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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Girl you know it’s true – Updated

Some things Muslims love to talk about, especially in internet land.

Marriage is one, gender issues another and a combination of the two scoffs bandwith like a hungry wolf.

So on to the issue of Muslim women marrying non Muslim men. I have a variety of thoughts on the issue itself and the debates surrounding it. 

It is only human to question and questioning leads to deeper understanding. I feel that true worship only comes with understanding.

People have definitely twisted Islam to suit their own purposes. Those people have generally been men, those who’ve suffered as a result have been women. This means that women may not trust certain ‘traditional’ interpretations without further examination.

What we do and what it is. Some sins are bigger then others, in the eyes of others. Brothers can get up to various deeds and still get a place in the front row of the masjid, whereas a sister will be made to choose between the deed or her family, community, etc.

That being said, I wonder what this drive to make something seen as Haraam, to Halal serves. Should we not just admit that what we are doing is wrong, but it happened and we hope Allah forgives us? I know some people will be clutching their pearls at that and I’m not taking sinning lightly, just pondering changing an interpretation which would effect the Ummah as a whole vs viewing something as a personal matter, with personal circumstances.

The trouble with Muslim men? In the items I’ve read about this, the focus has not been about being swept away by Mr DreamyNonMuslim, but by failing to find a partner within in the community. I’ll win no prizes for originality here, but there is a disconnect between brothers and sisters and the fondness UK brothers have for Back Home wives is really not helping.

So we need to be taking sisters seriously. The sisters talking about this are not enslaved to their desires/brainwashed by the West (whatever that means). They are woman who are keen to marry and have looked to their community for a spouse and been found wanting. No one is saying “Woo hoo yaani, it’s a non-Muslim man for me”.

Sami Yusuf and the nasheed akhis. When Muslim women do  profess…appreciation of a Muslim man, oh the outrage! We all remember the fuss when it appeared that some sisters got a bit too excited at a Sami Yusuf concert.

Muslim men face many negative perceptions. One, is the wider demonising by non Muslim society. The second is that some of them use their culture to treat women appallingly.  So if Muslim women are able to look past this and actually find Muslim men desirable, then that is surely a good thing.

So teenage girls sighing and dreaming of marrying Sami Yusuf, is no bad thing.

Girls should view marrying a Muslim man as a want to, not a My-Parents-Will-Kill-Me-So-I-Have-To.

I need to elaborate on this. No where in the Quran will you find anything  like this:

“So if a son does commit zina, best to hide this and never speak of it again, even if they carry more diseases then a sewer rat or continue tarrying after marriage. If a daughter even looks at a man you do not deem suitable, then it is the most abhorrent thing in existence and her life must be made miserable until she does exactly what you say.”

That obviously is not in the Qur’an, or in any hadith, but that does not stop many sisters living in a climate of fear, where they have to marry who their parents find suitable or else risk losing their family.

This kind of coersion is ultimately counterproductive. How can any positve feelings develop in such an atmosphere? A women may indeed find herself more at ease and able to connect with non-Muslim men and may think it’s the non-Muslim part that’s causing this, when actually it’s the absence of parents breathing down your neck and making you act like a performing monkey in front of dozens of young men and their mothers. 

 White blokes are better? Sorry to say this, but in some of the conversation on this issue, there has been a definite whiff of White men being idealised as these perfect men with no cultural baggage. Stating the obvious here, but that’s not true and folks could do with unpacking exactly why they think a white guy would be so much better.

More then the wedding. This is a frequent frustration of mine. Muslim consideration seems to be all about finding the spouse. Once you’ve found them, now what? There’s the odd cliche laden lecture (usually aimed at women) about marital harmony and that’s it. We need to be examining what makes a successful and happy married life.

When discussing interfaith marriages, the conversation doesn’t move past permissibility. I think people need to consider what their daily life with their spouse will be like. I do think that if you are practicing it would be very difficult to live with someone who wasn’t. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who do, like in the case below:

If nobody knows you’re not a Muslim. A while ago I met a (insert ethnic group here) who was married to a practicing Muslim woman of his ethnic group. He did not keep any of the five pillars (and yes, that includes pillar number 1, belief), drank, etc. Do you think anyone was declaring their marriage invalid, or saying they should divorce? Or course not and so I can understand the frustration with closeted atheists being ok, but not monotheists from a different background.

Thus ends my ramblings for now. I would love to hear your opinions.

‘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.

Stone Hearts Don’t Bleed

So Salafi Burnout’s website has been taken down.

While the comments were full of trollery, there were a lot of people able to finally talk about the abuse they had suffered at the hands of so called ‘scholars’.

Naively, I had hoped that from revelations there and elsewhere, there would be a movement towards eliminating such cults.

But no, because power protects power and when most of the people hurt are women and children, who cares?

It’s the truly pious MEN and the knowledgeable MEN who are far more important.

Seriously, don’t pretend to be all pious and purifying your heart when you lack basic human empathy.

For those who would like to read more about such cults, I highly recommend:

http://standsfree.blogspot.com/

http://umm-ah.blogspot.com/

http://nuhkeller.blogspot.com/

Updated: Waqt Well Wasted blog has done a brilliant post on spiritual abuse.

Umm ah’s blog is a particularly heartbreaking overview.

Scribbles Not Outlines 7: Better out than in

Salaam Alaikum to anyone left reading this. It has indeed been far too long.

Oreo is now six months old. The title refers to her, as I’m enjoying being a mother about a million times more then I enjoyed being pregnant.

People say about mothers loving their babies, but I don’t love Oreo, I’m in love with her. It’s a real tangible joy, I get stomach flips and butterflies looking at her. Just looking with wonder at this little person, that by Allah’s will, I managed to bring into the world.

Our favourite game is ‘A Hundred Kisses’, where I cover her little cheeks in kisses while she does a big baby belly laugh.

Is that too much baby talk? I do wonder why women are still made to feel bad about talking about their babies. Men can have websites about fishing equipment, e.t.c but if women have a site discussing pushchairs (a piece of equipment you have to lug about on a daily basis) then it’s a mindless waste of time. We can dress it up anyway we want, but the underlying assumption is still:

Things that (mainly) Men do are more important then Things that (mainly) women do.

*****

Was thinking about Ramadan last night. I need it. Insha Allah, I just want to switch off and focus. I love Ramadan for that. Insha Allah may our hearts be nourished as we fast.

I probably wont be going to the masjid for tarawhir. Oreo’s bedtime is 7pm, and she is very, very strict about it. I do not want to be the person who brings the screaming baby to the masjid.

I know, I know, masjid’s should be child friendly and this is not a dig at women who do bring children there, but at the same time we should be realistic. Bringing very young, pre school age children to the masjid and expecting them to sit still, for hours on end, with no entertainment is cruel. The same goes for bringing babies to a bright noisy place, when they’d rather be tucked in their cot in a peaceful room.

The real culprit here is the narrow concept of what a Good Muslim should be.

Good Muslims go to the masjid and attend as many lectures as possible. So if you do not go to the masjid, for whatever reason, then you are not a Good Muslim.

Never mind that as repeatedly stated in the Qur’an, unlike humans, Allah sees all that you do and you can worship him in many ways, that don’t necessarily involve sitting on a prayer mat. /Rant over

*****

After that, I feel rather sheepish admitting this next part, but in the interests of honesty, I will say that I’ve been watching True Blood lately and it’s rather good. However, is it just me who thinks it’s a bit of a cop out when the romantic leads are a couple in real life? It’s a bit like they don’t really have to act. Hmm.

When I first started blogging, I would have never admitted to watching anything unsuitable such as that, for fear of looking like a Bad Muslim. Then I got tired of the dishonesty and tired of people who would commit all sort of sins of varying seriousness, but pretend that tv and music are the most sinful things going.

So tired.

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.