Month: November 2018

Dear White People: I’m Done Apologizing for Who I Am

Dear White People: I’m Done Apologizing for Who I Am

Dear White People, How has your day been? Good, I hope, because after reading this letter, you may never have another carefree day in your life. I have been on-guard, and you have been on the lookout. But you don’t have to wait, because anytime […]

Brides Magazine Tries to Explain “Muslim Wedding Traditions” and Majorly Fails

Brides Magazine Tries to Explain “Muslim Wedding Traditions” and Majorly Fails

Oh, Brides, what are you DOING? Yesterday, it was brought to attention that Brides Magazine had an article circulating the cloud. The article in question? 10 Muslim Wedding Ceremony Rituals and Traditions, Explained. Sounds innocent enough, right? In this age of miscommunication, and persistent miscomprehension […]

Here’s Why American Politics are Totally Skewed

Here’s Why American Politics are Totally Skewed


There’s nothing more American than debating politics.

Flip on the T.V., and an angry blonde is defending this supposed “golden age” of the nation, and how political correctness is keeping us from realizing our full potential. Log onto Twitter, and a New York Times journalist you’ve never heard of, but has a little check mark by his grinning, and very much white, face, is telling the world just how much he would like Donald Trump to kiss his ass.

Politics are important, no doubt, to the networking of a nation spanning over 2,000 miles of land. 2,000 miles populated by over 3 million people from every walk of life imaginable, every person and the groups they belong to playing integral roles in the development of this country. And while this diversity is certainly felt in the topics permeating our political sphere, it seems to disappear where discussion and control is concerned, leaving America largely dominated by a singular narrative.

In focusing unwarranted energy on beating an opponent, politics becomes a game, and the very individuals affected, the voters, are neglected both as subjects, and as facilitators of debate themselves.

 

“Politics” is an incredibly generalized term, and often brings to mind men in suits with million-dollar smiles, but in essence politics directly alters the livelihood of billions every day. Discussing politics means discussing whether or not Muslims in Rohingya should be afforded the luxury of life, or if African-Americans should be allowed a say in their consistently policed lives. But rarely are politics understood in this way. Instead, it’s who knows the most, who can out smart their opponent using little factoids they came by through their (somewhat unhealthy) obsession with Reuters and the New Yorker. In focusing unwarranted energy on beating an opponent, politics becomes a game, and the very individuals affected, the voters, are neglected both as subjects, and as facilitators of debate themselves.

Through these hobby-driven modes of discourse, the face of modern (and perhaps historical) democracy is born. Well, two faces really, sharing the same features. Like twins. But, like most sets of twins, they share the same hair, eyes, nose, and race. Republican v. Democrat, both overconfident white men with inherent superiority complexes. They’re the only players in a game we’re under the illusion is for everyone.

Politics, and the people they affect, are controlled and debated by white men—and whenever they allow, white women.

 

In the 1972 film Trick Baby, a group of hyper-privileged white men from both sides of the political spectrum, sit around a dinner table discussing their treatment of the American black man. The Republican is on a mini-tirade; he is concerned about Democrats elevating black men. The Democrat responds smugly, “It’s only the smart ones we move up…we neutralize him…if we raise him in white society, he feels compelled to act like us.” While the movie is a few decades old, the message, unfortunately, remains relevant. Politics, and the people they affect, are controlled and debated by white men—and whenever they allow, white women.

White-centric politics have penetrated nearly every single domain­­­­, in every generation known to America since its conception as a nation. The most obvious modern example can be found on the internet. A massive web connecting the entire world has given birth to a subculture of constant battle. And once again, the two faces of our supposed democracy find themselves forming.

The larger, more prominent and influential political social media accounts are often run by white men, and sometimes women. The liberal, our tie-dyed friend in this analogy, uses their internet platform not as a method to bolster the voices of the minorities they claim to defend, but as a way to give their own, often unsolicited, opinions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the liberal’s chino-clad brother continues to spew inflammatory rhetoric, just borderline of being completely racist, and certainly within the realms of classism, sexism, and homophobia. On national television, the brothers, acting as figureheads of sensationalized political discourse, profit off of arguing about whether or not police brutality and school shootings are issues worth being addressed by the government; then the cameras stop rolling, and our heated debaters shake hands and go for a drink. After all, it’s just politics. The affected party – the victims of police brutality and gun violence – are rarely consulted, and if they are, it’s only so they can be paraded around as tokens.

These brothers, and the white women they approve of, parade their ideals across social media, television, and many acclaimed newspapers. The general public of America is made to accept these opinions as the sole bearers of every political angle known to the nation, regardless of what side of the binary they come from. In fact, even as both these figureheads continue to oppose one another, they recognize their undeniable similarities as individuals, and therefore find themselves increasingly understanding of each other, at least on a personal level, where they are easily able to acknowledge and respect one another, because once again; it’s just politics.

Furthermore, over the years I’ve heard repeatedly that politics shouldn’t tear friendships apart, shouldn’t keep marriages from happening. This is a statement that can only come from a place of both racial, and class privilege.

 

Those who don’t fit an image that has been designed and conditioned to demand respect are pushed to the side; the minority populace becomes negligible. Minorities find themselves unable to demand the same amount of respect. Their opinions (even if they happen to be the same) are ignored, or entertained very briefly. The only current non-white, active, and prominent television political commentator/satirist is Trevor Noah, out of the dozens of personalities. A single man meant to represent, not only all of Black America, but every minority that continues to go unrepresented in the domain of political satire. The examples go on, and in every scenario, the white man, both Democratic and Republican, is given the greatest opportunity to vocalize their piece in political discourse.

To both sides of the political aisle, these issues are nothing deeper than a conversation, and more often than not an emotional connection to the issues they claim to care about fails to exist.

 

Furthermore, over the years I’ve heard repeatedly that politics shouldn’t tear friendships apart, shouldn’t keep marriages from happening. This is a statement that can only come from a place of both racial, and class privilege. White men, especially those of financial prowess, and the female counterparts they’ve inadvertently empowered (while simultaneously maintaining an unwavering layer of misogyny) have the luxury of not personally experiencing the hardships they spend their time debating. They debate whether or not free healthcare, or expanded Medic Aid should be enacted. They debate whether or not we should help another nation in crisis, or allocate funds to get Flint, Michigan clean water. But when it’s all said and done, both sides (Democratic and Republican, Liberal and Conservative) smile, make friends, and go home to their very similar lives. To both sides of the political aisle, these issues are nothing deeper than a conversation, and more often than not an emotional connection to the issues they claim to care about fails to exist.

On a micro-social level, the same patterns present themselves, perhaps even more starkly. At the high school I graduated from, many of my fellow self-proclaimed liberals would make an incredible show of respecting every one’s opinions under the guise of being universally tolerant. However, what this really translated to was, ‘you’re racist, elitist, and maybe even a little sexist, but we’re friends so…agree to disagree?’ And it was easy for my white liberal counterparts to adopt this mentality, because they weren’t personally affected by what they preached. Sure, they didn’t hate Black people, or Muslims themselves, but if their best friend wanted to wear a MAGA hat to school then who were they to judge?

These overtones unfortunately do not extend to the minorities whose lives are being determined with every debate and offhand comment. A minority doesn’t have the luxury of actively choosing to push aside differences in opinions and become friends with their political opponents, because what their opponents believe and act on often works towards a minority’s personal degradation. I can never ‘agree to disagree’ about whether or not I should be allowed to express my religious identity, whether or not my friends and their families should be kicked out of the country. It’s not about taking myself too seriously, it’s about understanding what has to be taken seriously. And if your existence isn’t the one in question, it can be easy to forget how the words and actions of those you support can affect marginalized individuals.

…political discourse has been fostered in America under the wings of white men for centuries, and as a result, generations of anyone who doesn’t fit this particular racial category has had to continuously fight for their ability to vocalize their say in situations that often directly affect their personal well-being.

 

In high school, my opinions would often be devalued, or treated with much less respect that my white counterparts. I would be faced with taunting and jeering for daring to care, while a classmate of the appropriate (aforementioned) physical traits, and the same arguments would be commended on his political knowledge, and possibly even his great level of tolerance as a white man.

To conclude, political discourse has been fostered in America under the wings of white men for centuries, and as a result, generations of anyone who doesn’t fit this particular racial category has had to continuously fight for their ability to vocalize their say in situations that often directly affect their personal well-being. An absence of minorities in the political realm means the issues that directly affect us are filtered through the lens and understanding of a white body. And as long as that continues to be the status quo, we cannot move forward in a constructive way. Without the innumerable voices of this nation being heard, America continues to operate under a single perspective disguised as multiple, altered slightly to fit each side of the political coin.



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On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

By Samaiya Mushtaq Soon after I started residency in psychiatry, the movie Spotlight was released, about The Boston Globe’s investigation and groundbreaking story on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. I remember thinking then how the seed of psychiatric illness for so many of my […]

Halima Aden: What Does It Take to Go from Refugee to International Icon?

Halima Aden: What Does It Take to Go from Refugee to International Icon?

On January 26, 2018, the Muslim Law Students Association (MLSA) at Wayne State University (WSU) hosted a program titled, “From Refugee Camp to Runway,” featuring breakthrough model, Halima Aden.   The event was attended by student members of the campus community, eager to learn about […]

Why the Justice of Asia Bibi’s Case Has Become an Injustice

Why the Justice of Asia Bibi’s Case Has Become an Injustice


Asia Noreen, a Pakistani Christian woman, wife, and mother, became the face of injustice in 2009. She and her husband, along with their five children, lived a nondescript life in a small, rural village outside of Lahore, a populated city in Pakistan.

However, all this changed back in June of 2009, when Asia got into an argument with co-workers, whilst harvesting berries in the field where she worked. She was asked to get some water from a nearby well, and to quench her thirst in the extreme heat, took a sip of water for herself. A neighbor saw this, and told Asia that she had contaminated the water, because she was the only Christian in the village.

 

Asia Bibi has spent almost a decade behind bars, based on scant witness statements forged amongst a feudal community whipped into an emotional frenzy over the perceived insult of their beloved prophet.

 

Tensions were already running high in the village because of a previous feud over property, but this made matters much worse. Heated words flew back and forth. Five days later, Asia was beaten by a mob, and then arrested on charges of blasphemy. Her accusers claimed she had insulted the Prophet Mohammed (SAW), and demanded that she be handed the death penalty. Asia Bibi has spent almost a decade behind bars, based on scant witness statements forged amongst a feudal community whipped into an emotional frenzy over the perceived insult of their beloved prophet. After her conviction, she was, in fact, sentenced to death in 2010. In October 2018, however, she was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, based on a lack of evidence. The three judges involved used Quranic text to justify overturning the unjust penalty, citing a lack of evidence.

Undoubtably, the Supreme Court of Pakistan showed incredible tolerance, and reasonable judgement in the overturning of this case. Unfortunately, there were many who not only didn’t agree with the overturning of the verdict, but were out for Asia’s blood. In fact, all minorities in Pakistan became a target.

There are so many things wrong with this situation and what has come from it. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. ISLAMIC. The clerics of this country seem set-out to destroy all humanity in this country. According to the Quran, there is no compulsion in Islam. Yet the people in Asia’s village were hell-bent on converting her to Islam. We, as Muslims, believe that people of the Christian faith are our brothers and sisters. They are people of the Book. So why is such hate encouraged in an Islamic country towards the Christian brothers and sisters who reside there, who are born there, and who are raised there? Does this hatred sound like the manifestation of the man we hold so near and dear to our hearts, Prophet Mohammed (SAW)? Is this how we believe he would react under the same circumstances? I think the answer to that is a resounding, “NO”.

 

In present-day Pakistan, the positive outcome of Asia’s case is something that all minorities are now paying the price for.

 

Nevertheless, because of the overturning of Asia’s conviction, clerics have taken to shouting their disapproval through the loudspeakers of their mosques, instigating people to keep on the look-out for others who commit blasphemy, and to punish them for it. They have incited riots all over Pakistan, riots which have unfortunately zeroed-in on all minorities living in Pakistan. Being an Ahmadi-Muslim myself, I know what it’s like to be a minority. Though I’m fortunate enough to live in the U.S., other Ahmadi Muslims are in constant turmoil whilst living in Pakistan. In 1974, Pakistan’s parliament declared Ahmadi-Muslims to be non-Muslims. Since then, Ahmadi-Muslims have lived under the shadow of this judgement. In present-day Pakistan, the positive outcome of Asia’s case is something that all minorities are now paying the price for.

Because there is absolutely no way that Asia and her family could continue living in Pakistan, they have begged for asylum outside of Pakistan, appealing to countries far and wide. The latest news is that Canada is in talks with the government of Pakistan to negotiate an asylum deal. Perhaps Asia Bibi will be able to escape the people who want her, and her family dead. But why must it come to this? Religious cherry-picking is a specialty when it comes to the corrupted clerics. The word they are spreading is NOT one of peace, but of hatred, and destruction of people who don’t abide by their twisted interpretation of the rules. They have come to play God, and make the decision to wipe out ideals that don’t adhere to “their” Islam.

Whatever religion anyone follows, humanity is the base of it all. If people choose to ignore this, and allow hate to take over their hearts and minds, then mankind is doomed. I know that for every hateful person out there, there is a kind and tolerant person waiting to rectify a troubled situation. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no way that Asia and her family could have escaped. And I thank God for those good people.



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#MGAnon: What Does Modesty Even Mean?

#MGAnon: What Does Modesty Even Mean?

Welcome to #MuslimGirlAnon, your one-stop spot for all the advice you could need! Every week, we crowd-source the very best advice our #MGClique has to offer about issues plaguing our girl gang. Need some advice? Write to editorial@muslimgirl.com, and we may just feature you!  Q: “How […]

[POEM] A Prayer From a Father for Asifa Bano

[POEM] A Prayer From a Father for Asifa Bano

Editor’s note: We are a few months short of the anniversary of the horrific gang-rape and murder of Asifa Bano, an innocent child whose only crime was being a Muslim in a Hindu-dominated region of Indian-Administered Kashmir. May we never forget those innocents who pay […]

Do We Really Need More Creative Spaces for Muslim Women Writers?

Do We Really Need More Creative Spaces for Muslim Women Writers?


As it was my first trip to Canada, it is fitting that I covered the first time Daybreak Press’ Muslim Women’s Literary Conference was in Toronto, Canada.

“There is a space to fill!” Daybreak Press and Rabata founder, Tamara Grey, uplifted the audience. Rabata provided the space, both for writers, and women of faith, with the women’s-only writing conference. Award-winning author, Anse Tamara Grey, urged the crowd not to “delay their writing,” because “women of faith need to be seen.”

Apparently, writing fills another space- the “private, sacred space.” I never thought of it this way, but Ustadha Shehnaz Karim pointed out that writing is a prayer, a way to talk to God.

Admittedly, this conference with brilliant, hard-working Muslim women did more than motivate me to write; it increased my interest in reading Islamic stories and writing for purpose, rather than achievement.

With award-winning books like An Acquaintance by Saba Syed (which is on my TBR list and recommended by Omar Suleiman), Daybreak Press seeks to publish fiction and nonfiction manuscripts that portray Islam in a positive light. “Islam should be present in the story but doesn’t have to preach,” outlined Tamara Grey.

Admittedly, this conference with brilliant, hard-working Muslim women did more than motivate me to write; it increased my interest in reading Islamic stories and writing for purpose, rather than achievement.

We need spaces to hear our creative voices.

Amongst the women at the conference was the founder of Toronto’s Muslim Writers Collective, Mariam. Although she doesn’t claim to be a writer herself, she loved organizing the first Muslim Writers Collective event in Toronto because of its diversity. “We had groups come together that normally wouldn’t,” Mariam stated. She hopes to one day collaborate with Daybreak for a women’s-only event.

As a Black Muslim woman, originally from Somalia, Muhiima’s Quest author Rahma Mohamed personally knows about the struggle to tell her own story, even in the Muslim community.

Rahma Mohamed, alongside her literary masterpiece.

“I started writing children’s books for my daughter. I saw a lack of Black Muslim characters in Muslim children’s books. My daughter is even bullied at Islamic school due to her ethnicity.”

Unfortunately, even with the popularity of her books, Rahma has not seen much of a shift: “I am typically the only Black Muslim hijabi at Muslim author events, even though I’m encouraged to bring people from my Somali community. Because the masjids and functions are segregated, certain minority groups don’t bother attending unless their group organizes it.”

Furthermore, Rahma spoke about the importance of Muslim authors writing about Muslims, citing the #OwnVoices narrative. She explained, “there is depth missing when the author is not part of the community.”

Here is another current hot-button issue. Best-selling Canadian author, S.K. Ali (@SajidahWrites), tweeted that her book about a hijabi, Saints and Misfits, was overlooked for an Ontario Library Association award- instead the nomination went to a non-Muslim author!

Hopefully with Muslim women authors like Rahma and S.K. Ali speaking out, we will finally see true inclusivity. “I continue to spread this message. Anytime I read at school, whether it is a Muslim school or not, I make it clear we all have the right to be represented and seen in the books we read. I stand proud to speak for all those marginalized communities I belong to,” said Rahma.

I was excited to attend this Muslim women’s-only writers event, but apparently they are common in Canada. In fact, spoken word presenter, Timaj Garad, was involved in two other Muslim women storytelling events: headlining one in October, and hosting the other in November.

I’d like to see more events like this Literary Conference in the U.S., namely California. There are sisters-only events here, but they are knowledge-based: lectures, halaqas, teas, etc. I’d like to see gatherings for creative outlets: women’s-only readings, and critique groups. We need spaces to hear our creative voices.



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Ilhan Omar:  Why Advocating for Palestine is Not Anti-Semitic

Ilhan Omar: Why Advocating for Palestine is Not Anti-Semitic

This past week, the U.S. midterms made history, electing an unprecedented wave of women leaders tasked with taking back our democracy.  Amongst them is 36-year-old Ilhan Omar, elected to Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. Omar, a Black Muslim woman and a Somali-American refugee, has made history three-fold: […]