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.

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‘Til the end of time, ’til the end of time…

These are some ramblings written in response to Ginny’s post here

Salaam Alaikum,

Just some thoughts in response.

All of what you say is true.

However, I’m a Muslim because I believe in Allah, that Quran is His word and Mohammed (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet. In many, many ways it would be/would have been much easier for me not to be a Muslim, especially in my younger days. Maybe I could have been Unitarian or a Quaker instead, but once I read the Quran (or Yusuf Ali’s translation to be accurate), that was it, it was game over for me. I’d found God and I wanted to do as He said (or at least try to).

I fell in love with the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the Mothers of the believers and the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all) and they felt not like historical figures but kin.

We know that Allah (subhana wa t’ala) loves mercy, love, kindness and beauty. We know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was brave, loving and endlessly patient. That the Mothers of the believers were strong, fiercely intelligent and respected by all.

When people try to twist things about the role of women, I always remember my favourite hadith, the one where the Prophet (peace be upon him) received the first revelation and was scared and cowering. Who was the first person he turned to? Who did he trust? His wife Khadija.

That people twist these words and actions for their own ends, it doesn’t surprise me. When I was younger I was fascinated by Communism and the idea of building a truly fair society. I am still baffled at exactly where in Marx’s words, people found the incitement to build death camps, to ruthlessly control and purge all opposition. But they did.

As for life in Muslim-majority countries, it is truthful to say that Islam is often not the biggest factor in way people live the way they do. Post-colonialism, economics all play a part.

We also have to look at gender dynamics. On this earth currently, men have far too much power over women. Sadly, history shows us that those with power and privilege rarely concede it without a struggle, and they will seek to regain any losses rapidly. Women and the men who respect them and want to work in partnership with them, will have to work hard to achieve our rightful place. In fact even knowing that we have those rights, is the first part of the struggle.

As a woman I feel that ‘bad men’ deprive me of enough in my life. I can’t walk in certain places after dark, have to watch who I talk to, be careful where I sit on public transport, take a longer route because it’s ‘safer’ then the short cut, be extra scared of strange noises if I’m alone in the house at night, or footsteps walking too closely behind me.

They’ve taken too much from me already. I won’t let them take my faith.

Review: Revelations – Muslim School, Channel 4

This was a documentary filmed for a one year period, following two girls as they joined an independent Muslim school.

The first girl is seven year old Zara, from a British Asian family, she is the youngest child and the first child in the family to attend a Muslim school. Her Mum (her name is not given), feels that they don’t have time to teach her enough religious knowledge and want her to feel confident in her Muslim identity.

Aisha, aged twelve is the second girl. She is white and converted to Islam as a very young child, after her mother met and married, Ishaq, a Muslim from Pakistan. Aisha’s mother is also a convert. She explains that Aisha suffered some bullying in their previous area and feels that a Muslim school will be more disciplined and provide a better standard of education.

While the school is multicultural, Aisha will be the only white girl in the school.

The documentary style is very typically fly on the wall. The voiceover narrates events, but does not analyse them.  This means that the girl’s words are the centrepiece of the documentary. It is refreshing to have Muslim girls and women speaking for themselves.

The first scene inside the school is during Zara’s class. A young, female teacher talking about the qualities of Allah and that in order to love Allah, we should know His qualities. The class is mixed. All the girls are wearing white Amira style hijabs, but a variety of grey uniforms, abayas, shalwar khalmeezes or long skirts and jumpers.

Back at Zara’s house and we are introduced to her older sister, Aiesa. The narrator tells us that Aiesa doesn’t wear hijab. Zara’s mum (who also doesn’t wear hijab) is asked about Zara’s hijab. She states that she feels it is easier to wear hijab, if you start wearing it at an early age, she feels that because she didn’t wear hijab when younger, she found it difficult to do so later.

Zara’s Mum is then asked about her own upbringing. She explains she grew up in a very white, middle class area. She enjoyed her childhood, but did feel it was lacking in Asian and Islamic influence, something she wants to ensure Zara has. She stresses the importance of knowing the society you live in, but also your ethnic and religious identity.

Pupils are encouraged to make wudu and pray at school and the hall is used as a prayer room. The children are shown making wudu and praying.

Aisha shows her timetable (pupils have to follow the secular National Curriculum alongside Islamic studies). She talks about learning Arabic and that she feels she is fitting in, even though she is the only white girl.

Aisha’s Mum explains how important she feels religious values are in society. To her, Britain was a better, more respectful place, when church attendance and religious practice was the norm.

The narrator asks her about wearing hijab (she is wearing a large dupatta). She states that it was her choice to wear hijab. Her husband did ask her if she wanted to wear niqab. Her response was a firm no. He has not raised the subject since. When asked about her own education, she says that she did not perform well in school as she did not like being told what to do.

Aisha, describes meeting her stepdad, who she refers to as Dad. She is not really in touch with her biological father, although he does send a letter and photographs during the filming.

The narration states that Aisha has had to reconcile two cultures from an early age. This statement is a touch heavy handed, hinting at culture clash stereotypes. It ignores the fact that Aisha has experienced both cultures for most of her life.

Surely it is more likely that being bicultural is something Aisha views as an integral part of her life, rather then a constant struggle.  As the narrator does not ask Aisha this question directly, the viewer is left wondering instead of finding what what Aisha’s feelings actually are.

Back to Zara’s class and they children are being taught about Ramadan and what the “saving from the hellfire” part means. All the children are familiar with the concept of Heaven and Hell and the teacher explains that hellfire is for people who aren’t very good.

Zara is in her room, the camera pans to some children playing outside. Zara explains that she is not allowed to play outside.

“Is it because the children are not Muslim?”, asks the narrator.

Zara replies with a firm no and when asked if she feels different to Non Muslim children, In a matter of fact manner, she states not really, except they don’t wear hijab or do Islamic studies.

Then we get the Muslim Documentary Money Shot, as Zara is asked to show how she puts her hijab on. As this is a one piece, Amirah hijab, it is surely not too difficult to work this out without a demonstration. However, this is a documentary about Muslim females and some cliches must be too hard to fight.

When, asked, Zara states that the hijab covers the hair, which is a woman’s beauty.  To her, wearing it will help you go to paradise and if you don’t wear it, you might go to hell.

The narrator then asks about Zara’s mum and sister, who do not wear hijab. Zara asserts that her mum is fine, but she’s not sure about her sister. When asked if her sister prays, Zara says, she sometimes does.

Aiesa (Zara’s sister) is shown getting ready to go out. The narrator asks if her parents mind her going out. She says her parents are quite strict, especially her dad, “He has issues”.

Aiesa and Zara’s mum is asked about this. She describes how independent Aiesa is, that while it is important to set boundaries, being too strict would make her more determined, not less, so they do try and give her some leeway. As for Zara, she wants her to be independent and confident but hopes that the Islamic school will give her a better awareness of why the boundaries are there, finishing with, “You have to be more careful with girls”.

Sadly, it appears that some girls have been mocking Aisha, we see two of her classmates relaying back what has been said. Apparently, some girls have been saying she’s not a real Muslim and doesn’t know how to pray.

The narrator states that Zara is doing well in school. She is shown doing a times table test and then making wudu with three classmates. The little girls are asked about heaven and hell. Hell is for bad people, they respond. When asked if they thought they might go to hell, they said they didn’t know, but really hoped not.

Aiesa decides she wants to wear hijab for Ramadan, to see what it feels like. Her dad tried to make her wear it before and that put her off. Zara teases her, saying she doesn’ t look nice wearing it. It would appear that Zara, really enjoys teasing her big sister.

Aisha is looking at some photos her biological dad sent. She has long red hair, something she used to get teased for at school. This is one reason why she likes wearing hijab so much, even around the house. She states in a resigned manner, that she will probably never feel like she belongs anywhere.

Aisha is next shown in the classroom. The teacher is writing the word ‘Diversity’ on the board as the centre of a spider diagram. The teacher reads out the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Last Sermon, stating that racial superiority is forbidden in Islam. Then, she reminds the class of the hadith about those with even the tiniest piece of arrogance will not enter Paradise.

Finally, she asks the class to split into groups and work on a scenario about a new girl who joins the school and is excluded. They have to imagine how she would feel and what they would do to help her.
The narrator states that the school took Aisha’s isolation seriously and worked to end it.

Zara is at home and again the narrator is asking her about hijab. She asserts that you have to wear hijab. When asked about her sister, Zara rather scornfully says she didn’t wear hijab for long and whispers to the camera that her sister doesn’t even pray and that “A fire will come”. Again, one gets the feeling that Zara is very fond of making fun of her big sister, rather then passing stern religious judgement.

The narrator asks Zara, “But will I go to Paradise, I don’t pray or wear hijab?”.

Unpeturbed, Zara explains that she is a different religion, so she doesn’t have to do those things, “You’re a good women, aren’t you?”. When the narrator replies in the affirmative, Zara states that she should go to Paradise then, but she is not sure about Aiesa.

Aiesa, meanwhile states that she does want to wear hijab when older and that she feels that religion and religious guidelines are very important. to her religion is something very private and personal.

Aisha is shown having a snowball fight with her Dad and sisters. She is asked if she sees many non-Muslim girls. She replies that she is not allowed out as her father is very strict, but she does feel she has a much happier life then non Muslim girls. Her father is also strict about her doing her Islamic
homework.

The narrator questions if she is studying Islam just to please him. Aisha answers that she is studying for herself and would like to learn enough to teach others. When asked if she thinks she will always be Muslim, she responds with a firm yes. It is good that Aisha is shown explaining this in her own words, rather then the pat summary of the narrator.

The last shot we are shown of Aisha, is of her walking arm in arm with her best friend. She says really feels happy at the school, she belongs here.

Zara’s mum believes sending her daughter to an Islamic School was a good thing, but she still wants Zara to mix with others. She doesn’t feel the school, will stop Zara feeling British, as she will get her sense of Britishness from her.

Zara and her Mum are sitting on the sofa discussing what Zara has learnt at school. First they talk about heaven and hell. Zara’s mum explains that while these are real, so is Allah’s forgiveness and He can forgive whom He wishes.

Then Zara mentions hijab, she feels her Mum would be perfect is she wore it, “…as you are already very kind”.

Zara’s mum gently explains to her that a person’s prayers and insides are more important then hijab and Zara concedes that you can be a good Muslim without wearing hijab.

The obvious focus of the documentary is how how the girls feel about themselves as Muslims. Aside from the clips of the teachers in the classroom, there is not much information provided about Islam beliefs. This maintains the naturalistic style of the documentary.

However, this does mean that there is very little insight into how children may view certain Islamic beliefs, as compared to adults. This is particularly demonstrated by the apparent fixation of Zara and her classmates with Hell. Children are often fascinated by the otherworldly or unusual, hence the popularity of fairy tales and myths amongst children.

Therefore such an interest in the Heaven and Hellfire, is likely to be more to do with this aspect of a child’s nature, then actual Islamic practice. Unfortunately, the documentary does not explore this area, so a viewer be left with the stereotypical impression that Muslims have a fear driven relationship with God.

The hijab fixation while irritating, was not a surprising feature.  The underlying thrust of this documentary, like so many others concerning Islam and Muslims, is whether Muslims and Islamic practice are compatible with the West. Hijab is still widely viewed as a mark of difference, rather then one of religious belief, hence the ongoing fascination with a symbol deemed as Un-Western.

More positively, everyone involved seemed happy with their lives and choices. It was good that Muslims were shown to want to be a part of wider society as well as practicing their faith.

Especially golden, was the scene where Zara’s mum stated that the children would get Britishness from her, while dressed in a Shalwar Khalmeez. Therefore, exploding the ugly myth that anyone wearing traditional Asian clothing wants to isolate themselves from mainstream U.K society.

Also of note, is that her initial repsonse to many questions was, “I thought you would ask that”, before giving a detailed answer. That she had obviously thought through these issues, show that her decision to send Zara to Islamic school was not a base impulse of fear of non Muslim society, but one based on careful consideration of several different factors. She states that she wants her daughters to be confident and independent, qualities the mainstream media does not often associate with Muslim women.

The scenes inside the school showed a positive approach to Islam, with the pupils being encouraged to love Allah and shown this love through being kind to each other.

Finally, a big stereotype of Islamic schools is that they foster hatred of non-Muslims, but such attitudes were not demonstrated by anyone involved.

Hopefully this documentary will show that Islamic faith schools can be a positive part of British society.

UK readers can watch the documentary here. Footage for non UK viewers is currently not available.

Carnival Time – Celebrating Muslim Motherhood

Firstly, a confession. I didn’t get many submissions, so I actually went hunting for some worthy material.

Masha Allah, there is so much out there, this is just a small selection.

If anyone would like to add to it, please email me: safiyaoutlines at gmail dot com, or alternatively, you can leave comment.

On with the carnival!

Luckyfatima describes how giving birth provides a new awareness of your body and it’s natural strength

Mamamona posts about raising her son to be a good Muslim man. Gori Wife shares her feelings at having a son and ponders the questions he may ask about his faith as he grows older

Happy Muslim Mama tells of how cultural values lead to daughters being undervalued and how she is ensuring her daughters grow up secure in their worth.

Nzingha is encouraging her daughter to follow her dream of being an Islamic judge.

A Mother can frequently feel torn between many roles, that of a Muslimah, a wife, a mother, plus their own wants and needs. Tasmiya and Southern Muslimah each describe how they cope with such conflicts.

Incorporating the deen into every day life and instilling a love for Allah The Most High is the most important role of any Muslim parent.

Muslim Mama recalls the deen routine she grew up with and how she is doing similar activities with her children.

Achelois’ post is a beautiful story of teaching her son the power of du’a

In her second post of the carnival, Happy Muslim Mama details the difficulties and rewards of praying with children.

Leila El Haddad of the Raising  Yousuf and Noor blog describes celebrating Eid, making it fun for her children while hiding the worry she feels for her parents. Please make du’a that they are reunited soon.

The next selection of posts look at Muslim mothers, from a daughter’s perspective.

Baraka and Digital Niqabi‘s beautiful posts both look at their how their relationship with their mothers has changed as they have grown to know them as people, beyond the mothering role. Updated: Yasmine from Sweep the Sunshine has also submitted a post about her mother. These three posts are glorious examples of the love a mother can inspire.

Finally, being the mother to a Muslim when you are not Muslim yourself.

In a post that resonated with me personally, Molly Multicultural Muslimah describes  how her mother supported her through her conversion.

Alhamdulilah for mothers, being mothered and mothering.

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I want to blow bubbles for ever

When Oreo was born, I wanted to put us both in a bubble. A warm, cosy bubble where we could eat, sleep and snuggle.

It wasn’t possible to build an actual bubble, but we’re still in a bubble like state. We have our little world of feed times, nap times bath time, afternoon walks, smiles and tickles.

And it’s wonderful, Alhamdulilah.

That might sound like Mr Outlines is on the sidelines, but far from it. Abu Oreo loves his baby girl. He’s in love. As I watch him cuddle her and whisper to her in Arabic I see a new side to him and I love him even more.

I’m wondering why I’m writing this. I’m not the most sharing type of blogger. I guess it’s because you read so much about the downside of parenting, I just wanted to talk about the positives.

Islamically, mothering is seen a an important role, but too often it’s made to sound like a grim duty, rather then the joy and form of worship that it is.

So I’ve decided to host a blog carnival. The theme is Muslim motherhood. Any submissions dealing with being a Muslim mother or having a Muslim mother are welcome. Leave me an email, comment or trackback and on 25th April 2009, insha Allah,  I’ll put up all the links.