roundup


The weekend is almost over, but here it is — a new roundup for your reading pleasure. It’s the activism edition of the roundup and we’ve got bad boob puns, Elvis seekers, atheist allies, promoting the importance of special needs inclusion and a rockin’ hijabi singer.

We’re travelling tomorrow to the UK, so lots of du’a from me to you.

Enjoy!

1) NIPPLEGATE.

That’s when media sources insist on covering (har har) naked protests by erasing those two, tiny protrusions of mammary papilla found on breasts, and leading with headlines that include the words, “NAKED!” “BOOBS!” “JIHAAAAAD!” and “NOT SAFE FOR WORK!”

Lower your gaze folks, you’re in for a real TEAT.

femen

A “safe for work” photo.

This week the “sextremist” group FEMEN declared a Topless Jihad Day in solidarity with one of their Tunisian members. Almost two weeks ago, FEMEN activist Amina Tyler created a storm of controversy after posting nude pictures of herself on Facebook with the words “My body belongs to me and is not the source of anyone’s honor” written in Arabic across her body. Soon afterward, a cleric and head of the Tunisian Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice publicly threatened her with death by stoning, and she disappeared from the public eye.

So FEMEN and their allies responded by holding an international day of action in support of Amina — by protesting topless in front of mosques and Tunisian embassies across Europe (and parts of Canada, the States, South America too). According to their Facebook page:

This day will mark the beginning of a new, genuine Arab Spring, after which true freedom, freedom without mullahs and caliphs, will come to Tunisia! Long live the topless jihad against infidels! Our tits are deadlier than your stones!

The support was overwhelming, and there are now hundreds of photos of breasts, thousands of comments, and a few penises (wait, what?!) uploaded to Facebook calling for the end of women’s oppression. Slogans and comments include such gems as, “Pakistan Take off Your Clothes!” “Muslim Women Let’s Get Naked!” and “Bare Breasts Against Islamism!”

A counter-protest, in the form of Muslimah Pride Day, was also organized by Muslim women and their allies. Muslim Women Against FEMEN asked women to post photos of themselves in hijab, niqab or no head covering to:

…show people that we have a voice too, that we come in many different shapes and sizes that we object to the way we are depicted in the west, we object to the way we are lumped in to one homogenous group without a voice of agency of our own.

Likewise, there are now hundreds of photos of hijabs, thousands of comments, and a few niqabs calling for the end of women’s oppression. Slogans and comments include such gems as, “Nudity DOES NOT Liberate Me!” “Hijab is my right!” and “A Women Modestly Dressed is as a Pearl in its Shell.”

(A few posts focus on the right way to hijab, hijab tutorials, and anti-West memes — so a moderator stepped in to remind people that the group’s intention was not to convert the world to Islam, justify hijab or criticize the West — but to tell FEMEN to stop telling Muslim women what to wear.)

The absolutely brilliant Sara Yasin sums up the day with this tweet.

Media coverage of course has been all about teh BOOBZ and the Muslim reaction to teh BOOBZ — and not so much about the “true freedom” FEMEN wants to bestow upon Muslim women, and even less about highlighting the specific issues of oppression Amina stood up to in the first place.

Jezebel has a fantastic piece covering how FEMEN’s protests were distressingly Islamophobic in the fantastically titled, Muslim Women Shockingly Not Grateful for Topless European Ladies Trying To ‘Save’ Them. Current responses to the day include brilliant criticisms of FEMEN’s neocolonial feminism, the problem of “white feminism” and the suppression of native voices, and how nudity does not necessarily challenge patriarchy. Al-Jazeera has their own roundup if you want to follow how each TITILLATING moment unfolded.

And the HuffPo has FEMEN’s reaction to the counter-protest (Muslim women say they don’t need liberating, but their eyes say “help me”), and Muslim Women Against Femen’s reaction to this reaction (well that’s a load of “colonial feminist rhetoric”).

You know in all of this discussion and agenda posturing on Muslim women’s bodies, I realized that I too bear my breasts every day in an ongoing jihad. But breastfeeding just isn’t sexy enough. Certainly not for Facebook — who publishes FEMEN’s photoshopped, nippleless boobs, but deletes photos when nipples are obscuresd by hungry babies. For shame Facebook. For shame.

(ps, Amina is allegedly safe, according to a lawyer claiming to represent her. And has been with family at home since last Monday. Also, allegedly in this video, she’s no so fond of people using her name in the protests and says that the struggle is about standing up to fundamentalism and not Muslims. FEMEN has responded to this on Facebook by saying “no comment.”)

Muslims in Las Vegas2) If you haven’t gotten enough of the whole “ZOMG-MUSLIMS-may-or-may-not-be-offended-by-teh-BOOBZ” media sensationalism, the Guardian has a piece on *cue dramatic music* Muslims who live in Vegas!

Stuck in-between a desert land vaguely resembling any number of stereotypical places in the “Islamic world” and an immodest, gluttonous, promiscuous “hell” (all their words, not mine) lies Masjid-e-Tawheed — one of four mosques in the city that never sleeps.

Built on a fascinating interview with the mosque’s charismatic founder, Ahmadullah Rokai Yusufzai, aka “Rocky” — the article paints a colourful picture of Muslim life that includes people gambling away their paychecks, women being tempted to sell their bodies for fast money, the challenges of being Muslim in “sin city” and positively highlighting those trying to eke out a halal living, without judging those who don’t:

Take the time when Yusufzai ended up towing a trailer up and down the Strip, advertising an adult-entertainment club. “I was towing this with licence plates that read Allahu Akbar, listening to the Qur’an, and yet I’m hauling this thing and praying to God to forgive me and to understand I’m just trying to put some halal food on my table without being dishonest and making ‘easy money’, as it’s called in Vegas. I still didn’t feel comfortable. It was halal money I was making, but I had to hand back the trailer. It just wasn’t right.”

Viva Las Vegas Akbar!

I love Vegas. We had a blast doing lots of halal things on the Strip — like playing Elvis Bingo, relaxing at Oxygen Bars, taking in shows, and hanging out at the Masjid as-Sabur. A seriously chill and welcoming community masha’Allah.

3) The very awesome Chris Stedman responds to recent controversial anti-Islamic bus advertisements in San Francisco in his piece, Stop trying to split gays and Muslims. Paid for by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defence Initiative, this round of ads quotes anti-gay rhetoric from Muslim leaders, presumably in a bid to create a wedge between the LGTB community and Muslims.

Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 12.43.36 PM

Chris includes details of his investigation into the ads, his Twitter fight with Ms. Geller and her followers, and quotes from key anti-discrimination activists to argue that Ms. Geller “is posing as [an LGTB ally] because it’s convenient to her [anti-Muslim] agenda” and that the ads “provide a misguided view of the current Muslim position on queer rights issues.”

And argues that:

…to rally against Muslims and Islam as if they and it are some monolithic bloc is counterproductive; it creates enemies where we need allies. There are many Muslims who oppose cruelty and violence done in the name of Islam and favor equality for all people, and they are positioned to create change. We should be working with them, not standing against all of Islam.

Oooh! I just want to squish him!

Also, go check out the fantastic Gay Muslims — the Elephants in the (prayer) Room on Suhaib Webb.

4) When was the last time your local community held an awareness event for Muslim families with special needs? How many promote accessibility in the mosque, have children’s events geared toward total inclusion, or have a support and counselling network specifically designed for Muslim families with disabilities?

Theses are some of the questions asked by Dilshad Ali in her fabulous post, The Failure of the American Muslim Community to Help Those with Special Needs. She shares a part of her family’s struggles with Autism — highlighting the seeming dearth of support in many communities, and in some cases, even acknowledgement by others in the community.

For a community well versed in fighting against Islamophobia, in running sophisticated campaigns to combat NYPD surveillance of Muslims or to reclaim the meaning of the word “Jihad,” engaging in social and political activism, hotly debating topics like homosexuality in Islam, equality in marriage, providing better space for women in our mosques, even whether “breathable” nail polish really is wudu-friendly – what are we doing for our Muslim families dealing with special needs?

She doesn’t only offer criticisms — but also praises the American communities and networks working toward raising awareness and who are taking action. Such as the Special Needs Eid Celebration organized by the Muslim American Society — who for the past three years have been creating special memories for these families, and as Dilshad reflects through tears, “Our families were included, accepted, celebrated – such a rare feeling.”

It’s a must read!

5) Finally, check out Iranian singer Ermia, who just won the Iranian version of X-Factor, Googosh Academy. She rocks out in hijab which has gotten a few people upset.

But she rocks! In hijab! And SHE WON!! Mabrook my dear!

Happy Friday everyone! As promised, here’s a roundup just in time for the weekend. This week we’ve got gender and human rights wars at a barber shop (sounds like a joke. But it’s not), creeping hijab tourism, fabulous Muslim female mayors and a video with a trigger warning for violence against women.

See you next week after our jaunt to the States!

Enjoy!

UPDATED 1) He asks me why, I want hair like a guy. I’m hairy noon and night, hair that’s a fright. I’m hairy high and low, don’t ask me why, don’t know. It’s not a gender sham, just gimme the “businessman,” daaaarrrrliiin.

A local Muslim barber really didn’t know what he was getting into when Faith McGregor walked into his Toronto barber shop and asked for a men’s haircut. The “businessman” — short on the sides, tapered, and a trim on the top. According to the TorStar:

Shop co-owner Omar Mahrouk told her his Muslim faith prohibits him from touching a woman who is not a member of his family. All the other barbers said the same thing.

*giantfacepalm*

So, feeling like a second class citizen (and rightly so), Faith filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

“For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman. Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario,” said McGregor.

Look. I get it. I pay $70 for a haircut (when I get one… once every other baby) AND pay a surcharge for having my hair cut behind a screen. Because, you know, hairdressers are out to make money off the untapped Muslim hair surplus. But if this isn’t about getting a $10 haircut to challenge gender inequality in the hair industry, a salon can do a “businessman” too.

Barber shops are for men, generally.

Salons are for everyone.

And THAT is what should have been conveyed to Faith. NOT, “Islam prevents me from touching unfamiliar women.” Balderdash. (see comments below) The Prophet and the Companions went to women to have lice removed from their hair — even if you don’t want to. It shouldn’t have to be a gender issue or a violation of religious freedom — but an issue about barber shops lacking the “skill set” necessary to handle the ferocious locks adorning a woman’s crown. That’s right. Rowr.

Fun fact: Salons are not allowed to do facial hair. Apparently it takes away from business of Barbers. As do quartets.

2) Students in California and Florida have taken the Hijab Challenge this week in an attempt to really and truly discover what it’s like to be Muslim. Because we all wear hijab. And we’re all women. And we only live in America. On the sunny, southern coasts.

CBS covered (haha, that never gets old) the Take the Hijab Challenge at California State University San Bernardino, which organizers say was to help their fellow students to:

“Walk in our shoes for a little bit to see what we go through.”

While I’m not a big fan of this type of outreach, the news segment shows the effort it took to hijabify over 100 women on campus, with lots of good intentions — and bright shining scarves to shed a little light on some of the negative and hostile reactions Muslims receive for existing. Just a litte taste — without the requirements to pray, fast, pay zakat, begging your non-Muslim family for acceptance, awkward matrimonial convos with Aunties, racism, mosque vandalism, or any of the fun religious cultural baggage the rest of us deal with.

But for a more personal account of what it really means to wear hijab for a day, check out the rections from students at Florida Gulf Coast University:

For my Hijab challenge I decided to tie my scarf in a “waterfall” style, completely covering my hair and neck. During the week of the experiment, I alternated between a pink Hijab and a purple Hijab. Before I knew it, I had begun accessorizing.

Creeping sharia’ at its finest.

Yes there are misconceptions about Muslims. Yes more needs to be done to address growing Islamophobia — but we should really sell tickets if we’re going to open up hijab to this kind of tourism.

3) After months of research, training and fundraising, the Women’s Resource Centre in the GTA launched what is believed to be Canada’s first helpline specifically for Muslim women, says the TorStar. The Resource Centre launched the helpline after Muslim women started calling simply to talk to someone — now they’ll also receive emotional support, peer counseling and referrals.

In its first few weeks, the helpline has already received dozens of calls from women across the GTA, with concerns ranging from marriage and relationships to information on shelters and food banks, and in a few cases, abuse.

The helpline operates 7 to 9 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The hotline number is 888-315-6472 (NISA).

Also, this weekend ICNA is holding it’s first women’s conference, Reshaping Our Future. If you’re in the Mississauga area, do check it out and don’t miss hearing some amazing female experts.

4) Meet Amra Babić. Single mother of three boys. Moonlights as a superhero. And the new mayor of Visoko, Bosnia. Oh, did I mention that she wears hijab and is probably the “only hijab-wearing mayor in Europe”?

Even though her constituents don’t care what she wears on her head, the media is sure to make sure her hijab is headlined. As Babić says in a recent interview:

The victory shows that one “woman is not, and will not allow [herself] to be discriminated because of her dress or commitment to freedom of expression of belonging to one nation, religion and tradition. I hope that Europe will figure out they are positive values.”

“Of course women deserve equal treatment. Women make up more than half of the population, hence the same number of human resources. We must learn to give a chance to the best, most capable, most worthy. Regardless of their gender or what they wear.”

Here’s to her strong political success!

5) Finally, one video alone won’t put an end to honour killings. But it sure sends a powerful message. You can read all about the inspiration for Da Arabian MCs’ If I could Go Back in Time at UNWomen. And if you need a translation, please turn on the English closed captioning on this YouTube video. If you’re sensitive to violence against women, don’t watch.

In this edition of the roundup, we have non-Muslims pretending to be Muslim, reasons why non-Muslims want to be Muslim, and a frozen mosque.

Again, if you come across anything of interest regarding Islam, Muslim women or Muslims in general and would like me to review it, answer questions, or just comment on it here, flip it to me via: w00dturtl3 {at} gmail {dot} com.

  • After travelling 4,000 kilometres over land and water, Inuvik’s Arctic mosque finally opened it’s doors for business on Wednesday.  Partly built in Manitoba, this “little mosque on the Tundra” will provide services for about 80 Muslims.
  • Journalist and International Studies junior, Cassidy Herrington dons the hijab for a month and lives to tell the tale!

    Before I left, several girls approached me. I will not forget what one girl said, “this gives me hope.” Another girl said, “I’m Muslim, and I couldn’t even do that.” It did not hit me until then, that this project would be more than covering my hair. I would be representing a community and a faith, and consequentially, I needed to be fully conscious of my actions while in hijab.

    An interesting piece. At one point she’s told that the hijab makes her more beautiful. And while I can’t disagree that hijab has excellent cheek-bone slimming qualities and that pious sexy is definitely “in” these days — we all know that it’s really Muslim double-speak for, “I hope you convert.” It’s a cute piece and it isn’t all about how the hijab oppresses. Yay Cassidy!

  • A Craigslist Ad in Toronto is asking Calgarians if we can swap Mayors. The first Muslim Mayor in Canada is popular indeed!  Next up, the first Muslim PM?
  • Sir Ben Kingsley plays an historic Muslim in this awesome film short about three school children who research the “Dark Ages” only to find the Golden Age of Muslim invention.  Made for the 1001 Inventions exhibition, you can catch the full film in NYC this coming December.

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