Down that road

I recently had this question in a comment:

 

Please how far have you been pleased in Islam. I want to know before I enter into it.

 

Can I just say, what a sensible question that is and yet it is one that is so rarely asked, even though I’m sure lots of people wonder it.

It doesn’t help that many of our most vocal brethren and sistren in the deen (aka the haram police) are so fond of stating all the things they don’t do, disapprove of and all the things they have given up, that to the casual observer two thoughts must surely come to mind: 1)What on earth do you do for fun, are you even allowed fun? and more sadly, 2) That sounds like one nit-picking God you worship.

Well, a saying I read recently, was “better to be a sincere struggler than a fake saint”, so from a sincere struggler, nearly eight years along the path (Alhamdulilah):

I am happy being a Muslim and I would say overall, that I am more contented then I was as a non-Muslim. I feel that being a Muslim has improved my life in many ways. It has given me focus, guidance, helped me appreciate the beauty and fleeting nature of life and the world. I have met people from all over the world and learned so much.

I once watched a documentary about the women’s movement, one women said that she felt her involvement in the movement had given her the courage to lead a different life, I feel like that about Islam, I feel like it’s being able to see a new colour or see an additional dimension to life.

Alhamdulilah for all those things.

 

I will say very clearly, as I have done before: If being Muslim does not make you happier, you are doing it wrong.

 

Things can be very hard for converts. This article is a great overview of what some of those problems can be: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/islam-101/misconceptions/8-things-you-should-understand-about-converts/ and I would advise anyone to read it, convert or not.

However, instead of going through all the various problems that can befall, remembering of course, that life has it’s own problems anyway; I want to give one piece of advice, something to remember above everything else:

 

Always make your own decisions and accept full responsibility for those decisions.

Unlike other faith systems, individual responsibility is a key part of Islam, no one can bear the sins of another person. Yet, we often hear about converts being bombarded with advice, often on very life changing issues, and often with guilt trips, “this is what a good Muslim does” and so on.

Throw in some

cultural confusion,

the idea that the best thing to do is to dive into everything,

a need to belong

and converts can often find themselves, several years down the road in a life they have no idea how they ended up with and are not even sure if they want.

 Don’t let this be you.

No is a complete sentence, thanks but no thanks, bless your heart, thank you for you consideration, sometimes you will have to tell people to back off.

Know that it is ok to be you as a Muslim, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, just try to be a better version of yourself, but know that the trying is as important as the achieving.

Know that only Allah is all-knowing.

Don’t be intimidated or over-awed by titles like Sheikh, Iman, Hafiz, etc. They may tell you the level of someone’s knowledge (and sometimes even that’s iffy), not whether they are a good person or not  and they still can’t live your life for you and nor should they sit in it’s driving seat.

In conclusion, only you can decide if Islam is for you, just remember that you decisions and capacity for choice don’t end there.

 

4 Years Later…

Just over four years ago, I wrote the following about hosting the Olympics in London:

To all you non-U.K readers, I will let you in on a little secret: The country as a whole is absolutely petrified about hosting the next Olympics.

Our bid was a load of hot air and blagging and we don’t really have that much money. Plus, the city of London is an infrastructural nightmare and we are very bad at building things 1) Within budget 2)To schedule. I think the fact that our main rivals for the bid were the French, led to it becoming a big “We can’t possibly lose to them”- fest and we just said anything to convince the judges.

Such fears are not helped by the fact that Beijing have just held the biggest and most expensive Olympics ever and we’re worried ours will look like a school sports day in comparison.

Well, Alhamdulilah the U.K did not shame itself and we managed to host a marvellous Olympics and Paralympics, with the latter being treated like the major event (click here for the brilliant tv trailer for the Paralympics) it is, not an afterthought.

Like my previous post, I still loved the the Rhythmic Gymnastics with every fibre of my sequin-seeking heart, and the Artistic Gymnastics too. Of the many, many Team GB highlights (yippee!), I think Jade Jones winning her Taekwondo gold and throwing her helmet into the air with glee is my favourite.

As for the Paralympics, I love the track events best, with the races of Jason Smyth, David Weir and the 400m that Oscar Pistorius won, being my favourite performances.

I could go, but every single aspect of Olympiana has covered and gone over repeatedly here, but I just thought I’d have to document it in the blog after writing about it so many years ago.

E.T.A

Four years ago, Oreo was still the Little Occupant. Now one of her favourite games involves me putting an imaginary medal around her neck, handing her an equally imaginary bouquet of flowers and humming the national anthem, while she stares proudly into the middle distance. It seems the inspiring of generation has started very young indeed!

Rejecting the Pretending to be Amish in The Name of Piety stuff

I posted this comment over at Ify’s post on Religious Bullies:

 

Something further to add to your post, is that sometimes we get so caught up in the whole “Muslims are different and special” (in good and bad ways), that we forget that we are all human first and foremost.

Before becoming Muslim, I immersed myself in left-wing politics to various degrees (still do identify as left-wing), and there were judgements, holier-than-thou attitudes, splinter groups (and plenty of in-fighting), disavowing people, twisting of philosophies, using aforementioned philosophies to justify horrible behaviour, pretending not to be racist, sexist, because the philosophy says you can’t be (but you still are…

Sound familiar?

You’ll find all the above in the feminist movement, the green movement and many, many more.

In some ways, it is easier to cut away this as a Muslim, because first and foremost, we are Muslims for ourselves, not as a social movement.

I think what is forgotten, what people do not tell converts is that Islam and being Muslim should make you happier. No, it’s not a magic wand, no, it won’t solve all your problems, but you should be a happier and more content person for being Muslim.

If you are miserable, feel in a constant state of denial and paranoia, then you are doing it wrong. If what someone is telling you, is pushing you towards that state, then they are instructing you incorrectly.

Islam is meant to be Good News, not a lifetime of hardship.

 

Seriously folks, if you think Islam has been twisted, just look at what’s been done in the name of Marxism. I cannot see the connection between The Communist Manifesto and Pol Pot et al, but that’s what they claimed as an inspiration. Then there’s all the more mundane things I’ve listed above. Even if we are just talking about online shenanigans, do not be thinking that Muslims rule the roost when it comes to, quite frankly, vile disputation.

 

The title of this post is something that I’ve been meaning to write for a long, long time. The much missed blogger Tariq Nelson, used to refer to the Culture of Denial and Pretence and he was not wrong.

Let’s be clear, it is one thing to keep your dirty laundry in-house, quite another to 1) claim you don’t have any dirty laundry ever 2)scrutinise others and pick up on their every failing.

This unpleasantness leads to a crabs in the barrel mentality and worse than that, people cannot be honest and relaxed with each other for fear of some unwanted judgement and worse, the implication that God isn’t thinking too kindly of them either.

So people pretend, they hide, they live their lives for the approval other people and this is a recipe for a very unhappy existence indeed.

That all sounds obvious, but I cannot stress that these situations don’t happen overnight, this stuff is insidious, until people lose all sense of themselves and are just so very lonely.

Two thoughts

1) The concept of the perfect Muslim being someone who does nothing other than study/attend Islamic lectures while dressed like an Olde Worlde Arab while shunning the Western world + and doing the housework/childcare if female needs to DIE IN A FIRE. People who espouse such viewpoints should not be listened to, let alone put on a pedestal as any great voice of truth, because let’s be clear, the Pretending to be Amish in The Name of Piety path leads to misery

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was of his society, lived as his people lived and spoke to anyone. So there (can’t think of any deeper response). There is nothing in Islam about shutting yourself off from the world, quite the opposite)

2)  I hesitate to give spiritual advice, but it’s good to be honest with God and that starts with being honest with yourself. If God had wanted us to all be the same, and all be perfect, then God would have made us like that in the first place.

I have pretended. I have pulled “Astagfurallah” faces over things I actually do. I have pretended to admire things I thought were silly  and I have swallowed down “Excuse me?” when I should have said it. No more.

For me, two things brought about this. The first was meeting my husband. Now, I know it is a total convert lady cliché to claim that your husband is really knowledgeable in Islam, but it is true in the case of Mr O. He was born in blah blah and went to such and such and studied with so and so. This has not made him some uber being, in fact, he’s an ordinary person, but seeing how he did the Islamic study route and could still be a normal person, made me question the lifestyle that others were pushing and that knowing a lot about Islam makes you some perfect person.

Secondly, I had my daughter and I found that the whole experience of new motherhood such an affirmation of faith, such a real connection with God, that I couldn’t do the pretending any more. Then I saw what was behind a lot of the Great Pushers of the Pretence, I couldn’t be supporting them any more – I will not allow people who cheat, encourage abuse and are just plain power-hungry make me feel guilty for, for example, listening to music (and no, I don’t believe music is haraam any way).

No, I’m not perfect. I could be a nicer person. I do think that to get a spiritual connection (for want of a better phrase), you need to put time and mental de-cluttering into it. But that is work I want to do as myself. Not as who anyone else thinks I should be.

Transphobia makes me mardy

Here’s why:

Point by point. 1) I really dislike the fixation with genitalia, especially as I have encountered so many cases of various ambiguous genitalia. You can be XY and have no penis and XX and have a penis (both I’ve seen). We don’t know why people are trans. It is possible that there is an underlying medical condition causing trans ness, we just haven’t discovered it yet. Not that I think it is necessary to have a big shiny reason for being trans and I completely understand those who reject medically labels surrounding trans gender.

For me one of the prime tenets of feminism is My Body, My Business. Policing genitals and bodies contravenes this. Everyone should have the right to bodily integrity. Also considering the high levels of rape and abuse trans women often suffer, it feels very cruel to paint them as predators.

2)Sheila Jefferys and her ilk think Trans people should not exist. She would ban gender surgery. I think trans people have every right to be angry towards people who want to eliminate them and deem them mentally ill (very ironic for rad fems to use the dsm IV to do this, homosexuality was in there until 1973, now it’s ok to cite against your enemies).

3)Aside from being eliminationist, have you read the things that rad fems write about trans women? Calling post op genitals (again with the fixation) “fuck-holes” which “smell of dead meat” starting websites called Pretendbian which post photos with names of trans lesbian women, which is unspeakably evil and dangerous for these women shown. But then trans women can’t win either they will be sneered at as “never passing” or deemed as “tricksters”.

The above came from a Facebook comment I wrote. What in my haste I did not emphasise is just the level of vitriol these supposed saviours of feminism use about trans people. It is chilling and sickening. Your average not massively informed person would struggle to summon up this level of hatred.

Saying no to transphobia is saying no to hate, saying no to interfering with people’s bodily autonomy, saying no to mockery and disdain. It is helping the marginalised and the brave. Yes, brave. And I will side with braveness against victimising bigots on any occasion.

And there’s a storm that’s raging.

Three and a half years ago, I was six months pregnant, sandwiched in the back seat of a car on a long journey to the Syrian coast. My sister in law is blasting some dire Arab pop and I’m listening to the same 11 songs on a loop on my mobile phone.

Desperate to distract my bladder from what is likely to be an unpleasant encounter with a motorway toilet, I decide to play a game. I will see how long I can go without seeing a picture of Bashar Assad and/or his assorted family members.

We are on a motorway in the middle of the countryside. My game lasts 30 seconds.

Before I had even visited Syria, I knew that the government, or rather ruling regime, were bastards (that’s a one word description for an unelected, repressive, corrupt, murderous and largely inept regime). The facts if anything, were even worse than what I had been told.After I had visited Syria, I knew of the special kind of psychic terror inflicted by the regime, that you would never be able to forget who was in charge, ever, because you would never be too far from an opportunity to gaze upon the countenance of the original Thief in Chief and his offspring.

One night, after pausing to close the windows, we talked of the future. I said I hoped that one day, I would visit and see that people had started to write on the posters, to kick upwards and against.

In January last year, I was again sat in my in laws front room watching Al Jazeera. Could such an uprising occur in Syria? I hoped that it could, my family were very doubtful. Not here. The people are too scared.

Later that month, I would meet some Syrians at work. 2000 miles from Syria and we are hesitant to discuss Syrian politics until we trust each other a little better. They too doubt that anything will happen.

Then it did. As soon as I saw the first film of someone stomping on a poster of Bashar’s fizzog I knew it wouldn’t stop. To have longed to do that for so long. It must have felt like ecstasy.

It is hard to find the words for what has followed. That the regime would enact a “Samson Option” on the country is not surprising. The Syrian people have always been fodder to them.

But the loss, such loss. All those people who were walking around, living, people on the earth who have been murdered and lost to us. May Allah swt keep them now. May Allah keep them and remember them, their lives and their truths and what was stolen from them in the name of naked greed, for something the murderers never had the right to have, let alone kill others to keep.

Then there are the others. Food prices and scarce oil mean that there are certainly people starving and freezing to death. Streets that used to be full of women are now full of shabiha. Those who the regime is not killing, they are brutalising in other ways.

But this is not surprising. It is horrific but not shocking.

The reaction of the outside world is another matter. Not only are Syrians being left to die, they are being told that they shouldn’t have a revolution at all.

The fact that Syria is a diverse country, because people have managed to coexist, is ignored in favour of smearing the revolution as sectarian.

That numbers of the dead are impossible to verify, means there aren’t “enough” dead to deserve outside help, what ever “enough” dead is.

Then the Syrians are denied the very thoughts and brains in their heads as some incredibly clever sorts state that it is all an imperialist plot by the Americans and the Syrians have been “manipulated” into rising up.

All this while saying that the regime’s actions are bad, but denigrating any actions the Syrian people may take or request to liberate themselves.

The regime is perpetrating the killings but their cheerleading squad is loud and diverse.

I have no words (that are not swear words) for these people.

No one likes a mouthy Married To- and initially, I kept quiet about what was happening in Syria. As events have continued this has become more difficult to do. I will claim no great, detailed knowledge of Syria, but I know enough that I cannot let such slanders go unchallenged, even if it is only in this tiny sliver internet.

The gap between what the Syrian people deserve and what they are receiving is ever-increasing. These words are just a thread across the chasm.

Air by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker

Contains some spoilers.

I first came across Willow’s writing when she had a blog several years ago. Then some time after that, I read Cairo, her first graphic novel, with same illustrator as Air.

I read Cairo in one sitting (as I love to do). The plot was brilliant, the illustrations evocative…but the dialogue, ugh! Word that serviced the plot, rather then sounding like something anyone would actually say.

So I approached Air with mixed feelings (yucky cliche, there’s a reason why I’m no paid writer).

The good news is that the dialogue is much more naturalistic. The plot even better then Cairo, with the ingenuity and the concepts being enthralling and intriguing.

There was a bit too much Lead Character Is The Marvel Saviour of Mankind. Also, I didn’t quite 100% buy the love story, but that is because I’m a cynic who would love female characters to be motivated/have plot catalysts other then The Love Of A Dude. (There’s a reason why Goodbye Lenin! is my favourite film, and it’s not just Daniel Bruhl).

But the big miss-step is the part featuring Islam/Islamic extremists.

Look, I don’t care who’s writing it. I am tired beyond narcolepsy of reading about Islam in the guise of extremism.

Making matters considerably crappier is the insertion of a Taqwacore-esque “righteous jihadi” group. As Destiny’s Child said back in the day No, No, No. I wish the editor had drawn a big X through that part. It’s something ill judged that could have been easily replaced by something more inventive.

Air was cancelled rather then coming to a natural end and the ending does seem a tad rushed. I would have liked to have seen some more of Blythe’s adventures and there seems to have been much further to go with the character and that world. Maybe there will be a return trip someday…

*Update*
Just googled and there is a Volume 4! What sort of library has the first 3 volumes and not the 4th?! Right, I will endeavour to track that down at some point and update this review when I do so.

Check 1, 2

Between forgetting my blog password and then never deciding on what to write, it’s been I while.

Well, Insha Allah, 2012 is the year I resurrect this place. Part of that plan is putting wp on my phone so I can update whenever.

I’ll start with a little cheat. Here is a great post talking about accountability in the Feminist blogosphere and I’ve written a bit in the comments so: http://lubiddu.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/open-letter-to-jill-filopovic/

I find it amusing (sort of) that as a hijab-wearing, Muslim woman, there are many who would happily ex communicate me from the feminist movement, note the only blog to have a regular Muslimah contributor is the excellent Womanist Musings (http://www.womanist-musings.com/), but if you’re a man who has not only tried to kill his girlfriend, and been a wee bit racist on more then one occasion, then the movement could not possibly do without you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.