Many of you will be familiar with some of my thoughts and sentiments in this post because I’ve shared glimpses of them here before. This piece was written late last week, and first posted on Muslimah Media Watch. Since then, I’ve had time to reflect.

To give this piece some more context: I feel at odds with myself. I find myself saying things like my heart has hardened — but will joyfully sing dhikr with Eryn and Ivy. Even though I go through the motions, I feel that something is missing. An essence or presence that should be there. A gap in the space around me. So perhaps I’m joyful because the song is familiar. Maybe I find fulfillment in entertaining the girls.

And this is disquieting.

A friend of my sister-in-law very suddenly and tragically passed away on Tuesday. This young woman has not left my thoughts since I heard the news. I think of her family, her sister, her mother — and I shatter. I make dua’ for her with more sincerity than I make for myself. And maybe I do so selfishly. Because there is no greater fear than the thought of harm coming to my children. And so thinking about her absence in this world, praying that her good deeds will endure and give her countless blessings, and asking for her entrance into the highest heaven — makes me reflect and imagine her family’s loss… and I ferociously beg God to protect my girls.

It bothers me that fear of losing them is my motivation. Because I might not otherwise speak to God.

The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely. [8:2]

heartIt doesn’t feel like Ramadan.

The excitement, the struggle of the fast, the security of knowing that every good action is an added blessing, exercising patience and feeling contentment when tested, the thrill of biting into a sweet date at iftar, the peace of sitting in the mosque and smelling the perfumed air, feeling my heart soar as I lay my forehead down to the ground to honour and beseech my Lord for forgiveness — it’s all been missing from my Ramadan experience this year.

I fast. I eat my date. I exercise considerable patience (even with two rambunctious girls jumping on me after commuting from a stressful day at work). I beseech. I go through the motions because that’s what I have to do. But I feel like a spiritual zombie.

We’re told by traditions, Internet articles, and admonitions related through mosque culture that Ramadan is a training ground for the rest of the year. That we should strive in our worship to gain more spiritual benefits, to use the fast as an opportunity for self-reflection, to develop our empathy, and nurture our spiritual selves. That if you only fast from food and water, your reward is only hunger and thirst.

But what if that’s all you can do?


In Oma's arms.

In Oma’s arms.

Play houses and train sets. Dress up clothes and books. Basket after basket of squeaking, rattling, sparkling, colourful baby toys line the walls of the weekly play group — begging to be claimed by tiny hands.

Several toddlers play with a box filled with dinosaurs and wooden blocks. An older boy runs around with a fireman’s helmet over his eyes and is quickly asked to sit down quietly for a circle time story, after he almost runs over a newly crawling baby.

Ivy swoops down the plastic slide for the eighth time. She smiles in quiet delight and claps proudly before climbing up again. Soon she points to the room set aside for snacks and gets ready for a water and Cheerio break.

Holding tight to her hand is Oma. An amazing woman who stresses over how much Ivy eats, who dutifully makes sure Ivy is warmly dressed, who beams with pride at how easily Ivy goes down for her afternoon nap. Oma. The wonderful non-Muslim grandparent who cooks halal food and mentions Allah’s name before Ivy takes a bite.

A superhero to both of my girls who makes sure they have a full week of fun activities and learning opportunities while I’m off at work. She loves them unconditionally, and claims she’s a better parent to them, than she was to me.

Suddenly, a hand reaches out and taps Oma on the shoulder.

“Where are you from?”


“Yes, you look like a German”

“And what exactly, is a German supposed to look like?” She asks sharply with fire and ice — in her German, sarcastic way.

“Oh. Haha. I suppose like you. Tall. Are you the babysitter?”

“No. I’m the grandmother.”

“What is her name?”


“Isn’t that a Muslim name?”


“Is she Muslim?”

“She and her sister, my daughter, and son-in-law are all Muslim.”

“How do you feel about that?”

How do I feel? I LOVE my daughter and my son-in-law. They have beautiful and wonderful children. I LOVE my grandchildren is how I feel about that.”


Happy weekend everyone — here’s a new roundup for your reading pleasure.

This week we’ve got a mix of serious and whimsical pieces — from honour killings and HIV in the Muslim community to awkward parental sex talks and female whirling dervishes.


1) Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, co-editors of the upcoming anthology Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, are just splashing all over the place with a little tongue-in-cheek and some wink-wink-nudge-nudge — if you know what I mean. In a fun piece on the HuffPo, these brilliant ladies expose the fact that due to his swarthy good looks and heroic treatment of Muslims in the Media, Muslim females everywhere are spending their nights with John Stewart from the Daily Show.

But can Muslim women really love Jon Stewart, who is — gasp! — Jewish? Honestly, that makes it even better. The Daily Show‘s Senior Muslim Correspondent Aasif Mandvi may be a suitable boy to bring home to our parents, but the element of forbidden fruit makes Jon all the sexier. (And, we suspect our moms might have a thing for Jon too.)

You damn well better believe it.

The HuffPo also published an exert from the above mentioned Love, InshAllah. Deliciously titled “The Birds, the Bees, and My Hole,” Zahra Noorbakhsh expresses how her mother’s straight-forward-but-not-so-helpful sex talk changed the way she related to her jeans and her male friends.

It’s a fantastically bitter-sweet story. Girl finishes high school and celebrates with a group of friends by going to the movies. One of those friends is a boy! Uh-oh! Watch the drama unfold when Mama finds out:

“Zahra, you have a hole. And for the rest of your life, men will want to put their penis in your hole. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, who is your ‘friend.’ Even at the movies, maman jaan, wherever—it does not change. Ri-anne seems like a very nice man, but he is a man. And all he wants is your hole. So, I will pick you up here at five o’clock. Have fun, maman jaan,” she said.

*shudder* I hated the sex talk I had with my dad. I think I blocked 98% of it out while he awkwardly talked about me not “giving IT away.” Ugh.

2) The Muslim community in Eastern Ontario has been shaken by the Shafia family murder case — where a husband, his second wife and son have been charged with the first degree murder of their three daughters and the husband’s first wife. When the trial first started there were plenty of mud-slinging debates if honour killings are actually a part or not a part of Islam.

It’s a horrific story and an enraging topic, so I’m glad to see people are making an effort to address violence in our community. Writing for the Gazette, Kingston Imam Sikander Hashmi unequivocally states that murder is off-limits in Islam:

For starters, murder is totally off-limits in Islam. Having an affair, a relationship or a boyfriend, not wearing the hijab, and so on – as dishonourable as these may be considered – are not cause for murder. Murder is prohibited to the severest degree and cannot be justified in any way, especially for girls who are under the care of their parents.

3) Joe Bradford, imam of the Islamic Center of North East Florida, blogged about an important consideration for many converts to Islam: changing your name to a more “Muslim” sounding name.

For many, “Muslim sounding” just means Arabizing your current name, or choosing a name based on an Islamic concept, Prophet, or Muslim historical figure. So Joseph becomes Yusuf. Katie becomes Khadija. I suppose you could use an English, French, German, <insert language choice here> translated name — but I’ve never met a Catherine who wanted to be called Faith. She usually chooses Iman.

In his post, Joe relates his struggles to adopt a “Muslim” name and then reclaim his parental-given name — and includes a couple of sweet anecdotes from his teachers along the way:

I appreciate that you have preserved your culture, your dress, your name; it is completely contradictory that we say Islam is a universal religion, and then tell people to choose Arabic names, eat Arabic food, and dress like Arabs. Sure we have regulations for dress, but that the how to wear, not the what to wear. Be you, that is the best example you can be; you’ll do more for Islam that way. Both Muslims and other faiths should know that we can have a person of knowledge named Joe; that is the universal nature of Islam.

Awwww! Love.

4) The HIV magazine Positively Aware has a brilliant article on a Chicago workshop which addressed “The Homophobia and Stigma Endured with being Gay, Muslim, and Living with HIV.” Three speakers relate their personal accounts and discuss the lack of HIV support in Muslim communities, experiencing Islamophobia or racism from non-Muslim service providers, and the need to  bring these stories to light.

It’s an uphill battle against an entrenched attitude that makes open discussion about homosexuality taboo among most Muslims. In fact, almost the same words of condemnation that appear in the Bible also appear in the Quran. Boyd acknowledges that the judgment and rejection can be “really psychologically damaging.” Just having someone with whom to talk about it openly is a great relief.

Read it. It’s important. Nobody in the community should have to hide.

5) And finally, what do you get when you put a 13th century Muslim mystic together with a bunch of contemporary women? A whirling colourful display of awesome dervishes!

In this edition of the roundup, we have non-Muslims pretending to be Muslim, reasons why non-Muslims want to be Muslim, and a frozen mosque.

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.

  • After travelling 4,000 kilometres over land and water, Inuvik’s Arctic mosque finally opened it’s doors for business on Wednesday.  Partly built in Manitoba, this “little mosque on the Tundra” will provide services for about 80 Muslims.
  • Journalist and International Studies junior, Cassidy Herrington dons the hijab for a month and lives to tell the tale!

    Before I left, several girls approached me. I will not forget what one girl said, “this gives me hope.” Another girl said, “I’m Muslim, and I couldn’t even do that.” It did not hit me until then, that this project would be more than covering my hair. I would be representing a community and a faith, and consequentially, I needed to be fully conscious of my actions while in hijab.

    An interesting piece. At one point she’s told that the hijab makes her more beautiful. And while I can’t disagree that hijab has excellent cheek-bone slimming qualities and that pious sexy is definitely “in” these days — we all know that it’s really Muslim double-speak for, “I hope you convert.” It’s a cute piece and it isn’t all about how the hijab oppresses. Yay Cassidy!

  • A Craigslist Ad in Toronto is asking Calgarians if we can swap Mayors. The first Muslim Mayor in Canada is popular indeed!  Next up, the first Muslim PM?
  • Sir Ben Kingsley plays an historic Muslim in this awesome film short about three school children who research the “Dark Ages” only to find the Golden Age of Muslim invention.  Made for the 1001 Inventions exhibition, you can catch the full film in NYC this coming December.

We’ve got some tongue-in-cheek, some brilliance and a little bit of slander in this edition of the roundup. 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.

  • There is yet. another. article about young Muslim hijabistas. This time it’s the Globe and Mail weighing in on the subject.

    The looks on mainstream fashion blogs expose a little too much t and a in Ali’s view. Instead, it’s Hijab Style and Hijab Revival that make her daily reading list. The latter sites feature a lot more than the standard-issue black cotton head scarves synonymous with Islam.

    Apparently the Globe and Mail has never been to Turkey, Kuwait, or really anywhere in the Gulf. And they’ve never picked up a copy of Muslim American Girls Magazine either. Maybe it’s big news that hijabis are bedazzling their hijabs and sharing style tips through blogs and social media, but really folks, fashionable Muslim ladies styling their hijabs is old news.

  • Via KABOBfest: A story that gained international attention, but that was largely ignored by the mainstream American Media, was the outreaching of Heartsong Church who welcomed their Muslim neighbours by putting them up in the church for evening prayers during Ramadan. Instead of putting up a sign that read, “Qur’an burning tonight at 8pm,” their sign read, “Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the Neighborhood.” Awww.
  • A smear campaign for candidates running in Toronto’s mayoral race backfired. Fliers with anti-gay sentiments for openly gay candidate, George Smitherman, were apparently directed toward Muslim voters. The reaction?

    The flyers were plastered over posters of city council candidate Rasal Rahman, a Muslim and Smitherman supporter, who said Sunday “I don’t like dirty politics. Islam may say homosexuality is not for Muslims, but it doesn’t say don’t vote for these people.”

‘Miss Fran’ from the children show the Romper Room has converted to Islam.

“I discovered a God who, the Qur’an tells me, is closer to me than my jugular vein, who runs to me when I walk toward Him, and who profoundly cares about my existence and my soul,’’ she said.

Pappert-Shannon said her family has been accepting of her decision, including her 80-year-old mother, a devout Roman Catholic.

But not all understand her decision. Pappert-Shannon said she’s saddened by the response of some non-Muslims who are distrustful of Islam and have made mention of terrorism to her.

Like the majority of Muslims, Pappert-Shannon said she rejects any Muslim person or group that commits terrorism and “commits such horrific and un-Islamic acts.”

“Islam is a religion that extols peace, justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. There is zero tolerance for terrorism and honour killings in Islam,’’ she said.

When I shared this news on Facebook, my brilliantly astute, beautiful and earthy aunt posed this question to me via e-mail:

K, when I try to tell my friends or aquaintances that “Islam is a religion that extols peace, justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. There is zero tolerance for terrorism and honour killings in Islam,’’ as the Romper Room lady said, they invariably refer to the acts of terrorism by Muslims. All I can ever come up with is “well, you know extremists in every walk of life” or words to that effect.
How can I explain both sides of the tablet? Is it the use of the word ‘muslim’? as a people/religion? Is Islam only muslim and are all muslims believers in Islam?

Here is my response: