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.
One post was so horrific, people claimed it should have come with a trigger warning.
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.”
Regardless, the entire affair became a great conversation starter on the the importance of responsibility and how we can understand and define feminism of the western and Muslim-type.
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.
Check out Why I can’t stand white belly dancers, I STILL can’t stand white belly dancers, and Muslimah Media Watch’s fantastic roundtable on the time belly dance broke the Internet.
And here’s a little 90’s Eurodance cultural appropriation to start your week off right: