

In her light brown kitchen, Hajjawi enjoys combining recipes together and creating new dishes to add to her upcoming book, or to remake on TV. In one episode on Roya TV’s morning show Donya ya Donya, Hajjawi was showing the viewers how to make an Arabic sweet called Layali Lebnan, Lebanese Nights. She had introduced a new method of making it; adding eggs to thicken the creamy texture made of semolina and milk. More than one viewer called in to tell Hajjawi that they had never tried her way. They only added starch to thicken the texture. Hajjawi stressed the importance of adding warm milk to the eggs before adding it to the hot mixture.  “A method called tampering,” she said.

“Try my way, and you’ll be glad you did,” she said to one of the callers.

During the fasting month of Ramadan, 2012, Mobile Channels Company (MCC Arabia) created an application for smart devices: “Ramadan is More Delicious with Deema Hajjawi”. Every day, subscribers received a recipe from Hajjawi for breaking their fast. In two weeks, there were 25,000 downloads of the application.

Last year, Hajjawi established Deema’s Cooking Club at her parents’ house in Jordan. She meets with her students once a week for three hours. In each class, they make entrées, main courses, appetizers, and sweets from different countries.

Towards the end of our Skype interview, I asked Hajjawi what she would serve if she had the opportunity to open her own restaurant at Harvard Square.

“Palestinian and Jordanian food, “said Hajjawi.  “I’ll make them Mskhan (chicken with onions on stone oven bread), Magloobeh (Rice with chicken and cauliflower or eggplant), and Mansaf—the national dish of Jordan (yellow rice with lamb in a yogurt based broth).”



* To sign up with Deema’s Cooking Club in Um Othayna, contact Hajjawi via her e-mail:

* Deema Hajjawi’s official page on Facebook:

Three Tips for Student / Working Moms


On August 14th, 2013 me and my husband’s lives changed forever. On that day, Allah blessed us with, Aisha, our beautiful baby girl. Soon after, I found out that taking care of a newborn is, in one word, draining. In two words, it is: frustrating routine.  But in three words—and with a little patience—it becomes: the purest joy.

“Aioshi”, as I like to call my baby girl (which means “my Aisha” in Arabic), is now six months old. Perhaps the only thing I did more than change diapers these past few months was constantly readjusting to rapid change. And if entering motherhood wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, I buckled up and went back to grad school last month for one heck of a ride.

I contacted some friends who had to go back to work or school when they had their first child. Together we will give some tips to those who will find themselves in our shoes soon, and perhaps, give you some insight into your future.

TIP ONE: Set a schedule for your baby’s naps

Nap time for your baby = study/work for Mom. When my baby takes a nap, I drop everything and plunge into the books.

“I think the most important thing is for the baby to be on a schedule which includes sleeping no later than 8 pm,” said Samira Taha, both a graduate student and a working Mom at the American University of Sharjah, UAE.

Babies are ready for a general schedule between 2 and 4 months of age, according to Once your baby has a routine, you will learn to do the studying and working when your baby is asleep and the cooking and the cleaning when your baby is awake. And about that, don’t stress it. Your house will take longer to manage. It’s a fact. Learn to deal with it from now.

“If the parents are financially capable, please hire a cleaner once a week to relieve some of the stress and take some of the work away from the mom,” said Taha. “If they are not financially capable, I wouldn’t worry about the house on a daily basis. School / work are the second priority after the baby.”

TIP TWO: Don’t be shy to ask for help

I loved a logo design I found online that said, “I’m a Mom. What’s your super power?”. I still have to remind myself, though, that mothers can be vulnerable humans, too.

“Surround yourself with a support network of good people who could step in whenever needed emotionally and with the baby,” said Sana Hiary, a graduate student at Columbia University. Hiary leaves her son at a daycare during her classes.

I personally decided to take online classes this semester, so I can be at home with Aisha. My husband takes her during one class, and, only recently, my neighbor started taking her during another. I find the separation during those two hours extremely hard. Out of necessity, I pushed myself to impose on my neighbor, who offered to babysit Aisha in the first place. I thought I could attend my online class with a six month old on my lap. It’s difficult to divide yourself in half, even if you think you have super powers.

TIP THREE: Constantly recharge your battery.

The best way to pump yourself up is to talk to someone who is in the same boat with you. It’s after those phone calls that I feel like I CAN do this. If you can’t find someone to talk to in person or on the phone, there are plenty of support groups online.

For working moms, you can join’s group:

Working Moms


For college or grad student moms, you can join’s groups:

College Student Moms

Grad Student Moms

Or, you can follow blogs for working moms. Here is a list of the top blogs for working moms:


Taking a step back, you might be wondering when is the best time for you and baby to go back to work or school.

“Experts suggest that you wait at least until you’ve “attached” or “bonded” with your baby and feel competent as a mother,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect the First Year. “Bonding can take three months (though if your baby has colic, you will probably just be starting to become friends at this point), or it can take five or six. Some research suggests that there are benefits to waiting a year.”

When you do decide to take the step forward, keep in mind that there will be days when you will not check anything off your to-do-list. Don’t be disappointed. Remind yourself that your first priority is your child. Yes, at times you will only be a mom, and that is more than fine. Because ‘only’ being a mom is the greatest achievement.

The Boston Globe Publishes My News Story

Mr. Booth teaching 7th grade girls.

The Bostson Globe published my news story about Mr. Booth, a non-Muslim, teaching at Al Noor Academy, a Muslim high school.

You can read it here:

Previous Older Entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 274 other followers

%d bloggers like this: