hijab


THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Winners to be announced shortly.

Thank you to everyone for participating.

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Happy Wednesday!

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.

Enjoy!

khatib1) 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.

Wait, so Muslims ARE a wildly diverse group of “bohemian“-esque jokers and Islam isn’t that austere. Imagine that!

(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.

baris2) 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.

Check out CNN’s roundup of the reaction, Omid Safi’s rundown of the destruction of Islamic historical sites for malls and latrines, and Michael Muhammad Knight’s gritty and honest welcome to Paris:

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!

©Napie Moksin

©Napie Moksin

4) Hijab rapid-fire:

  • 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!

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.

The Other Half of Tomorrow – Teaser from Sadia Shepard on Vimeo.

I’m thankful and excited to announce that I’ve joined the amazing team of writers at Muslimah Media Watch! It’s a really great opportunity to flex some more media analysis out of the things that get my hijab in a bunch. 

I’ll be sharing my MMW posts here as well.


PQ leader Pauline Marois speaks to women in hijab while campaigning in early September. Photo via Reuters.

Earlier this month, the Canadian province of Quebec elected its first female Premier. Headed by Pauline Marois, the Parti Québécois won a minority government after almost 10 years of Liberal rule. This election was also marked by accusations of xenophobia and racism, and ended dramatically with arson and a fatal shooting during Marois’ victory celebration speech.

And unsurprisingly, there was a hijab controversy to top it all off.

Based on the intricacies of identity politics, and aiming to safeguard Québécois culture and the French language in Quebec, the Parti Québécois (PQ) platform included stricter language laws and a new Charter of Secularism banning religious symbols for public servants. Naturally, what better symbols of religion are there than the kippah or the turban? Certainly not the giant cross that hangs in the legislature, Christmas trees or discreetly worn crucifix necklaces — because under the charter of secularism, these symbols would get to stay.

A common thread during this election was defining the new secularism charter with the ultimate religious symbol: the hijab. At least, that’s how religious or cultural clothing is postured when Muslims are used as a political tool. Even though there were other important issues such as the tumultuous student strike and tuition increases, the controversial Law 78 that limited fundamental civil liberties, and decreased access to social services with higher daycare fees, it wasn’t long before English-based coverage of the election focused on the immense “hijab backlash,” screaming that under a PQ government the “crucifix stays, but hijabs go.”

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Happy Friday everyone! It’s a rainy movie day for us, so here’s a quick roundup on the Olympics, hijab, radical Muslims, and feet.

Enjoy!

1) Right now in London 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries are competing in 30 Olympic venues. Over 2,000 of those amazing athletes are Muslim — that’s a lot of people to profile (pun intended). So the media is making sure we at least know about the hijabis. And not just the athletes. The referees too:

The dancers are dressed to titillate, and the players wear even less: bikinis that reveal every movement of their muscles as they dig and dive for the ball.

El Sergany does not need a referee’s platform to be noticed on a beach volleyball court.

No, of course not!! She wears hijab. So let’s all stare at her, other her, pit women against each other by comparing a religious dress to bikinis, sensationalize what one woman considers normal, and ironically objectify her by turning Amina El Sergany into an Islamic standard.

Okay, sensational journalism aside, it’s a nice article with Amina saying she hopes her hijab encourages women from all cultures to take up the sport. That sport being BEACH VOLLEYBALL!

Score one for freedom!

So the media might be focusing only on the hijabis. I’m sure you’ve heard that Judoka Wojdan Shaherkani made Olympic history for being the first Saudi female to compete in the Games, and that sprinter Noor Al-Malki missed her chance at Olympic history when she injured herself in a 100m heat. But did you know that Souad Ait Salem came 37th in the Women’s Marathon Final — which is fantastic, and that Halima Hachlaf ran her season’s best time in the women’s 800m semi-finals?

If it’s all about celebrating Muslim women, let’s give a moment to the non-hijabi athletes too.

Oh, and did you catch Mo(hammad) Farah go into sujuud after he won the 10,000m? Fantastic! A Muslim won Gold for Team GB. Has anyone made a big deal about this? Must be his lack of hijab.

2) Rapid-fire: And now for something completely different:

  • VICE publishes I Walked Around in a Burqa All Day (and I’m not Muslim) in their fashion section. Point and laugh at a cultural tourist while she walks around NYC in niqab pretending to be some kind of Muslim from some kind of far away land. Check out the brilliant and informed comment section telling the author how offensive and Orientalist the stunt was.
  • Oh, did you know that Muslims have diverse beliefs? It’s true. Some Muslims are Atheists, Bhu-mus, Su-shis, Sufis, Bohras, Feminists, Traditionalists, Salaafis, Whovians, Wahaabis, Trekkies, Qur’anists, and more! Really, Muslims shouldn’t be defined by what’s on (or not on) our heads, by how many times we pray (or don’t pray) a day, or whether or not we keep kosher — and now there’s a US study telling us just that. Thanks.

3) Finally for everyone interested in women’s prayer and prayer spaces, or anyone with a foot fetish — I give you the Movable Mosque.

Check out more at Deena’s fantastic photo blog.

Muslim street preacher Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. (Terry Davidson/Toronto Sun)

So what is the media obsession with Muslims? Why is there such a need to discuss what’s under our burqas, or better yet, use ridiculous veil puns when speaking about Islam, Islamic law, Women in Islam, countries like Dubai or Iran, and of course, hijab?  From fake fatwas on phallic vegetables to the threat of creeping shari’ah coming soon to a McDonald’s near you — whatever the story, the Media is sure to get a lot of play from Muslims.

Especially if they’re able to ridicule Muslims as a community, make underhanded racist comments, depreciate Islamic religious practices or promote xenophobic fear mongering.

Take for example the recent, unfortunate remarks made by Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana. This 33-year old convert and street preacher wrote an email to the Toronto Sun suggesting that Canadian lawmakers should, “introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively in the streets” in order to “help prevent sexual assaults from happening in the future.” Naturally, The Sun News Network sensed a winner and constructed a handful of articles, three expert video interviews, mirror articles in Canada’s major Sun-affiliated cities, and a HuffPo spot out of some guy’s random, illogical thoughts.

Within 24 hours, the Toronto Sun had interviews with Atangana — complete with delicious sound bites of him saying that women who dress provocatively are always at risk for rape, and that the Muslim women’s dress should be used as a model for protection. Because you know, blame for rape and sexual assault lies directly with the victim, not the perpetrator. And wearing modest clothing is going to magically protect you. Right.

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I was standing in my closet, tears rolling down my face, a pile of clothes at my feet when I admitted something I thought would never come out of my mouth: I HATE hijab.

Moments earlier I was pouting and stomping around the apartment — feeling frumpy and ridiculously hot in a winter sweater. The Hubby, sensing that something was wrong, asked why on earth I was dressed for the second ice age when it was a balmy 30C outside. When I groaned that it was the only thing that fit my postpartum body, was breastfeeding accessible, AND comfortable enough to wear with the baby in a sling, he took me by the hand and proceeded to go through all of my clothes.

Unfortunately, the Hubby could not have known that a torrent of hormones and insecurities let loose by baby-blues and a negative body image was bubbling up inside me, just waiting for an excuse to explode.

He handed me a black nursing top: Too tight. It’s not hijabi enough.
A long blouse: I.am.too.FAT now. It won’t close over my chest.
My favourite cap-sleeve patterned shirt: I can’t! I have to wear a long sleeve shirt underneath to hijabify it — and then it won’t be breastfeeding accessible!

That’s when I stamped my feet and erupted into tears. It was a full-on adult tantrum — and I took all of my frustrations out on hijab.

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I cannot express how much I ardently admire the work of Nahida from the Fatal Feminist. So I was overjoyed when she agreed to write for our month of guest posts. Not only is she an amazing and feisty author:

Nahida is an American Muslim feminist who frequently disagrees with the positions of male scholars, including but not limited to the rightful and valid dynamics of feminism in Islam, the certification of halaal meat requiring actual well-treatment of animals and not just ritual slaughter, and the permissibility of eating mermaids. She writes about sound Quranic exegesis as well as spectacular women in Islamic history, criticizes logical fallacies evident in male interpretations, and engages in other such scary feminist activities. She returns the salaams of parrots.

So please join me in welcoming the fantastic Nahida as she shares her thoughts on the erosion of “the feminine” in Islamic discourse and women’s religious right to reclaim their space.


Friday before last, I attended jummah prayer at the mosque, and I wore curlers underneath my hi’jab, because I had just raced there after finals and had barely had enough time to apply my red lipstick (a personal employment of verse 7:31), and why not save some time? Needless to say, it was very obvious I was attending the khutbah while simultaneously curling my hair, and I looked badass, like a malformed dinosaur. Because I have lots and lots of hair, the hi’jab did wonders forcing it to hold together the way I had “arranged” when usually there isn’t enough surface area on my head for curlers wrapped with piles and piles of hair. Before we started one of my friends took one glance at my ginormous, lumpy hi’jab and burst into laughter. “WORST case of hi’jab stuffing EVER!”

I propped myself up against the wall and sat there smugly with a sideways smile. Soon I would be transformed into some sort of elevated reverie of reflection—that usual awed, heart-struck jummah feeling—but for the moment, in a different way, I felt strangely feminine, and peculiarly close to God. And it was not just because my blasphemously high hi’jab was closer to heaven.

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A few weeks ago, the very bubbly and intelligent Kate at Imperfectkate introduced herself to me and told me about a really interesting post series happening on her blog. Called Modesty Monday, this series aims to explore different perspectives about modesty from all kinds of women. Naturally, I was honoured when she asked me to write a piece.

So if you’re looking for me, I’m over at Kate’s place (I’m not cheating on you, I swear. I’ll be updating shortly!)


“Oh I love your scarf! It looks so delicate and feminine. Where are you from?” The woman fingered the lace dripping from my hijab before absentmindedly feeling the fabric by rubbing my shoulder. Wide-eyed, I plastered a smile to my face and thanked her – suppressing the urge to shudder at her unwanted touch.

A week later I took a shortcut through an alleyway between some apartments and as he passed me, a man greedily looked me up and down and muttered, “beautiful.” This time I did shudder.

I was completely covered according to one standard of Islamic dress – exposing only my face and my hands. The rest of me was hidden behind a modest black hijab, an ankle length, flowing skirt and a baggy, long-sleeved tunic. Not one curve or strand of hair was exposed.

Regardless, I had drawn unwanted gazes. I was exotified and objectified.

Prior to converting to Islam, I likely would have welcomed the attention – drawing sexual empowerment from people desiring or praising my body. I loved dressing provocatively, with tight and flattering clothing. The attention was thrilling and I often based my self-worth on how others viewed me and not how I felt about myself.

Eventually, Islam filled this emptiness (though my reasons for converting are certainly more complex than just dealing with a fragile self-esteem and body image), and I found solace in the religion’s moral guidance regarding modesty.

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On Friday, myself and two friends sat in a Starbucks in the centre of downtown Toronto sipping chai lattes and fruit smoothies. We were debriefing and venting about all manner of subject relating to the discerning Muslim feminist: mixed-gender prayer, hijab, work, hijab, school, hijab, hipster Muslims, hijab, single Muslim women as the walking dead,  and why-on-earth-do-Muslim-woman-HAVE-to-talk-about-hijab-all-the-freaking-time, or are-our-bodies-nature-sexuality-piety-and-relationship-to-God-REALLY-reduced-to-THIS?

When suddenly, Privilege Denying Dude decided to pay his respects.

“Are you Muslim?”

We looked up, slightly perturbed at being disrupted by a stranger who decided to interrupt two hijabis and a fabulous, modest Muslimah in the midst of solving the problem of hijab. We stared at him for two heartbeats longer than necessary — because no one really wanted to open the floodgates by misinterpreting the intent of his question. Is he asking because his daughter just converted? Is he asking because he’s curious about Islam? Is he asking because he wants to harass us?

Someone eventually (and with much suspicion) said, “Yeeessssss…” At which he motioned at me and said, “Is she?”

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Pieces of tobacco sat bitterly on the tip of my tongue. I looked down at my shaking hand to see that the filter of my cigarette was broken and hanging by a sliver of paper – and it dawned on me that I must have taken a drag after I fell. That’s when I saw the new rough patches along the cuffs of my black leather jacket and the pieces of gravel sticking into my bleeding palms.

I fell. But was I pushed? Kicked? Hit? Yes, I was hit with enough force to throw me to the pavement. My hands shot out to brace myself against the impact – but the seconds before were a blank slate. I couldn’t remember. All I knew was that I was lying face down in a parking lot staring at a broken cigarette.

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