So while people lost their minds over a woman in hijab singing America the Beautiful in a Coke-a-Cola commercial, and the Islamic Monthly laid out a fantastic smack-down on why the satirical Hijab4Men should make you uncomfortable (hint: because infantalizing ANYONE on the basis of faith or in the name of piety sucks), and while hijab tourism, appropriation and World Hijab Day came and went with a fabulous counter hashtag, #NoToHijabAppropriation — I made a hijab tutorial.

Yes, after many requests I’ve joined the Legion of YouTubers and vloggers who primp and fuss and fantastically show off their many talents in the art of scarf tying — by making a “modest” (haha) video on how to do a turban twist. It took about 15 minutes to pull together, and while I’d love to include more cut scenes, animated graphics and guest spots — I may not be cut out for the world of vlogging.

In fact, you might get more out of the link drop above.

Enjoy!

So. This happened.

chrisH

It was a last minute invite to the FFWD Advertising Week conference in Toronto. Commander Chris Hadfield — you know, the first Canadian to walk in space and command the International Space Station — the first astronaut to harness the world of Social and humanize the space program by singing with 70,000 Canadian children from space and tweeting gorgeous pictures of the Earth — you know, the guy who paid eight Euros for the rights to Bowie’s iconic song to make this viral video:

He was a keynote speaker and I luckily noticed him sneaking a peak at one of the early sessions. I took the opportunity to grab a picture and signature for Eryn. It was, pretty cool to say the least. He’s a super nice guy and loved talking about his kids, my kids and didn’t seem to mind the intrusion.

Then this happened:

yuna

Last night I joined a hugely diverse mix of really awesome funk-inspired, hispter, Muslim, indie Torontonians in welcoming YUNA to Toronto for the first time ever.

She was an absolute Queen. Totally fierce, sweet and obviously in love with performing for her fans. We all had such a great time. And she played my current favourite song, Mountains:

Is it even possible that it sounded better live? She puts so much emotion into her performances. It was a true pleasure to experience.

I even got to meet a few readers — which is always a really big treat for me. Connecting in real life is not only encouraging but makes me feel even closer to the blog and my audience. I always write to you from my head and my heart — like I’m writing letters to friends. So having the opportunity to share pictures of the girls, handshakes and hugs in the flesh is completely mind-blowing.

Thanks to everyone who introduced themselves. You’ve made my year!

This is the third post in my ongoing series on the media stereotyping of Muslim women.

There are amazing media makers in the Muslim blogosphere and this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the fabulous people out there challenging stereotypes. In fact, I’ve had to split this post into two in order to include everyone. Stay tuned for Part II.

If you have a favourite example that’s not represented here, please share it in the comments below!   


Muslim women and mothers are creating online spaces to challenge popular, negative stereotypes and to celebrate their empowerment. Intentionally or not, they’re propagating dialogue with authentic voices — encouraging the creation of positive narratives of Muslim women, for themselves and their families.

My own work in this area began three years ago — when I was inspired to start this blog on Muslim feminism and motherhood after breastfeeding Eryn at the mosque.

barrier

A two year old Eryn looking over the barrier at the ISNA mosque.

My first daughter was born with a very persistent, demanding nursing attitude. From day one, she would hit my breast, cough and sputter, screech and complain until the flow was to her liking. Needless to say, struggling with her kept me from nursing in public for months.

Until the day we needed to take a pit stop at a local mosque.

Men and women traditionally pray separately in a shared prayer hall — but over the past 30 years, barrier use across North America has increased dramatically, with 72% of Canadian mosques erecting some kind of partition — or relegating the women’s prayer space to a separate room, like a balcony or basement.

The reasons are complicated, ranging from cultural expectations, personal preference, to religious conservatism.

Connected to the rise of the barrier, unfortunately, is the gradual exclusion of women from the mosque and the creation of hostile spaces.

So there I was, the only woman in attendance during the afternoon prayer, sitting behind a thick curtain with a room full of men on the other side. The mosque was so silent you could hear a pin drop — and that’s when my daughter wanted to nurse.

Loudly.

And while she coughed, and sputtered — slurped and gurgled for everyone to hear, I simultaneously got over my fear of nursing in public, and embraced the moment as a feminist act. I may have been excluded and segregated from the main prayer hall — but oh yes, my presence was impossible to ignore.

I felt it was important to take issues like this online to create and join spaces to discuss misogyny and patriarchy found in some of our communities. To share experiences and address ambiguities regarding women’s roles in Islam from within and without.

Because yes, while the media loves to paint a picture of the oppressed, covered Muslim woman, it is over-simplified. Muslim women are not defined — or oppressed — by what they wear on their head. The hijab is not the source of women’s oppression.

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Recently, Eryn has been asking a lot of questions about God, heaven, and death. I think it’s her way of trying to put together some concepts that are floating around her periphery — God lives everywhere and is in everything, people, plants and animals die, and where we go after death.

We’ve had some pretty interesting discussions and I was lucky to catch one on audio. So here’s the second installment of our unofficial “podcast.” Ivy is having her hair dried with a hairdryer so there’s a little background noise — and I’m at the stove making pancakes. Yes, I do indeed drop one while flipping it in the air and you can hear me waffling trying to answer some of her amazing questions:

Why are we going back to heaven?

How did God make us?

Won’t we miss our home because heaven is a long ways away?

Can you ask God if he can take all of the people to Queen’s Land?

It’s quite the apt weekend snapshot of the wood turtle homestead, without all of the usual chaos.

Fer sure, eh?

Enjoy!

This is the second post in my series on the media stereotyping of Muslim women.

While some media argue that (identifiable) Muslim women are more likely to suffer Islamophobic attacks than men, I also recognize that Muslim men and non-Muslim men are also recipients of racial and anti-Muslim violence.

This post looks specifically at Gendered Islamophobia as targeted toward mothers and their families.


talk2

Before she was even old enough to speak, I heard many well-intentioned but offensive comments from complete strangers, asking if I would ever force the hijab onto my daughters. As if it’s a given assumption that Muslim mothers and families routinely oppress their daughters into adopting a style of religious dress.

When it is not a piece of cloth that oppresses women, but discrimination, exploitation, inequality, domestic violence, and religiously justified misogyny.

Issues that many people face, not just Muslim women alone.

But when demonized images of Muslim women and mothers are conflated with negative media stereotypes and politicized symbols associated with the veil, it further encourages a climate of Gendered Islamophobia: Where because women in headscarves are immediately identifiable as representing Islam, they may experience deliberate gender-based violence, harassment or prejudice.

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Menstruation mani!

Monthly mani with some New Year’s pizzazz!

So it’s the first full week of the New Year — and while I don’t tend to make resolutions, if I had made any of the traditional ones, I would’ve broken them all.

We started the weekend with oven baked spicy fries and a peanut butter pie. PEANUT BUTTER PIE. That’s over a cup of peanut butter, icing sugar and whipping cream. With chocolate sauce. Amazing. Then two rounds of double chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and my devilishly cheesy, cheese pasta bake.

yum

Elderberry and mint cordial with raspberries.

We were stuck indoors all day Sunday, so we entertained ourselves by making infused water. I let the girls choose their veggies and fruit combinations and helped them cut up and then mix up some concoctions. After two hours in the fridge, we had a water tasting competition to see who came up with the best mix. Eryn’s favourite was cucumber, apple and mint — Ivy was more partial to blueberry, strawberry, lemon and mint — while I’m always a sucker for elderberry.

asdasdas

“I’m going by myself!”

Saturday had glorious sunshine, so I took Eryn skating for the first time. She had such a blast and soon had me lacing up so I could zoom along with her. It’s totally amazing subhan’Allah, that after 25 years I was still pretty good on the ice. I expected to be wobbly — but was surprised at how easily everything came back to me. Eryn was pretty amazing too.

She fell plenty of times but loved every second.

Tai Chi...

Learning from the pro.

We couldn’t have celebrated the New Year without a trip to the grandparents. Which also included more pie, a halal turkey and all of the trimmings of course. And then when we could barely move anymore, a quick lesson in Tai Chi.

My father has been an instructor for almost 30 years – but he always says that babies know how to do the motions best. It’s an exercise of renewal and revitalization where the aim is to help the body become more youthful and healthy.

Maybe it’ll inspire me to get up early tomorrow and head back to the gym. Maybe.

Last summer I spoke at a conference about some of the media stereotyping of Muslim women and the consequences that negative images and Islamophobia have on Muslim women and their families.

Over a series of posts I’ll be sharing some of my research looking at the various ways Muslim women and mothers are presented by media, how this effects women’s relationships to their families, religion and Selves, and how women are in turn, responding to these stereotypes online. Using authentic voices to create spaces where their work and empowerment are celebrated — helping counter the overwhelming negative construction of “the Muslim woman.”


A screen capture of a Google image search for "Muslim women."

A screen capture of a Google image search for “Muslim women.”

She’s wrapped in black from head to toe — and at this angle, it looks like she can barely see through the veil covering her face as she holds tightly to her child.

Media love the image of the anonymous Muslim woman.

Through stock photography that overwhelmingly includes images of women in black niqab, media often homogenizes Muslim women — otheringobjectifying, sexualizing, and promoting the stereotype that they are victims in need of saving or aren’t “modern” enough to accept western values.

A quick Internet image search of the terms “Muslim women” will return hundreds of examples of women shrouded in black, covered by face veils. Which is extremely problematic given that not only is the hijab worn differently throughout the world — with myriad styles, designs and colours — but many Muslim women don’t wear the headscarf, and a minority wear the face veil.

veilsRegardless of lived experience, the Muslim woman is framed as submitting to oppression — her own voice silenced, her actions and agency restrained by misogyny and a patriarchal religion. The camera focuses specifically on the veil — fixated by what she is wearing and not on the woman herself. In some images, she is literally trapped behind the bars of her niqab.

Over the last decade we’ve seen increasing amounts of media coverage on Muslims, partially in response to the war on terror and ongoing military actions in Muslim countries, France’s burqa ban, the Arab Spring, Canada’s citizenship oath niqab ban, anti-shari’ah law legislation, growing Islamophobia, and Quebec’s recent debate on overt religious symbols, and the Charter of Secularism

Often, these images are taken from countries where the headscarf and face veil are worn as a cultural norm — but are applied uniformly whenever Islam, Muslims, or topics vaguely relating to Muslims are mentioned. They usually include women who aren’t remotely connected to the news story, or are actors modelling religious dress — constructing an image of the “authentic” Muslim woman.

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