Sudan has been in a state of unrest since December 19th, 2018, as the Sudanese people are protesting the worsening conditions in their country. The Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, has been in power since a coup d’etat in 1989 and since then, the country has […]
Month: January 2019
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 email@example.com, and we may just feature you! Q: […]
What is beauty? How do we make standards for something that is literally based on a human being’s perception, and differs from everyone else’s? How do we judge “beautiful”? What makes certain features supposedly “not beautiful”? Why are some of our typical attributes viewed as flaws? And why on earth do we care so much about beauty?
Questions like this make us think more about what society and media have fed us as the truth. But what they forget to tell us is that there isn’t one single truth. There isn’t one single definition of beauty. Anything that insists otherwise is laying the groundwork for a world of self-esteem issues.
Statistics on Cosmetic Procedures
With the number of cosmetic procedures increasing, issues like lower levels of self-confidence have high rocketed. Based on the statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Surgery, there have been more than 23 million cosmetic procedures performed around the world in 2017; 20 million of them being on women. The young generation of people who haven’t even had their first wrinkle yet, make up 55.1% of the patients going through the procedures (19-34 yrs). And the numbers are rising every year.
…just to be clear, it is okay to go through cosmetic procedures at any point. It’s your choice after all.
Interestingly, America is almost always at top of the charts, boasting the highest rates of cosmetic procedures in the world.
The question is, why? Why are there so many people around the world who want to desperately change the way they are? And also, while we are asking questions, why not?
How Do We Define a Cosmetic Procedure?
A cosmetic procedure is a surgical, or non-surgical type of plastic surgery that solely focuses on the patient’s appearance.
Studies have shown that some of the main factors for patients having cosmetic procedures are self-esteem, media, culture, and education. The same studies suggest that patients should focus on their psychological well-being before proceeding with any type of cosmetic procedure.
Though not everyone who goes through a cosmetic procedure may experience this, a lot of the patients deal with body dysmorphic disorder and personality disorders.
There’s no denying that everyone is in control of their own body, and they have the right to do anything they want with it, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. However, the reason that I took an interest in this topic was because of the after effects of cosmetic procedures. Though not everyone who goes through a cosmetic procedure may experience this, a lot of the patients deal with body dysmorphic disorder and personality disorders. They lose the ability to recognize themselves, all because they were chasing a narrative from the ever-present media, insisting that if they don’t resemble a Kardashian, they don’t fit the right mold of beauty.
Also, the cosmetic procedure culture seems to be creating a chain that motivates more and more people to go through such procedures. Not even the hardships or damages before and after a cosmetic procedure have decreased the numbers.
Now, this isn’t to judge those who do seek cosmetic surgery. The idea is only to insist that the representation of beauty in the media should be representative of all types of people. Only then can we hope to tackle issues of self-esteem and self-worth which result in the seeking out of cosmetic changes.
The Facts Are Clear
It’s obvious that we, as people, are struggling to accept ourselves from the inside out, and the media isn’t helpful at all. It is necessary for societies to understand that teaching people from an early age about self-love, and healthy self-image is just as important as whether kids learn how to solve a math question or not.
Societies and cultures are using the fraud illusion of beauty as a tool to temper women from climbing the stairs of power. As actress Jameela Jamil keeps insisting, conditioning women to believe that they need to focus on their looks might mean they spend less time focusing on their businesses, or their entrepreneurial pursuits. Once again, this ins’t to argue that focusing on your looks is a no-no, just that impossible standards of beauty can be eschewed in favor of being accepting of what you’ve got, and working with it!
Being real, showing “flaws”, and encouraging self-love is a step towards a future where no one feels like they need to change their fundamental selves in order to be pretty.
This is where the presence of media figures like Ashley Graham, Sonny Turner, Ariella Nyssa, Bella Golden, Vivian Geeyang Kim, Sophia Hadjipanteli, Leah Vernon, and Winnie Harlow become important. These beautiful, accomplished women are a picture of diversity as far as beauty is concerned, and we adore them for it!
Being real, showing “flaws”, and encouraging self-love is a step towards a future where no one feels like they need to change their fundamental selves in order to be pretty.
And just to be clear, it is okay to go through cosmetic procedures at any point. It’s your choice after all. But it would be better if you were confident in yourself, and loved yourself even before the procedure.
P.S. Shaming people for having a cosmetic procedure is not okay. Don’t make it your business to judge others.
Editor’s note: Months after scant reporting broke the news that millions of Chinese Muslims were being herded into concentration camps to strip them of their autonomy and Islamic identities through starvation and torture, the world remains predominantly mum on the issue. That doesn’t stand with […]
We are only ten days into 2019, and it’s already looking great on the representation front. We can add one more amazing Muslim woman to the list of those who have recently broken a glass ceiling in politics. Sadaf Jaffer, a postdoctoral research associate at […]
By Laura El Alam
Whenever I walk into a room, there is one member of my family who consistently walks right out. He says he’s not comfortable with me now that I wear a headscarf. He’s had nearly 19 years to adjust, but the “discomfort” persists.
I’m allowed to visit another close relative’s house only if I agree not to pray there. He believes his home is “consecrated to Christ,” and if I worship Allah there, it would somehow taint the sanctity of his home. When I tell him that I do not have to perform ritual prayers there, but the very act of visiting relatives is, for Muslims, an act of worship in itself, he is flummoxed. “Let’s just meet at a pizza place,” he suggests.
I am a convert. Needless to say, family reunions aren’t as fun as they used to be.
Born in a white, Midwestern, staunchly Catholic family, I really broke the mold when I married a Moroccan Muslim and converted to Islam in the year 2000. I’ll never forget the first time I showed up to a family gathering with my flowing abaya and headscarf, thereby confirming once and for all the wild rumors they’d all been hearing. “She really did it,” they whispered amongst themselves. “Her poor parents!”
Since I took my shahada I have been, without a doubt, the focus of ongoing family debate, gossip, and speculation. While every one of my relatives reacted to my conversion with a certain degree of surprise and concern, time and deep reflection softened many of their hearts, Alhamdullilah. The love and support of a few of my relatives have been a balm for me in tumultuous times and has helped me to grow stronger and more confident in my imaan.
Other family members, however, are just as opposed to my choice today as they were in 2000–or perhaps even more so, since Islamophobia has definitely increased over the past two decades. While it saddens me that some of my closest blood relatives believe I am destroying my life and destining my soul for hell, I have come to realize that they, too, are teaching me valuable lessons that I can use to grow closer to my Creator.
Ties of Kinship
Among my most fervent supporters is — perhaps surprisingly– my uncle who is a Catholic Jesuit priest. At a sprightly 80 years old, he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. He has traveled around the world, speaks several languages, and has taught in high school classrooms for longer than I’ve been alive. And even though he is devoted to his own faith, he has never wavered in his support of me as a Muslim.
Although I am sure that deep down he would prefer for me to be a Catholic, my uncle has great respect for Islam and has never pressured me to return to the faith of my youth. He once sent me a beautiful amethyst tasbeeh along with a list of the 99 names of Allah . When a family member said something disparaging about hijab in his presence, my uncle articulated a response so perfect that I did not have to offer a single word in my own defense. He recently visited my family and encouraged my teenage son, with whom he has a special bond, to keep practicing his faith diligently.
“Don’t ever give up fasting Ramadan,” he solemnly advised my son.
He also complimented my daughter on her hijab, telling her it made her look extremely dignified and unique, especially among the scantily-clad young women of her generation. “I hope and pray you will continue to be strong enough to wear your Islamic clothing,” he told her.
In all those ways, my beloved Catholic uncle has encouraged me and my family to be confidently and unapologetically Muslim. When I am feeling down, his words always lift me up and bring me closer to my deen. His actions remind me that people of different beliefs can still respect, support, and love each other.
I have heard of converts whose parents disowned them or completely cut contact with them when they embraced Islam. Alhamdullilah my own parents never wanted to end our relationship or withdraw their love from me. Although I know it was difficult for them when I rejected the faith they tried to instill in me (including paying my expensive Catholic school tuition for 12 years!), they assured me that they loved me no matter what. They kept helping and loving me and, when my children were born, showered them with wholehearted devotion that was untarnished by any sadness or betrayal they felt at my conversion.
Holidays like Christmas and Easter were initially very sad and challenging for my parents, as I was no longer celebrating with them. However, I made sure to send gifts and cards to them on other occasions and welcomed them into my home during Ramadan, which my father, in particular, loved while he was alive. Although my mother initially worried about my hijab and how it would mark me as a possible target of discrimination or violence in this country, she eventually became my most fervent defender. When others — whether strangers or family members — dare to make untrue or hostile remarks about Islam, my mom courageously jumps to our defense, protecting me and my fellow Muslims like a fierce mother bear protecting her cubs. She frequently buys hijabs and scarf pins for me and my oldest daughter and goes out of her way to greet Muslim women enthusiastically wherever she encounters them, whether it’s the airport or the grocery store.
My parents taught me that true love is resilient and unconditional. They help me feel more courageous in a society that does not always accept Muslims, and they let me know that no matter what others say, their love for me is unwavering. My parents give me the courage to live a life of purpose and they increase my gratitude to Allah .
Finally, I am blessed to have a few distant family members who have become some of my staunchest allies. Even though I was not very close to them prior to embracing Islam, their open-mindedness and support in times of trouble have made me extremely grateful to them. They are the ones who send me comforting, love-filled texts whenever Muslim-bashing in the media is at its peak. “I’m here for you. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I love you.” Such simple words are like a rope to help me climb out of despair.
These gentle souls have also talked with less tolerant members of my family to try to soften their hearts towards me. It hasn’t always worked, but it means the world to me that they try. They have taught me that adversity often shows you who your true friends are and that when Allah takes something away from you, He will give you something better in return.
Lessons of Love
Not all lessons have been easy to learn. Some of my closest relatives have strengthened my imaan in a different, much less appetizing, way. One relative does not wish to discuss any common ground we have, such as living a God-conscious life, respecting Jesus , admiring his mother, the Virgin Mary, and revering the prophets like Abraham, Moses, Noah, and Adam (peace be upon all of them). Rather, he believes our differences divide us irrevocably. He is convinced I will go to hell because I worship Allah and not Jesus . He sees my conviction that Jesus is a prophet of God but not the son of God (and simultaneously one with God) as the gravest sin, and our relationship has gone from close and loving to distant and strained.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, but this particular family member has indeed made me stronger. He has taught me that devotion to Islam comes before family loyalty. Even though we are supposed to do our best to maintain family ties, we must not sacrifice our beliefs in order to appease our relatives. Since the time of Muhammad , some Muslims have lost their families’ love and support when they decided to practice Islam. Allah knows our sacrifices and will reward them, inshaAllah.
Another of my family members has brought me closer to Islam in an unexpected way. She is a regular consumer of Fox and Breitbart news — sources that are so consistently Islamophobic that I am not surprised by her horrible misconceptions about Islam. She believes that because I dress differently now and celebrate different holidays, I have lost my “Americanness.”
People who accuse others of not being “American enough” do not want to unpack the uncomfortable truth that their narrow definition of “American” — one that identifies white Christians as “true” Americans and the rest of their compatriots as inferiors or interlopers –is, at its core, deeply racist.
Dealing with this family member has actually taught me a great deal. She has inspired me to examine my own white privilege and to constantly search my own heart for subtle traces of racism. Until I was in my mid-twenties, I was a run-of-the-mill white woman like her, with all the safety, benefits, and advantages which that entails. Now, as a visibly Muslim woman, I do face some discrimination, but I realize that my white skin will always afford me a certain amount of privilege. I know that Islam condemns racism and therefore I have dedicated much of my professional writing to examining and condemning racism within the American Muslim community. Furthermore, this particular family member has inadvertently encouraged me to define for myself what being “American” means — to own my Americanness — and to passionately advocate for Muslims’ rights in this country. Whether she knows it or not, she has actually brought me closer to my faith, more devoted to my Rabb, and more convinced of Islam’s perfection.
Converts like me often face challenges from their non-Muslim family members and friends. Rather than letting these difficulties dishearten us or make us doubt our faith, let us search for the lessons that can be learned from each interaction, from each heartache. And when and if we are blessed to have non-Muslim family members who support us, let us cherish them and go forth and share that love with a fellow convert who is struggling.
For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam. Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism. A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.
For the first time in history, two women take their rightful seat as judges on Malaysia’s Syraiah (Malay for Sharia) high court. I repeat: TWO WOMEN have been appointed as judges on an ISLAMIC High Court. Noor Huda Roslan, 40, and Nenney Shuhaidah Shamsuddin, 41, […]
I’m sitting here, contemplating a great many things, as my younger brother commands dusty buttons to take actions of killing villages and children on his game controller. In Urdu, my mother yells and him to turn the volume down, and for me to get up […]
Growing up Muslim in today’s world can be very difficult. In Western society, teens are forced to deal with multiple issues like Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and bullying, on top of peer pressure, and hormones. Sadly, on top of everything else, just being Muslim has put our safety at risk due to the current political climate.
If you’re a female, you’d better believe it’s ten times harder.
Muslim parents are having a hard time addressing the issues their children are facing, whether it’s in school, or in society around them. Unfortunately, given the level of exposure in the modern world, it’s entirely possible that the parents themselves may also be dealing with similar issues.
More often that not, the plethora of challenges faced by the Muslim community are often swept under the rug in order to preserve the family name.
Some parents are victims of trauma, or war, domestic violence, sexual assault, and some are victims of generational cultural conditioning. So, how can they really address the issues that their children face? The truth is, they can’t. The parents need to deal with their issues first, so that they are healthy enough to support their teens.
More often that not, the plethora of challenges faced by the Muslim community are often swept under the rug in order to preserve the family name. It should suffice to say that ignoring the problem certainly doesn’t make it go away.
So, how can we simultaneously support our teens and parents, as a community? What advice can we offer to ensure growth and improvement as a unit?
One way is to become allies, instead of gossipers or enablers! Create safe spaces for our youth and our adults. They need somewhere they can go to get support and counseling when needed. Genuine safe spaces can save community members from violence, abuse, trauma, and even suicide. Our people need to be able to talk about the urges, and the feelings they are having. You can’t just issue dead-end judgments for that is certain to cause more damage.
“What’s wrong with you!”
“This is haram!”
“You will burn in hell!”
“We don’t do that!”
Statements like these are counter-intuitive. They will not work. Each issue needs to be addressed in a non-judgmental manner, whether it’s about wanting to claim another faith, another gender identity, sexual urges, or talking about abuse they’ve suffered. They need intervention, support, love, and guidance.
Also, ignoring red flags are only going to cause bigger problems. So many teens are turning away from religion because they think Islam is strict, or extreme. They aren’t getting the proper education to understand religion. Our youth need to be educated, so they don’t feel peer pressure to fit in. They need to feel confident and proud, instead of depressed, anxious, or confused.
Help them, instead of shaming them.
Additionally, it’s safe to say that our teens lack proper education and support about religion and sex. Yes, I went there. We have to educate our youth about their bodies and help them adjust to everything they’re feeling. Help them, instead of shaming them. After all, if they don’t get this education from their own community, they may get it from a source that doesn’t mean well. The implications are endlessly sinister.
Sexual assault is happening, but more often than not, the victims or witnesses are too afraid to come forward. Or sometimes, they don’t even realize they are victims which comes down to a lack of knowledge about sexual abuse.
We need to listen to what our youth are saying. How will we help them? How will we help each other? We need to be willing to take on the tough conversations, and that starts with becoming more genuine, open, and accepting as a community. We need to be willing to seek out help. Don’t turn anyone away because the narrative could get awkward. Additionally, know that there are Muslim organizations who can help.
As Muslims, we are supposed to be kind and compassionate to everyone, especially to each other. Let’s reclaim our communities and help guide each other through our frustrations, and hardships. Let’s be the light we desperately need.
Angela Davis, acclaimed activist and author, dominated headlines this week after the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute revoked their decision to award her the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. It won’t come as a surprise to hear this was a result of Davis’ long-term support for […]