The Ebony Experiment: Where the Mozzies at?

Muslim Businesses

I hope that being isolated in a small community, my experience of watching Muslim businesses open, struggle, close, and repeat is not the national norm in the US. I have witnessed this phenomenon among internet businesses as well; frequently following dead links to “new” businesses. Allhualim how much of the problem stems from poor business planning and how much has to do with lack of support from Muslims to Muslims.

The Ebony Experiment is an exciting venture and I look forward to seeing the results. I also hope for a ripple effect.

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One of These Ladies is Not Like The Others…

On the backcover of Codepink’s book Stop the Next War Now, I was surprised to find this inconsistency. Can you pick out the lone contributor identified by her ________ rather than a title identifying her humanitarian work?

Stop The Next War Now

This book is a inspiring read–nearly a must-read, which makes it all the more frustrating that no one recognized how gauche it is to identify a woman by her “exotic place of origin” rather than her contributions to humanity.

Not So Blind Justice: Niqabis in Western Courts

Blind Justice

Has anyone ever looked you in the face and lied? In addition to the Jack Straw brouhaha, a few cases of women wanting to wear niqab (face covering veil) in court have recently been written up in the media. I think that so far all of these cases have resulted in the women having been denied the right to wear the veil and I’m pretty sure the rulings have all been based on the judges’ inability to judge the woman’s demeanor, such as the reasoning in this current case:

“Lawyers representing the two defendants argued that this infringes on their fair trial rights and argued at the preliminary hearing last fall that they should be allowed to see the woman’s face to gauge her demeanor while testifying. Provincial court Justice Norris Weisman agreed with the defence and ruled that the woman should testify without the niqab.”

As a layperson, I’m guessing that the courtroom must be just about the most stressful situation to function within and thereby would be a poor arena in which to judge one’s “normal” character or demeanor–especially the demeanor of someone who alleges rape. Whether she is telling the truth or lying, it seems she would be quite uncomfortable.

Though I don’t choose to wear the niqab (face veil) I support a woman’s choice to wear it-especially as an American. I would likewise support a man’s choice to wear a hat in court, as social mores such as removing hats while indoors are possibly nice in manners but should not be policed by the state. Some schools have enforced dress codes to prevent students from being distracted, but ultimately this is a symptom of other problems that I doubt dress codes will fix. The right to wear what you want is a very American value and I appreciate that it has yet to deteriorate to accepting public nudity, but I digress.

I must have erroneously assumed that the bulk of judicial decisions, if not all, were based on empirical evidence—not opinion of a defendant’s or plaintiff’s character. I am quite surprised by how much weight is being put into the judge’s inability to judge the defendant’s demeanor because of her face being obscured. ”Most liars can fool most people most of the time,” says Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

Do you think judges are specially trained to detect lying based on demeanor? Actually, demeanor would mostly be body language which is not obscured by a face veil. So really facial expression seems to be the crux of this problem. Here is a list of stimulus researchers use to detect lying:  Gaze Aversion, Speech Rate, Smiles, Illustrators, Self-Manipulations, Hand/Finger Movements, Foot/Leg Movements, Speech Hesitations, Speech Errors and also Criteria-Based Content Analysis which is all content stuffs like Contextual Embedding, Coherence, Spontaneous Reproduction, Peripheral Detail, etc.  So how many of these elements would be obscured by a face-veil? By my count–just the smile. Though I hear it is easy enough to see if a woman in niqab is smiling, especially the more mature in age she is.

Smiley Sissy

 

I’m not convinced that the veil would obstruct justice as some have been arguing. I believe a woman with a veiled face would make some justices uncomfortable; but this puts the veiled woman at risk of receiving the injustice of a biased judge. Here is another smart(er) response to this problem from lawyer and educator Steven Lubert who says of a judge in these cases, “This would be a good time for Judge Paruk to realize that Themis, the goddess of justice, wears a blindfold for a reason.”  True that.

A Taste of Nationalism: Thinking About Whiteness

I do plan on doing the White Privilege in the Ummah-type Carnival soon inshallah. I have been swamped with school and need another week to catch up, so I hope ya’ll are getting ready!. In the meantime, I’ve got whiteness on the brain, so here are some random germinating thoughts–

Being a rootless child, raised on the opposite coast of my extended family and very unfamiliar with my lineage, I have never had a sense of sentimental attachment to “my peoples.” I hear this is pretty common in American culture and in white Americans particularly, but I have it pretty bad. I don’t know my people’s names beyond my grandparents. I don’t even know my aunts’ married names and therefore don’t know my cousins’ names. This reality doesn’t sadden me, actually it has given me an immensely liberating feeling. Unlike many of my convert siblings who have to deal with constant onslaughts of adversities from their families, I’ve got it quite easy, alhumdillah. 

Zeinab

 

Recently an interesting post elsewhere about being the offspring of post-colonized and displaced peoples of Ireland got me a thinking about my peoples a wee bit. Was there something I was missing in this void of my heritage? Ultimately, my overall feeling is one of thankfulness that being rootless may have made the path easier for me to tread upon, Allahualim.

So a few days ago I ran into an American convert sister who has taken some unusual turns on her path that, well, are pretty readily identifiable as bida to most Muslims. I know the bidazone is a sensitive spot with the Mozzies, so please just bear with me. Later I realized that it especially saddened me to see an American sister go down this path. And why, I ask myself should this be especially saddening? Why is this worse than a sister of any other nationality going astray? Of course I know American is not a nationality, but you get my meaning. The shock–I have nationalist tendencies!!!

 Twice in one week–so then last night I was doing research on this infuriating school project when I came across this charming little antiquity of the White Muslims–mostly white I guess, I admit to my complete ignorance about these early Western converts and had no idea that they were so organized, masha Allah. I was immediately drawn to the picture of Evelyn Zeinab Cobbold and was eager to read more about her. I felt a sort of affinity towards her that I then began to second guess. Conversion stories are always interesting to read, but I hadn’t felt any special kinship when reading about other white convert sisters such as say Yvonne Ridley or Ingrid Mattson. But I noticed an extended sort of feeling of kinship last night for Zeinab, who shares the name of my only daughter. I drew out the feeling a little.  Perhaps it is natural to be drawn to someone who has walked a similar road in the near past; the road of Western Apostasy. Or maybe this is something else that I hadn’t expected from myself.

When Backbiting is Not Backbiting: Before a Sister Dies or Marries a Predator

By no means do I want anyone to read into my words here and think that I am somehow, in anyway blaming Aasiya Hassan (May Allah give her a spacious grave and eternal justice, ameen) or any other Muslim woman in similar tragic circumstances for the crimes committed upon them. What I am talking about is a sweeping, cross-cultural lack of knowledge or misplaced fear to act on knowledge. Sure, frequently women (and men!) in some cultures do not see any other options than to do as everyone else has always done and they blindly follow others rather than follow The Truth. But, I have also seen American and Western women with seemingly endless access to knowledge and rights completely ignore their opportunities and privileges for whatever various reasons. The Truth is that you do have the right and I would even say that for your deen and your children’s sake, you have a responsibility to know your potential spouse as well as possible before you agree to marry him/her.

According to this letter on Sister Zerqa’s blog, we are talking about a man who may have had a history of domestic violence and yet he still married after a divorce, again married after a 2nd divorce and finally may have murdered his last wife.* If this is true, it seems very likely that the man’s previous maritial problems were not properly considered before he moved on to his 2nd victim and then, inshallah, final victim.

On a smaller scale of destruction, we see a steady stream of sisters who marry brothers with little to less than zero information about the brother’s background. When it comes to light that these brothers are criminals, womanizers, wife-beaters, deadbeats and so-on, who does the sister blame? The brother? The wali? Brothers who already have one wife will refuse to let their prospective wife meet the first wife (if she even knows about her) let alone interview the current wife to have better understanding of the man’s character. And an ex-wife is always completely beyond consideration as a “character reference.” Who better to know a man than his wife? Ah, yes, but we sisters would rather believe it was her fault and we know that we now have before us our perfect mate who will take all our troubles away.

To be clear,  Imam an-Nawawee (may Allah have mercy upon him) said in his Riyaadh-us-Saaliheen,“You should know that backbiting is permissible for specific legislated reasons unreachable except by (way of backbiting) they are the following six reasons:

4. The fourth reason is warning the muslims from evil and advising them and that is from several aspects:

B.) From it is when a man inquires about someone before marriage, or entering into a business partnership with someone, or safekeeping something with someone or doing business with someone. It is obligatory upon the o­ne advising not to conceal his condition rather he should mention the shortcomings he has with the sole intention of advising him.

Now this language is a little sexist— sisters, this means you too. You have the right to inquire about someone before marriage, of all the rights you may waive–don’t waive that one.

*I’m trying not to speculate as much as possible.

Is This Art?

I’m sitting in a room with 30 other almost entirely white women and 1 white guy, and we are supposed to be discussing the Feminist Aesthetic vs feminine aesthetic and if such a thing as gendered aesthetic even exists. Unfortunately, before we can even broach that topic we smash up against a Homeland Security-reinforced wall that attempts to protect this relic of an idea–“what is art?”

Faith Ringgold

The above image is shown and the majority of the room, who are all quite young and not particularly well exposed to “art”(or rather seem to think they are not well exposed) are eager to bob their heads if only the teacher, oh mighty divulger of great wisdom, will declare “This is art.” But of course, in all her budding sageness she doesn’t say that. She leaves it to us to hash it out.

A white woman, who is a returning student and trained in the rhetoric of “Fine Art”— like me– speaks up and declares “It is not art.” Her argument has to do with sublimity and emotional connection, both of which this piece does not evoke. Now, here is why I am awake at this hour pounding away at my keyboard, because I did not in that exact moment throw this woman to the floor and rip out her tongue. I did hold my tongue because my thoughts were not well formulated and I did not want to appear to attack her; when really what I wanted to attack was that bloated misindoctrinated concept of what Art is.

So here is my feeble deconstruction. Firstly the colors are absolutely garish which is a not-so-funny irony considering that is The States’ flag—the one symbol that represents All of us, dear American readers, whether you like it or not. Yet its bold colors make it easily rejectable as Art. You see here below, in Washington Crossing the Delaware, we have an example of how the flag is used In Art, not burned or bloody or defiled in any other way. See, the flag has a voluminous drapy quality, the symbol is present, but not so big. And the colors are artfully muted, not their garish original.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Back to the quilt. You didn’t notice that Bleeding Flag is a quilt? Well, your brain probably did and it did tell you something.  I propose that the viewer’s eye, which if it has had even a minimal exposure to quilts, will at lease subliminally recognize that this is a quilt.  “Quilt” is an immediate signifier of “craft” and “craft” is an immediate disqualifier for Art. We have all been taught that.

Finally let’s talk about the black elephant in the room. There are people of color on that piece and people of color have well reserved positions in Art. Gosh, I’m not even sure if people of color are allowed to represent themselves in Art. Oh they are? Well then why isn’t this Art? Other than the garish flag and the crafty medium? Do you get the subliminal pun-crafty/witchy/womanly? Sigh.

When I first, not so eloquently, thought “her face is under the stars” I had that exact emotional and sublime connection that is the eminent qualifier of Art—All of our faces are under the stars. Maybe that is too universal and therefore arguably not Art. Note her face is partialy obscured by the stars of the American flag–the Symbols of our Unification. Notice she is smiling? And one of the kids too? What does that mean? Shouldn’t she look downtrodden? Hmm.

My sister says this artist’s message is “overtly political” and as the guy who runs that museum said, political is not Art. Was that a Goya behind him? Or a Picasso? Anyway, now sometimes African American’s struggles are depicted in High Art, of course I just can’t think of any right at this second as I have recently burned into my mind’s eye the images of Blacks in Orientalists’ paintings. And those block-cut Americana-type things aren’t Art, are they? But why is this piece overtly politically and not Art?

Not just the flag is bleeding. The woman, her identity obscured by our supposed unification, seems to be lactating blood while her young children clutch at her skirt. Her life source is pouring out of her from the orifices that should be producing sweet cream.

Lactation is frequently used in Art. Used as in ab-used to show some skin. In this same series we viewed tonight, I chuckled at Cindy Sherman’s lactating prosthetic breast, awkwardly positioned nearly in her armpit. Sherman is well cemented as a producer of Art, even though just a few years ago photography was a very questionable choice of medium, but I digress. If this woman were painted with her top torn open, exposed to The Gaze, and the lactation of blood more subtlety applied, perhaps with just a few droplets escaping her bulging (heavy, sighing, voluptuous) breast—then would that be Art?

No. This is Art. Now go burn some books that teach otherwise. And google Faith Ringgold. I apologize if my interpretation is really, really bad and you should give me a wee little kick if it is.

Obligatory Hijab Post: Ye Arab Feminists, Get Out of Thine Boxes

Baby Hijabi

   Reading a  little Post-Colonial-Feminist theory this morning, I came across a sentiment I have heard all too many times, but has never been my truth nor The Truth. The fallacy is that the hijab (scarf) is an Arab thing, this being said by Arabs. Then I must be some naive convert who bought the Arab-Muslim package, right?

   As an American revert to Islam, I had no doubts about the historical nature of the veil. Though I wasn’t raised Christian, when I first read about the Islamic interpretation of veiling I immediately saw in my mind’s eye the Christian iconic image of The Virgin Mary–in her veil. My Post-Colonial-Arab-Feminist scholar leaves out Mary and all other cross-cultural references to The Veil. In high academic hypocritical form, this scholar’s (like many others) biased view of her own culture is taken as Word and propagated and spread wide and reiterated and swallowed and regurgitated and uff.

   If you are Muslim, it is likely you have heard this erreouneous theory before: The hijab is an Arab custom and was only commanded to the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). If you are non-Muslim you may have heard this too. Consider: Why then did/do Jewish women have various customs of hair covering? Why did Christian’s keep/adapt the traditions? And what about ancient Roman women? And Hindu women?

Roman Woman

   There are plenty of academic ideas applied to why various cultures sport the veil and most of them blame patriarchy and of course reject the possibilty of Divine Decrees.  That last part should go without saying, but my frustration is with the problem of the Academic Truth being unquestionabley excepted as The Truth, even by people who are religious in some form or another.

    My own approach to The Veil was one that grew out of an open-mindedness to look at a cross section of world religions while searching for my truth. Look at the Buddhist monk  in his saffron robes or the pilgrim on hajj in his white robes. They are rejecting worldliness and vanity. I attempt to do similarly on a daily bases. I resist the urge to flaunt it while I got it and instead cover it up. Yes, my hair too. Years of styling, coloring, teasing and torturing my luscious locks were done in an absolute vanity (and submissiveness!) that I now resist.

 Katherine Bullock

I just ordered the text Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil and am eagerly looking forward to a different view, one that speaks to my Truth.

* Got Katherine Bullock’s book–great, masha Allah!

Stupid Things Muslims Say to Muslims: Gender Segregation Leads to Homosexuality

This could easily become a series, there certainly is enough material out there.

W and The King

I have seen both Muslims and Non-Muslims use this argument to attack Islam. The argument goes: Gender segregation leads Muslim men to commit homosexual acts, specifically raping boys. Raping children is something done by pedophiles. Consensual sex amongst adults of the same gender is called homosexuality. These are two different things. Men raping adult men or adult women is an act of violence. Now perhaps segregation leads male rapists to have to rape those whom they have easier access–other males, but again, that is not an act of homosexuality. Without any academic support, I will venture to say that the raping of boys and men is actually being heard about more in Muslim countries than Western countries has nothing to do with disproportionate number of occurrences. Rather in Western countries due to homophobia, this violent act is misconstrued as having to do with homosexuality and therefore men (fathers of victims too) will not report it or discuss it. Whereas in some other countries it is seen as a crime and/or a sin on the part of the perpetrator only. Though the rapist may be Muslim, it is with a lack of faith that such crimes are committed–NOT because of the rules of Islam. Again, this is just another crude way to attack Islam. Love and Peace