No, really. Despite the stereotypes. We are.
Also, this video is PHENOMENAL!
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.
April 16, 2014
April 1, 2014
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”?
March 28, 2014
Goggles and gears, corsets adorned with brass and lace brocade, Victorian aesthetics meshed with clockwork, artisans selling creative curios, side show fancies and handmade wares — all came together seamlessly for an imagined moment in time that transformed the historic Gladstone Hotel in Toronto for an annual steampunk street festival.
With my feathered top hat pinned firmly to my hijab and my robotic “ocular enhancement” painted on my face, I joined hundreds of other diverse hobbyists who have taken this sub-genre of science fiction beyond imagination and into the reality of fashion, music, performance art, design, philosophy and lifestyle.
I’m fairly new to the steampunk scene in Toronto — and even though I’ve appreciated the culture for years (decades? centuries?) and take any opportunity I can get to dress up in my collection of steampunk gear — this was the first time I’ve actively attended a public event instead of just shyly looking from afar at convention centres.
Recently I’ve decided to become more involved in the steampunk community and was encouraged by a good friend and talented graphic designer who helped create a part of my character. I don’t have the artisan skill to work with metal and leather — but as you know, I’m crafty and enjoy expressing my artistic side with more fluid mediums *cough* like eyeliner.
The girls were decked out in their goggles and held on tight as they took in the fantastical and carefully choreographed event pulled together by Adam Smith, director of Canadian Steam Productions. Soon the dulcet tones of Sir Alfred E Tennyson, Scholar and Gentlemanly DJ, enthusiastically welcomed the crowd, delighted our oratory senses and welcomed an array of steam-inspired entertainment.
While it’s difficult to define exactly what it means for something to be “steampunk,” it’s generally understood to be rooted in an alternative history (or historical future) where steam-power rules and aesthetics are largely influenced by the Victorian period to the mid-20th century. In terms of attitude, steampunk rests on a world of possibility, futurism, but also romantic idealism of the past — and criticisms of the subculture often highlight negative elements that include Empire-worship, the colonial spirit (colonizing other worlds, at least), and overlooking the child labour, rampant disease, institutionalized slavery and racism of the Victorian period.
Since many modern, negative stereotypes about Muslims — as the exotic, savage, sexualized, Orientalized “other” — originate from the Victorian era, what would Muslim Steampunk actually look like? Would it draw specifically from prejudiced Victorian sensibilities, or focus on the strengths and glory of Islam’s Golden Age?
March 24, 2014
*dusts off computer*
Oh, hai. Assalamu ‘alaikum. What’s up? How are you? I’m good, alhamdulillah.
I took a little longer than expected to figure out this whole work/life/blog balance thing. To be honest, I have at least four posts in my drafts folder that I’m sitting on only because I’m overwhelmed. I feel like social media can be all-consuming some times and it gave me a really bad case of writer’s block.
Something (pick anything from the last roundup) will spread like wildfire and it just seems like the entire world (or at least my slice of it) will flood Facebook and Twitter with incredibly intelligent and brilliant articles — and I’ll want to join the party with my penny shoes and maybe a top hat.
But it takes me so long to research, read and write, on top of the all-consuming realities of daily life, that the topic seems to move on by the time I’m ready to post. So I haven’t been posting — just a lot of editing, rewriting, sitting-on-thoughts and staring wistfully at my party dress.
I’ve also been hiding. On Tumblr.
And making steampunk-inspired jewelry.
And travelling to DC to visit family and take funny pictures.
And doing lots of crafty things. Like window painting.
And of course, figuring out what to do with the kids over March Break — with all sorts of amazingness going on in this video:
March Break was lovely. It was like being on maternity leave all over again. And while it was still difficult to make the time to write, I actually had time to cook dinner. Which given my track record over the last three months, is nothing short of a miracle.
Luckily I’ve been keeping up with a few of you over Facebook and even through email. So thank you for reaching out, for all your understanding and supportive messages. Thank you all for your patience.
Our living situation is going to change in a month or so insha’Allah, which will mean a different commute route and a more conducive space for writing.
It’s also Spring. A time for renewal, refresh and hopefully a source of positive inspiration. (And maybe even a giveaway or two!)
ps… I miss you.
March 23, 2014
There’s a half eaten bag of halal marshmallows sitting next to me, and if I have to eat the rest of it to get this edition of the roundup out to you, then so be it.
Despite a few amazing weeks with Muslim musings on the permissibility of performing Hajj using a Robot double, creeping sharia’ masquerading as a fashionable medical mask, a fatwa against a one-way ticket to Mars, a UK Tory councillor expelled from his party after comparing Muslim women to garbage bags, International Muslimah Fashion Week cancelled amid claims of fraud, and the opening of a German Halal Fry Haus in Toronto while FEMEN tried to *yawn* get Muslim women in Berlin to strip naked for freedom — basically only two items consumed the hearts, minds and social media activities of the entire Islamosphere.
Eesa-gate and Alice in Arabia.
So grab some hot chocolate before the marshmallows run out, and enjoy!
1) Do you remember “Not Without my Daughter“? You MUST remember “Not Without my Daughter.” Even if you have never seen the movie, you might have a vague sense of its plot line because it is so ingrained in American pop-cultural stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs.
It doesn’t really matter that this movie was made in 1991 (NOT in the early 80′s folks. Big hair continued for a very long time). Or that it was met with intense criticism and, by all accounts, was a box-office flop, or that Sally Field won the Razzie Award for Worst Actress for her role as a white-woman-surviving-life-behind-the-veil. “Not Without my Daughter” was one of nearly 350 films created in the span of 30 years that depicted Arabs and Muslims as evil terrorists, rich oil sheikhs, belly dancers or oppressed movie props.
What matters is that this movie represents a standard plot outline for the inclusion of Muslim characters in film and television — limiting this inclusion to the irate, angry terrorist and the voiceless Muslim woman.
Last week, ABC Family proposed AND canceled Alice in Arabia — a “high stakes drama” about a
rebellious “good” Muslim American teenage girl kidnapped by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family and forced to live with them survive life in, under, through, beneath, surrounded by, within, astern, on the other side of, yonder, backside, lost to, intra-, behind the veil.
But thanks to the combined awesome power of Muslims, Arabs, allies, and concerned interest groups online, ABC fell to the immense pressure from negative responses and got the message that it just wasn’t cool to rely on tired stereotypes to win ratings. So they did the honourable thing and blamed everyone:
The current conversation surrounding our pilot was not what we had envisioned and is certainly not conducive to the creative process, so we’ve decided not to move forward with this project.
What were they expecting? Confetti and a ticker-tape parade with FEMEN floats?
Now, was this show intended to bridge gaps, educate younger viewers on American Muslim Interfaith Dialogue, or perhaps just have a snappy, alliterative title? No, according to the show’s creator, it was “meant to give Arabs and Muslims a voice on American TV.” Awww. Precious. Because outside of token characters on Community and Degrassi Junior High, there are no positive Arab or Muslim voices available for television. Right?
Wrong. From the fantastically brilliant star, Miss Sara Yasin:
There’s an entire generation of creative Arab-American itching to tell stories that fall outside of the usual narrative. There’s Rola Nashef, who wrote Detroit Unleaded, a romantic comedy about two first generation Lebanese-Americans who fall in love. There’s also Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, whose documentary about Egypt’s 2011 revolution, The Square, earned her an Academy Award nomination this year. There are performers like Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian-American comedian with cerebral palsy. Or Dean Obeidallah, another Palestinian-American comedian and filmmaker, who has dedicated his career to flipping the narrative around Muslims and Arabs in the United States. And the list goes on and on.
Alice in Arabia never saw the light of day, but I’m certain it’ll be revamped in some fashion for another episode of Law and Order, Homeland, or maybe, if we’re really, really lucky, networks will figure out the importance of having authentic voices as a part of the planning process to create a nuanced and engaging show.
Or, you know, just schedule re-runs of Little Mosque.
2) From the writers who created your favourite sitcom “Shaykh Yerbouti” and the award winning cooking show “Shaykh and Bake,” comes a new mini-drama guaranteed to ignite community passions: Shaykhdown.
Here’s a brief summary: Abu Eesa, a popular Islamic teacher from the Al-Maghrib Institute made incendiary and violent misogynistic, anti-feminist, and racist comments to ridicule the occasion of International Women’s Day over several Social Media channels.
Naturally, when the online response was less than positive, the “scholar” used some passive aggressive male privilege to sort-of apologize and say it was all just a joke that feminist and secular-types are just not going to understand.
After the initial shock with a lot of people (myself included) asking, “who IS this guy?” an incredible outpouring flooded Facebook and Twitter. There are “millions of people like Abu Eesa out there who find it funny to demean, mock, and belittle women’s struggles.” Sick of hearing “jokes” made at the expense of marginalized voices in memes and from the minbar, Eesa-gate was a perfect opportunity for people to discuss issues of leadership accountability and rape culture.
And while some lamented that people on both sides of the debate should have taken the discussion offline instead of starting a petition to fire him, others claimed that Abu Eesa should have stopped while he was ahead instead of going for an “abashed articulation of male supremacy.”
The Islamic Monthly had a brief history of Feminism and stressed that community leaders have a responsibility to not make cheap comments. Naheed Mustafa of CBC/Radio-Canada wrote an impassioned open letter on how Abu Eesa is making brown men look like clowns through his casual misogyny. Hind Makki wrote that rape, physical assault and female genital mutilation are topics that should be beyond the scope of acceptable “jokes” within the context of Islamic educational institutions. Many stressed the obvious: women’s rights are human rights and that women deserve respect.
Obvious, right? But this is why we need Feminism AND basic Islamicquette. Because the obvious doesn’t come easy when the norm to ridicule and belittle is supported by an entire patriarchal “joke” system. Or when *soft patriarchy* attempts to make things right by claiming women are actually really awesome when men help them achieve their potential (really? gee thanks guys).
Which is why throughout all of this, so many people stressed: “Speak that which is good or remain silent.”
**”soft patriarchy”™ Laury Silvers 2014.
3) And finally, after the dust settled, people got back to the Islamosphere’s other favourite stereotype-bashing pastime: belly dance.
And here’s a little 90′s Eurodance cultural appropriation to start your week off right:
February 27, 2014
I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked up Jennifer Zobair’s debut novel, Painted Hands.
Chicklit isn’t really my thing — and it was sold to me as a “Muslim chicklit” — even though highly appraising endorsements found on the back cover call this novel, “a positive portrait of Muslim women” and an “important addition to the canon of ethnic fiction.”
I’ve never seen Sex In the City; when it comes to fiction, I’m more interested in sci-fi/fantasy, and I just wasn’t sure how much I could relate to a pair of high-flying, Prada-wearing, Boston-raised, and politically- and legally-minded “modern” Muslim characters.
Surprise! I loved it.
Within the first few pages, I was gasping in shock and gleefully gossiping with my sister-in-law over each experience, event, plot twist, and wonderfully terrible scandal as the book unfolded. As if these characters were like our own friends — and they probably could be. Zobair has not only created a collection of memorable characters, but she has also effortlessly represented almost every Muslim American community and popular media personality. It’s as if her novel presents a snapshot, a broad overview of the American Muslim community, from Muslim feminists, activists, and converts, to non-practicing Muslims, avid mosque-goers, and unruly mosque Uncles. She even name-drops a few modern famous Muslims to make the book more relatable to a present-day context.
The plot, about 30-something Muslim women trying to negotiate faith, love, and growing up in secular America while firmly routed in South Asian culture, focuses on the two main characters: Amra Abbas, a work-obsessed lawyer aiming for corporate partnership, and Zainab Mir, a fierce A-type personality with a knack for spinning strategic communications for a Republican political campaign runner. Their relationship with each other, their families and their faith are influenced by a cast of eclectic supporting characters: Mateen, Amra’s love interest and husband, struggles to balance his love for Amra with his own expectations of how a “good” Muslim wife should act; Chase Holland, a neo-con radio host and bigot who struggles after falling in love with Zainab; and Hayden Palmer, a party-girl headline stereotype who converts to Islam to spite the Muslim man who uses her for sex.
February 6, 2014
Finally, here’s the fourth post in my series on the media stereotyping of Muslim women. It was an absolute joy to speak to these phenomenal women and it was so exciting to pick their brains. If I had the power, I would have invited everyone for a massive party.
As I’ve pointed out throughout this series, these blogs and social media personalities are resource-mining and community-building. They are story telling with authentic voices and encouraging the creation of positive narratives. They are disassembling popular media stereotypes and creating discursive spaces to grapple with the current reality of growing up Muslim in an era of Islamophobia.
As a mother trying to make sure my two daughters grow up surrounded by images of strong, empowered, diverse Muslim women — these positive narratives are invaluable. They combat the internalization of negative portrayals by providing alternatives, by creating a positive popular culture of Muslim women, and by reframing the image of the Muslim mother.
This is only a sampling of the phenomenal voices out there — so if you know of someone, or ARE someone that is making positive impacts, drop a link in the comments below!
Hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed presenting it.
Blogger extraordinaire Amanda Quraishi is a mother, American Muslim Progressive, Liberal, Feminist, Generation-X Humorist, and Geek. She uses her blog Muslimahmerican to write about the American Muslim experience as well as liberal politics — sharing her opinions with over 15,000 followers.
On the question of mothering positive images of Muslim identity and combating stereotypes, she says she is committed to the idea that individual Muslims should represent all of our unique traits and fascinating human variations:
And this is the best way to combat stereotypes. No one Muslim woman can speak for all of us, but we can all represent ourselves authentically and in doing so, we let people see us as we are: a multitude of Muslim identities instead of a single, monolithic community.
The piece to read: Enough with the “Veiled” References
Fellow Canadian and steampunk enthusiast Zainab bint Younus, aka The Salafi Feminist, has been writing for as long as she can remember. After pouring everything into journals, she started blogging as a frustrated teenager with too many frustrations about the Muslim community to keep to herself — and has since evolved, recognizing there are ways to empower Muslims to seek nuanced, intelligent avenues to create positive change.