Good visuals excite me.
The beauty of nature mesmerizes me.
Memories of Pakistan nostalgia-te me.
Position of women worries me.
Chauvinists exasperate me.
Preachers of false dogmas enrage me.
Terrorism sickens me.
Extremists frustrate me.
Moral policing infuriates me.
The lost community baffles me.
Racism saddens me.
Political bastards need to get a life!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

I am an Immigrant, a Third Class Citizen (1)

I am an immigrant. I am a Muslim. I am a woman. I am a third class citizen. Because the Muslim men, legal or illegal, have conveniently taken up all the second class positions, and have further degraded their women to an even lower status. Why? Because the Quran says, men are a degree above.

My parents landed in England straight from Pakistan. My mother had not even technically left a radius of 600 kilometers from where she lived in Lahore. My father's elder sister was already living in England for quite some while after she got married to a British-Pakistani, who had initially entered the country with the reference of a friend's friend and managed to work his way through to permanently stamp the British soil with his existence. And that's how it goes.

Both my parents aren't very educated. Both sides of my paternal and maternal family aren't very conservative; none of them force their women into wearing a burqa, but none of them are interested in more than a chicken-biryani recipe either. My father's side of the family is still more progressive than my mother's. I have heard stranded incidences in distant relatives of women getting a useful degree and working. But from my mother's side, bah! Her own brother's daughters are squirming in the prison of a home that they live in. None of them have had a decent education, and going out to work for them is blasphemy while their father is still alive - even if he has completely lost it and will beg people for money to pay the bills. His wife especially hates it whenever we have gone to Pakistan to meet up. We are a bad influence on their children. My parents have completely let go of their children and are far from the ancestral culture and religion. Only if they knew!

I was born in England. When my eyes were conscious of what they were looking at, they saw Buckingham Palace. When I started recognizing script, it began with A for Apple. When I was conscious of people around me, they were in all colors and sizes. I grew up singing the itsy bitsy, yellow, polka dot bikini song, as opposed to some poetry of Iqbal's. When my brain was processing the meaning of moderate, I had a gazillion people before my eyes; with women in bikinis on the beach, to my father's sister in a headscarf, that later on turned into a burqa. Luckily my father thought the burqa was unnecessary, but he still supported her.

While of course my parents could not entirely keep me hidden from the country I was growing up in, I still felt quite different from the other boys and girls in my class. My cousin (female) also went to the same school as me. My parents encouraged us to be friends, be close, and discouraged from randomly talking to other kids. I don't know why they created this image in my head that the other kids would end up hurting me if I befriended them. It did manage to keep us away, but my cousin and I also ended up being best friends for the longest time. When we were about 7 or 8, our parents arranged for us to read the Quran (in arabic) with the help of an old lady in the neighbourhood. There were three more kids other than us. It was not just a Quran reading session, it also involved speaking Urdu and all these little stories and etiquettes that were building up our base for being good Muslims who were close to their culture in this blatantly non-Muslim country.

In the house, it was always about doing things in one way. There were a lot of rules. Breaking these rules meant a court marshal by the Father. They were trying hard to protect us children from the evils and sins of the society. Everything ended with a story about how Allah will punish; how those who go astray, burn in hell. My parents did love me, but something was missing.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

What I Never Said About Myself

I had a test that day and I hadn't quite prepared for it. I was hoping to somehow get out of it. During recess, my friends and I tried to go over the larger details while still laughing endlessly and falling on top of each other for no obvious reason. Something was quite funny, or we were just under-slept, or perhaps too many chips. A girl came over to tell me that the admin had asked for me. The news straightened all of us girls up and started looking at each other, wordlessly thinking of what we had done. Giggling still, I walked into the office only to see the back of my mother. As she turned around, I saw her teary eyes, red. My admin exclaimed that I should go home with my mother. At this point, I had no idea why or what, but I was simply ecstatic to have escaped the test (I did lie to my admin when she asked if I had any).

On our way out I kept asking my mother of what had happened, she gave no answer. As we approached our car, I noticed that my dad was sitting in there. Something was terribly wrong, and only now I was slightly getting an idea of what exactly was happening. I had been dating a white-guy (non-Muslim) for a while now. But how could they have possibly known? I was still giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Five minutes of silence and then my father started. He called me a slut, sex-hungry, lying bitch. Very conveniently, he rolled my mother into his favorite hobby of abusing as well. By now it was obvious - they knew. I felt a heavy burden on my chest, like the sky was falling on me. His anger was out of control, and so were my tears. A hundred thoughts went through my head; who told them?

Upon arriving home, very passively (for the sake of the public) we entered our house. I was welcomed inside with a hard hit on my bottom with a cricket bat. As he continued to curse and paved the way towards my room, my mother did nothing at all. It didn't stop there. He went ahead and started hitting me with a phone cable. I screamed. I begged. It didn't work. He kept saying Is it sex that you want? Should I get you married, you whore! I could not understand why he was saying that; I was completely scandalized to hear these words from my own father. At the same time, I knew, something had broken; between him and me. Then he left.

After that moment, I didn't move. I was frozen in shock. My body was bruised severely. My face was a mess. My mother came in after what seemed like centuries. She kept crying. Why did you do this to us? I could not understand why were they making it so big? Did you do something? Why were they thinking of me like this? I wouldn't be in peace till you had your next period.

I'd been going out with a guy for a little while now. There was no way I would tell my parents even if I had a Pakistani boyfriend, having a British-non-Muslim was completely out of the question. But now they knew. I could not deny. I could not leave the room for several days. And my father hit me every night after coming back from his work. One night I was already sleeping before he came; he woke me up to let his frustration out. He was this close to killing me; he had the nerve to bring a knife up to my face, but not guts enough to stab it in me. I was completely cut off from everything. My food would be brought to my room while the rest of the family ate together downstairs.

My mother would come sometimes to put something on the bruises to ease the healing as they hardened. She sobbed intensely as she went on over and over again about where she had failed, what she had done to deserve this, why didn't I die before I brought this upon her.

I was 17 then. My family was quite conservative, there were a lot of rules. Rules that completely cut us from the society we were living in, socializing with them, becoming even a shadow of them. At home it was always shalwar kameez, luckily we could wear more society-friendly clothing when outside, but even then it had to be something that covered appropriately, was long enough and didn't show any skin.

On the fourth day my mother forced me to apologize to my father. It was the hardest thing. But she made me do it. It was another round of screams and abuses and accusations. And then it came down. She must wear a hijab from now on. I was completely taken aback. But that was the only way out for me. My timings were made more strict, and the already non-existent social life was crushed down to eternal death.

The next day I tried to talk to my mother about my boyfriend. It ended with her forcing me to call him to end it.

That was not the end of it all. Only the beginning.

Nobody wants their life to resemble a cheap novel.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Finding True Love, Beyond Boundaries

*Someone said to me that I am a racist and a sexist. The only reason I want to be with a non-Muslim is because I am victim to white-skin. Well, let me tell you mister, I am exactly as racist as you, your family, my family, and our community, that forces me to marry a brown-Pakistani-sunni-Muslim-cousin! So bite me!

A big shout out to Pakistani women who choose to be with a yellow-fellow, but that is precisely the point. Personal preferences, unforced!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Islamo-Erotica, Female Sexuality and Closed Cultures

Women of my homeland in: Unrelenting Contention

Amir Normandi, 30Y series

Technically, one would say that Muslim eroticism or Islamic erotica is an oxymoron. But I don't really understand why. In the recent years, a lot of art has surfaced looming around sexuality and the female form under the shadow of Islam. I posted a long time back about Sarah Maple, whose painting landed her the famous 15 minutes of fame. It is sometimes difficult to assume whether such art is merely for instant talk and controversy, or is there real substance behind it all.

Talking as a Muslim woman brought up in a very controversial setting – very conservative parents, my secret drawer that had everything un-Islamic and a Christian boyfriend – it is sometimes so confusing and conflicting to understand what I should and must be doing in contrast to what I should and must NEVER do. When I look at such art, it sort of reminds me of me; this dark, mysterious identity that I am almost forced to wear, in contrast to the secret times with myself where I admire myself in a pretty white-lace summer dress and dreaming about being in a distant land where no one is there to tell on me, or start yelling again about the hell-fires – to just get away from this dense web of my immigrant community where everybody is so effing interested in what I am doing, or almost waiting to catch me in situation that would spice up their life!

I get that Islam is about modesty and keeping private things private, but how will people ever know and learn and be OK with their sexuality if they don't talk? Just talking is such big issue, a girl is expected to be completely clueless about it till her wedding night. You have to just say the word sex and girls in Pakistan start giggling, blushing, put on this immensely scandalized expression, but yet are very, very interested. One girl gets to know something fresh from her newly married cousin or friend, and it will be the talk of the century till all the friends of the friends and the second and third and fourth cousins know about it. This clearly shows the lack of proper guidance and information available, but also how trying to keep something hidden is not stopping anybody from going ahead with their limited investigations. Why isn't it better to know the right thing from a credible source, instead of being freaked out all the time about will I get pregnant if I sit on this table? and having no one to answer, leading you to avoid sitting on any table at all times.

Even among married folk, it is such a pity of the kind of mindsets both a husband and wife have. The wife is too scared to being the one to lead, holds on to her personal desires, and basically acts like a miss-goody-2-shoes to avoid the husband thinking that she has any prior experience whatsoever. The husband, on the other hand, could be too scared to experiment something with this wife who has such apparently conservative values, that he does not want to put his guard or domination down. Isn't this a joke somewhere that once you've seen a man naked, you can't possibly take him serious anymore. LOL. This is the impact of the heavy interference of family in a married couples life in our culture. Because whatever you do, is a direct reflection of your family and upbringing, and you must die protecting your family's honor.

In very extreme cases such a relationship would lead the man to finding his desired level of pleasure elsewhere, and the woman ending up with a very dissatisfied sex life and living a marriage only for the well-being of (if any) children, or the respect of the family. In super extreme cases, the woman will also look for sexual release elsewhere. In the absolutely best of cases, they would talk.

Ladies. What (Muslim) men want as a wife is definitely someone who (in no particular order) will wear the persona of the world's most modest woman ever, one who will never negate him in public, will cook wonderful food for his friends, will be nice to his parents, will do as he says, will give advise only when he asks for it ... BUT also what he wants is someone who can turn the tables around when in their privacy. Islam is very clear and loud about a man's sexuality. Mut'ah marriages in history, his polygamous nature and acceptance of a sexual relationship with female slaves other than his wives, everything indicates that it's something quite important to him. It is important to us women as well, so how do you keep your game up, and the man interested? By not shying away from a little talk about each others' needs, likes and dislikes.

Gentlemen. Stop trying to make women believe you were sitting idle in your idle time. And stop expecting women to have been sitting idle in their idle time. By letting your guard down (bit by bit), you're only helping to improve your relationship. And if your woman makes a move, stop making foolish assumptions.

Art is sensitive to human nature. It is a visual detection of any micro-imbalance. To me, showing a burqa-clad woman doing it with a bearded man, or the woman just by herself is not controversial at all. It is only the affirmation of the fact that something is amiss. It may not be the best way to induce information in this closed society, because the creation of art is not always an angel-esque awareness-driven effort – it can be loud, at-your-face, distinctly-gripping, disgusting and very graphic as well – something that may not sit too well with some people. But it definitely is a very valid medium.

What makes Islamic erotica controversial is the presence of a female form. It is so often questioned as to why this constant objectification? Why isn't the male form used in a similar context. I can only just laugh about it because unless you're seriously deviated from human nature, you wouldn't be asking this question. LOL. What's even funnier though, is that in this genre, the nude form is absent; her privates are perfectly hidden - most of her is – and it's just the exaggerated pose that suggests anything sexual. To me, it's the perfect reflection of a woman as a sexual being that is cut off from the outer world with this thin layer of dark fabric. It's simply a reality that doesn't go down the throats of conservatives.

Islamic erotica is a result of closed up desires even in the most valid of relationships such as marriage. It should not be taken as controversial or dealt with aggressively, but as a means to fixing the existing imbalance. No one likes to talk about something that is running smoothly, we are all controversy-driven gossiping load of nutheads.

This could also be a reason why some Muslim women in Western cultures, who are more open and accepting of their sexuality, feel turned off by the idea of marrying a fellow Muslim man. The idea of going into a relationship where there are lots of expectations, mentally forced limitations, and a need of the loud showcasing of purity and chastity in absolute silence, can be very discomforting. And the idea of marrying a non-Muslim man, with whom they can fall in love, be romantic, not be shy of an enlightening talk, take an initiative, can be very liberating.
So relax. Have a Coca-Cola

Monday, May 3, 2010

2:223 Does Islam Define Women as Sexbots for their Men?

Muslims have sex too you know. They aren't asexual and their kids definitely don't grow on trees. I was pleasantly surprised to have come across a fatwa site with a Muslim brother asking about the permissibility of oral sex in Islam. *Big Smile*. It was a good read though (and yes it is allowed); lead to some googling regarding the infamous verse in the Quran (deemed terribly controversial by some women, including myself) 2-223:

Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.

Or a more traditional translation:

Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe.

When you read this out of context (and I swear each and every one of them does!), it sounds so sexist that I could sometimes feel marbles boiling in the temples of my face, and my pulse pulsating like your brains at a heavy metal concert! It not only angers me because it is in the Quran, but more-so because it can't be wrong – and NO ONE can challenge it. But if can't be wrong, and if Quran supports women's rights AND her dignity, there has to be another angle to it. And I found it! Nothing makes me happier to find a non-chauvinist interpretation. And after having understood something, when you land on websites like these, it really is a pity and I sympathize with people who hold onto such crude and shameful interpretations, and do not struggle to find the truth. To this person I would only direct her to go read verses 4:22-23. That should clear up her confusions. Or perhaps it's just a propagandist website, with never-Muslim writers, instead of ex-Muslim ones.

When you read it out of context, it comes across as women being sex slaves to their men, who can go in whenever they please. It is definitely hard to my ears, and if it were to be exactly just this, I would've never absorbed it. Men who use this verse as a continuous reminder to themselves (and their women) that they are the sexually privileged and in charge, obviously have their heads too up in the sky. So what is the real deal then?

What I found is that back in the days the Jewish people (the people of Book) used to have sex with their women only by lying on their sides. This provided the woman with a sort of privacy and her body was not on a full display to her man. other than the Jewish, the Ansaars (the idol-worshipers) also practiced sex in a similar fashion, and had in fact adopted this from the Jews. When the Muhaajir came to Madinah (the Quraysh tribe), one of their men married an Ansaar women. Since the Quraysh were not bound to doing it only by lying on their sides, the Ansaar wife found it odd that her husband wanted to do it differently and strictly told him to either do it from the side, or not do it at all. The issue became bigger and the news finally reached Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And that is when the verse 2:223 was revealed to him, implying that there was no restriction as how you choose to do it, as long as it is vaginal. The Jews also believed that having anal sex would bring a child with a squint. So it was to clear the misconception about what behind really meant. You can read about this with complete reference here.


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