Sunday, September 30, 2012

Discussion Questions for "Gender & Sexuality in Islam" Course - Week 3

For a previous set of questions for the same class, please click here.

Readings for the following questions are: "Yoesuf: An Islamic Idea with Dutch Quality" by Omar Nahas, and "'Yes, But Suppose Everyone Turned Gay?": The Structure of Attitudes toward Gay and Lesbian Rights among Islamic Youth in Belgium" by Marc Hooghe, Yves Dejaeghere, Ellen Claes, and Ellen Quintelier

Now, the Questions.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian ad - the problems with it

The ad that is to appear in NY subways starting Monday, Sept. 24th
I condemned this ad, which is to appear in NY subways this Monday but has already been displayed in SF and other major cities at least since August 2012, on my Facebook page, and someone asked me what was racist about it or why it needed to be criticized in the first place. In case anyone else out there has a similar question, this is what I think.

I don't think that's worthy of a response, but I'll go ahead and reply anyway.
You see, every ad has a message, and to think this ad's message is just a pro-Israel stand is to choose to conveniently ignore the actual message. If this were merely a pro-Israel ad, there'd hardly be an issue--and we come across those kinds of messages all around us. This ad takes its message to a deeper level, one that sends the message that one side of this war (a human group) is the savage, the other side (also a human group) civilized. I'd deem this racist regardless of which groups the ad was referring to, be it that the Israeli side were the one being declared the savage and the Palestinian the civilized.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Discussion Questions for a Gender/Sexuality & Islam course - week 2

       So I'm TAing (and sometimes teaching) this class on Islam & Sexuality, which means a ton of fascinating and enlightening material. Sometimes controversial, too--but that's okay since, remember: I love controversy.

The course is assigned under an umbrella of several "controversial" courses offered by our university, with the objective of teaching students how to hold debates, how to listen to and acknowledge a different perspective without necessarily adopting it. It's a beautiful and engaging class, with intelligent and enthusiastic students who seem to be enjoying it as much as I am. It's one of those classes where you can bet your exotic eyes that you'll never hear silence!

Monday, September 17, 2012

How #MuslimRage became a Twitter Trend: a lesson for Newsweek and other news publications

Earlier this morning, Newsweek made a terrible mistake: "The magazine’s newest controversial cover, blaring the headline “Muslim Rage,” has readers in an uproar and social media in a tizzy," LA Times says. The idea is very clear, at least to me and many other Muslims and many non-Muslims: This is what Muslim rage looks like. Look what they did in response to that shallow 'film' that looks like a 1st-grade skit--only, probably even the 1st graders would have done a better job.

What's worse, the magazine features Ayan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim female who has unfortunately become an authority on everything "Islam & Women" or "Muslim women" in Western media; her book The Caged Virgin, which I must remember to write a review of one of these days, is a lamely written book in which she basically argues that Islam inherently oppresses women and that no intelligent woman, no woman with a brain should be a Muslim. To "help" the women who are Muslim despite having a brain that they know how to use quite well, she offers some bits and pieces of advice on how to leave Islam--rather, on how to "survive" Islam. She's no academic and no scholar, so I cannot expect her to write anything about Islam and/or Muslim women in which she acknowledges the diverse experiences of Muslims as well as the multiple interpreations of the topic of "women's rights/roles in Islam." But it's a pity she's deemed a hero in the West just because of her views on Islam and women. Of  course, this is not to dismiss her own experiences with Muslims and/or Islam, and I think they're just as valuable as any other Muslim's experiences--but that's my point: her experiences are no more valuable than any other person; yet, she's valorized in and by the West to an extent I really cannot understand.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Islamic" Rulings on Muslim lesbians' Interactions with Other Muslim Women

A Google Image (not mine)
I've often wondered what the Islamic injunctions are on lesbian Muslims' interactions with other (Muslim) women. When around female homosexuals, can heterosexual Muslim females show their hair and other body parts that're allowed to be seen by other women? What exactly is their legal status in Islamic thought? I know they're not "supposed to exist," so, to my knowledge as of now, no discussion of female homosexuality exists in early/medieval scholarship, but what about today? Would they be treated as "males" (God, this sounds so wrong to say! But I promise I have a point. Just read on. Thankz.), since they, like heterosexual males, can be attracted to females, or are they still treated as females? But speaking of attraction ... actually, turns out, Islamic scholarship allows people to be attracted to or to desire someone of the same sex--just don't act upon that desire. We'll talk about this in another blog entry, though. For now, dear qrratu, please just stick to this issue of homosexuality among Muslims and how they are to "behave" around others, especially of members of the same sex and/or gender.

According to the Islamic rules on gender interaction, women are required to cover only from navel to knee when around other women. Men have to cover from navel to knee wherever they are, whether around women or men. But the idea behind the women's ruling is that they may have to nurse a child in the company of other women, so to forbid them from showing their chests, too, would cause them unease in such situations. They therefore do not have to cover their chest even when not breastfeeding.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Voice-dubbing in the anti-Muhammad/anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims"

I finally forced myself to go ahead and watch that pathetic "film," Innocence of Muslims. The anti-Muhammad, anti-Islam, anti-Muslim crap. I certainly think it's an insult to films to consider this a film. It is so horrible! The performance, the plot, the structure--everything about it is hideous. I cannot believe anyone has been taking this thing seriously enough to even kill people over it! I'm so surprised it's even regarded as a film!

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Pukhtun Females' Participation in the Larger Society

On Sunday, September 2nd 2012 (just a week ago), in northern Virginia, close to Washington, DC, there was a Pashto/Pashtun conference, hosted by the Pashtun American Cultural Association (PACA). I wanted to attend it but was unable to due to certain circumstances. Now I wish I had left everything behind and gone and spoken at this event just because one of the only two female Pukhtuns who spoke there is a friend of mine who has now been receiving all sorts of abusive messages/emails for standing up in front of an almost all-male crowd and giving a voice to Pukhtun women! Her speech has become an Internet sensation; in it, she questioned the absence and the participation of females in the event. She  made some other really important and intelligent comments as well, things that we must not expect a Pukhtun girl to say, apparently. She has been receiving constant attacks, insults, taney, etc. from Pukhtun males (and one female so far, she says), who have been telling her that she basically has no right to speak about Pukhtun women's issues! They tell her she doesn't understand the issues of Pukhtun women, and I don't understand why? She was born and raised in Swat! She completed her education in the UK and is currently living in Washington, D.C. Her Pukhto is perfect (both written and spoken). She is a lawyer by training, very well-educated, very opinionated, very cultured. This girl is Nazrana.

On the Youtube video and the FB ones, people are talking about her clothing. She is dressed in modest pants and shirt. Hold on a second there - how dare we talk about HER clothing when most of the males who attended and spoke at this event were also wearing pants and shirt? If all the attendees were wearing traditional kamis-partug (shalwar-kameez), I'd understand if people expect her to do the same, but otherwise, you fail!!

To all those who are attacking her and her husband just because she appeared and spoke brilliantly in public:
You know what your problem is, Pukhtano sarro? It is that you lack the intellect to be able to sit down with a well-educated woman to address the issues facing our society. So you instead talk of what she's wearing. (It's just like when, during the Olympics, black women were talking about how "Gabby Douglas needs a nice hair-do," completely ignoring her achievement as an accomplished gymnast!) Address her comments. Address her critique of our society, of our practices, of the double standards in our society. Why're you ignoring her message, the content of her speech, and highlighting only what she was or was not wearing? You're pathetic.

Another of your problems is that you are a beghairata (coward) piece of shit who is SO insecure, SO weak, SO dumb that you are afraid to see a woman advance in front of your eyes; you find her a threat to our society because the thought of you falling behind a *woman* is an insult to your manhood. You're pathetic.

One of the best, most important, most beautiful things she said--at the very beginning--was that when she was in Manchester (UK), with a strong Pukhtun community, she'd be invited by the Pukhtun males there to attend their jirga (council) meetings. She'd attend, see that she was the only female there, and they'd praise her for being the only female there and say, "Kaash [we wish], there were more Pukhtun ladies like you!" So she'd respond to them, "Oh yeah? Then where are your wives? Your daughters, sisters, mothers? Why aren't they here?"  She also discussed the need for Pukhtun females to speak for their own selves, instead of being spoken FOR. Really, we can think for ourselves! We can represent ourselves quite well. Pukhtun women don't need representatives, especially when they are men from their own families--because they don't want their women to be spoken about, so they'll never bring them up in public! It is an insult to a man's honor to have his wife/sister be mentioned in public.

And perhaps that's why people are also attacking her husband. Seriously? Could you GET any cheaper than that? You're pathetic.

And then responses to her speech include cowardly things like: "No, we don't want our women to be like you." Wait a minute - are you kidding me? Who the hell put you in charge to decide what we Pukhtun women want and what we don't want? You have no right to be speaking for us! We can and we will speak for ourselves.

Regarding her comment about how those males would not bring along their own daughters/wives/sisters/mothers to these gatherings but expect OTHER Pukhtun girls/women to attend: aaaahhh - this double standard! This backwardness!
This is how it works: our men want other women (Pukhtun women!) to attend these events and to become public leaders and to help improve the conditions of our women, but they don't want their own women (wives, sisters, daughters) to appear in public at all. De ta beghairati wayi! This is cowardice. But, folks, it's nothing new! Where were you when me and a ton of other Pukhtun girls were talking about this non-stop on Twitter just about a month or so ago? And I've written about it on my blog before as well -- on what exactly Pukhtun men mean when they say, "We respect our women!" Here's the link. Nazrana only reminded us of this hypocrisy of us. It's a fact. It's a reality. And the fact that you attacked her for it PROVES it: you know it's true, and you're so ashamed of yourself, you're so regretful that God ever blew breath into that filthy, musty soul of yours that you would rather attack the person who tells you of your flaw rather than to try to correct yourself. Yes, you're just pathetic.

In a Puhktun society, this may be justified--although it should never be justified no matter what: every woman, every human should be respected as her/his own person and should enjoy the right to wear whatever makes them feel most comfortable. If in the Pashtun society, a woman feels more comfortable covering her whole body, so be it; if outside of it, she feels the same way, so be it. But each woman is different, and especially in the West, we have the right, the opportunity, and the freedom to wear what *we* want. When we live in the West, it makes no sense for us to be denied positions of leadership or just the space to speak for ourselves at all. To those who kept saying she should instead work for women inside Pakistan/Afghanistan: No, she doesn't have to be Pakistan or Afghanistan to make a difference. We women in the west have very, very serious problems as well, and we all do what we can to help each other and to bring awareness of our problems. One of our main problems? Even in a society where we CAN participate in the larger society, our husbands are not willing to let us out of our houses while they themselves enjoy events like these! Pukhtuns need to urge their wives and sister and daughters and other female family members to speak like this, to think like this, to challenge societal norms that are hurting them and hence the rest of society.

I'm not saying we (Pukhtun women in the West) matter more than those back home; on the contrary, I think we have so many rights and privileges here that would delight my heart to see granted also to my sisters there. But my point is that while we're living here, why not do what we can to help improve our conditions here as well? Again, in the Western context, where the woman's participation in the larger society is all around us and doesn't have any serious obstacles, why should Pukhtun women feel left behind? Here, we have the resources, the space to advance--why not utilize them all?

I worry for the future of Pukhtun women, especially those in the West. Even in the West, having lived here for years and decades, we are denied positions of leadership? Exactly on what grounds?

The fact that there were very few females who attended this event speaks for itself. Yet, it was full of males. Why? Why is it okay for my brother and my father and my son to attend these things, but I, an equally significant member of their household and of this society we all share together, am not tolerated at this same event?
Why could all the male members of my family attend this event, but I, a female, cannot or am discouraged (if not outright forbidden!) from attending as well? If they attend for the social aspect of it--to meet with other Puhktuns in the community--why can't I go for the same reason? Why can't I also go to enjoy myself? Why is there no space for me? Who's going to create the space for me to attend these things so I can be heard? I'm sick of being invisible! it is no honor, Pukhtun men, to keep your women behind the veil 24'7; if your honor depends on whether or not she is seen or heard in public, you have no honor to begin with.

And especially to all those Pukhtun men who came to this event and support women's voice and women's leadership and all: where the hell were/are your women? Why didn't you bring along your wife/sister/daughter/mother, too? Charity begins at home. We can't keep on expecting "other women" (the ones who you don't hesitate to label "sluts"!) to be of service to "our women." When it comes to serving your own nation and people, there's no such thing as "mine" and "yours"; everyone, each of us--both the men and the women--belong to the nation. We live in a world now where women have made it the moon; we can no longer afford to prevent our women from achieving their dreams and goals, especially those that are going to help our nation and people.

What do we learn from all of this, from the abuses that Nazrana continues to receive from Puhktuns? What can I, a Pukhtun female who hopes to be a serious, active participant of the Pukhtun society in the U.S., learn from this? This: "Qrratugai, don't ever, ever appear in public, don't ever, ever speak in public because your own people, the "mighty" Pukhtuns, continuously strive to do everything in their power to insult you, to insult your father's and your husband's and your brother's honor, to accuse you of being a slut just because you attended a Pukhtun gathering and spoke up in it." Am I likely to let this be an obstacle? No. But it's very distressing to know that this is precisely why we do this to each other: we can't tolerate to see even our own people doing something big for the world; it just angers us, it makes us jealous, it makes us wish we were in their place--and since we're not in their place, why not just insult them? Why not just send them and their husbands abusive emails and messages?

You, all of you Pukhtun men, are just as unsafe in our society as we women are as long as you see our education, our leadership, our advancement as a threat to OUR society! As long as women are denied the right to lead, to think, to speak, our men have NO right and NO reason to call themselves gharati (brave). And our men, too, are thus not safe in such a society. How can you see yourself as safe when you are possibly among the most insecure men on earth?

As for the few Pukhtun men who were brave enough to bring along their wives/daughters/sisters and to the ones who have no problem watching a Pukhtun woman, a woman of their race and nation, be able to speak up and discuss some serious, real issues: BRAVO! Now that's real ghairati! You're secure and having another man acknowledge the fact that your wife/daughter/mother/sister is a living human being is no insult to your honor. You are so secure that the ignorant remarks of other Pukhtun males about the fact that your wife/mother/sister/daughter exists and can walk and talk (and God forbid, THINK!) doesn't offend you, doesn't insult you; it's just a waste of their breath and has no effect on you or your masculinity or your manhood or your honor. Now, that's real honor there. We need more men like you. Thank your for living. The qrratugai wishes you and your family many, many blessings and much happiness and peace. Aameen.

Now, kindly, someone, please translate this whole blog post to Pukhto so that those who desperately need to be reminded of all this can access it as well. Thankz.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Phenomenon of the "satanic verses" in Islamic History

Back in 1988, when Salman Rushdie published his novel The Satanic Verses, he earned the wrath of most Muslims worldwide, and Imam Khomeini of Iran, the leader of the Iranian Revolution and an authority for Shi' Muslims, issued a death fatwa against Rushdie as a result. Rushdie eventually apologized to Muslims and apparently reverted to Islam (he was born and raised a Muslim but left Islam later on). 

Most Muslims have not read this book. Most non-Muslims who have read this book wanted to read it mostly to see what the hell the controversy was about, but -- oh here's a shocker -- they didn't get it. They didn't get what the fuss was about. Why? Because they lacked even the most rudimentary knowledge about Islam, the Qur'an, the Prophet, Muslims, and Islamic history. They didn't know the characters that Rushdie was playing with. They didn't know the real names of the characters and not the caricatures that Rushdie creates for his novel. (I'll write about the book, the plot, the characters in a separate blog post when I'm finished with the book.) So they just didn't get it. As for the Muslims, most believe (are told) that the book is an attack on Islam.

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