ironExplosions, gripping fight scenes, artificial intelligence, funny one-liners, sexist playboy arrogance and close-ups of Robert Downey Jr.’s face overlaid with computer graphics are everything I expect when walking into an Iron Man movie. What I don’t expect are convenient and overused Hollywood tropes about Muslim women.

So now you know my guilty pleasure. I’m a science-fiction-superhero-action-film geek — and I frequent these movie genres in part to turn off my brain, enjoy some CGI eye-candy, and go fanatical over favourite characters and stories. And while I always secretly hope that films involving terrorists, vague references to Arabs, or locations in the Middle East will avoid using oft-repeated narratives that demonize Muslims, I’m still surprised whenever they pop up.

It’s frequently discussed on Muslimah Media Watch that Hollywood movies often orientalize or objectify Muslim women characters as marginalized props — creating scenes with women shrowded in black just to illustrate how “foreign,” “other,” or oppressed women are by the “bad guys.” These tropes conveniently justify all sorts of terrible actions by the “good guys” to save the day and liberate teh womenz.

Even when identified as essential to the plot, Muslim women are only given agency to play terrorists or victims of Islam and Muslim men. Rarely are they positively portrayed as strong, intelligent, amazing women. And when they are, they’re killed off. Like my all time favourite (and only) Muslim character in the television program Doctor Who — a fantastic woman who uses her enviable wit and intelligence to help the Doctor solve an essential problem. And then promptly dies at the hands of an alien monster.

Her role as a Muslim is to drive the plot by the virtue of her “Muslimness” and unwavering faith in God — a key clue in resolving the episode — making her fantastic character completely and utterly expendable.

Muslim women own about 20 seconds of screen time in the latest edition of Iron Man, during which they are nothing more than a convenient plot element.

Iron Man 3 picks up where The Avengers movie left off. After Loki’s failed attack on New York City, the United States is left vulnerable and now faces a new terrorist threat: The Mandarin. This anonymous terrorist hacks television signals to broadcast verbal threats and claims responsibility for several bombing attacks on military installations and personnel. The United States’ government-backed military responds by deploying “War Machine” — an Iron-Man-like-mechanical suit worn by the character Colonel Rhodes. We soon learn though, that he is re-branded, and the newly marketed “Iron Patriot” cavorts around the globe seeking out terrorists, delivering the government’s unwavering message of strength in this war against The Mandarin.

Screen shot 2013-06-09 at 11.34.32 AMAt one point, the military sends Iron Patriot to Pakistan to investigate a suspected Mandarin broadcast point of origin. After he breaks down the door to a sweatshop, we see a room full of women in black niqab working away at sewing machines. “Target not armed” flashes across one woman’s veil as he scans the room for weapons — objectifying her face into a convenient projection screen. Reporting back to his superiors, Iron Patriot jokes:

“Unless the Mandarin’s next attack on the US involves cheaply made sportswear, I think you messed up again.”

And to the women as they flee the scene:

“Yes, you’re free, if you weren’t before. Iron Patriot on the job. Happy to help. No need to thank me.”


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.


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.



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.


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.

Happy weekend everyone!

It’s been forever since I last updated. The Hubby went overseas for work and I (very quickly) got my licence so I could drive the girls to and from Eryn’s school. It’s been busy, but I’ll be updating regularly from here on in — and will insha’Allah have a special announcement sometime next week.

This roundup is full of some pretty serious things and just a touch of snark — Enjoy!

1) It comes as no surprise that the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group who opposed holding Friday prayers in public schools wants to screen the offensive, anti-Islam “film,” Innocence of Muslims in TorontoYou know, the laughably amateurish, poorly acted, and hate-dubbed “film” that’s gone viral on YouTube and sparked outrage across the Muslim world? You know, the sickening flame that ignited a powder keg that resulted in innocent people dying? Yeah. That one.

According to The Toronto Star, spokesperson Ron Banerjee believes that showing the film alongside of snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus is, “a way of fighting intolerance.”

Since I cannot possibly shake the blank stare off my face to comment appropriately, here’s a brilliant reaction from the Star’s comment section:

For their next act they will fight sexism by showing porn that degrade women and then they will fight racism by showing movies with demeaning racial stereotypes. Wouldn’t it be better if they showed films and documentaries of real ordinary Muslim, Christians and Hindus so that we become more familiar with our neighbours and their beliefs?

Well said caroline1706. Well said.

2) In the wake of multiple protest adendas spurred on by said “film,” and the confusing details surrounding the producer’s identity and the involvement of mislead actors, a little clarity and action is needed. Thankfully the prolific Omid Safi has written 12 Essential points about the Prophet Muhammad, and the subsequent reactions in Libya & Egypt.

Which include:

  • Al-Qaeda, not Libyans, is behind the murder of the US ambassador.
  • The Libyan people have demonstrated against the assassination of the ambassador.
  • The producer—whoever he is—has the right to produce his propaganda, even if it is hateful speech.
  • American Muslim organizations have uniformly condemned the assassination of the American Ambassador.

But don’t just skim this list. Go read the article itself for a larger picture.

Noah Feldman also has an excellent write-up on how to contextualize the protests, noting that:

Most people, most of the time, are not motivated to protest even so offensive a film. Plenty of deeply believing Muslims think that the proper response to such a provocation is to ignore it.

[…] The struggle for the hearts and minds of young Muslims is being played out here and elsewhere in the post-Arab Spring world. The protests must be understood as part of that process.

Or you could check out this new tumblr — What Would Prophet Muhammad Do?  Which according to the author is an “effort to reclaim the legacy of Muhammad, and to celebrate his universal messages of mercy, morality, humanity, and peace” — collecting photos and stories submissions reacting to the film and the violent protests.

sana abaya-63) Unbeknownst to the scientists on a fossil-hunting expedition down a dark tributary of the mist-shrouded Amazon, a prehistoric creature slowly emerges from the water… oh no, wait. It’s not the Creature from the Black Lagoon… it’s a woman in niqab taking a dip off the cost of Dubai.

The image on the right, by cultural opportunist photographer Sebastian Farmborough, is titled ‘An Emerging Mystery’. And while it is a lovely photo, I just can’t get past the photographers motivation for creating the piece:

The image is based on one of my very first experiences in Saudi Arabia. With the naked beaches of Barcelona a not too distant memory, I headed down to the Arabian Gulf for a dip. There, I became mystified by something black and obscure out at sea. It looked like a huge jellyfish. Then, as it approached closer, I realised that it was in fact a woman.

I’m really glad he figured that out before she stung him and he had to run around the beach begging Saudis to pee on him. You can read all about the photographer’s appreciation of niqabis, his love for their amazing personalities, and how he searched for a year to “find the right lady” to model and recreate his intense experience of a veiled Muslim woman swimming in the sea — you know, just so he could “capture the image for himself.”

Way to sexualize the niqab, objectify women and justify your sick jellyfish fantasies. Ew.

4) “Hijab won’t protect you” rapid-fire:

  • Writing for Jezebel, the fantastic Sara Yasin explains why World Hijab Day Has Got It All Wrong when cutsie-pie-happy-to-be-a-hijabi poems make it seem like “hijab stops creepers from creepin’.”
  • With some scary statistics and difficult to read passages, Altaf Saadi takes on hijab-protects-from-rape and flimsy-clothing-incites-rape Muslim community axioms in her altMuslimah piece, Inviting Rape?

5) Finally, since that was a pretty heavy roundup, here’s something to insha’Allah inspire hope, peace and blessings. The Sifr is a collaborative music video showcasing the talents of 12 vocal and visual artists from around the world. Turn on the closed captioning to see the translations.

It’s the ‘Eid edition of the muslim roundup! This means heartwarming, all-around fuzzy interfaith fun, Islamophobia, men traipsing around in niqab and more!

Enjoy and have a happy and safe ‘Eid insha’Allah.

1) For the first time in a long time Muslims in America are actually worried about being attacked during ‘Eid prayers due to a rise of anti-Muslim violence this Ramadan. Last week Muslim graves were desecrated in Chicago, pig legs were thrown at a mosque in Cali, paintballs and acid were thrown at mosques in Oklahoma, and a mosque was destroyed by arson in Missouri. All happened in the span of ONE WEEK. And this isn’t a comprehensive list.

Writing for the HuffPo, Ghazala Irshad has a fantastic article that’s made the rounds on Why American Politicians Should Take Islamophobia Seriously and speak out against this wave of violence:

…if politicians like Obama and Romney truly hope to lead our country to a better future, they should speak up–not to ingratiate themselves with Muslims by hosting iftar dinners at the White House–but to make the voices of solidarity and peace louder than the anti-Muslim incitement of their hatemongering colleagues Representatives Joe Walsh, Peter King, Michelle Bachmann, etc.

This isn’t about “political correctness” and it doesn’t affect only one community of Americans. This is about a widespread hate that endangers the very fabric of American society.

Sing it sistah. Insha’Allah they hear you loud and clear.

2) Think that last story was too scary for the kiddies? Well, the BBC has a delightful video on how a Virginia synagogue will open it’s doors to a Muslim congregation to help accommodate their numbers for ‘Eid prayers.

We’re all Americans. We share the same hospitals. We share the same schools. Our families get to know one another in this society. — We wouldn’t hesitate to welcome our Christian neighbours. So why would you hesitate to welcome a Muslim neighbour?

Filled with Muslims and Jews sharing space and *gasp* hugging, this video is sure to bring a smile to your face.

It’s an ‘Eid-terfaith miracle!

3) There must be cultural appropriation fever going around. In a truly ridiculous and offensive stunt, Michael Coren appeared on his Sun News Network television program in Niqab. Not to “check it out.” Not to “see how it feels.” Not to “identify” with Muslim women. But to make fun of women, Islam. Egyptians, and the niqab.

Launched at the start of Ramadan, Maria TV is a women-only Egyptian channel — hiring women in niqab to discuss issues of interest to women. Sounds pretty rad to me, but this is what Mikey had to say about it posing as a niqabi woman in an audition tape for the Egyptian network:

So I’d like to say a few words on why this network is so very necessary. We need it to discuss, well, you know the sort of thing — when it’s too late for that little operation on the clitoris so as to make sexual pleasure impossible. Sometimes performed in the Islamic world at least, with any sharp instrument that comes to hand. Or, how to avoid being stoned to death after you’ve been raped — because it’s never the man’s fault. Or what to say to your husband when you’ve tried, but you just can’t get along with wife number four… Now I know some of the crusaders, the infidels, the Zionists, and the rest say that women are oppressed in the Muslim world — it’s just not true. And if you say it again, my husband will cut off your head, and record the whole thing for a video that will go viral within the jihadist Internet community.

Seriously? You’re the champion for Muslim women?  Please take off your burqa of white privilege — it might actually help you see how incredibly wrong you are on the most basic points of human decency.

Get’s my hijab in such a bunch!

Now, if you want a truly honest account of struggling with the niqab, check out Rym Tina Ghazal’s excellent article Single in the City: The Niqab and I.

By banning the niqab and burqa we are not really helping anyone. A truly repressed woman has far bigger problems than what she wears on her face.

So while largely perceived from a Western perspective as a suppressive mask designed to conceal a woman’s facial features, I have to admit the niqab was my shield. It helped me walk more confidently around sleazy men.


4) Finally, I’m going to end off with a couple of videos. The first is an AMAZING series out of Dubai/Syria/Oman. Controvercially, it’s an historic account of ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, Islam’s second Caliph.

In 31 episodes, the series follows his life starting from about 9 years before the revelation, to the end of his reign as Caliph. The series is a courageous historical drama with some excellent acting, near-Qur’anic Arabic dialogue, and amazing attention to historical detail.

Seriously, it’s worth watching just for the opening sequence — a total homage to Game of Thrones. EPIC.

And now you can watch it with English Subtitles!!

And just for kicks, Eid Mubarak:

It’s a solemn Friday, and it’s time for a truly hardcore, awesome muslimah edition of the roundup. We’ve got rockstar academics, shocking scholars, Darth Vader in niqab, an online conference on Islamic Feminism, kick-ass signing-word artists and Chuck Norris.


1) Can one person represent an entire religion? In her piece, ‘Not like other Muslims’: The Problem of Exceptionalism, the brilliant and gorgeous scholar, Sajida Jalalzai, takes on Eboo Patel on the topic of interfaith work and the problems of representation. She writes:

Representational questions have very real consequences for those involved in interfaith projects. It must be hard work for participants to “embody” an entire tradition, in all its diversity and complexity. The question of representation also raises the dangerous potential to create or support norms, erase differences, reify categories, and uphold distinctions between “good” religion and “bad” religion.

See… Brilliance. She’s also a lead singer of the New York band, A Bit Cagey. You can hear some of their stuff here and here.

Sajida can represent Islam for me any day.

2) The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is producing a 40-volume work on Muslim women scholars and prayer leaders, and includes known and previously unknown women who taught the Qur’an, transmitted Prophetic sayings, and made Islamic law while practicing as jurists. The work includes scholars like al-Darda, a prominent jurist in 7th century Damascus who used to pray shoulder-to-shoulder with men, issued a fatwa (still cited my modern scholars) that allowed women to pray in the same position as men, lectured in the men’s section, and taught the caliph herself.

3) From swimmers to protesters; b-ballers to sword wielders; hipsters to fashion divas; from Houria Bouteldja to Fatemeh Fakhraie, there’s a new tumblog dedicated to showcasing and giving recognition to badass muslimahs. I give you, BADASS Muslimahs.

4) Just in case you missed the newsflash: Chuck Norris accidentally went back in time and not wanting to cross his own timeline, spent years studying Islamic theology and Shari’a law, effectively hiding himself from “Past Chuck,” who in turn spent years acting and practicing martial arts. Islamic knowledge in hand, “Future Chuck” returned to 2011 and has blessed us all with these words of wisdom: Holy Week, Holy Shariah?

Yes, Mr. Norris, the Islamic scholar, is writing a three-part series for World Net Daily, adding his voice to the growing anti-shari’a fear-mongering that’s creeping over the United States. Naturally, he claims not to be an Islamophobe (is that even a word?) and gets mad props for referencing Ontario.

Of course, many Americans watch on video a Middle Eastern woman allegedly caught in adultery, buried in the ground up to her head and being stoned to death, and think, “That could never happen in America.” But they fail to see how Shariah law has already been enabled and subtly invoked in our country, and that any such induction like it is brought about by understated lukewarm changes, like a frog boiled in a kettle by a slow simmer.

He also owns a DeLorean with a bumper sticker that says, My other time machine is a TARDIS.

5) Take a moment to join the discussion on Metis’ Online Conference on Islamic Feminism. There are some truly awesome authors participating, and I cant wait to check everyone out!

6) PULSE media has an amazingly comprehensive look at the niqab ban. Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms by Huma Dar takes on niqab and: Civilities and Dignities; Fines and Fine Guidelines; Desecrated Graves and Decolonial Feminisms ; “Establishment Muslims” and Global Media; Niqabitch; and Belphegor, Darth Vader, and The Thriller. It’s a must read!

7) Finally, I’ll hand things over to Deaffinity, with some seriously badass BSL:

After reading my last post on niqab, a friend flipped me this Guardian article by Karen Armstrong that was published back in 2006. It’s oddly timely and looks at colonial and western influences on the modern history of veiling (primarilly in Egypt). I’ve included my favourite bits below, but you might as well go read the entire thing, since I’ve reproduced much of it here:


It’s Saturday night and that means it’s time for the roundup! This week I’m feeling a little snarky with this political-based link drop. So I’ve softened it up with LEGGOs and a singing hippo, kangaroo, moose, penguin, and uniqua.

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.

  • A new intelligence report suggests that Islamic Extremist groups are looking to make a ‘parallel society’ in Canada. An underground Muslim Caliphate. Muslim Mennonites. A Muslim society in seclusion to challenge Canadian authority and eventually take over the Great White North. Which could happen if Bill 94 is passed, and Muslims start feeling ostracized from the larger Canadian society.  Unless Quebec leaves first. Or America invades.  Whatever the outcome, this might be the first time EVER that I actually agree with Tarek Fatah, “You can talk about the Mennonites but the Mennonites’ aim in life is not to destroy Western civilization.” Or is it? </end shifty eyes>
  • Meanwhile, the Pope criticizes the French burqa ban, saying:
  • “Some women do not wear the burqa entirely voluntarily and it is correct to talk of a violation against that woman. Of course one cannot agree with that,” he said.

    “But if they want to wear it voluntarily, I don’t know why one must ban them.”

  • And not really Muslim, but I love The Backyardigans, and I love how a Canadian show can take a random song mid-episode and make it bhangra. Without throwing in South Asian/Indian clothes or stereotypical characters. Enjoy!

My friend msleetobe started a series on teaching strategies in the Korean classroom, and wrote to me about her student’s reactions to her lessons regarding the hijab. So I asked her to tailor her brilliant work for the WoodTurtle community. We are often bombarded with very North American reactions to the hijab and religious veiling, and I find her experience teaching in Seoul to be quite eye-opening. Please take the time to read her account and welcome msleetobe!

Hello wood turtle readers!  I’m honoured to guest blog here today and to write to an audience quite different from my own blog’s readers.  I usually write about living as an expat in Korea, or about being in an ‘international marriage’ as a white woman married to a Korean man.  However, I also share what is going on in my classroom as I teach at a Korean university in Seoul.

Five years ago, just a few months after finishing up my MA in South Asian religions, I came to Korea and almost immediately began teaching an advanced reading/writing class which was also supposed to deal with critical thinking. My students were very good at answering content questions based on the readings, and could write basic, if problematic essays, but they didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do with anything remotely critical or analytical, mostly because Korean education is focused on route learning in order to prepare students for the massive college entrance exam.  I wasn’t really sure how to approach teaching critical thinking and analysis as a newcomer to Korea, and I had absolutely no idea how to teach it in a skill based class instead of a content based class.  Thus, I decided to bring content into the class and introduce my students, who were already studying cultural logic and intercultural communication in their textbook, to an issue I had had a lot of experience with.  I’ve been using it on and off with students from various ages and backgrounds, and in different kinds of classes, and in general, it works pretty well.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading the thoughts of Korean students on an issue in Islam which wood turtle often covers, and I hope this lesson plan might help you to think about how to approach other controversial issues which you encounter.


Eryn at 2 months spooking out in her pouch sling (more…)

When I first put on the hijab, I felt the door to my community opening. Without that piece of cloth, no one would have known I was practicing unless I was spotted at the mosque, or I worked it into conversation. Suddenly I was being consulted on complex religious matters, receiving dozens of marriage proposals (okay… three), and was acknowledged by other Muslims as we passed each other on the street. My religious relationship with my secular world also changed. Explaining to my colleagues that I wasn’t going to the pub after work was no longer necessary and restaurant staff didn’t blink when I asked for no bacon bits on my Caesar salad. There was suddenly no denying my religious convictions.

But I was also spit on, congratulated on my mastery of the English language, debated and shouted at while riding the subway and verbally assaulted in the middle of a Tim Horton’s coffee shop. My colleague, however, was sexually assaulted. Hayat was struck in the head. A robber celebrated ‘Eid by wrapping a Muslim woman in a carpet and setting her on fire. Anwar’s hijab was torn off. Shaika had her niqab ripped from her face. Marwa was stabbed to death.

So what do these women have in common? Gendered Islamophobia. They are all identifiable Muslims and have experienced deliberate violence, harassment or prejudice based on their gender.