Report from an Interview with a Muslim-American Woman

Oftentimes, personal narratives can become the grounding point for theoretical research. Experiences reflect the social tendencies of an individual or a community. Here social tendencies deal about the overall capacity of an individual or group to adapt to the social environment. It also includes the ability to maintain beliefs (or ideologies) and protect personal or group aspirations. Thus, a thorough study of social tendencies may provide the researcher knowledge about the nature of a given individual or community.
Although the individual is an entity by itself; that is, it have an existence independent of a given group, the cultural values of such an individual usually reflect the cultural values of the community he/she originated. Thus, it can be said that personal values are often influenced by collective values. The tendency of an individual to move in certain manners is in part influenced by his/her capacity to incorporate societal values and practices. Thus, inference becomes a tool for extracting genuine data.
Although uncertainties may be present (as to the reliability of the data procured), we may also assume that such uncertainties were borne out of pre-judged propositions. Remember that in the real world, propositions have no truth values unless tested by empirical research. In my case, I chose to study Muslim American communities in order to examine the conditions of this particular ethnic group in the United States. I really want to examine the specific problems, aspirations, social and economic conditions of this group of people. Rather than providing a lengthy description of the chosen community, I chose to interview an individual from that community.

My best choice for the interview was an 80-year old woman who called himself Tiger Lily and usually wore huge, flamboyant hats every day. She often danced around the senior center with a wooden marionette from the center’s thrift shop just for the laughs she got. For a stranger, she may be labeled a crazy old lady (an eccentric individual who wants all the attention of people focused to her), but for the community (Muslim-American) she was the joy of the community. Her cheerfulness often got into the lives of every person in the community. Certainly, this person would be the most viable person for an interview. The range of data I could procure from her is very big. Thus, I began constructing an interview outline which would be used in the interview.
I came into the house of the old lady and asked her permission for an interview. She asked me the purpose of the interview. I told her that the interview was part of the course requirements. Added to that, the interview would serve as the parting point for describing Muslim-American communities (in the United States). She told me to come back to the next day.
She promised that she would prepare a delicious launch for both of us. I came back to the house of Tiger Lily. I got a little nervous and excited. I felt a little disoriented because I might offend the old lady from the questions that I would be asking in the interview. “The bitter pill is necessary” was the thought running in my mind. So when the old lady asked me to sit down, I willingly obeyed. For Muslim-Americans, respect for individual dignity is one of the greatest virtues. I thanked the old lady for approving the interview. She said that it was her duty to share her knowledge of the community to students like me.
What she did not know that the interview was not about the community per se. It was about her in relation to the community. Her personal narrative would serve as the grounding point for a deeper analysis of her community. I did not show any sign of faltering. For me, an interview is not just a question and answer procedure. It is the blood life of a qualitative research. Without further ad due, I began the interview.
The first part of the interview dealt with the social life of Tiger Lily. Here are some transcripts of the interview:
Question: People usually call you Tiger Lily. What does Tiger Lily stands for? Are they connected with your personal attributes?
Tiger Lily: I really do not know why people call me Tiger Lily. Probably because most of the people in the community perceive me as a person who could get along with everybody. Personally, I view myself as a strong woman who possesses the qualities of a fine lady. Well, that’s Tiger and Lily for sure.
Question: Do you consider yourself a liberated woman; that is, a modern woman?
Tiger Lily: I don’t know if I can classify myself as a modern woman. There are some things in this country I find really intriguing. There are also some things I find fine. However, I am generally conservative in worldview. Family life, the community, and of course my personal views are the finest things in life. Maybe, that’s a conservative outlook.
Question: Does your religion (Islam) affect your way of life, your approach to people?
Tiger Lily: There is so much in my religion that affects (sic) my way of life. In our community, everybody is expecting from everybody. Solidarity is the most cherished values for Muslims like us. One should not be detached from the community.
Doing so, would give one a headache. Islam is a way of life. It is life connected and governed by the laws of Allah, the One-God. In any case, I am bound by my religion to stick to the beliefs of my community. There is no alternative but obedience. Living outside the community for a Muslim is like living in a dark cave. You have the impression that you are different.
Question: Are you aware that people perceive you as different?
Tiger Lily: That’s their view. I find interacting with people a lot beneficial than isolating myself in my house. For us Muslims, interaction is the key to a fulfilling life. As what I have (sic) earlier, there is no alternative. Maybe, my way of interacting with other people is different. The purpose is the same though.
The second part dealt with Tiger Lily’s perception of the community she belongs (and some of the problem the community encounter).  Here are some transcripts of the interview.
Question: What is your perception of your community?
Tiger Lily: One, happy big family. We usually celebrate birthdays and holidays with the members of the community. Even though those nasty white policemen always suspect one of our fellows in various crimes, we console each other. That’s one way of showing respect and dignity to our fellows.
Question: What are some of the problems your community is currently facing?
Tiger Lily: Maybe unemployment is the most pervasive problem in our community. Most of the young adults here are facing the difficulty of finding jobs because they are Muslims. After the 9/11 attack, many of the companies here are afraid of hiring Muslims even though they are also American citizens. I am really saddened by this instance. We also find it very difficult to interact with other people outside our community. Once they know that you are a Muslim, they turn their backs and refuse further correspondence. It’s really hard for us.
What we can derive from this interview can be summed up in the following statements. Tiger Lily is a conservative folk who clings to the values of her community. The problems of the community are reflected on her personal narrative. She shows magnanimity and respect for the community because she believes in the efficacy of her religion (who greatly influences her life).
Work Cited
Interview with Tiger Lily (transcript). (2007). Conducted on 31 October 2007 with the consent of the interviewee.
 

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