Better late than never, here’s the Viva la Revolución edition of the roundup. We’ve got saving the sisters, sister’s swimming, sister’s spaces and a little Jasmine.

As always, 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.

  • If you have no access to a radio, a television, mobile technology, ham radio or Twitter, you may not know that Tunisians overthrew their president this past weekend. Check out Mona Eltahawy’s impassioned write-up on the Jasmine Revolution.

    It is nothing short of poetic justice that it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy that sent the waters rushing onto Ben Ali’s ship but, rather, the youth of his country.

  • SuhaibWebb.com has an interesting post on the barrier in mosques from a “conservative” male voice. AbdelRahman Murphy writes in his article Save The Sisters:

    Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best. These same brothers who feel the need to unnecessarily force women behind a blanket are also those who complain most about the onslaught of liberalism and feminism against our sisters. If they would only realize that their unnecessary repression of Muslim women is a direct cause of the future mothers of our Ummah lashing out in rebellion. There is a balance we must achieve, however fine the line may be.

    […]
    Even more importantly, let us refrain from strengthening the notion that they should not even come to the masjid — because if we do not have strong, educated, spiritual and active sisters in this Ummah, we are in deep trouble.

    Amen brother! I’d like to shake your hand… buuuut, I won’t.

  • The Shepparton English Language Centre in Victoria, Australia, is reaching out to Muslim families to help teach their kids how to swim. Initially inspired by seeing a woman in a burqini, and shocked at the string of Afghani drowning tragedies in the Goulburn Valley, centre workers decided to pull together a pro-active approach when parents resisted allowing their girls to get involved in the lessons:

    Ms Patterson Googled ”Muslim swimwear” and showed parents photographs of the modest swimsuits. ”We had a meeting that took all afternoon,” she said. ”We got comments like: ‘They don’t need to swim because we don’t go near water.’ We said: ‘Sometimes in Australia you don’t choose to go near water, water comes near you.’ Look at the floods now – you don’t get to choose.”

    This is about the fourth time I’ve mentioned either cool Muslims, or cool pro-Muslim programs in Australia. Brilliant, truly.

  • Finally, here’s a video of Asma Uddin and Aman Ali discussing why women don’t go to the mosque and how we’re treated when we do:

    There are so many identity crises that begin at the mosque for many women because they go and it’s like, ‘the space for you is through the back door in that cramped space, where you have to stay with the children because the children can’t go in the men’s space because the men’s space needs to be quiet and they need to focus.’ There was an article on Altmuslimah called Mommy, why are women in the back and this idea that, even just in terms of raising our children and raising our daughters — it’s like everywhere else out there outside the mosque, you’re constantly told that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve and you can be at the top of your game, but as soon as you get into the mosque, where are you put? You’re put in the back.

Welcome to 2011! This edition of the roundup is bittersweet, with religious exploitation, voices of change, spiritual revivalism, and racecars.  Here’s to hoping that this year will be great, filled with positive outcomes, bridge building, reduction in world suck and more totally awesome Muslim women kicking ass.

As always, 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 man dressing like a blueberry hijabi is wanted by Ottawa police after a string of bank robberies. Wearing a blue jilbab and a matching blue headscarf that he uses to hide his mouth and nose while demanding cash from tellers, the man is otherwise described as dark-skinned, 5’4 with a slim build, dark eyes and bushy eyebrows. While wearing religious garments to commit robberies is not something the police see every day, they’re not calling his methods “bizarre.”Hopefully this also means he’s not going to ruin hijab for the rest of us.
  • The Gaza Youth Manifesto for Change speaks for itself:

    We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life…

  • Did you happen to be in Toronto this past week? If so, hopefully you had a chance to go to the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference and Knowledge Retreat. Since 2003, this massive youth initiative has brought the brightest and best scholars to help keep extremism at bay by inspiring, educating and helping instill tolerance:

    This year’s theme, Reviving the 10 Commandments in the Modern World, links the common foundations of Judaism and Islam with speakers touching on how to reintroduce these rules into the moral decisions young Muslims must make. (source)

    We were unable to go this time around, but under the auspice of *shameless plug* The North American Spiritual Revival, the Hubby attended the pre-conference dinner. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf ate at his table and they spent part of the evening talking about teeth and how good dental hygiene not only helps encourage good speech, but the angels like hearing dua’a from a clean mouth. Miswaks for everyone! The Hubby also delivered my special message to the great scholar Sherman Jackson — that I love his work and long to study with him again. *academic swoon*

  • And finally, kicking ass hijabi style: the first Muslim female Formula One Racing Driver, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, knows a thing or two about cars. And speed. And mechanical engineering. AND she coaches a female soccer team called “Shinpads and Hijabs.” This woman has it going on.There’s something about the water in Australia. First it was the Burqini, then it was a professional female fooballer showcased in the Aussie FIFA 2022 bid, and now racecars. Brilliant.

Presenting the Christmas Spirit edition of the roundup! Snow is falling, pipes are freezing, and people are stranded in airports, but that’s not stopping Muslims from giving generously in charity, donating blood, or sending messages of peace.

I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend in bed with Dr. Who and Torchwood reruns. Have a good one everyone!

  • Let me just say, African Muslim-Americans have got it going on! Seriously, I have never seen so many involved communities from Toronto to New York, to Detroit to the Bay Area. Impassioned and awesome imams, outspoken and involved women, social programming for the benefit of everyone, and welcoming to all. Check out this video of a Detroit Muslim community volunteering on Christmas Day:
  • Early Christmas morning, hundreds of Muslim-Americans turned out to help their Christian friends by doing the volunteer work that they would normally do. Muslims say this is a way to allow Christians to celebrate the Holiday by stepping in to provide meals to seniors and distributing toys to needy children.

    The volunteers began the day at the Community Access Center on W. Vernor in southwest Detroit, and Saturday’s effort came out of an interfaith collaboration by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan and the Jewish Community Relations Council. This year since Christmas falls on the Jewish Sabbath, the need was greater than ever to have Muslim-Americans help deliver the toys and food to Detroit neighborhoods.

    Brilliant, truly.

  • The holy Islamic month of Muharram is almost complete. What have you done to observe it? Well, the Islamic Unity Society is asking British Muslims to contribute to the National Imam Hussain Blood Donation campaign:

    Its founder Dr Marwan Al-Dawoud said donating blood was a way for Muslims to show their devotion as well as saving lives. “What we’re saying is that this is a time when we feel that Imam Hussein gave something of himself.  Use that message and give blood because it’s something that is good for society. It’s saving life at the end of the day and there is no greater gift from God.”

    And Muslims in Saskatoon are using the fast of Ashura to send a message to Jews and Christians:

    This time of year Jews and Christians celebrate holy occasions. The Saskatoon Muslim community honors the greatness of Moses and Jesus and the magnitude of their messages and sacrifices. Saskatoon is a city of new beginnings for thousands of Muslims from around the world.

    We have a unique opportunity in Saskatoon to accomplish great things by bringing Muslims, Jews, and Christians together with what we have in common; respecting our differences with dignity as people of God and God’s revelations.

  • Finally, the lovely ladies at MMW are now a sponsor of the Women’s Voices Now Film Festival.  Women’s Voices Now aims to:

    empower women and give voice to the struggle for civil, economic, and political rights by creating an on-line platform where underrepresented women can be heard by an international audience, women can communicate with each other, and the dialogue on women’s rights can be elevated by a multitude of views from diverse national, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

    Through the medium of Film! If you haven’t stopped by to see the films in competition for cash prizes and the opportunity to be featured in the WVN Festival in Los Angeles, March 17-19, 2011, I suggest you do so now!

    Be warned though, the topics are heavy. Best to wait until after the kiddies are in bed.

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.

(more…)

It was a sleepy Saturday morning on June 1, 1994. I stood next to the kitchen wall phone, shuffling nervously, heart pounding up into my brain and holding my breath while begging a coworker to take my morning shift. After a long pause they said yes, and I nearly passed out.

Within the hour I was on the train to get to the HMV on Yonge Street in Toronto, and arrived early enough to be 10th in line. For hours complete strangers chatted, sang, and joked with each other. A few came dressed to the nines in top hats and walking sticks. I’m surprised I didn’t see a snake.

When the line began to move I stopped thinking rationally. This experience was happening to another person — I was only a spectator. We walked deeper into the store, right to the back where a black table was set up with posters and commemorative books. Two burly security guards in bright orange shirts stood behind it. I shuffled closer and grew sick with excitement. After an eternity, it was finally my turn.

He signed my CD album cover and told me that he rarely sees this particular album outside of Europe. I laughed and told him that I bought it while on vacation in Germany. I found all of his obscure albums there. He smiled and I told him it was my favourite. He thanked me for coming by and before leaving I offered him a hand shake. He took my outstretched hand in his warm, black leather glove, and in mid-shake, I turned it over and kissed it.

The security guards moved quickly to stop me, but he leaned back and grandly announced, “Oh, don’t worry. She’s worthy.”

I kissed Alice Cooper’s hand.

(more…)

women symbol with the crescent logoThis October the Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism was held in Madrid, Spain.

The conference hosted over 1,500 globally represented attendees and lecturers who discussed topics on Islamic Feminism, including: problematics in defining Islamic Feminism, Qur’anic hermeneutics and feminist readings of the Qur’an, gender equality in the Middle East and Feminist Activism, and gender rights justice in the construction of male superiority over women in Islam.

One of the goals of these continued conferences is to validate Islamic Feminism as a growing phenomenon by providing a forum for intellectual discourse.  Aiming to celebrate and support women’s rights groups and organizations around the world as they work toward reinterpreting scripture, giving women an educated voice and challenging patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.

Two weeks after the conference closed, Saudi Arabia was voted onto the executive board of UN Women.

Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive it is illegal for women to drive, vote, or leave the house without a niqaab and where there is strong, enforceable social pressures to cover. Saudi Arabia. Where some women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia.  Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity.  Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers. Saudi Arabia. Home to Islam’s most holiest sites, the birthplace of the Prophet, and the main source of petrol-funded, political Islam.

(more…)

We’ve all been there at least once.  In the corner of a dusty and briyani-debris ridden floor. In the windowless basement. On the second floor, inaccessible balcony with frosted viewing windows. In the front room of a house, with boarded up windows and a tv projection. In a barren false room with a tv projection. Behind a curtain. Under the stairs next to the janitorial closet.  Behind a wall.  In the room across from the morgue. In the back, past the garbage collector, up the fire escape, down a long hallway, up the narrow stairs, and finally into a room that doubles as a classroom and has 20 screaming Sunday school kids with an overworked male Arabic teacher who expects you to wait outside until he completes the lesson.

And some of us have just been turned away at the door.

Navigating terrible, inhospitable, and downright hostile space for women in the mosque is nothing new. There’s even a movie on the subject. Not every mosque is like this, but a good majority are.

Constructing woman-friendly spaces depends on whether or not women sit on mosque administration boards, is sometimes hindered by spacing issues when constrained buildings are converted into mosques, and is largely ignored as an important issue because of a convenient belief that it is better for women to pray at home.

(more…)

Well now that you know what’s been on my mind lately… here’s a little something on Sex in Islam and Sex with Muslims.

You don’t often hear about Muslims and sex. Maybe that’s because we always seem to be having babies — and you all know how much sex a couple with a baby (or two, or three…) is having.

But in the Media, the topic of sex in Islam is second only to niqaab and terrorism. Primarily because hetero sex, sexual expression, sexual freedom, sexual exploitation, and sexual stereotypes at times deals with female liberation VS male dominance, and the Western Media really, really wants to liberate Muslim women. How on earth can a woman who’s covered from head to toe in that black thing be having sex? Good sex? Enjoying sex? Selling sex? Kinky sex? How on earth indeed. How on a bed, in a car, on a train, in a shower, with herself, with more than one partner, with a same sex partner? Muslims? No way.

(more…)

Today, I feel that I was a victim to the most subtle coercion. But it was coercion. I didn’t know any better at that time. And no one even noticed that I was living this big secret. I was happy, excelled at school and was popular and loved. At that time, my moments of confusion were masked…sometimes even to myself.

The remarkable Arab Muslim blogger, Neighborhood Muslimah, recently launched her new blog and introduced herself to me. She’s writing in a terribly raw and open manner, discussing her own experience with sexual abuse in order to open a dialogue she feels is missing from the Muslim community.

I’m looking forward to seeing her blog develop. A forum for Muslim victims of sexual abuse is needed. Like any abuse situation, there are too many cultural trappings and religious power struggles that are used to justify the abuse — and for some Muslim women, finding support within the Muslim community (or cultural community) is impossible.  Many turn to non-Muslim sources for help, and while this support is immeasurable in helping women escape abusive situations, few can offer the Islamic religious guidance that might be needed to help heal scares left by a tainted religious experience.

If you are able, give Neighborhood Muslimah a visit.

When I lived in Montreal, I volunteered with the Amal Centre for Women. At that time it was simply a group of women who gathered food, clothes and each other to help support women in need. We would visit local (non-Muslim) shelters to provide lectures on the Islamic belief system that workers may be dealing with when Muslim women came to their shelters — and directed them toward specific Islamic supports that a Muslim woman may want or require for herself and her children (such as halaal food, a prayer rug, a Qur’an, supportive and safe ties to the community).  Today I am very happy to see how far they’ve come, and how much Amal is doing for the community through their good works, and new centre!

David Mitchell of The Observer has announced that he’ll (possibly) put on the burqa if Britain decides to ban it.

Tattoos and burqas are all the rage. One in five of us now has a tattoo and there are enough burqas around to invoke talk of banning them. Some people, presumably, sport both – but they’re difficult to identify without causing an embarrassing scuffle. Especially if the person under the burqa turns out to be a woman.

‘Tis true. Niqaabis do sport tattoos and facial piercings. I met a group of “punk Muslims” at a 2004 Islamic conference. The niqaab for them was the ultimate form of rebellion and protest.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, deftly dismissed calls for a burqa ban as “rather un-British”. I imagine he was hoping that this would cause a sort of feedback loop in the minds of xenophobes: “Hate not British! Burqa not British! Hate burqa! Ban burqa! Banning not British! Hate banning! Ban banning! Ban burqa! Ban burqa banning! Does not compute!”

It’s a fun, refreshing article — I highly suggest reading it with your morning tea, or whenever you’re feeling silly.

And this just made my day.