tumblr_inline_mu3xhhF0P51s8a6jsThis is so very important.

Last weekend my sister-in-law came over for dinner and decided to go for a run in the late evening. As she was leaving she asked if it was “okay” to be going for a run so late at night in our area.

You have to understand that my sister-in-law is the strongest woman I know. Spiritually, physically and mentally. She coaches boxing, has amazing clarity and concentration and is the type of athlete to keep pushing long after she’s hit the wall. When I help her train I am sore for days afterward — not because of any new physical exertion on my part, but because of her intense power. She is not the type of person you want to back into a corner.

But she has to ask if it’s safe for her to run because that’s what we’ve been taught.

And in reply, I half-joked, “Sure. Just stick to the lighted path and keep your keys or a fork in your hand” — half implying that if anything were to happen, at least she could quickly attempt to defend herself with a sharp object. She gave me a wane smile and said, “I have my hands. They’re weapons on their own.”

Long after she left, I couldn’t help but think how much I hated our quick exchange. I hate how my gut reaction is to caution someone when running outside at night. I hate how the little hairs at the nape of my neck stand up and I walk more quickly when I’m alone in an underground parking garage. I hate how I feel like I have to tell Eryn to keep her legs together on Eid day when I realize her dress is too short for climbing and there are a lot of strangers watching her. I REALLY hate it when hijab is promoted as a defence against sexual assault.

I hate the entire “rape culture” and societal institutions teaching women and men that sexual assault and rape can be prevented by dressing modestly — that women should not impair their judgement by taking substances, shouldn’t speak with strangers, or behave in a manner that would attract the “wrong type” of attention. That men are taught sex is a conquest and that they can’t be sexually assaulted. When fault lies with the attacker, not the survivor. When women are more likely to be attacked by a person they know — as opposed to a stranger. When people should be taught NOT to rape instead of teaching women not to BE raped.

Femifesto is a collection of truly inspiring and amazing women committed to ending rape culture, survivor shaming and blaming, and creating safer community spaces. And they are working on an extremely important project to help provide mainstream Canadian media with language and frameworks to responsibly report on rape and sexual violence:

Recognizing the power of mainstream media to shape stories on sexual violence, we wanted to create an opportunity for our communities to talk back. In November femifesto will launch Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Canadian Media Toolkit.

What they’re looking for are voices that are often misrepresented or spoken for by the media. If you are a consumer of Canadian media and wish to add your opinion to help change the way sexual violence is portrayed, then I urge you to take 20 minutes and fill out this survey to help them inform this toolkit. Do it today because the survey will close on October 23rd!

The media often relies on stereotyping Muslim men as sexual savages and Muslim women as oppressed and voiceless. Cases of abuse are sensationalized — with broad generalizations about Islam or references to sexual violence statistics taken from Muslim-majority countries when discussing sexual violence in the Canadian Muslim context. As if to argue that Muslims are inherently violent and misogynistic, and helping perpetuate the xenophobic fear that honour killings or high rates of sexual assault in Muslim-majority countries will be imported into Canada. Muslim women survivors of sexual abuse are sexualized and are blamed for their assaults because they are Muslim.

There is a media culture which demonizes Muslims and Muslim cultures — and this unfortunately helps further a culture of silence within Muslim communities when it comes to discussing sexual abuse. So please, add your voice to help enrich this important project.

Cross-posted at Womanist Musings.


Introducing the Hijab 5000! Your life will be transformed within seconds of putting it on! Not only will it protect you from the untoward gaze of lustful and sexually uncontrollable men, but you’ll sure turn heads when everyone hears of your hijab’s scientific miracles. With just one application, the hijab will deep condition and protect your gorgeous locks from pollution; keep you warm by helping you retain 40-60% of your body heat; protect you from the sun’s harmful rays; promote healthy hygiene – no more stray hairs in your salad; boost your self-esteem; pave the way for marriage proposals; grant you protection from the evil-eye and cure your infertility!

I love it when the media sensationalises the hijab – othering, exotifying and generalising a personal religious symbol. But Muslims sensationalise the hijab too. While a few of the above “facts” are actually true, they’re often used to market the hijab beyond reasons of modesty, religious adherence or identity with Islam.

Hijab influencing one’s fertility is something I recently heard on TLC’s All-American Muslim. Now, I know the show is reality TV – the aim is to sensationalise and pick up on minuscule but shocking sound-bites just to blow them out of proportion. So I wasn’t that surprised when looking through their online clips I found one called, “Hijab’s Influence on Infertility.”

Though after watching the clips, reading reviews, and speaking to fans of the show, I would have simply called it: “Women wear or don’t wear the hijab for a million different reasons.”

(But wood turtle, it’s just a title – lighten up! I know, I know. But it reminded me of all the little, ubiquitous ways the media continues to perpetrate misunderstandings about hijab. So I’m going to take this opportunity to complain.)

(more…)

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.

A picture of two Muslims holding a sign reading, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Right Here." Photo taken by Organica at the October 30th, 2010, John Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC. Last week ABC’s 20/20 aired a special on: Islam, Questions and Answers — intended to demystify this peaceful, yet seemingly frenetic religion, by answering the questions of “ordinary” Americans.

There were the usual dramatic voice overs; interviews with anti-American Arabs; heart-string tugging, sweetly smiling children teaching America the basics of Islam; the all-American Arab-Muslim football player who forgets to pray; sympathetic non-Muslim scholars; and peaceful scenes of your everyday Muslim living and working in hometown USA. All interspersed with scenes of foreign Muslims burning American flags, stoning women, scary women in black burqas and the destruction of the Twin Towers. They even interviewed burqa banning French officials, one niqaab wearing American convert and progressive Muslim activists Irshad Manji and (former Muslim) Ayyan Hirsi Ali.

The online responses to the show range from anti-Islam activists saying that Diane Sawyer and co. got Islam wrong by relying on the moderate voices and ignoring the freethinking apostates, to pro-Muslims saying that Diane Sawyer and co. got Islam wrong by relying too much on the progressive voice and ignoring the moderate religious scholars.

(more…)

I was watching PBS last night and caught a commercial for breastfeeding promotion by the New York State Department of Health.

The video shows a woman happily shouting, “I’m 40 pounds thinner!”  She then holds up maternity jeans, “These were my pants and now I’m down to a size 8 again!” Cue hair flipping and waist circling. She continues:

I didn’t starve myself and I didn’t go on a fad diet. So what helped me get back to my target weight? I breastfed my baby!

While I really appreciate the Health Department’s catchy and attention grabbing pro-breastfeeding message, I can’t possibly buy into this particular commercial. Sorry love, I highly doubt you lost 40 pounds due to breastfeeding. You lost 20 pounds of fluid, 10 pounds of baby, and maybe the rest from breastfeeding plus an active lifestyle of running after your toddler.  But you know, you didn’t have to lose anything.

The video’s narrator goes on to explain that breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day (that’s like two hours of aerobic exercise!), and ends with, “while it’s good for your baby, it’s also great for your body.”

Breastfeeding is great for your body. It reduces the chance of developing certain cancers, helps delay the return of menstruation, and is free to boot.  But the commercial promises an ideal standard of beauty.  Why does she have to be a size anything?

New mothers have so many pressures related to the baby — the last thing they need is a media source promoting what they should look like right after birth, or even 18 months later. I can’t decide if the message is being deliberately ignorant or if it’s just really playing up the statistics that breastfeeding does help accelerate postpartum weightloss.

At least the $1.6 million for this campaign wasn’t all for this one commercial.

Media Edition!

I’ve received a lot of interesting links in my inbox lately (thanks for sending them in!) and thought that since I’ve been knocked out with a nasty cold and I’m sitting in my mother’s kitchen with a jug of hot tea and saltines, I’d start a new feature here at WoodTurtle and drop a link roundup.

If you come across anything of interest regarding 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.

1) A wannabe hipster saves the Qur’an from death by burning in Amarillo, Texas, by snatching it away from the offending Christian leader and saying, “Dude, you have no Quran!” He then ran away.   You can watch the video of the hero in action here.

2) From the New York Times, a nice article on the Muslim Prayer Room on the 17th floor of the South Tower.

Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

3) In a country where Islam is the second largest religion, the French Senate has passed the ban on face-covering veils — which will largely affect about 2,000 women living in France. Interestingly, even though the bill negotiates legal minefields by avoiding the words, “women,” “Muslim,” and “veil,” the fines for breaking this soon to be law is:

… a fine of 150 euros ($A200) or citizenship classes for any woman caught covering her face, or both. It also carries stiff penalties for anyone, such as husbands or brothers, convicted of forcing the veil on a woman – a fine of 30,000 euros ($A41,500) and a year in prison – which are doubled if the victim is a minor.

I’m speechless. Check out the Non/No Bill 94 Coalition who are working so that a similar law isn’t passed in Quebec.

4) And finally, new brilliance from hip hop artist Narcicyst. Check out his video “Hamdulillah” featuring the gorgeous voice of Shadia Mansour and the faces of Muslims from Sydney, New York, Montreal, Abu Dhabi, London, Philly, Cairo, Dubai, Chicago, London and more.

Back in May, a friend posted this BBC article on Facebook.

Fashion is a form of self-expression. It’s all about experimenting with looks and, in many cases, attracting attention.

The Islamic headscarf, or hijab, is exactly the opposite. It’s about modesty and attracting as little attention as possible.

However, a growing number of Muslim women are successfully blending the two.

They are known as Hijabistas.

I commented immediately saying:

Sorry… That’s ridiculous journalism. Hijabistas? Really? And where have they been? We’ve been “combining the two” (hijab and “western dress”) for decades. Decades. Commercialism, and opportunistic journalism, that is all.

Other comments noted that there’s a growing trend in the Media to latch on to “fashionable Muslims” and tote them as practicing a different form of Islam, of being modern, and of being diametrically opposed to the Islam that “forces women into oppression with the burqa.” That the Media is playing one against the other.

Ever since 9/11 the Media has been looking for the “safe” Islam, the “no hijab Islam.” As an immediate response, I remember Anderson Cooper spoke with everyday Muslims on the streets, Oprah had an Islam 101 episode where she followed the day of a “normal Muslim woman,” (Muslim organizations did the same. “We” needed to separate ourselves from ‘Them.”) and how discussions on Sufism and its impact on US foreign policy were occurring alongside of fictional Media terms like, “Islamist.” (sufism being styled as a “safe” Islam to follow.)

Slowly, as Muslims became more prominent in the fashion world (more prominent? or more noticed? Being a Western Muslim seems to be a great criteria to have when writing a story on fashion, education, charitable works, politics — it’s even better if the subjects are identifiable with a big beard or headscarf), I began noticing articles on the Burkini, on Hijabi Olympic athletes and now fashionable hijabis.

The May BBC article annoys me because it assumes that there is no personal expression in Islam, and specifically, how Muslim women choose to dress. It ignores the historical and current differences in how women around the world style their hijab (or just don’t wear it!) — and especially, ignores the huge fashion scene in Muslim countries (although I can forgive that, because it is a rare article that will take a global perspective. But if you’re looking at the emergence of Western Muslim fashion, you can’t ignore the influence that the Muslim world has on it).

Recently, The Independent has come out with a similar article, Beautiful AND Islamic (because, you know, you can only be drab and boring in Islam), and the amazing ladies at Muslimah Media Watch have taken on this issue more brilliantly than I can.

Image credit to http://www.nocaptionneeded.com

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