Most of the 8.5 million registered motorcycles in the United States belong to men. If women are involved, they usually sit behind the men drivers and go along for the ride. To be honest, I support these women riders/sitters. Although I operate my own bike, I’d never tell another woman to do the same. If, however, you do want to operate a motorcycle, I’m also a supporter. With bullets:

  • Participate in a motorcycle safety class.
  • Purchase quality gear.
  • Ride an appropriate sized bike. A bike on which you can straddle the seat and plant both your feet solid on the ground.

Motorcycles get good gas mileage and when I don’t have a boatload of kids and crap to haul around, why not swing my leg over my C50 Suzuki and cruise the curving hilly roads? Why not smell the woodlands and wildflowers?

I’ll tell you in one word why not. Danger. Sure, only 19 states and the District of Columbia require motorcyclists to wear helmets by law, but, along with armored gear, I wear a helmet 100% of the time. In every state.

Head gear doesn’t get in the way of my paying attention, because that is what we riders have to do every second we’re on the road. There is no wiggle room for distractions. We are on alert to keep our bikes upright and in a zone where the oblivious vehicle drivers can’t hit us.

Without a helmet, I won’t get on a motorcycle for a ride. Without a helmet, I would be terribly uncomfortable. Without a helmet, I would feel naked. Call it training, call it attitude, or call it willfulness, it doesn’t matter, I only ride when wearing proper head gear.

Oddly, this attitude of mine came into play when Islamophobia increased in our region. It started when a local Muslim community was getting ragged on. Why? Well, because they dressed differently. Otherwise, the Muslims are the same as the rest of us. They are Americans. They have families, they work in town, they strive to better themselves, they eat food. Okay, so they pray a lot too, but as a contemporary Christian myself, I can deal with prayer.

It was their head gear that freaked people out.

Undaunted by head gear, I went to visit my neighbors. I even asked if I could join one of their prayer/dinners. “Of course,” they said.

The women were separated from the men. We ate and prayed in a different room, but the men did all the cooking and serving of food.

The head gear on the women are called hijabs. They are worn as an expression of modesty before God. They would feel naked without their heads covered.

At the prayer meeting, I met Ipek. I’ve since returned to the Community a couple of times to hang with Ipek. She’s given me a tour of the farm. We both took pictures of one another with the animals, however, she requested that her face not be in a picture. I obliged. Ipek though, highly amused, took picture after picture of me, face and all, as the goats rushed at me to eat some paper I was carrying.

We differ yet we are the same. Ipek is fully clothed, quiet, graceful, smart, supportive, smiling. She asks permission from her husband before doing certain things.

I will peel off my clothes according to rising temperatures I’m bossy and a tomboy. Asking my husband for permission of any kind would make him double over in laughter because he knows I’ll do what I feel is right no matter what he says.

Ipek may seem submissive, but get to know her and your mind changes. Born and raised in Turkey, Ipek was taught Islam. She was 33-years old when she decided on her own to cover her head with a hijab. She was a single mother, probably scared out of her wits for her daughter.

This is where Ipek and I meld. She has a daughter and I have two daughters. We want with our whole hearts for our girls to live in peace. We aren’t whimsical. We know the girls will encounter trials and tribulations throughout their lives, but the desire for our daughters to learn with a sense of equality and respect is so powerful, we will set aside our own personal desires and prejudices to let the universal desire happen. The difficult part is doing so without the added impositions of feeling attacked by outsiders. And, with Islamophobia on the rise, this was an issue with Ipek.

I wanted Ipek to be brave, but I had to remind myself, that deep down, Ipek is brave. When she was living in Turkey, she met a Sufi Muslim leader who knew of a single man in America. This man is my neighbor. Unknown to me, my neighbor and Ipek video chatted together a few times and agreed to marry. She emigrated to New York with her 7-year old daughter in 2012 and got married. Ipek has since made a new life for herself so her daughter will have a family.

Ipek can’t afford to fly back to Turkey and visit family. She makes the best of her situation, uncomplainingly. She even calls me sister. In return, I do what I can to be a sister. For example, I wrote an op/ed to increase understanding and reduce the fears surrounding Islam. It was printed in a regional newspaper.

Ipek read the article, looked at me and said, “You are a better Muslim than me.”

I never before considered myself a Muslim, and probably never will, however I knew what she meant. Sisterhood is potent.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen lives in New York with her husband. She is author of, “From science & religion to God: A briefer narrative of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.” Her website is Twitter: @CherylPetersen 



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