No, really. Despite the stereotypes. We are.

Also, this video is PHENOMENAL!

Via thehonestpolicy.

EDIT: Just waiting for a Mipsterz-gate type of commentary to emerge. I’m already a little surprised at some of the negativity on Twitter.

This woman is my hero.

I’m not saying this just because a newspaper is showcasing her fabulous strength and intelligence — or because I love amplifying stories of amazingly fierce women.

This woman is my hero because we’ve laughed together, shared incredible experiences, seen each other at our most vulnerable, and have given each other support in countless ways.

This woman is my AMAZING sister-in-law and I am incredibly proud of her and all her achievements.

Eye is determined, resilient, totally bad-ass and one of the most courageous people I know. She was recently interviewed by the Ottawa Sun about her return to boxing after a brief hiatus to finish writing her PhD dissertation.

Yeah, no biggie.

When I first heard about the interview, I cautioned her to watch out for being positioned as a “token” Muslim, or as the “ideal” representation of Canadian Islam. This is the Sun — Canada’s conservative news network in love with tabloid-worthy headline news and sensationalizing or demonizing issues relating to Muslims.

Now my filters are 100% biased. I’ve watched this video a hundred times and can only feel intense love and excitement for her words. Because that is how this story is framed. According to her words.

When I’m in a fight, I’m thinking of how much I need to protect myself — and how worthy I am of being protected. It’s almost as if you’re like a mother who wants to protect her child — and that self love is something that is beautiful to be able to get from a sport. Honestly, the satisfaction at the end of a fight is worth it. Regardless of the outcome… The outcome is truly something that is from God.

Eye was interviewed to share her experiences as a female boxer. The article and video showcase her skills, abilities and the sense of empowerment she gains from boxing. There’s no suggestion that she’s the only hijab-wearing amateur woman boxer in Ontario. There’s no subtext hinting that she’s somehow liberated or free when she gets in the ring. There’s absolutely ZERO mention of her hijab or the support she receives from her opponents, coaches, club, and Boxing Ontario regarding her uniform. In fact, outside of a juicy headline, the only person to mention her religious identity is Eye herself.

This is how you write stories about Muslim women.

But the question remains: Why? So she made a return to boxing. What’s the story? What makes her special outside all of the wonderful traits and abilities that allow any one of us to be “special”?

(more…)

This is the third post in my ongoing series on the media stereotyping of Muslim women.

There are amazing media makers in the Muslim blogosphere and this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the fabulous people out there challenging stereotypes. In fact, I’ve had to split this post into two in order to include everyone. Stay tuned for Part II.

If you have a favourite example that’s not represented here, please share it in the comments below!   


Muslim women and mothers are creating online spaces to challenge popular, negative stereotypes and to celebrate their empowerment. Intentionally or not, they’re propagating dialogue with authentic voices — encouraging the creation of positive narratives of Muslim women, for themselves and their families.

My own work in this area began three years ago — when I was inspired to start this blog on Muslim feminism and motherhood after breastfeeding Eryn at the mosque.

barrier

A two year old Eryn looking over the barrier at the ISNA mosque.

My first daughter was born with a very persistent, demanding nursing attitude. From day one, she would hit my breast, cough and sputter, screech and complain until the flow was to her liking. Needless to say, struggling with her kept me from nursing in public for months.

Until the day we needed to take a pit stop at a local mosque.

Men and women traditionally pray separately in a shared prayer hall — but over the past 30 years, barrier use across North America has increased dramatically, with 72% of Canadian mosques erecting some kind of partition — or relegating the women’s prayer space to a separate room, like a balcony or basement.

The reasons are complicated, ranging from cultural expectations, personal preference, to religious conservatism.

Connected to the rise of the barrier, unfortunately, is the gradual exclusion of women from the mosque and the creation of hostile spaces.

So there I was, the only woman in attendance during the afternoon prayer, sitting behind a thick curtain with a room full of men on the other side. The mosque was so silent you could hear a pin drop — and that’s when my daughter wanted to nurse.

Loudly.

And while she coughed, and sputtered — slurped and gurgled for everyone to hear, I simultaneously got over my fear of nursing in public, and embraced the moment as a feminist act. I may have been excluded and segregated from the main prayer hall — but oh yes, my presence was impossible to ignore.

I felt it was important to take issues like this online to create and join spaces to discuss misogyny and patriarchy found in some of our communities. To share experiences and address ambiguities regarding women’s roles in Islam from within and without.

Because yes, while the media loves to paint a picture of the oppressed, covered Muslim woman, it is over-simplified. Muslim women are not defined — or oppressed — by what they wear on their head. The hijab is not the source of women’s oppression.

(more…)

No, this isn’t a full review of the new pro-education, pro-women cartoon series out of Pakistan. I want to watch a few more episodes to see where they’re going with it.

I’m still a little unsure over the whole simplified let’s-make-burqas-look-like-really-cool-ninja-outfits and repackage-women’s-cultural-and-religious-complicated-identity-to-conceal-weapons and subverting-and-desexualizing-a-female-superhero-while-romanticizing-a-mode-of-modesty-often-associated-with-oppression and identifying-said-superhero-on-her-dress-and-not-on-her-actual-POWER and, well, all of the merchandise and marketing that’s going to go along with it.

Can you imagine all of the girls and boys who will want to go to school wearing their official Burqa Avenger costume? Definitely creeping shari’a. Right there.

I watched this tonight with Eryn (who insisted on seeing it twice). My initial thoughts? AWESOME theme song. I never thought I’d be jamming to “Burqa!!” da-na-na-na-na-na (I’m so glad this came out before Lady Gaga’s intended Burqa single). Fantastic comic book framing to the animation — which is visually phenomenal. Lovely characters. In every scene it’s women or girls who dominate in terms of being the first to speak or take action — and very reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki. Five stars!

But I was a bit overwhelmed reading the subtitles to Eryn. It seemed every scene tried to over-emphasize women’s rights to education, big bad men as being the cause of women’s disenfranchisement, women need to be educated because they’re the mothers of tomorrow *cringe*, and education is the key to success. Given this is produced in reaction to intense opposition to the education of girls, I completely understand the need to go over the top with these messages in the first episode.

Anyway, I’m still reserving my full opinion until I see more. But for now, check the badass Muslimah awesomeness of the Burqa Avenger:

The kids are in bed, the Hubby is away on travel and I have a bowl full of popcorn and a bag of chocolate at my fingertips. Yes, you read that right — an entire BAG of chocolate. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for a Muslim roundup!

It’s a super badass muslimah version of the roundup this week. We’ve got real superheroes, rockin’ muslimahs, some motherhood badassery, and of course, hijab.

Enjoy!

Ilwad and Iman Elman, inside the Elman Peace Centre. Photo credit: Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star.

Ilwad and Iman Elman, inside the Elman Peace Centre. Photo credit: Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star.

1) Real life superheroes live among us.

With hijab fatigues blazing, Canadians Ilwad and Iman Elwad are helping rebuild Mogadishu, Somalia by taking on gender violence and the militant group Al-Shabab. No small feat for these two amazing sisters!

According to the Toronto Star, about three years ago, Ilwad and her sister left Canada to join their mother in promoting women’s rights and to help run the Elman Peace Centre, a rape crisis shelter.

Iman joined the military and is now Commander for a battalion of 90 men. And while the capital is no longer a war zone, she continues to fight and lead security operations outside the city. Remarking on this success, she humbly explains:

“Being raised in Canada, I was taught you’re no different from any guy, you’re equal, you’re the same,” she says. “When I went into the military they said, ‘You can’t do that, it’s not your job.’ I wanted to break some of the stereotypes here.”

These two sisters are so beyond badass that someone better help me come up with a word that means more badass than badass.

It also seems that superhero powers run in the family. Before his tragic murder, their father was a well-known peace activist, cared for orphans and ran community programs. And their fabulous mother, Fartuun Adan, recently received an International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State for her humanitarian work.

They’re already saving the world, so the only thing I can say is that I’m keeping you ladies in my dua’as. Well done and keep up the good fight.

Random Stars rockin' out.

Random Stars rockin’ out.

2) No bad veil puns. No subtle allusions to women unchaining the shackles of oppression. Just five women from the United Arab Emirates rockin’ out to Deep Purple. The FIRST band of fantastically fierce Emirati women to belt out heavy metal chords on their electric guitars.

All thanks to Ms Small.

Brought together by their English teacher, these students from the Higher Colleges of Technology at Al Ain, had little to no experience with drums, bass or guitars — but now according to The National, they “perform at a variety of college events such as graduation ceremonies and National Day celebrations.”

Lead guitarist Hamda Al Ghaithi played piano and guitar for two years before hearing about the band:

“I met Ms Small and she told me about how the girls wanted to play and make a band. At first I didn’t like rock because I was studying classical guitar, but I prefer rock guitar now. I hope after I finish studying here that I will study music and play classical piano.”

Smoke on the water baby. Just wait until you all really get into Classic Rock. Ladies, you got to get yourselves on YouTube!

3) A word to the wise, don’t mess with mothers defending their right to motherhood:

PressTV covered a recent protest by civil rights groups and families calling for the religious freedom of Muslim women and their civil liberty to pick up their children from school.

Mothers in headscarves are facing new discrimination at some schools who now object to seeing headscarves in the playground before and after school — claiming that the hijab’s “outward sign of religious practice go against the French law of religious neutrality in state-run institutions.”

*blank stare*

I don’t really need to get into how ridiculous this is, do I?

Try this: stand in-between a mother bear and her cub. Tell the mother bear that she can’t have her child until she looks more human. Pick up a pair of shears. Attempt to shave the bear and liberate her from her fur. Watch what happens.

faiza4) Every little girl named Faiza just had her mind blown.

This is going viral right now just about everywhere, but if you haven’t heard the fantabulous news, Faiza Hussain, British Pakistani doctor by day, Excalibur by night has just been dubbed, Captain Britain.

A little backstory, Brian Baddock (the current Captain Britain) is teaming up with Captain Marvel (Avengers) on a kind of suicide mission against the evil Ultron (in “The Age of Ultron” storyline). Before leaving, he needs Faiza to keep MI-13 running. He needs “Captain Britain” to survive. For hope. For humanity.

A mainstream comic, Muslim, hijabi superhero people! What’s not to love?

This awe inspiring character wields the Arthurian sword Excalibur and can disassemble and reassemble people at the subatomic level. She’s also a healer by nature and a massive superhero fan girl  – so you know she’ll keep to her roots.

OMG MARVEL! DISNEY! DO AN AVENGERS CROSS-OVER MOVIE! I know you’re planning a Captain Marvel movie sometime in the future. Maybe we can hope for an on-screen Muslim woman superhero before 2025.

Me rockin' a turban twist by babylailalov.

Me rockin’ a turban twist inspired by babylailalov.

5) Finally, what DOES it mean to be a modern Muslim woman?

Well, according to the Daily Beast’s great piece on The Rise of Hijab Fashion Bloggers, the modern Muslim woman is “eclectic” and “creative” — bending the visuality of hijab with a blend of “vintage finds, lavish jewellery, Japanese-inspired silhouettes, high-end British sophistication and urban edge.”

The media may portray Muslim females as shrouded in black head-to-toe robes, feeding the stereotypical idea that modernism—not to mention fashion—and Islam cannot mix. But, as this crop of popular fashion blogs shows, wearing a hijab can mean a great number of things to a variety of women.

Well, yes. But point of information: Not all modern Muslim women wear hijab. And some modern Muslim women are shrouded in black head-to-toe robes. And they all have the potential to be eclectic, fashionable and creative.

Oh, but I do love watching hijab tutorials. Honestly, they’re awesome. From make-up to hijab pins — YouTube stars branching off into their own fashion lines and doing what inspires them. Kick-ass.

Here’s my current favourite style. Just in time for summer:

I love badass Muslimahs. Especially when they’re not setting out to be badass — but are badass by virtue of their good works and efforts.

Yeah okay, it also helps when fierce women hit bags, throw punches, spin kicks, run marathons and use their physical prowess to raise money for a local youth shelter.

A month ago a group of Muslim women started training to run a half-marathon taking place this Saturday in Ottawa. Their goal is to promote healthy and active lifestyles through the spirit of sport and raise money to help establish a youth centre to nurture the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of youth today.

Fantastic.

Check out 21K-4-$21K and their phenomenal video below.

And every land is Karbala.

 

Happy weekend everyone! We’ve finally recuperated from Eidoween and have a bunch of fun stories for your reading pleasure. So sit back and enjoy some fierce women, romantic Muslims, some historical Hajj and a little ideal Muslimah trolling that’ll have you snorting tea out your nose.

Enjoy!

1) Focus and breathe and stretch and Olympics. With this mantra, Amna Al Haddad is one woman I would not want to mess with.

The New York Times recently profiled this fantastic 22-year old athlete from the UAE along with her team mate Khadija Mohammed, the first female Emirati lifter to make the Olympics.

According to the article, a tough training schedule isn’t the only thing these women have to deal with. Negative attitudes about women weightlifting in their country include the belief that they’ll turn into muscular meatheads — thereby making them unattractive to male suitors. Because it’s not their athletic talent that’s important – no, it’s their marriageability. The team also deals with the stereotype that weightlifting only attracts masculine women, and *GASP* lesbians(!!!!)

“A lot of women say, ‘Wow, look at her body,’ ” Al Haddad said. “They ask me how to get lean, and when I say I weight lift, they get scared. But it’s the 21st century now. I don’t want to get married until I make the Olympics.” …

At a recent workout, Al Haddad, in the company of a male trainer, wore full arm and leg compression skins under her shorts and a short-sleeve shirt with the word “beast” printed in bold across it, a concession to tradition.

Fierce!

I SHOW YOU MUSCLES AND POPPING VEINS! MUSLIM FEMINIST HULK SMASH MISOGYNIST CIS-GENDERED HOMOPHOBIC ATTITUDES!

Seriously, don’t mess with a woman who can clean and jerk 100 pounds in the air. Keep lifting ladies.

2) There is nothing more romantic than receiving an early morning kiss from the Hubby — complete with shaggy hair, scruffy beard, and the dulcet sound of babies yelling. Probably because that’s about the extent of romance in our house.

Half the world away, Kamila Khan has written a terrific article about the lack of “romance” in her life for the online Australian mag Mamamia. In “Confessions of a Muslim Romantic” she recounts growing up in front of the television learning unrealistic expectations of romance:

I can literally quote you every conversation in the Breakfast Club. Sure, I was sent to madrasa and learnt how to pray, but there’s no way a Saturday morning learning Arabic could replace my Saturday night with 21 Jump Street. This is where I learnt all my morals, my standards and my expectations…

After all, from our religious tradition came the Taj Mahal (made by a male out of love for his wife); came the poet Rumi (a male truly in touch with his feelings); and from Arabic came the word ‘carat’ (to measure the size of my future wedding ring). It was impossible then for any Muslim male not to have romance in his blood, right?

Yeeeaaah… I didn’t mind getting my ideas about romance from Johnny Depp and Rumi either. *wink*

Go read and comment on her piece, it’s a hoot guaranteed to make you remember the 80s fondly and grab your partner in a hopefully baby-food-spaghetti-stain-free embrace!

3) Single ladies, listen up! You know those nights when you’re sitting all alone on Twitter re-tweeting Mona Eltahawy, or stalking random cat pictures on Facebook wondering at the ripe educated age of 28 when you’ll find that NORMAL Muslim to complete half your faith? Well, according to a now popular post on MuslimSpice, that IS why you’re all alone! Apparently, the worst women to marry include women on Facebook, Twitter, non-virgins, non-hijabis, the daughters of gas station owners, and feminists.

So instead of giving the troll more link love, here’s a mind-blowingly awesome, satirical rebuttal piece by Sara Yasin over at Muslimah Media Watch in the voice of the slow jam Imam:

You’re using social media: It might be time to axe your Twitter and Facebook accounts, because your online presence is probably warding off potential suitors. It has been proven, by many studies, that no Muslim woman can resist logging into a social networking site without making posts about getting lost in Tariq Ramadan’s eyes. Of course, all conversations held by females are useless, and men only use social networking sites for the important business of men. If you’re using it for professional reasons (trick statement: your only valid role is being a homemaker), then that might be OK — but I’m afraid that I would have to recommend doubling up on your prayer to avoid falling prey to the Internet’s slippery slope.

Oh God it’s true, it’s so true. I get so lost in Tariq Ramadan’s eyes. (I even have a signed copy of his book! *fangirl squeeee!*) Guess I’m on the hairy path to hell.

4) Hajj rapid-fire:

5) Finally, possibly the oldest recording of a Qur’anic recitation. Surah Duha as captured by Thomas Edison’s newly-invented cylinder phonograph, and set to a collection of pictures from pre-modern development Mecca.

Well folks, the weekend is over, but I managed to sneak in a Muslim roundup! This week we’ve got a whole pile of Muslim women kicking ass, breaking down stereotypes, and one doing the Gangnam horse riding move while driving and rocking her mobile in her hijab. Fierce.

Enjoy!

1) Now this is a story all about how, my burqa got flipped, turned upside down! And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you about an Afghan rapper and her hair.

In an exciting article, the Huffpo covers (har har) the debut of Sosan Firooz, Afghanistan’s first female rap artist and her song, “Our Neighbors” which has just been released on YouTube.

According to the article, Sosan is breaking traditional rules for women — she’s also a television actress and recently performed at a music festival in Kabul (under segregated conditions of course). And she’s literally making history by letting her words and her hair flow freely.

She sings about repression of women, her hopes for a peaceful Afghanistan and the misery she says she experienced as a small child living in neighboring Iran… “We want an end to all cruelty against women and children,” Firooz chants.

Unfortunately, some of her relatives have shunned her — leading her mother to be careful about mentioning Sosan’s budding career and her father taking on the role of bodyguard. Both are fantastically proud of her. She’s just breaking into the music scene — so the best of luck to you my dear!

Check her out in action here and here.

2) Another woman debunking the oppressed Muslim woman myth is the kick ass muslimah Hiba Akhtar who lays the smackdown on some of the larger assumptions about hijab. In her fantastic piece “to the woman who called my friend a “RAGHEAD” as she walked down the street,“Hiba addresses racism, modesty, diversity of Muslim women, and even “anti-slut shaming” and body policing:

Women like my mom, like my old teachers and others in the Muslim community where I live, cover completely by choice. They have careers, they vote, they own property and raise kids and basically kick ass. They consider America to be their country, and, if you told them to leave, they’d probably curse you out in their mother languages and threaten to hit you with an all-American baseball bat. And this is the beauty of America.

…Questioning and establishing dialogue opens the doors tolerance and understanding, two things women in America need more than ever if influential men are going to continue spreading ignorant shit about our very bodies and who we are.

My hijab is literally shaking like a pom-pom. Massive virtual high-five!

BAM, IRAN – 17/12/11 Fatemeh rests after school as she struggles with a very bad flu. From the project “The day I become a woman.”

3) I’m a little late to the game, but I recently came across the absolutely breathtaking work of Kiana Hayeri. The Iranian-born photographer came to Canada (w00t!) to pursue her secondary studies and soon discovered that a camera could not only transcend language barriers, but tell a story by framing it with social commentary.

Kiana is determined to use her camera to give the Western world a glimpse of a side of Iran that the media does not cover. Her project that’s received the most attention is Your Veil is a Battleground. On the juxtaposed images of women veiled and unveiled for Phase Two of the project, Kiana explains:

Phase Two explores the different ways young Iranian women choose to wear the veil. Hijab is implemented as a fashion element, accompanied with distinctive makeup and colorful headscarves. Young women use these elements to empower themselves and to make a statement. One might argue that the makeup itself, is also a form of veil.

You can find more of her amazing work on her blog.

4) And winner of “why is this even news,” a Canadian, gay, Athiest, octogenarian, activist, retired zoologist has left Omar Khadr $700 in his will. Jack Hallam of Salt Spring Island hopes Khadr can put the money toward his education now that he’s been repatriated to Canada after spending a decade in Guantanamo Bay.

Hallam said he has set aside $700 for Khadr because he thinks the Toronto-born man has been treated badly by both the American and Canadian governments.

“I think the young man has been treated abominably,” Hallam told The Canadian Press on Saturday.

I’m not sure what’s more strange: media pointing out that Hallam is a gay Atheist or thinking that $700 will make a dent in the average Canadian tuition (but it’s a really sweet gesture).

In slightly related “why is this news” news: detainees in Gitmo may or may not have kittens. Or they just might have a case of the “draconian censorship blues.”

5) Finally, for your viewing pleasure, I give you Egyptian Gangnam style: Life is a big bowl of salad (with at least one avocado). My hijab for a proper translation!

Men teach that a woman’s entire body is a part of the definition of nakedness — and thus, “for the sake of the Muslim Ummah and for her own good,” she should cover her entire body. Even her voice should not be beautified, lest it attract the poor, unsuspecting, pious male into entering sin. (source)

And this is why we need more public recitation, supplication and chanting by women. Because they are indeed, beautiful.

 

Hat tip to Hijabman for finding this awesome piece.

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