I just realized that in less than two weeks I’ll be heading to Kuwait. This means we’re celebrating Christmas with my family early. Meaning less time to post a weekend roundup (and blog in general). So, surprise! It’s a mid-week roundup treat.
1) Hey, did you hear the one about the halal horse?
Well it took 1,000 years, but academics have finally proven that Muslims are funny. PhD candidate and Arabic translator Emily Selove pretty much has the best job in the world — writing her dissertation on The Art of Party Crashing by revered medieval Iraqi scholar al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (1002–1071):
This book, which contains flirtation, profanity, and even a little drunkenness, is a lot of fun and offers a rather different perspective to the austere image Islam has from that period. The reality is that the Baghdad of 1,000 years ago was actually rather Bohemian — it wasn’t perfect by any means — but not the violent and repressive society you might imagine it was.
(I’m really hoping that last bit was just a not-so-clever-media-sound-bite. Why would anyone randomly imagine Baghdad as having a violent and repressive society? Because anything remotely medieval is inherently violent and repressive? À la Game of Thrones? Is it a social commentary on Islam? A social commentary on modern Iraq? An allusion to the annoyingly ubiquitous literary trope of a violent Arab society oppressing sexually repressed-but-oh-so-sexy-harem-women??)
Maybe I’ll just take a leaf out of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s book, “every serious minded person needs to take a break” and leave it at that.
2) Paris Hilton caused quite the stir last month when she opened her new store in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Her fifth store in the Kingdom, the now (in)famous Baaris Hiltoon Handbags & Accessories joins the likes of ALDO, Children’s Place, The Gap, MANGO, Gingersnaps, The Body Shop, ZARA, and *gasp* Etam Lingerie at Makkah Mall.
While not exactly selling the party lifestyle, alcohol, or risqué clothing items, people nevertheless took offense at the fact that THE Paris Hilton, and everything her name represents, is in the Holiest of cities — and that her presence is more proof of the current Los Vegasization of Mecca.
My problem is when people frame their opposition to the present Saudi version of Mecca as a call to restore a more just past, a return to an imaginary innocence that Mecca had supposedly lost in the 20th century. I’m sorry, but that innocence has never existed. Apart from the Ka’ba, Mecca is just another city. The people of Mecca – the pilgrims, the authorities, and the regular folks who just live there – have never been anything other than people. Whatever rottenness you can find elsewhere in the world exists in Mecca, and it’s not a Wahhabi invention. It has been there since long before Islam and throughout Islam’s history: unjust power, poverty, greed, racism, sexism, intolerance. Paris Hilton doesn’t bring anything new to the place.
3) So, are you mom enough?
The fabulous Tasnim over at Muslimah Media Watch takes a new look at Muslim mommy Wars, and the oft-repeated, only-status-for-women-in-Islam, holy grail of femininity: “paradise is under the feet of mothers.”
The problem I find is that often discussions about the representations of mothers in Islam get caught up in the familiar argument about whether this overwhelming reverence for the mother is potentially empowering or reductive essentialism. What about women who are not mothers? It’s a legitimate and important question. Another question that might be asked is what happens when this Islamic narrative of revered motherhood collides with the pervasive narrative of the Bad Mother?
She goes on to brilliantly explore Bad mother labels, Bad Muslim Child syndrome and that while there is the potential to reduce the status of women only to motherhood, it’s still important to acknowledge the spiritual mythology of motherhood in Islam.
This really is a beautiful and touching post. Go read it!
4) Hijab rapid-fire:
- The brilliant (brilliant-brilliant!) Hind Maki writes about American Muslim identity, European Muslim communities and the need to strengthen transatlantic networks to address Islamophobia, alienation and political disenfranchisement.
- Shaomin Chew writes about her week-long hijab tourism experience for the Harvard Crimson — an experience that left her feeling more demure, feminine and taught her more about herself than Islam. The comments are quick to point out exotifying Muslims by playing dress-up just isn’t cool.
- Leila Ahmed wins the Grawemeyer Award for her book, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. She is the first female Muslim scholar to receive the prestigious award. To the tune of $100,000 smackers!
- Hijab fashion comes to the Canadian Maritimes with Amanda Redmond’s modest (har har), but growing, online hijab store. Mabrook my dear.
- Fabulous, not fetishizing, hijab underwater fashion on Flikr. Say that three times fast. From the artist, Napie Moksin.
5) Finally, this looks promising! The Other Half of Tomorrow paints a modern, complex and diverse Pakistan as seen through the perspectives of Pakistani women working for change. You can learn more about the project here.