Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ramadhan 2014--goals and hopes

A blessed month of Ramadhan to all; May peace and blessings of God be bestowed upon you.

As The Holy Month of the revelation of the Holy Qu'ran begins, I wish to share what my experience will be fasting in my small town as well as some goals and hopes I have for this Holy Month. First, let me ask for forgiveness for my shortcomings and thank God for allowing me to see another Ramadhan.

As most of you now know, Ramadhan is a personally special time for me as the Greatness of God and Islam was revealed to me through the act of fasting during Ramadhan 2009. I then studied greatly for 3 years and proclaimed my faith in One God and belief in His prophet Mohammed during Ramadhan 2012. Two years later, I find myself far from where I first learnt about Islam and devout of a Muslim partner or Muslim community--my faith, however, is still strong of God's love and guidance.

As every year when Ramadhan is in the summer, the fasting hours will be long. In my community, the fasting days will last an average of 18 hours. As I am currently on medication, I will attempt to fast full days but will have to modify the schedule if my medication was to react negatively with the fasting.

It's difficult to image a Ramadhan where I am not able to connect with God through fasting. With that said, I have taken to, once again, read the Qu'ran in it's entirety and hope to be sharing passages with you throughout the holy month.

My goal is also to accomplish all 5 daily prayers, which I must admit I have failed to do during the year.

I also hope to visit neighbouring Muslim communities and do some prayerful isolations at neighbouring mosques as there are none in my locality.

Lastly, I hope to do some charity work or donate funds from small money-making endeavours.

If by my example, I can inspire believers to strengthen their own relationship with God, I pray and hope that this Ramadhan will help me find my own inspiration.

May this Holy Month provide you with strength and solace.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

From the kindness of my heart...

I have a hard time letting go of grudges. It's not a pretty thing and I am not proud of it but I let myself care about people so deeply that, when hurt, I can never regard them in the same way again. Time may pass and memories may fade but I hold onto hurt and anger like buoys, reminding my heart to steer away from pain. Worst than the grudges I hold is my desire to get even; to hurt those who have hurt me in the same way, as deeply and as long as I'm hurting. Some people don't hold onto pain as long as I do, which often serves to make me resentful and feel I should punish them some more. This is not a pretty side of me. And try as I may to forgive and forget, in my heart and my mind it is hard to let go. This is not an Islamic part of me. It's not even a kind and compassionate human side of me but I must admit to this side.

Sometimes, not often, I am able to let go of some hurt and anger and feel the need to share my forgiveness with those I have felt wronged me. That is not always smart. The people who wronged me may not have realized that I was hurt or entitled to hurting me; regardless, it often leads to further hurt and anger.

Recently, after overcoming a hard challenge and achieving an important milestone, I felt a place of peace and kindness in my heart, able to let go of hurt from the past. I reached out to someone that I had love kindly and who I've hurt and hurt me deeply, and expressed my forgiveness. He received it in kindness and forgave me in return.

I cannot say that I will ever forget the hurt nor will I ever feel for him what I delt in the past, but my heart is grateful for his humble acceptance of my forgiveness and his kind forgiveness of my own shortcomings. I haven't changed; I am still feisty, fiery and sometimes even nasty  in situations of injustice, hurt and pain, but my heart is lightened by holding a little less resentment in it for someone who has also done me great good.

I pray that all those who have wronged and been wronged can taste the sweetness of forgiveness and may we learn from the hurt and use it for good. May it enlighten and empower us rather than detract and stifle us and may we find in each other kindness.

Friday, January 31, 2014

World Hijab Day and the half-jabi'ed experiment

 Peace and blessings everybody,

Today was an interesting day at my small-town government office: World Hijab Day. Two of my colleagues and myself underwent a hijabi/half-jabi transformation. The goal? Start a dialogue about women's rights to cover or uncover as they please, inner beauty reflected in comfort and confidence and the realities of body-policing as a universal but detrimental phenomenon against women's agency. In simpler term: most societies care more about what women wear than who women are--and that's wrong!

Many studies will tell you that people are generally happier when they feel good about themselves. That's often the ruse used by the beauty industry to sell beauty to women: they attempt to sell them happiness. The problem is that this same industry put their standards just out of reach so that they can continue to sell. This standard, while increasingly true for men, has been part of women's reality for a lifetime. Women have been, at the hand of misogynous attitudes and patriarchal societies, the subject of discomfort established by companies aiming at a profit.

I'm not going to be a hypocrite: I buy in the happy/beauty myth ALL. THE. TIME. I have enough makeup to repaint my apartment; enough dresses, skirts, pants, tights, tops, jackets and cardigans to dress the entire town; and more hair products, scarves, jewelry and other accessories to decorate an 8-feet tall Christmas tree. You're selling beauty? I'm probably the first hypocrite buying into it. That's one of a number of reason I started to wear hijab a year and a half ago: it gave me the ability to fit into various standards of beauty without ever compromising my own physical esthetics. You see, I am one of those people who has a number of tattoos and often have crazy-coloured hair (I've had everything from blond to black to blue and purple) but I insist that those are strictly for myself. Even without hijab, my tattoos rarely showed (they are conveniently place for discretion) and I was extremely shy to wear my crazy hair when I had to show it. Now, I do as I please with my body--haraam police be damned--and no one is the wisest! Only God can judge me.

Having this freedom came at the price of some of my pride: my hair, once sacred, became hidden. This self-imposed modesty forced me to explore different facets of my "beauty" which once relied between my breasts and my rear-end. I will admit having a certain pride in my body but in the last year and a half, what's superseded my pride is my self-expression: my desire to show the world who I am through style and colour/pattern-coordination and, more importantly, through my actions.

So today, I let a part of that go; I told myself that this discussion was much needed and took off the piece of cloth which has enabled this re-orientation of my focus towards myself. I took it off "come what may" and would allow whatever conversation to happen. What happened, was a wonderful show of support from friends online and off but also a surprising hatred of being called "pretty" without my scarf.

Since the morning, I was incredibly uncomfortable with removing the head scarf: I knew I was doing it for a good cause and for good intentions, but all the while I resented that this actually mattered. At the dawn of the Charter of Quebec Values banning religious symbols (including hijab) in the provincial public service, as neighbours and less culturally-diverse province, I knew a statement had to be made that I *can* take off hijab but am uncomfortable doing so, because it should be my choice, not my government's choice what I wear!

So I enlisted the help of two of my wonderful colleagues and we roamed the office in a strange switcharoo: hijabi'ed/half-hijabi'ed. As the (usually) only hijabi in the office, these women constantly got mistaken for me and I got some interesting looks throughout the day. Most were simply puzzled about the change, some in "awe" of my hair--of which I only showed  my well-groomed bangs and my favourite ones were from those who simply could not put a finger on what had changed. The latter were my favourite because they'd taken such an interest in who I am that what I wore never crossed their minds or imprinted their memories. I *love* those people!

There were also the few and far between who tried to convince me that I was "much prettier" without my scarf. Some time after the third or fourth similar comment, I came to terms with my rage and anger. I felt disrespected when my colleagues valued conforming with societal ideals of "beautyh" above my comfort, but that in no way took away from my beauty. I *am* beautiful, hijab or not, and if wearing hijab is my choice then I am beautiful wearing it, if I were to decide not to wear hijab, I would still be beautiful without it. What I eventually saw in my colleagues' statements were their limitations when it came to acknowledging beauty.

It might come off as condescending, and I must admit it is to some extent, but I came to pity these
limitations. I came to wonder if they notice these limitations in other respects of their lives. I am fairly artistic and try to see beauty in everything and every one, I wonder if those who only see physical beauty in what they know would be unable to perceive beauty similarly in regards to inanimate objects, scenery and animals?

Regardless, I remain my own self; a hijabi-artiste with a flair for the unusual, unconventional, culturally diverse beauty. Monday, I will be back to work, hijab secured and bangs covered; I pray and I hope I will have had some impact on my colleagues and my community because this country is too beautiful, too great to be soiled by bigotry and body-policing.

[NOTA: While this article is written solely from my perspective wearing half-hijab for the day, I have yet to get my colleagues' experience wearing hijab--another article for another day!]

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Art of Giving

I am of the few looking forward to Christmas. Not because, to many Christian brothers and sisters, it is a time to remember the birth of Jesus the Christ--our Prophet Isa-- or for many Pagan brothers and sisters it is a time of celebration of the solstice, nor for the Holy celebration of Chanukah for Jewish brothers and sisters. I respect all faith traditions, but the reason I look forward to this season is what most people abhor of the holy days: its heavy reliance on family time and gift giving.

I realize that for many, it is a sad time where they are reminded of what they lack: money or family connection or loved ones now passed away. Many have also made the valid and true point that one should not wait for the holidays to be grateful for that which we *do* have. However, I find that the human mind too often forgets its blessings, so while I am not Christian, Jewish or of any Pagan traditions, and the holidays mean nothing to me religiously, it is still a beautiful time of sharing, giving and being grateful.

I'm blessed to be financially able to give gifts to those I love; however, I found that over the years, I've come to understand the "art of giving", because anyone can give someone 10$ or a coffee shop gift card, but it takes a pure soul to give it to someone who did not expect to receive a gift, who may not have thought they deserved a gift even!

Of course, gift cards and cash may not be financially viable options, still, to this day, nothing has warmed my mother's heart more than a homemade gift and that rings true of most parents but also of many friends and acquaintances. The true art of giving is in knowing what to give: it could be as easy as knitting a headband for the hijabi who's been struggling to put a tuque up top her hijab (HOLLA sisters of the Great White North!), Sharpie-ing a personal message on a white mug for a fellow coffee drinker or making a painting for someone. Yes, some of those homemade gifts require some skills but some honestly only require some creativity!

The truth about gift-giving is that the gift hardly ever matters, what truly matters is the intention.

For those who may not be fortunate enough to have those to share with or who may not be willing to partake in a celebration materialistic belongings, the art of giving is not solely material: your time is by far the most valuable thing you can give, whether by spending time with loved ones who may not receive of your presence so often, by volunteering with those less fortunate or by taking someone's shift so that they can spend the holidays in a manner that is meaningful for them. Most important is to remember to be grateful, for what you have and who you have, and most importantly, who you are.

So for this season, whether you celebrate Channukah, Cheistmas, Yule, Festivus, the Solstice, the year end or if you have no special celebration belonging to the season, I wish you peace of mind and remembrance that you are unique, beautiful and loved, by family, friends and by God.

Peace and blessings everybody!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Living on the wire

I moved to a new town at the beginning of September after a very short notice. Settling oddly into my new town, I expected to use the cyber space as my only link to the world I knew; a world vastly different than the one I moved into. I know this "new" town very well; I moved away from it 6 years ago. In those 6 years, i obtained a university degree, made friends from every corner of the globe and accepted a religion viewed much more negatively than the one I was brought up into. I love this new world in which I got involved; leaving it tore me apart. But I would still be able to "visit" this world virtually, right? Wrong!

Only a few days after arriving at my temporary residence, my access to the world came crashing: Literally! My computer became unusable! With limited data on my Internet-accessible phone, I was able to keep superficial contact with this world. And through my lack of distraction, I was forced to connect with this new world I was thrown into.

Reluctantly but gracefully (or my failed attempts at grace in these circumstances) I learned to integrate to new friends, changes in the town and of the work, I accepted a new pace of life and different activities, I acceptance the distance and sometimes lack of communication between friends I once considered close. I saw my world changing before my very eyes and was "disconnected" enough to really notice the change. 

Some would argue that I got meaner; it seemed I have also somewhat disconnected from myself along with the World Wide Web and my once sarcastic and witty edge has gotten sharper and maybe even cutting. I don't mean it to be but that seems to be my new protection against a world I expected to experience behind a screen. I have also become much more concerned with my own well-being; guarding my body, my heart, my mind and my health against the cold hard world. I discovered a new love for myself I did not always allow myself to hear. 

I re-discovered my love of books and discovered my own idea of comfort food. I elaborated my talents and discovered new passions, new goals and new ambitions.

This rest period, living off--or less--on the wire was truly therapeutic. I can thankfully say that this otherwise unfortunate situation has brought about some much-needed changes in myself and I my behaviour.

I now have a computer once again and I am confident that the interwebz won't suck me back in; I am looking forward to re-connecting with friends and to sharing my new insight with my fans, friends and followers but I now have new priorities which take precedence on all the other "things" the Internet has to offer.

Thank you for your continued support! I'm looking forward to more regular posts  on this bright new life I'm now living. Do not worry: I am still my God and Diversity-loving self and I will continue to write slightly controversial but hopefully inspiring posts about spirituality, relationships and diversity. Hopefully, over time these posts will become notes and insight rather than angry rants but beware--anger's still got to come out somehow, so how about in a healthy, non-violent way!?

I love you all for the sake of humanity and of it's Creator. Peace and blessings everybody!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

K for Kiss

"Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V." -Hugo Weaving as V, V for Vendetta

While V for Vendetta, a wonderful piece of graphic novel/cinematic art, discusses everything from social attitudes towards government to political control of the population to the role of fear in genocide and other crimes against humanity, that is not the theme that captured my interest tonight. It is not either the beautifully juxtaposed cameos of classical music, classic cinema, alliteration and beautiful vocabulary. It's not even the subtle but noted praise of the Holy Quran in a post 9/11 Hollywood movie. What struck me tonight is a kiss. A single kiss between Evey (Natalie Portman) and Guy Fawks mask worn by V (Hugo Weaving).

In this one kiss, Evey reveals an undeniable love for 'V', a man or thing she has never seen in the flesh. She later reveals that 'V' is a bit of everyone; V is an ideal. I've seen this movie several times so it may be with a tainted outlook that I see this kiss as a bleak portrayal of vulnerability *and* strength through an ideal... An ideal that could never reciprocate the love and dedication she offers him.

I understand far too well this dedication; as a queer-activist and a Muslim, I realize that I am "married" to ideals that can be seen as quite "unpopular" by the mainstream. Moreover, I know that both these beliefs are often seen as opposite one another, antagonistic even. I ammetaphorically  sleeping with both enemies of mainstream Christian-right Noth American society. In many ways,  my wife and mistress of sorts have kept me safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable  in the sense that I have clear conscience in the knowledge that I am doing my best to do what I truly and honestly believe to be morally right.

Without the added dilemma of juggling two arch nemesis, everyone who is married to their ideals will understand this struggle; finding the worth in the sacrifices required to remain dedicated to a cause. Because as much as I hate to say it, I sleep comfortably with a clear conscience every night, alone and in an empty bed.

Struggling for a cause does not always keep you warm but remember the people who do, remember the friends supporting you,remember the cause you are serving. And one day, I hope, we'll all find lips that kiss us back... Inshallah!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Follow the yellow brick road...

It is with the deepest regret that I announce that I will be leaving Canada's capital city, my home for the past 5 years. I had dreamed of moving to Ottawa since I was 12 and I still consider Ottawa to be my dream city. So why am I leaving? Because I have to follow the yellow brick road, of course!

Let me explain: in the past months my relationship has completely broken apart, I lost my job for the 2nd times in a year and my employment insurance was withheld far beyond the 3 weeks it should have taken. While under all of these stresses, I asked God for a good, permanent, full-time job that would allow me the security I needed to build a good life for myself and my mother.

Recently, I was offered a job that I didn't apply for. I was given a full-time, permanent position... only an hour away from my mother. If I had a job, I would probably refuse the position. If I had a boyfriend, I would probably refuse the position. If I had the assurance that I would find a position before my employment insurance ran out, I would refuse the position. But all of these things have been put in place so that I am in no position to refuse the job. I believe God has lined up this yellow brick road and I am not arrogant enough not to follow it.

In fact, the only reason I am not risking staying in Ottawa even with uncertain financial risks, single and jobless is because I believe that this is God handing me an opportunity greater than what I could possibly perceive it to be. The advantages such as money or closeness to family mean absolutely *nothing* to me. What means something to me is the fact that the stars aligned perfectly. I believe in following God's signs. It's what lead me to Islam, it's what got me through the tough nights, it's what gets me through every single day.

God has a plan.

I am extremely angry with God right now. I am angry at His plans. I am angry that His plans including losing the person I loved and perhaps losing even more friends once I move. I am angry that his plans include moving to a city that I already know to be homophobic, islamophobic and racist. I am angry that I am angry at His plan, because I never want to be angry at God. But I am. Regardless of my anger, I am trying to be the bigger person and trust. I trust that no matter how angry His plan makes me, He has planned to my best interest.

I am following the path God has lined up for me. I am following His yellow brick road even though I don't expect the Emerald City by any stretch of the imagination. I am following the yellow brick road kicking and screaming rather singing pretty songs, but I am following the yellow brick road wherever it leads me.

God has a plan.