Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pukhtun Men, Double Standards, and Respect for Pukhtun Women

Pre-post: To all those who will now start saying, "Stop generalizing": I don't expect you to get this. Besides, does saying "You're generalizing" solve the problem? If not, what's your point? Stop denying this happens because you see it on your FB feed every time you log in and you see it on Youtube videos (girls' photos as background pictures to audio music), and you (most of us) just watch, maybe read the disgusting comments about the girls' looks/bodies, and our job is done. Speak against it. Also, saying, "There ARE exceptions, you know; not all Pukhtun men do this" acknowledges that they're only exceptions--not the norm; it acknowledges that the majority with access to these pics/Internet actually do this, but there's a small minority that sincerely respects women. I'm not talking about the ones who don't do this, obviously. I'm talking about the ones who do.

Double standards exist everywhere, I know, but I've seen an unbearable amount with Pukhtuns (because, silly, silly me! I expect them to be so much better than all other people in the world!). And, yes, I know the following happens in other racial groups too, but I'm "singling out" Pukhtuns because, in case it's not obvious already, I'm a Pukhtun myself. I see no logic in taking on all of the world's issues and talking about every single problem of every single nation. You do that yourself.

Here's the deal, ok?

A few days ago on one of my FB accounts (I have two), this Pukhtun guy messaged me and said "hi, how are you?" I replied a couple of days later (deliberately) and said I was well, thank you. He replies instantly and says, "What is your name? Where do you live? Are you studying or are you married?" (lol :D like I can't do both!) I replied a couple of days later with, "Hm... too many questions at once. Why don't you visit my blog and have alllll of your questions about me answered, bro?" He replied, again instantly (freaky, I know, right?), with something fobby, like "Will you be my friend?" And I replied with:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Christian Wedding in Karak, Jordan

When I was in Jordan last year, one of our speaking partners (i.e., someone we had to have a discussion with about a given topic in Arabic daily for 30 minutes) invited us to his brother's wedding in Karak, Jordan, not too close to Amman where we were staying. It was really moving to hear a non-Islamic scripture recited in Arabic so beautifully. I recorded almost the whole thing, but I think what I've chosen to post publicly should suffice as an overview of what one particular Christian wedding in one particular Arab country looks like. Overall, I thought it was great! Enjoy!

By the way, I have deliberately blurred out the last part for privacy purposes. The first part takes place outside the Church in a vast courtyard, and the second part takes place inside the Church.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Response to Mona Eltahawy's "Why Do They Hate Us?"

Today, Facebook informed me that over 15 of my friends had shared Mona Eltahawy's article "Why Do They Hate Us?" on their pages. For some strange reason I can't figure out, I wasn't expecting the "they" in the title to be who it turned out to be. Like most of her articles, I read it and sighed afterwards. (I have found some of her pieces very important and worth reading -- this just wasn't one of them.) Here's my response.

Please note: This is not a coherent, organized, well-written response to the article. Instead, it's the copy-paste of some of my comments on FB.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Mispronunciation of Foreign Names: On Arabic, Muslim, and Islamic names

I don’t understand why we bless our children with names that aren’t pronounceable in our spoken languages. For example, the name/word Samina means "fat" (feminine) in Arabic; yet, it’s a common name especially in South Asian countries. Because no South Asian language, as far as I know, pronounces thaa () in spoken language (even if it exists in formal/written language), we spell it with the letter seen (س) instead. The actual Arabic name starts with a ,ﺙ and “Thamina” means precious, valuable.

So, when pronouncing certain letters is not common or easy in your native language, why should you have to adopt the letters of other languages (even if they have officially become a part of the formal dialect of your language), just so you can pronounce foreign words "correctly"? For instance, there’s no F (ف) in Pashto [I’ve no idea where the Pashtun tribe “Afridi” gets its name from and how! Is it supposed to be “Apridi”?] and no thaa/they (), just like there’s no qaaf (ق) in English. So if the positive meaning of a good name is going to be distorted if the name is not pronounced properly (as with Thamina/Samina), then why even take the name? Why not keep a name original to your language, one that can be pronounced properly and not be distorted – and has a good meaning? I'm sure people have their reasons, though.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What does it mean to be an empowered woman?

Pashtuns, Social Networking, and Gender Empowerment: What does it mean to be empowered?

When I first decided to write on the topic of Pashtun women’s empowerment through social networking and specifically through blogging, I was searching for the blogs of those Pashtun women who engaged themselves in “intellectual” discussions, writing on “serious” topics, such as politics, society, and religion. I was not, for example, looking for blogs replete with “gossip” or “every-day things.” I wanted to find signs of heterodoxy, explicit discussions of taboo subjects (though I hadn’t yet decided what “taboo” meant in a Pashtun context), perhaps disagreement with status quo, with the roles typically associated with Pashtun and other Muslim women (which are primarily domestic and private roles as opposed to public). But I realized that I was excluding an important circle of Pashtun women bloggers who perhaps simply had no problem with the roles with which they might be associated. Although this is not to imply that they are indeed necessarily satisfied with their current roles, I did realize that the absence of discussions of certain topics in itself reveals quite a lot about what this particular circle of bloggers view as important. Hence, what does it mean to be empowered? What does an empowered woman do or talk about, and how does she show her empowerment? These are the questions I intend to answer in my study.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Verbal/Emotional Abuse in the Pashtun Society - Part III: What to do

Part 3 of the discussion on verbal/emotional domestic abuse. (Part I: Signs of verbal/emotional abuse; Part II:  Important pointers about abuse)

What to do if you’re in a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship:
  •  Recognize that it is abuse.
    As I've said, just because he doesn't hurt you physically doesn't mean he's not abusing you or that you are being abused. The Pashtun society like almost all others programs girls and women to think that only physical abuse, like having a black eye or a broken rib, is abuse. In my first post on abuse, I talked about signs of verbal/emotional domestic abuse, so please refer to them in case you've forgotten. So, if you realize that your husband or partner is abusing you (emotionally or mentally or verbally) and you are unhappy that way and want to do something about it, please consider your options. Sometimes we do have more options than we think we do. But you have to first recognize your abuse.
  • Talk to your partner.
    Chances are, he doesn't realize he's hurting or abusing you. If that's the case, which one would hope and pray it is, you don't want to live your life thinking you have an enemy when you really don't. Remember that he's a product of a system that sees nothing wrong with a man's yelling at his wife or hurting her otherwise. That doesn't mean what he's doing is okay, no. But if you talk to him and he still continues being abusive, he IS completely at fault. It's not your job to train him to be a better person. His parents were supposed to have done that by the time he married you. So talk to him before you talk to anyone else. Let him know that the things he does and says to you or about you hurt you. If he is a good person and he respects you, he'll try to improve himself. If he's a horrible person and has no respect you, he won't care.
  • Talk to someone you can trust, someone who will HELP you get out of your situation (not necessarily the marriage, if you don't want that).
    It’s good to talk to someone just to get it out of your system, just so you feel better (because it does make you feel better to talk about it, to tell someone how you’re really feeling), but you need to turn to someone who can help you either to leave (if that’s the best option) or to help you improve your situation. For instance, perhaps just sharing your feelings with your partner might be a good idea. If he gets even more abusive, then that tells you you need to get away from him. [[It’s a pity that our society doesn’t respect divorced women and thinks it’s always the woman’s fault when she’s divorced. And it’s a pity that re-marriage for divorced women isn’t common. This makes me wish I had gone into counseling to help divorced women and victims of abuse, including rape. Or maybe I’ll work with some women’s shelters at some point in my life and help give hope to women who think they have no hope.]] 
  • If you are engaged but not yet married, make it clear to your parents that you are not going ahead with the marriage.
    Our parents are often more supportive than we give them credit for. They ultimately want the best for us, and if you show them how miserable you are, they will actually support you -- and may ignore what the social ramifications might be. They'll still worry about their reputation, but their daughter's health and well-being and happiness are really more important to them deep inside than what someone else might think or say or spread about them. So be strong and be insistent and stand your ground.
  • If you have no one to turn to, you have to be strong. You have to help your own self. If you feel like you need to get out of the relationship, then do so -- and be strong about it. Be confident. Constantly remind yourself that you deserve better, that you will not let this break you, that you will not let anyone have any power over you. Patience is great, yes, but do understand that in much of our society, patience is taught mostly to the woman, not to the woman. That is, women will often tell themselves that "God loves people who are patient" but not expect their husbands to be patient as well. Why don't we teach our sons to be just as patient as we teach our girls to be? If YOU, the girl/woman, have to sacrifice your every thing to please other people and you find yourself being told that you must be patient at all times but your husband/partner is never told such a thing, something is wrong. I'm not saying be competitive and be stubborn and don't cooperate with your husband. No. But I AM saying that you shouldn't be the only one making every effort to maintain the relationship; your partner needs to be at least as much cooperative.
  • If you have kids, stop fooling yourself into thinking they're better off in your abusive marriage than without a father.
    I'm not suggesting get a divorce. I don't support divorce very much (only and only in extreme cases, and abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, other) is one instance during which I am okay with it), and I think it's taken very lightly in much of the West, which I find unfortunate. However, there are many times when divorce is really necessary, but a couple, especially the woman, will not go through with it because, she tells herself, "I have kids, and the kids need a father."
    But contrary to what many people think—which is that if you have kids, it’s better to stay in a bad marriage rather than leave it—your kids are actually suffering more than you when you’re in abusive marriage/relationship. This is because children are far more observant than we think they are. They notice everything. They realize what’s going on sometimes even before we do. They watch you being sad and hurt and abused all the time, and they wonder what caused it. It’s worse especially when your husband hurts you in front of your kids. So remember that your kids watch you being hurt, and they think it’s natural and okay. But it’s not, as I discuss below. They’re going to grow up and either be victims of abuse or be the abusers themselves. And that’s how this violent cycle of violence continues with every generation: we go through it, we watch it happen, and we sit there in silence thinking it’s supposed to be like that.
So, children who are living with an abusive parent/abusive parents, who witness their mothers being hit or yelled at or insulted or criticized unnecessarily are more likely to grow up to be abusive or victims of abuse  than kids who grow up in a household of one parent. To think that having two parents automatically and necessarily means good children is wrong, incorrect, false, a big fat lie you’re told just so that you continue never experiencing peace, respect, happiness, and/or love in your life.
  • Women's support groups
    Unfortunately, in all of Pashtunkhwa with very few exceptions, there are almost no women's support groups that you can turn to. However, that doesn't mean they're completely nonexistent. Gather a group of good friends/relatives whom you can trust, especially those who are in your situation, and help each other out. And these support groups don't have to be necessarily counseling services dedicated only to abuse or women who are in miserable marriages. Something like the Roshni Centre (in Swat), founded by someone I know and can trust, is one group where you can turn to for support.

    I also understand that, unfortunately, the Pashtun society doesn't think much of things like being actively involved in your community, and volunteering is not a respected activity, so I wish I could suggest that you find something to do around your neighborhood/community to keep yourself busy, such as with teaching poor kids how to read and write. But whatever the case, you definitely need a community, even if it's just to gossip with them, vent with them about everything wrong with the Pashtun society or the world. There's nothing wrong with that if that's going to help you feel better :)
What I’m not saying:
Since I know that I’m often misunderstood, let me clarify a few things.
- I’m not saying leave your husband and go get a divorce.
- I’m not saying all men are abusive, all men are bad.
- I'm not saying Pashtuns are stupid and backward people (we are not stupid or backward).  I focus on Pashtuns here because of the little focus domestic abuse is given. Every single thing I have said here applies to ALL groups of people, not just the Pashtuns.
- I'm not saying all domestic abuse is perpetrated by men and that everything that's wrong in the world is men's fault. Not at all. But I focus on men's abuse of women (wives) because that's more common than the other way around, and I personally don't know of any men abused by their wives.
- I’m not saying be sensitive to everything; in fact, I believe there’s a fine line between being sensitive, letting everything bother or hurt you, and knowing when you are being disrespected, violated, stepped on. Sometimes (but not always), if something that your partner does to you or around you offends you, hurts you, upsets you, insults you, humiliates you—then there’s a problem, and you should know what to do about it if you want to be in a healthier marriage/relationship. 

May we all be blessed with happiness, peace, and love all our lives! Aameen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Verbal/Emotional Abuse in the Pashtun Society - Part II: Some Pointers

Continuing the discussion on verbal and emotional domestic abuse. 

Pointers about emotional/verbal abuse:
  • A lack of intelligence or good education has nothing to do with the nature of abusive people.
    Your husband/brother/father may be among the most intelligent, most educated of men in the world, but he may STILL be abusive. Education has no power to eradicate violence or abuse. I know of plenty of men who are highly educated but are in relationships (some marital, some non-marital) with women for whom they have no respect and are very abusive towards. Sometimes, they reason that their wife/girlfriend/fiancé isn’t as educated as them, so “it makes sense”! No, it doesn’t make sense to abuse someone under any circumstances. Your education, your goals, your accomplishments—none of these make you a better person than someone else; your practices do.

    The irony of this whole concept of “honor” in much of the Pashtun society is that our men may respect OTHER women, non-related women, but not their own. And by “respect,” they often mean … well, not yelling in front of them, not cursing in front of them, etc. I’ll write on this whole honor issue another time, but for now, know that you’re a coward if you mistreat your own wife/daughter/sister/mother/another female family member while respecting other women! Why not start with your own? Why not make sure your own family members are healthy emotionally, mentally, not distressed, happy with how you treat them and view them? A lot of the Pashtun men I know online are apparently “intellectuals” (big joke, I swear), but the way they are with their wives/girlfriends is a whole different story. (I have evidence; no need to share with the public.)  So, girls, don’t let that apparent “intelligence” fool you! I repeat: just because he’s intelligent does not guarantee that he’ll treat you the way you want to be treated. Abuse is a mentality. It can’t be eradicated easily.
  • It's NOT your fault.
    Abusers tend to make their victims feel like everything that's wrong in this world is their (the victim's) fault. That they're being abused because they deserve it. That they're stupid. That they need to be disciplined or controlled because they're unable to discipline and control themselves. But know that it's NOT your fault. You've done nothing wrong. And even if you have, he's supposed to be your partner who helps you out and who supports you, not abuses you. Who manages and disciplines and controls HIM when he does something wrong? Or is it that he never does anything wrong? A lot of them do tend to think nothing they do can ever be wrong, that they can never make a mistake. In fact, though, that's a sign of their own weakness. Only weak people will fool themslevs into thinking they're too perfect to ever do something wrong. Strong people admit that they make mistakes; they know when they need help and aren't afraid to challenge themselves.
  • Don’t let him get away with it even once.
    Know this, ladies: If you let him get away with hurting you once, he’ll think he can get away with it every time. And it’ll reach a point when he’ll make sure you never get out of it. He’ll hurt you once, and then apologize, and you’ll think all is well. Then when he’s sure he has you back again, he’ll hurt you again—and will again apologize, again you’ll think all’s well when it’s not. And this will go on until you’ve lost yourself completely, your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your self-respect, your dignity.
  • Abuse is NOT natural, not okay, not normal.
    No form of abuse is natural or acceptable. No one should have to suffer in it. Unfortunately, domestic abuse has been naturalized and normalized because our society makes us believe that nothing’s wrong with being abused, so we (women) are programmed to accept our mistreatment as natural. Many female family members of mine tell me that there's nothing wrong with a man beating the hell out of his wife -- because he's doing what's best for the wife; he’s only disciplining her … as though she is too stupid to discipline her own self, to learn for her own self! And somehow, the man doesn’t need to be disciplined, even though he’s the abuser, weakling, the one with the problem (if he’s abusive). Girls are being raised to watch their mothers being abused and suffering those abuses and not doing anything about it; naturally, they'll think nothing's wrong with it, and naturally they'll expect it from their own husbands. And most daughters love their fathers to the point of seeing them as the perfect man, the role model. Too many girls want to marry men who're just like their fathers. There are many reasons for this, but this is beside my point. My point is that when these daughters respect their fathers so much and think so highly of them, then when they see their fathers being abusive, they will obviously think, "Well, my dad did/does it, so it can't be wrong."

    Similarly, boys are being raised to watch their mothers, the women they probably love and respect the most in their lives, so when they watch their mothers living it and accepting it and not doing anything about it, of course they’ll grow to think it’s natural for a man to hurt his own wife. But it is NOT okay. It is NOT normal. It is NOT natural. 
  • Scenario: his reaction to your breaking a glass?
    Most of the things I'm saying here, I got from a Women's Self-Defense course I took in college a couple of years ago. One of the things that has stuck with me ever since is this scenario that our teacher (a male) gave us. It's as follows. Ask yourself how your partner would respond/react if you break a glass. Will he scream at you for being so careless? Will he accuse you of being clumsy and stupid? Or will he first check to make sure you’re not hurt, asking you if you’re okay, and come to your side to help you pick up the pieces of the broken glass? If he’s gonna yell and criticize you and make you feel like you did something horrible, he’s abusing you. If he’s gonna come to your side and tell you that’s all right (because he’d know that it was an accident), he’s a good man, you’re lucky to have him, and he loves and cares about you. That’s the kinda man we all want.    
Coming up: Part III - What to do if you are in a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship/marriage

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Verbal and Emotional Abuse in the Pashtun Society - Part I: Signs of Abuse

    Edit: Since the post did get too long, I'll go ahead and break it into two parts (lawl! But I won't apologize for my wordiness, though). So, in this part, I'll just talk about domestic abuse in general -- not physical but verbal and emotional -- and give some signs of abuse. In the next/second part, I'll give some pointers about domestic abuse (like how it's not your fault even if he makes you feel like you're being abused because you deserve it); the third/last part will be on what to do if you are in an abusive relationship.

    Disclaimer #1: I know that domestic abuse is not exclusive to Pashtuns. It’s a disease in all of the world, in every society, and everyone’s involved in it, directly or indirectly (whether that is by being abusive, being the victim, or watching it happen and sitting there in silence). So I’m not at all suggesting with the title of this post and with my write-up below that all Pashtun men are abusive and that only Pashtun women suffer abuse.  It’s never all, so, no, not all Pashtun men are bad. And, no, not all Pashtun women go through this hell. But many of them do, and this post is for those women. As in most of my pots, I focus on Pashtuns mainly because I’m a Pashtun myself. But also because I have a number of friends and other loved ones suffering from abuse (most of them won’t acknowledge it as abuse, though), and most Pashtun women have nowhere to turn to when they’re being abused. So I hope this will help them a little.

    Disclaimer #2: Please bear in mind that, while I’m sitting here in the distance telling you how to detect abuse, it’s actually up to you to decide for yourself if you are being abused or not. If you feel like you’re not suffering (mentally, emotionally, physically, or otherwise), don’t think I’m telling you what to do. If you read the below and feel like you are experiencing abuse but you feel like there’s nothing wrong with that, by all means stay however you wish to stay. This is only for those who are unhappy where they are and want to do something about it.


    In this post, I will avoid bringing up religion, which too many Muslim women often use to justify their own abuses by their husbands. (That is, “God gave him the right to hit me.”) Here, I’m just gonna talk about the problem, why it’s a problem, and how to know if you’re being abused—because sometimes we don’t realize being abused because we foolishly think “he loves me. He’d never hurt me.” Or “he doesn’t mean to hurt me.” Or “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have done that.” I’ll talk on religion and violence in another post.

    So, a few years ago, I was watching a Pakistani drama with some Pashtun women. A husband slaps his wife really hard, and the wife touches her face lightly and then a moment later turns to her husband and hits him in the face so hard he falls on the bed. I yelled: “YYYES!!! Good job, lady!!” And a Pashtun woman yelled, “SHUT UP!! Don’t say that!” Me: “Why? He hit her. He deserves to be hit back.” The Pashtun woman: “He’s the husband. He has the right to hit her.  He has to discipline her….” And then she went on and on about how Americanized I was, how “liberal” my thinking was, and how it’s really bad for society that a woman thinks the wife should not just sit passively if she’s being hurt by her husband.

    Then there are those Pashtun women I know who are abused by their husbands constantly and the only reason they’re still with these beastly husbands of theirs is “I have kids.” I’ll talk on this below as well.

    Signs of verbal / emotional abuse
    Not all abuse is physical. There is mental abuse, there’s emotional, there’s verbal, among others. And it’s wrong to think one is necessarily worse or more harmful than another. They’re all equally bad, but one form of abuse may have worse effects on one person when another form of abuse may have worse on another person (e.g., someone may suffer more from emotional violence, but someone else may suffer more from physical abuse). Know that if you’re being hurt in ANY way, if you don’t feel good around your partner, something is wrong, and it’s up to YOU to correct it, if you want to correct it. The following is a list of signs that detect abuse. If you’re a male reading this, please pay attention and make sure you don’t do this to any of your family members (wife, daughter, sister, mother, cousin, friend—anyone!) because you may think you’re wonderful and amazing and you may be brilliant and accomplished and all that, but none of that guarantees that you will know how to treat another person with love and respect. If you’re a female reading this, please pay attention and ask yourself if you’re being abused. If the answer is yes, read on and this post might be able to give you some tips for what to do and how to seek help.  In the following, assume that the “you” is female and the “he” is her partner. This is because we know that in the Pashtun society, just as in most other societies, the victim is almost always a female and her abuser is a male, often her husband or boyfriend or another close male family member.

    Before I end this section, let me reiterate that oftentimes, especially in the Pashtun and other Eastern societies, our partners don’t realize when they’re hurting us. Make sure he realizes and knows he’s hurting you, and if he continues doing it knowing it’s upsetting you, there’s a problem.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    "Chastity as Oppression"

    I'll just stop promising my readers about what I'm going to write next, since I really don't have the time to continue my series of all those important topics I've started, BUT I promise -- with all my heart -- that my next post will be on domestic abuse in the Pashtun society. I'll explain why when I write it here, but basically, too many Pukhtun women (mostly young, mind you - like under 30) are going through the hell wrongly called just "abuse," and their abusers (their husbands) are supposedly "educated." Makes you question the whole theory that education can eradicate abuse in our society. No, it can't. No, it doesn't. Anyway, that'll come soon. For the time being, I wanna share an important article I just read called "Chastity as Oppression" by Duriya Hashmi. Strongly recommend especially to men -- even if you think you're an exception to the whole "such a large percentage of our men subjugate their women." Sometimes we subjugate people without actually realizing it, and, who knows, we might be among them ourselves.

    An array of traditional and popular advertising across the country enchants the male customers to buy elixirs for impotency, but aborting an unwanted pregnancy is a hush-hush matter. The Urdu word for ‘menopause’ i.e. san e yas which means ‘age of despair’ denotes the sexual stigmatization of an ‘infertile’ woman [emphasis mine]

    And they KEEP lying to us that the hijab/niqab will prevent men from staring at us and they (men) will respect us! Do they, really?! No, damnit - the hijab/niqab fails to serve that purpose in most Muslim societies! Stop lying to us!

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    The top hijab-policing images from the net - sending the wrong message about the hijab

    Update: November 1st, 2014

    Dear readers,

    This post with a whole bunch of funny, annoying, ridiculous, crazy, patronizing, offensive pictures/images on the hijab with advice to women on how to wear it correctly in order to go to heaven has been moved to Wordpress. To read/view it, please click: Hijab-Policing on the Internet: Images on How to Wear the Hijab Correctly.


    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    My Favorite Internet Memes

    They are in no particular order, just whatever I found first on my computer.
    I'll update this post as I find more funny memes.

    Most of them have very important lessons or messages to share with us.

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