Happy weekend everyone, and hello from Kuwait!

My apologies for not posting as frequently this past week — Ivy and I are both suffering from terrible colds and the jet lag took a number on all of us. I’ve also been jettisoned into a Christmas wedding season — so there are about a million and one wedding functions to attend over the next two weeks. But I’ll be posting regularly soon enough insha’Allah. I mean, how can I not blog about the Second Cup, Canadian coffee chain now serving sheesha with their signature caramel corretto?

So to start off, this week’s roundup has a bunch of Muslims celebrating Christmas, a bunch of Muslims not celebrating Christmas, niqab, and some pious sexy eye-candy for your stockings.

Enjoy!

Ramadan and Trudeau. The first look is halal (and never ends with these two).

Trudeau and Ramadan. Don’t worry, the first look is halal (except when it’s a sultry “come hither” look).

UPDATED 1) It’s one of North America’s largest and hottest celebrations of traditional Islamic knowledge — where the meeting of grand religious minds charge the air with their electric personae, where fanbois swoon over “salaaming” their personal sheikh heroes and fangurrls throw their hijabs on stage, hoping for just one raised eyebrow from the magnificent Dr. Tariq Ramadan.

Yes, it’s the return of the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto! And it’s about to get hotter. Justin Trudeau addressed the audience as a part of a little “political outreach” to the Muslim community. *squee!*

Now, you can’t have a high profile Liberal show up at a Muslim conference without having a little controversy. According to the HuffPo, mainstream media picked up complaints about Trudeau’s participation from a few anti-Islamic websites. Complaints concerning allegations that one of the largest conference sponsors has ties to Hamas. *cue dramatic music*

So in response, the sponsor — a previously registered charity now in appeals over alleged fraud – pulled out of the conference. Why the controversy you ask? Conference spokeswoman Fariha Ahmad explains:

Unfortunately, (such criticism) will always exist and I think the idea of a large congregation of Muslims gathering is often attached with speculation over the last decade or so. There’s been wide speculation about whether or not Muslims are all terrorists… That’s also what the media has been portraying.

In his speech Trudeau used the controversy to his advantage, firing back at critics by standing against fear and prejudice like the superhero he is.

trudeau

High-five!

Well I truly hope that this year’s conference is beneficial to all in increasing knowledge, deen and imaan. I’ve always enjoyed the RIS experience and would love to live vicariously through anyone who is attending. Let me know!

muslim santa2) Who says Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas?

In an absolutely lovely display of interfaith celebration, Muslim housing groups in East London held a Christmas party for hundreds of their non-Muslim neighbours.

According to the East London Advisor, the local authority’s housing wing, Tower Hamlets Homes, asked families on housing estates in the east end to help organise parties to improve interfaith understanding.

Earlier this year, groups run by non-Muslims organised three fantastic Eid parties — and this week, Muslim-run groups returned the favour with some Christmas pudding, reindeer games and Santa!

C’mon, with that beard, we all know Santa is really a Muslim.

veils

Really Maclean’s? Really??

3) Veils. Who are we to judge indeed?

According to a recent Globe and Mail headline it sounds like veils are on their way out as, “Witness may be required to remove niqab while testifying in court” — or in other words, words that can be found when reading the article, witnesses CAN wear their niqab in court. It just depends. And there hasn’t been an actual case example either way. Yet.

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Muslim witnesses may be required to remove their niqab to testify depending on the seriousness of the case and the sincerity of their religious belief. Answering why the Supreme Court did not rule strictly for or against the niqab for witnesses, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin explained that:

An extreme approach that would always require the witness to remove her niqab while testifying, or one that would never do so, is untenable. The answer lies in a just and proportionate balance between freedom of religion and trial fairness, based on the particular case before the court.

According to the article, this ruling means a halted sexual assault trial can now resume — as soon as the trial judge assesses the complainant’s request to testify against her alleged abuser while wearing her niqab. While I’m happy to hear that niqabi rights to religious expression will hopefully be upheld, this will not be the last we hear about niqab in the courts.

And if the complainant is ordered to remove her veil during the sexual assault trial, I really hope her face isn’t splashed all over the evening news.

4) Must-read rapid-fire:

  • Did you hear the one about the Muslim Tea Party Crasher? Learn all about Libertarian Islam as Tea Partying Muslim work to educate political Conservatives on the real meaning of shari’a and the dangers of the anti-Muslim movement!
  • And across the pond, Muslims joined Christians in organising a Christmas food drive. Together St. John the Divine Catholic Church and the London Muslim Mosque gathered food for over 100 families. As Muslim organizer, Ali D. Chahbar said, “To us, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of brotherly love, and why wouldn’t we want to be a part of it?”

5) Finally, if you haven’t already heard it, here’s the latest viral video. It’s supposedly this year’s top Christmas tune — and with over 6 million views, they just might be right!

According to the YouTube video write-up, Muhammad Shahid Nazir moved to London’s East End from Pakistan and started working on a market stall selling fish. His trader’s call, “Have-a, have-a look, one pound fish. Very, very good, very, very cheap, one pound fish” has become the stuff of legend.

Oh baby it’s cold outside — so grab some tea and a “holiday” cookie and warm up to the weekly Muslim roundup.

We’ve got sexy Muslim women, tones of happy hijab stories, and a bunch of Muslim Christmas cheer.

Enjoy!

1) Sounding like it just rolled off the Sex in the City 2  screenplay, the National Post reports on the bOOming lingerie market in Muslim countries.

Behind their more modest street clothes, many women in Arab countries apparently are wearing North American lingerie…

Apparently Muslim women like sex too. And coffee. Shopping. High heels. Food. Chocolate. A nice back rub. Hats. Strawberries and Cream. And those cute finger sandwiches you get only at baby showers. How quaint!

Like Second Cup and Tim Horton’s, Canadian company La Vie en Rose has successfully broken into the Middle Eastern and North African markets — reporting that at least 90% of their Canadian collection is well-accepted in these regions.

Catching a quote from Alia Hogben, Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, the piece ends with:

There’s a common misconception that Muslim women aren’t fashionable or interested in glamorous clothing. The demand for lingerie likely was always there, particularly in the wealthier Arab countries… Just because women cover up in public on the street doesn’t mean that they don’t dress up spectacularly underneath those clothes.

Well said Alia. Well said. In fact, perhaps they don’t dress at all…! Cheeky!

2) Hijab rapid-fire:

3) Fox reports on a man now facing jail time in France for physically assaulting a female nurse who removed his wife’s face veil during an emergency C-section. The husband was first banned from the delivery room after he called the midwife a “rapist” for performing a routine exam — and threatened his wife with divorce when she told him to chillax. He was later arrested when he broke down the door to the operating room and punched a nurse in the face when she removed his wife’s niqab.

He’s been quoted as saying that:

…seeing his wife’s veil lifted in front of a male health worker was like seeing her “bare-chested” in front of another man.

But having her belly exposed and putting his hands inside her body to cut open her womb to save the life of his son and wife is a-OK. Just don’t look at her face.

Poor fellow was probably just a little nervous attending the birth and all that jazz.

4) A Muslim Christmas rapid-fire:

5) Finally, it can’t be Christmas without a little holiday message. Almost everyone on my Facebook list has posted this video — so it must be good.

When I was young, one of the things I looked forward to the most during Christmas was opening the doors to my Advent calendar.

My favourite calendars were the ones without chocolate — traditional European-styled posters, with small, thin doors that revealed simple pictures. There was something magical about finding the door, and trying to guess if the surprise-of-the-day was a colourful candy cane, a wooden horse or a gingerbread cookie.

Every year I would stare at the picturesque winter scene for hours imagining myself playing with the glistening snow and the sleigh-riding children.  I would wipe my hands across the Christmas star and carry the glitter on my hands all day long.

While I know many Lutherans and Christians recognise the Advent as having a religious significance — counting down to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the birth of their Lord — for us it became a way to simply count down the days to Christmas Eve. As a non-practicing, but fiercely loyal Lutheran, celebrating Advent and meeting for tea and lighting a candle every Sunday in December was my mother’s way of making Christmas special for me while hanging on to her German heritage and raising me in Canada.

It was such a lovely and warm childhood memory, and creative way to make the holiday “festive” that I made Eryn an “advent calendar” for Ramadan, counting down to ‘Eid.

It just made sense to retain a part of my culture in order to help make a Muslim celebration extra special — especially being a religious minority competing with the likes of Christmas.

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Maryam couldn’t remember how long she had felt the pains. All she knew was that they were coming more frequently, growing in intensity and there was no one around to help her.

In a moment’s respite, she squatted and leaned her forehead against a boulder. Firm and cool, the rock allowed her to rest as she stretched her back and released some of the pressure in her pelvis. When she lifted her head, she was surprised at the drops of sweat darkening the boulder’s dusty face. Maryam looked around. The valley was eclectic, with patches of firm, tan-coloured sand pans outlined by sharp gravel and bordered by the rocky hills. A solitary palm tree stood dead before her — it’s weeping leaves collapsed downward, forbidding shade to the rock-bed below. Dried thistle peppered the hill outcroppings, adding a splash of vibrant purple colour to a landscape that should only hold browns and grays. The sun was low overhead, casting long, cool shadows across the valley floor. For that she was thankful.

A few days prior, Maryam had set out to the East, away from her community. She had felt her swollen belly becoming tight more frequently and the baby’s movements slowed. Something within her told her it was time to move. Hiding the pregnancy had been easier than she expected — especially within the confines of the covenant. Flowing robes took care of her small, swollen belly and she took strips of pleated wool to bind her breasts as they grew larger. Zacharias never questioned her. He wouldn’t have. He just made sure she was well taken care of — that she completed her studies and had enough to eat and drink.

Remembering his absentmindedness over the past few months Maryam had to laugh. As an old man, he was an unexpected new father, and often forgot his place as he gushed over the wonders of his infant and finding joy in every sleepless hour, cry and gurgle.  Everyone spoke of the miraculousness of how his barren wife had given birth to a healthy son. Maryam smiled, recalling baby Yahya’s shock of curly, black hair and wondered if her baby would have the same.

The pressure started to build and she winced, fearing she would be unable to stop the urge to push again. Breathing rapidly, she tried to ignore the workings of her body — but her mind was overruled and her muscles contracted, forcing the baby down. This time the pressure lasted longer and she felt fire cutting between her legs. Fear overwhelmed her, and Maryam stood up suddenly to run away from it all.

Lightheaded and disoriented with pain she stumbled into the palm tree. Her body shook uncontrollably and she thought she heard a voice screaming in the distance. But as suddenly as it came, the pain subsided. She shivered and covered her mouth, realizing the scream came from her.  Maryam longed for water, for a cool, caring touch to wipe her forehead. She needed to hold her mother’s strong hand, not the rough calluses of a dead tree. She started to cry.

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The Hubby and I exchange fake gifts under a Christmas tree in a Kuwaiti mall, 2006

The Hubby and I faking a gift exchange in a Kuwaiti mall.

Brilliant, multi-coloured lights flash from storefront windows; giant wreaths, shining silver faux icicles and cartoonish depictions of Santa hang low from mall ceilings; giant 15-foot Christmas trees piled high with elaborate, wrapped boxes line entrance corridors; ready-made, delectable Christmas cookies and chocolates intoxicate passers-by with their sweet, comforting smell, and the latest secular Christmas pop tunes pour out from Starbucks and other trendy hot-spots. People crowd the malls looking for the perfect gift or are drawn by the holiday deals. Babies are enthralled by the lights and kids run around with Santa hats. The Christmas spirit is running high, and is only briefly interrupted by the call to prayer. It’s Christmas in Kuwait.

I have to admit, my first trip to Kuwait to meet the in-laws was a cultural shock on many levels. Forget about meeting an extended family so large that after years of marriage, close relatives I have never heard of are still coming out of the woodwork. Never mind the joys of eating halaal McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway and finding a mosque on every street corner. Let’s ignore my blundering attempts to connect to my family by speaking a Yemeni dialect (poorly) and wowing them with my bhangra dance moves (much better). What shocked me the most was finding a Muslim country that celebrated Christmas — at least, the secular, consumer culture aspect of the holiday season.

Especially since I believed Muslims don’t, cannot, and will not celebrate Christmas.

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This is not the post I want to be writing right now, as I was hoping to work on my Christmas post. But I also don’t have much to say about this — the campaign speaks for itself and there have been excellent comments left on this blog recently regarding how incredibly ridiculous it is for Muslims to sell the beauty of Islam by pointing out the evils in the West.

Because let me say it again: Muslims rape, rave, sin, abuse the innocent, murder their daughters, abuse substances, are raging drunks, traffic women and children, encourage and participate in child marriages (resulting in teenage pregnancies), vandalize, destroy world heritage sites, beat their wives, mutilate women, overlook those in need, and commit terrible, terrible acts of violence — and use Islam to justify these acts.

Yes, Islam encourages the institutions of family, marriage, and upholds the rights, honour, and dignity of women, children and men — and the majority are beautiful, wonderful, sincere, humble, kind, giving, honourable, patriotic, and self-sacrificing Muslims.

We do not need to sell out the beauty in Islam by pointing out perceived evils in one community and ignoring the evils in our own.

Until the Dr. Who Christmas Special.

So to tide us all over, here’s some tree decorating.

eryn and Omi picking a treeEryn and Omi choosing the perfect tannenbaum.

Enchanted by the lightsEnchanted by the lights.

Decorator extraordinaireDecorator extraordinaire.

I absolutely love the smell of real pine.

It’s the *facepalm* edition of the roundup! I’ve thrown in a dash of *headdesk,* and a smattering of Muslim Christmas love. Enjoy!

Again, if you come across anything of interest regarding Islam, Muslim women or Muslims in general and would like me to review it, answer questions, or just comment on it here, flip it to me via: w00dturtl3 {at} gmail {dot} com.

  • Corrections Canada just hired the first practicing female Muslim prison guard!  In order to accommodate the recruit’s special religious and cultural requirements, she will be permitted to wear long sleeves, have time off to complete her daily prayers, and will wear a specially designed hijab that will come off easily if an inmate attempts to use it to gain physical control over her.  While Corrections is being applauded for their religious accommodations, the Muslim Canadian Congress is criticizing these allowances, calling them, “apologist,” “politically correct,” and “nonsense.” MCC vice-president Salma Siddiqui insists that,

    religious faith should not be a factor on-the-job for any employee who chooses the profession of a correctional officer. “I don’t think there should be any emphasis on Muslim or not,” she told QMI Agency. “They are being Canadian and politically correct. We do not have to live with that guilt.”

    Siddiqui said there is no religious requirement to cover one’s head – that it is the “uniform” of the Muslim brotherhood and international Islamist movement – and worries it may fuel rising concerns about the “penetration” of Islamist ideology into society.

    Why did Siddiqui focus on the Brotherhood? Given there are some Egyptian female police officers who wear a uniform that may include a matching hijab, I suppose in some kind of weird parallel universe, this means hijab is the “uniform” of the Muslim Brotherhood. But only for correctional officers. No, only for female correctional officers — because no publicized accusations have been ever made of bearded, male Muslim correctional officers who use a portion of their break to pray while on duty.

    I wish it were that brilliant of an argument, but really, the MCC is simply saying that hijab is the “uniform” of islamist, conservative, traditional Islam — and that one woman will have the power to funnel islamist ideology through our corrections system and turn Canada into the next Islamic Caliphate.  You go girl. This has nothing to do with your dedication to faith or the accommodations of an understanding employer.  It has everything to do with your hijab being a symbol of terrorism.

  • In France, the daughter of French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is under fire for comparing Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France. Like many mosques throughout the world, Fridays in Lyon get pretty packed. It’s difficult to accommodate so many people coming with their families to listen to the sermon, pray, meet and greet and maybe even have a falafel or two — so often during the average 7 minute prayer, people have to pray outside the mosque. Le Pen feels that when Muslims invade the streets with their rugs, they’re just as bad as the Nazis who marched through the Arc de Triomphe.
  • “For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory,” she said at the gathering in Lyon.

    “There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents.”

  • Wondering what to give your non-Muslim neighbours this Christmas? How about giving them the gift of Islamic knowledge! Haroon Moghul provides a comprehensive list of must-have books about Islam and Muslims guaranteed to bring a smile on Christmas morning.
  • When misinformation on Islam, Muslims, and America’s relationships to the Muslim-majority world is in oversupply, we need relevant and useful information. Conversations about Islam shape local, regional, and global affairs: to not know about Islam is to be left out of issues that deeply affect all of us.

  • And finally, after hearing the claim that 10% of Muslims are terrorists, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria decides to take conservative pundit, Glen Beck, to school on his math skills.

santa and two very terrified children.It’s that time of year! The stores are playing holiday music. Garlands, lights and decorations hang from ceilings. And Santa arrives in almost every major mall, ready to bring joy and laughter to parents and children of all ages.

Unless you’re terrified of him.

I have one picture of myself at age 3 with Santa. My face is blank and my hands are clenched in fists that scream, “why have you left me with this strange man mommy?” Santa even visited my house one year. My neighbour dressed up in red and white and brought over a sack of presents on Christmas Eve. I don’t think I moved an inch or made a noise. I was simply frozen with fear.

A few years later, my best friend Valerie convinced me to come with her to the mall to get a free candy cane from the jolly old elf himself.  When it came time to go up to his center court, my face grew hot and my heart threatened to burst from my chest.  So I hid behind an escalator while she greeted and chatted up Santa.

He was nice and gave her an extra candy cane just for me.

Now that it’s cold outside, we’ve been spending more time at the mall.  Each day that we go, I check out Santa’s Royal Court.  It’s only mid-December and already there are massive line ups filled with genuinely excited children, glum tweens who’d rather be shopping, teenagers excited for free candy and wonderfully cute babies — all waiting on pins and needles to sit on Santa’s lap.  Occasionally, there’s a piercing shriek from a baby (or two) who after standing in a boring line for hours, being stuck in uncomfortable formal clothes, having a well-intentioned parent brush their hair again, and again, and again, is sick of the strange elves making goofy-not-really-funny-faces, finally just loses it when placed upon a stranger’s lap.

Of course there are many wonderful smile-filled pictures and memories with the mall Santa. But sometimes it’s overkill, and parents desperate for a smiling photo will keep that baby howling on this stranger’s lap for far too long.  Every year I’m asked, why do parents do this to their children?

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