Masha’Allah, I’ve been nominated for a Brass Crescent Award for Best Female Blogger.

Also, my most popular post, Only Women Bleed: menstruation and prayer in Islam was nominated under the Best Post or Series category.

I’m so very excited and if you agree with these humbling and mind-blowing nominations, then please go out and vote for me!

The Brass Crescent Awards is an annual awards ceremony to honour the best writers and thinkers of the emerging Muslim blogosphere. Nominations are taken from blog readers, who then vote for the winners.

Thank you to everyone who sent in a nomination. I can’t thank you and all of my wonderful readers enough for your support over the past 18 months. Half of what makes wood turtle a brilliant place is all of the thought-provoking conversations we have — and I’ve learned so much and am amazed at how much I’ve grown as a Muslim, mom and person from engaging with all of you.

There are some truly awesome nominees this year. You must absolutely check out (and if you’re inspired, vote for):

Thank you again everyone!

Caption from the TorStar: "At Valley Park Middle School, Muslim students participate in the Friday prayer service. Menstruating girls, at the very back, do not take part."

At what point does religious inclusion become too much for a public school board to handle? Apparently it’s when the menstrual cycles of 12-year-old girls become the centre of public debate.

Every week for the past three years, Valley Park Middle School in Toronto has held official Jumm’ah prayers in the cafeteria. For many Muslims, the Friday service, complete with sermon and congregational prayer, is obligatory. Others believe that it’s optional for women to attend, that it’s not compulsory for anyone, or that if men skip three Jumm’ah prayers in a row, it’s a sign they’ve lost their faith. Like many issues in the Muslim community, there’s a wide variety of opinion and practice – but many agree that Friday prayers is vital to the faith and identity of Muslims worldwide.

In schools throughout Ontario, Muslim students have organised themselves into unofficial, cohesive communities – fasting together during Ramadan, praying in groups at the library during their breaks, planning ‘Eid parties, skipping class to fix hijabs, gossiping in the bathroom and creating religious-fellowship student clubs.

The solution to provide full religious services for students was agreed upon by parents, stakeholders and the school administration to address the needs of the school’s large Muslim population – which apparently makes up over 80% of the total student population. (source)

Previously, large groups of students would sign themselves out, walk to a nearby mosque to attend Jumm’ah prayers, missing hours of instructional time by hanging out with their friends after services instead of returning to school. Some didn’t even bother going to the mosque – Friday prayers were used by some as an excuse to skip. When parents approached the school with worries and safety concerns that their children were missing classes, they all agreed to allow an imam to come into the school and hold prayers on school property. Keeping the kids supervised and minimising lost instructional time.

The program was a success, with about 400 students out of 1,200 (about 30% of the Muslim students) regularly attending prayers. Each week, community volunteers come into the school and help set up the cafeteria as a makeshift mosque. Clean sheets are laid down, tables create a barrier to maintain gender segregation, and an adult community leader acts as an imam to lead the students in a sermon and prayer. For 30-45 minutes, while other students finish their lunch period and start afternoon classes, Muslim students have the option of fulfilling a religious duty.

But last week the Toronto District School Board became embroiled in controversy, when a coalition including the Canadian Hindu Advocacy, Jewish Defense League (Canada) and the Muslim Canadian Congress announced their opposition to the school’s prayer service. Arguments against the program naturally hold firm to the idea that publicly funded schools should not facilitate religious services – not during official class hours, and certainly not by an outside religious leader who provides unsupervised and unmonitored sermons in Arabic. (*gasp*)

But what’s really got everyone’s hijab in a bunch is the menstruating children.

Oh, won’t someone please think of the menstruating children?

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This post received an Honourable Mention from the Eighth Annual Brass Crescent Awards.


Like every other, regular day, Eryn went through her morning ritual of slapping my face, poking my nose ring, and pulling down my shirt to stealth nurse her stuffed animals. I saw her shining inquisitive face through half slits, and she laughed delightedly at my groggy voice telling her that mama would start breakfast after I had gone pee-pee.

Falling out of bed to more delighted laughter, I stumbled my way to the bathroom. When I pulled down my pants I could barely believe what was rudely greeting me so early in the morning and I shouted in surprise. Calling from his refuge under the pillow, the Hubby asked if everything was okay. I poked my head out from the bathroom and said, “I got my period.”

For many, this is no big deal — but for me, it was the first time in two years, and a very unexpected surprise. I’ve been amenorrhoeic due to lactation, and not counting post-partum, this was my first official period post pregnancy. Now I understood why nursing Eryn felt like she replaced her teeth with knives, and why my head was foggy and pounding. When I mentioned that it was disturbing and shocking, just like getting it for the first time, my sister-in-law said cheerfully, “wow, you’ve had quite the prayer stretch, enjoy your little break.”

Prayer is central to the faith and is an obligatory act of worship that’s performed at certain times of the day. You could even say that prayer helps define what it means to be Muslim. The media loves the stereotypical image of a robed and bearded man, or rows of women in prayer shawls, kneeling and prostrating on a prayer mat — and especially, the particularly spectacular sight of millions bowing down in unison toward the Kaabah in Mecca.

Men and women stand shoulder to shoulder (in their respective, segregated sections) and perform the same motions and say the same Arabic words the world over. With a few variations here and there, the framework of the Islamic prayer is so uniform, that you could join a group praying on another continent and not feel out of place. It binds us together as a global community, provides solace, and expresses love for the divine.

Despite being the spiritual equals of men, women are forbidden to pray during menstruation — and a woman who decides to pray is told she is sinning and committing sacrilege. The way in which this religious law is dealt with by many scholars, online literature, pamphlet Islam, multimedia lecture series, discussion forums and conferences, directly affects how women understand and relate to their bodies and is also used by men to help remove women from active worship and participation in the community.

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So what happens when God leaves a woman’s manner of worship up to her own interpretation? Someone else invariably interprets it for her.

Two very interesting articles recently made their way to me.

First, from the HuffPo on the challenges of Ramadan for both pregnant and fasting women.

Last year during Ramadan, a pregnant Kamelia Basir-Rodriguez tried to join other Muslims in fasting from food and drink from dawn to sunset but was told by her doctor to stop when she experienced contractions and blackouts.

This year, as Ramadan starts anew on Wednesday (Aug. 11) the 34-year-old former soldier is breast-feeding her healthy nine-month-old daughter and is again wrestling with whether she should risk dehydration and drying up her milk supply by fasting, or skip it altogether.

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