The Hubby and I exchange fake gifts under a Christmas tree in a Kuwaiti mall, 2006

The Hubby and I faking a gift exchange in a Kuwaiti mall.

Brilliant, multi-coloured lights flash from storefront windows; giant wreaths, shining silver faux icicles and cartoonish depictions of Santa hang low from mall ceilings; giant 15-foot Christmas trees piled high with elaborate, wrapped boxes line entrance corridors; ready-made, delectable Christmas cookies and chocolates intoxicate passers-by with their sweet, comforting smell, and the latest secular Christmas pop tunes pour out from Starbucks and other trendy hot-spots. People crowd the malls looking for the perfect gift or are drawn by the holiday deals. Babies are enthralled by the lights and kids run around with Santa hats. The Christmas spirit is running high, and is only briefly interrupted by the call to prayer. It’s Christmas in Kuwait.

I have to admit, my first trip to Kuwait to meet the in-laws was a cultural shock on many levels. Forget about meeting an extended family so large that after years of marriage, close relatives I have never heard of are still coming out of the woodwork. Never mind the joys of eating halaal McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway and finding a mosque on every street corner. Let’s ignore my blundering attempts to connect to my family by speaking a Yemeni dialect (poorly) and wowing them with my bhangra dance moves (much better). What shocked me the most was finding a Muslim country that celebrated Christmas — at least, the secular, consumer culture aspect of the holiday season.

Especially since I believed Muslims don’t, cannot, and will not celebrate Christmas.

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Again we went to the Muslim Association of Canada‘s yearly ‘Eid event at the Canadian National Exhibition.  20,000 Muslims, one room, rides, food, bazaar, animals, movies and lots and lots of fun!

Muslims gathered in the main hall. (more…)

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.

Well I survived the weekend (kind of).

We started the ‘Eid celebration by eating our first daylight breakfast in a month. I made a huge pot of sweet seviyan — vermicelli cooked with butter, sugar, milk, condensed milk and cardamon. After getting dressed in our finest, we went to the CNE and prayed with about 10,000 people. Needless to say, it was pandemonium. We then met up with a few friends and went for second breakfast!  Lebanese shawarma (roasted meat), cheese fatayer (a lovely, salty cheese that tastes like butter — melted over a thick pita), and kunafa (er, how do I describe it? a toasty top, melty cheese bottom, soaked in a sugar syrup. SO GOOD).

Next up was the regular Friday congregational prayers at the Turkish mosque (where I had an altercation with a gentleman who thought it best that the women prayed in a separate room — coming soon to a post near you), a well deserved nap at home, then another party for dinner, pizza for second dinner and waffles for dessert.

You might begin to wonder at the amount of food Muslims eat during the ‘Eid celebration, considering we just spent a month fasting to remind us of God and the less fortunate. You’re not supposed to lose weight during Ramadan, just like you’re not supposed to pig out once it’s over. Suffice it to say that I find it difficult to eat a lot after fasting. Not only does it feel strange to be be eating during the day, but the stomach shrinks, your metabolism is slowed, and really, there are too many people to meet and party with to do so with a full mouth. For the next three days, we are also reminded to spend time after the 5 daily prayers to remember God, by chanting God’s name and other remembrances (heard in the video link above). ‘Eid is also a time for charity and we are all encouraged to give, and then to give some more.

Finally, Eryn is sleeping better now that I’m not fasting. She’s back on her regular schedule, thank God.

Some pics after the cut.

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