Friday, December 28, 2012

Life as it "should" be...

I reconnected recently with a acquaintance from a few years back. As we shared what had become of our lives, she was in awe at where I was in life. In her words my "life is discernally different than what [she] assumed it would be". I usually don't bother myself too much with people's opinions (those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter) but this person is someone I shared with, once upon a time, deep thoughts and secrets about my dreams, ambitions and goals, etc. So her words rang true and deep within my heart and shook me up on many levels.

I'm 24 years old. Twelve years ago, as a bright 12-year-old, a snot-nose, goody-two-shoes, overly-sheltered kid, my father, my hero and mentor, talked about the city of Ottawa. Ottawa, the capital of our country and the centre of government, could be our future home. I was going through difficult times at home with a sick mother and wanted to escape to this beautiful multi-cultural haven my dad spoke about with bright, dream-filled eyes. I finally had the chance to visit Ottawa in 2002, I was 14-years-old. I was in love. Ottawa was everything I had dreamed about and more. People of colour (a rarity in my small town of New Brunswick), people wearing different clothing, speaking different languages... all were Canadians, all belonged to my country, our country(!) and all were going about their day as if there was nothing miraculous about this!

I speak of Ottawa in this manner because nothing in my life ever seemed as concrete as the dream of moving here. I wanted something and I was going to do everything in my power to achieve it. Believe it or not, 14-years-old me did not know a word of English (okay, maybe a few words but none appropriate for daily use). So I learned English, I went to university, somehow found a university in Ottawa which offered a degree of interest, and moved. On May 3rd, 2008, at the tender age of 20 years old, I moved to Ottawa.

Whenever I dreamt of Ottawa, I saw myself living my life here. I was never clear on what I was doing in Ottawa; I just knew I "should" be in Ottawa. So in many ways, my life is exactly as I always thought it "should" be! I have no idea what lies ahead or where I will be, or what I will be doing, but here's my question: is life ever as it "should" be?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What ressources have I used to learn about Islam

Qu'ran Explorer:
Qur'an Android app:
Muslims for Progressive Values on Facebook:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Get to know me #3 - What has been the reactions to my conversions

I know I do a lot of complaining and ranting about some of the situations that I come across but I'm overall very grateful for the love and support I have received throughout my journey. So this video is more of a shoutout to all the beautiful people who have been there for me throughout this journey so far.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kicking off the habit

The more it goes, the more I realize that most aspects of my life can be considered as habits. From the food I eat, to the people I speak to, my comfort levels lie in the knowledge, commonality and familiarity. I try as much as I can to grow and improve, but sometimes I find change difficult. Difficult, not because of the effort required to accomplish that change, but difficult because it requires that I change all the habits which revolve around that element.

For example, when I decided to start wearing hijab, what I found difficult was adapting the headscarf to my style and indivuality. I could have easily chosen to change my style, but I knew that this was not what I wanted to do. Gradually, I learned how to make different styles using tutorials, eventually learning to improvise my own.

This is true of most change. When I moved to Ottawa, what I found most difficult was not the adaptation to the city, but the fact that my social circle was so limited. For years I had a solid social circles where I could visit friends at the drop of a hat, of course I have now rebuilt my social circle to a similar level, but it took some time, and the initial blow took a toll on me.

I am now at a phase of my life where I know I need to make a change. I am very uncertain of the path I wish to take and, while considering my options, I find that I rely on familiarity to take on the next step. I have often made changes by jumping in, relying on nothing but faith and hoping to redevelop habits once settled. My current clinging to habits is new to me and makes me wonder whether I've grown wiser or weaker.

Am I avoiding unecessary risks or am I scared to take necessary ones? I am in a good place physically and mentally, I have found an inner peace which has long lacked in my life. A change is required in my life, and currently it is innevitable, but somehow, I cling to this stability in fear of losing it once change happens. Sometimes the worse habit to kick off is comfort itself!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Defining religion

For many years, I have defined myself as a non-religious person. Not an atheist, not even quite an agnostic, but I did not associate with any particular faith. At the beginning of my journey towards Islam, I got caught in a debate about faith as distinct from religion. At the time, I defined "religion" as the community and belief system of a community whereas my "opponent" claimed that there was no difference between the faith and religion. If one was a Muslim they were automatically part of the religion that is Islam.

Throughout my studies of Islam, I certainly found enlightening the perception of individuals and religion within its context: Muslims are not to pray to prophets or saints, angels or passed loved ones, but to God Himself, and no other. Imams and clerics have no power to forgive or expiate you from sins. So the power of the "religion" rests solely on the individual and God.

So how does one define religion outside of the social construct? That's one concept I am still trying to fully develop. From my understanding, every religion (or belief system) is a set of moral and ethical rules and values to hold and protect what is "right". The definition of what is "right" or "wrong" might differ and the reward or punishment for doing right or wrong can be different, but the basic understanding that one must do "right" stands true for all religions (and belief systems).

Now where can there possibly be the problem "with religion" if every individual is simply thriving to do "right"? There's none! Unfortunately, humans are social by nature. Socialisation forces humans to connect on similarities, and that includes moral and ethical rules. Eventually, we come to a consensus on what is considered "right" and "wrong" within the greater community. From this concesus and the human desire to "fit in" we begin to compare our own moral compass to that of the masses to determine, not what is "right" but what is good. Good becomes the greater of the "right", achieving a higher social order by abiding by what is right not solely for the individual but also for the community.

It is within this comparative that problems often begins. We begin to behaved based on this comparative: one community is better than the other, one country is better than the other, one gender is better than the other, and, unfortunely, we begin to define one belief system as better than the other.

Unfortunately, these comparatives create conflict. To become Good, the reasonable thing to do would be to improve oneself, to learn and adapt and discover the reason behind the "right" of others; however, that is not what people do. Instead of becoming the better person, we attempt to make others worse. We concentrate efforts on diminishing others or on bullying them into agreeing with our versions of "right". And of course, some people will use their religious belief to do so.

In reality, most if not all religions and spiritual beliefs stand against dimishing others for our own selfish gain. However, human nature doesn't. Personally, I try very hard to better myself for my own and for God's sake. I cannot help anyone else, I cannot define anyone else's belief. I can encourage and answer questions, explain my own belief and explain what I believe is ultimately "right", but I refuse to force or bully anyone into agreement. I refuse to believe I am ultimately right in everything. In my personal belief, I believe that I could be very wrong in my definition of right, and it keeps me open to learning, to becoming better.

So how do I define religion? I define it as my vision of "right" as per what I have been inspired by God to believe. It's that "simple"!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Love conquers all?

My relationship has come to an end. It is incredibly saddening and devastating to see something you've worked incredibly hard and invested so much of your soul into fall appart. However, God knows that we've tried everything. The hardest part for me to accept that love doesn't always conquer all. And in ways I still believe it does. I just know now that this may not have been the right kind of love to conquer our problems.

I put my faith entirely in God that He will guide me where and to whom I belong when the time is right. Meanwhile, I learn from every love gained and lost. From my ex, I  have learned to let the past go, let lost loves be lost and truly give yourself to your present. (Ironic much?) I have learned that having standards is good and that one should not sacrifice what feels right for what feels good. I became a Muslim with his help and support and will continue to be one with His Love and Support.

Because in the end, that's what always holds true: God's Love conquers all or at the very least God's will, and since I believe in a God that is Most Compasionate, Most Merciful (Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim) I believe His will is one of Love. So I continue my journey through faith, through love, through life better, stronger, grown of my love for a man which has nurtured my love for the Creator.

May God keep us both happy and succesful, lead us to the straight path and lead us not astray.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Get to know me #1 - Why I chose Islam

So many have asked me that I decided to give one clear answer to you all... clear-ish. I'm still not quite sure myself what really happened that made me Muslim, all I know is that it feels right, answers most of my questions about religion and that it fits with everything I believe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

To whom beauty is beheld

I have been wearing hijab everyday for a few months now, and scarcely for about a year. Those who see me in hijab have seen me as oppressed, beautiful and sometimes still too scandalous. I am proud of my body. Proud of my accomplishments. While I do have some less-than-glamorous moments, I am not ashamed of anything. That is why, for a very long time, professional photographies of my hijab style were posted alongside professional photographies of myself in a bikini, in poses made to showcase my tattoed ribs.

Beauty is subjective. Each and everyone of us will define beauty in their own way. Nothing reflects more the individualistic perspective of beauty than Rule 34. Yes, I'm referring to the concept of "if it exists, there's porn of it". The reality is that humans are able to see beauty and even sexuality in almost everything. (Sometimes to the disgust of others, but who's keeping count?)

We are all able to perceive beauty. In the same realm of reality, we are also all able to exhalt beauty. THAT is where I'm going with this: our ability to be beautiful and to be perceived as beautiful.
Today I have discussed (argued) my desire to wear hijab. Today, I have also watched a rant from a self-proclaimed obese woman who talked about assuming your weight and more importantly to stop assuming others' weight as something undesirable. I've also read today an article on the target put on female genitalia by the beauty industry, a story which has in many ways made me rethink the beauty industry as a whole. However, the inspiration for this article from somewhere else altogether, a comment by a fellow group member amused by multiple women ouuuh-and-ahhh-ing at a beautiful dress. She wrote clandestinely that it was funny to see our reaction and that, clearly, us women like to shop.

This gave me pause. My first thought was to think that our desire to shop was prompted by the availability of a wide range of options -- in many regards, our selection is vastly greater than that of our male counterparts -- but then I wondered: why is there such a disparity of options. For centuries, western societies have been patriarch; therefore, if desire for beauty was to come from availability, shouldn't ment have created greater beauty products then women when they had the power to do so? That's when it hit me: the beauty industry was not created for those who wish to BE beautiful, but for those who wish to SEE beauty.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then it is time that we stop trying to look at ourselves with someone else's eyes. To achieve standards of beauty established by someone else is frivolous and ludicrous, for laws of nature dictates that we are all unique and therefore, can only behold what is unique to ourselves.

So here it is, the truth afterall. Hijab, no hijab, bikini, tattoos, overweight, skinny, we are, for all matters of purposes, "beholdable".

Monday, October 8, 2012

Between thankful and mindful

I've never been much of a fan of Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving corresponds to Columbus Day in the United States). There are two parts to Thanksgiving: the first is the celebration of the discovery of the land, when we slaughtered, imprisoned and enslaved Aboriginal people claiming property over their land simply because we judged ourselves more civilized than them. The second is a Christian/pagan holiday thanking God for the harvest. I don't know how many Canadians are still farmers but I can tell you that it does not quite justify the 3 million turkeys consumed each Thanksgiving in Canada alone.

Of course, Thanksgiving has grown into a cultural holiday as well where thank "X" for the food, shelter and loved ones. I don't mean to deprive anyone from that or to undermine this celebration in any way, but I think that as adults and as educated people, we need to recognize the religious and colonialist background of the "holidays" we celebrate.

With that in mind, I want to say that I am thankful. Thankful that the internet is a place where I can rant freely about the annoyances of the world. Thankful that the annoyances of the world do not in any way overwhelm the beauties and graces of it. Thankful that I have great people to share the world with:  good, bad and ugly as it may be! Thankful that I live a peaceful life where my biggest possible worry is whether I will have enough internet data to watch The Big Bang Theory online.

I know and I am mindful that all of these priviledges have come at a great price for many MANY people and so to the generations of aboriginal people who have suffered under my white priviledged ancestors, I am sorry. I would also like to apologize to all the non-christians who have suffered under my Catholic-supremacist ancestors here in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

For my Muslim brothers and sisters who judge innapropriate for me to celebrate a holiday based on christianity and on colonialism: I am not so sorry. It is our diversity and freedom which makes me so thankful on a day like today to call myself Canadian, so I am not so sorry that even though I am aware and mindful of the religous and colonial roots, I am still proud to celebrate CANADIAN Thanksgiving.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On home and family

The Qu'ran mentions in many parts the importance of family, of treating parents and spouses with dignity and respect. About a thousand kilometers stand between me and most of my family members, which on a daily basis is not a bad thing but once in a while it is great to find yourself surrounded by those who love you dearly. 

I recently travelled to visit my mom in my hometown for her birthday. I had a love-hate relationship with my mom, my town and my extended family for most of my life, in no small part due to my strong opinions and my stubborn desire to stand up to authority. I recently converted to Islam and I don he hijab daily, I was nervous at the idea of bringing my new faith and my new style to a place that has been less than kind to me over the years. I dragged my boyfriend along for a well-deserved vacation and for moral support.

They say home is where the heart is, well, I realized this week that my heart was never in the right place before. Growing up in my hometown I felt secluded, rejected, unloved and I longed for a place of acceptance.Visiting it this week brought me a new perspective. Most of those who troubled me as a child have moved on -- I assume to troubling others. Those who were left behind are mainly irrelevant, irrelevant in meaning that they were not meaningful to the years of pain I lived through, and with my man by my side, I felt they were invisible.

My mother and I have long ago mended our broken relationship troubled by mistrust and misguided kindness; we learned through experience to love and care for one another in ways which are both productive and effective.

Remained my extended family. I often feel like it would take a miracle for me to live up to their expectations to which they hardly live up to themselves. My superhero boyfriend helped me there once again, whether it was keeping it cool when an uncle asked what is job was "if he even has a job" or holding my hand in sympathy when a cousin asked sarcastically if my hijab was a new city trend.

I realize today that I chose what "home" means to me. My mother, my boyfriend, the ocean front of my hometown, that is my definition of "home". While I can't always have all three at once, I can live knowing that either of these is at proximity and live with the comfort that one way or another, I can always "come home".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Right to Doubt

I have been raised to think critically about what I am told, to look and wait for sensible quantifiable proof. For many, belief in a higher power goes against this. As I stated on my blog before, I find that the world is full of "coincidences" that can but only point to an intelligent design. So yes, I believe in God. The Beneficient and Merciful Creator in which I believe would provide guidance to its creation via scripture and people to propagate this message. I have always had this concept of the Divine and have always held on to that belief.

Islam came into my life slowly but surelyin droplets and waves. As a modern thinker and an intelligent woman, I have come to think critically about many aspects of life, including my faith. My belief in God has never changed, but instead was confirmed by the teachings of Islam. When all is said and done, I firmly believe in God and in the message of the prophets of God. The Golden Rule is my guide: to do he right I want others to do for me and avoid the evil which I want others to avoid doing to me. Some people may call this common sense, but 24 years of live and frequenting people from all walks of life have taught me that common sense is the least common of all senses.

This story was told to me a while back:
A ship with a crew of Muslim men was stranded on a Island. On this Island lived a young woman, who had been left alone on the Island by mysterious tragedy. While the crew worked on fixing the ship, she cooked for them and offered them shelter, in exchange, they taught them all they knew about Islam. The young woman was eager to learn and absorbed as much as she could.
The ship was finally fixed a few days later, and the crew decided to set sail that evening. As they headed towards the beach, the young woman came running towards them, asking them to show her one more time how to do the ritualistic cleansing (wu'du). They showed her. As they were gathering on the coast to leave, she came running to them again, asking them to show her one more time how to make obligatory prayers (salaat). They showed her. As they embarked the ship, and started to sail away, she came running to them again, asking them to show her one more time how to make prayers (du'a). The crew was in shock to see her running over the water, much like the miracle attributed to prophet Jesus (Isa) pbuh.
They asked the young woman how she was able to walk on water, she answered that in all of her years on the Island, she had been speaking to God on a regular basis and this ability was a gift He had bestowed upon her. The Muslims quickly told the girl to forget all that they had taught her and to simply continue what she was doing before they came along; if she had a special relationship with God, surely He knew best.

To me, that is true faith: realizing that, in reality, only God knows. Only God knows what He truly wishes for us in our worship, only God knows what rules are truly best for humanity, only God knows what interpretation of His message truly fits with His vision for us. I have encountered people from many denominations and various religions which have a very static view of their faith. Where the interpretations held by scholars are believed to be indeniably correct, unquestionable and undoubtable. They will call non-Christian, non-Muslim, non-religious, anyone and everyone who doubts or questions those interpretations. I disagree.

It is human nature to doubt and question. It is also human nature to make mistakes. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) even said that he was not free of mistake and that everything he said which was correct was from God and everything which was incorrect was from himself, for God makes no mistake. Yet, many Muslims claim that prophets were infallible. With all of this in mind, how can intelligent, critical people not question interpretations?

I find pretentious and even perhaps foolish for someone to claim with certainty that their interpretations or the interpretation they follow is flawless. I understand that not everyone will agree with me, but I want to be allowed to doubt and question elements of my religion without being called a disbeliever or without my faith being questioned: I am a believer, I am a follower of God's teachings sent via his messengers. Just because my interpretation of Islam does not fit the small, restrictive box created by some and labelled Islam does not mean that I am any less of a Muslim. So I ask, allow me to doubt, and if you truly fear for my faith, pray to God that He gives me guidance, because all in all He knows best.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Will you believe as your forefathers believe?

Peace and blessings everyone.

When I write, it usually comes from a place of anger or annoyance, irritation or contemplation. Today, I write from a place of great sadness and hurt. Sadness and hurt that I feel lonelier than ever, isolated from my family and friends.

Ramadan, for many Muslims born from Muslim families, is a time to share. Share time, together, in rememberance of God and of this religious experience lived together. As a very new Muslim convert, and more importantly as a progressive Muslim convert, I feel isolated from the mainstream conservative and moderate Muslim  community.

One aspect I did not expect was the isolation I would come to experience from my family members. I come from a family which have had many challenges forcing them to open their minds including a queer father and a cousin with a mental disability. We have experienced much heartake from the society at large and we had to learn to stand tall with one another, to have eachother's back. As I write, today, I have learned that they no longer have my back and, even more disheartening, that they have identified my conversion to Islam as no longer having theirs.

The Qu'ran has this verse, 2:170, which says "Whenever someone tells them: 'Follow what God has sent down;' they say: 'Rather we will follow what we discovered our forefathers were doing,' even though their forefathers did not use reason in any way nor were they guided." [translation T.B. Irving]

I would not say that my forefathers did not use reason, but perhaps that their reasoning did not lead them to the same conclusions mine did. I love my family, I really do, I even have a number of tattoos to that effect. I have no intentions to change them or convert them (I have no intention of changing or converting anyone), I just ask for support and respect, the same that I support and respect them all, regardless of their personal choices or lifestyles.

We were never made to be one homogenous people. We are different and I believe that our differences are God-made, all of them: our race, culture, language, religion, dis/ability, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender, social economic background. I believe that God chose for us a specific path within which we need to navigate and learn to become better human beings, part of which includes respect and love of others who differ from you.

The Qu'ran states at 49:13 "O mankind, We have created you from a male and female, and set you up as nations and tribes so you may recognize [and cooperate with] one another. The noblest among you with God is that one of you who best performs his duty; God is Aware, Informed" [translation by T.B. Irving]

I am hurt to see that some of my family members will not have my back, but my sadness comes from another place altogether. More than everything, I want them to know that I still have their backs, whether that means standing up against homophobia/heterosexism, supporting the rights of people with dis/ability, talking against violence made to women or speaking out against rape culture and victim blaming/silencing. Those issues reach out across cultures, races and religion, and you can stand with me, a Muslim, or you can get out of my way, because nothing, and I mean NOTHING will stop me from ensuring those issues are heard and dealt with. Including, but not limited to, those few of you who wish I would be quiet, because now, it's a Muslim speaking. It IS a Muslim speaking, it is a WOMAN speaking, it is a young French Acadian Canadian Female Muslim Queer-spawn talking and you WILL hear me! Because I am loud and "innapropriate" and I have no intentions of ever changing!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Polyamoury, polygamy and polygyny

As you may have guessed, this article is about the Islamic doctrine on men marrying up to four wives. Before I get started, let me get some definitions out of the way:

Polygamy: A relationship involving more than two partners

Polyamoury: A relationship involving 3 or more partners where all partners involved have a relationship with one another. E.g.partner A and B are a relationship, A and C are a relationship, B and C are a relationship.

Polygyny: is a polygamous relationship where a man has multiple female partners

Polyandry: is a polygamous relationship where a woman  has multiple male partners
Islamically, while two women may have a relationship with one man, they do not have to (and most likely do not) have a relationship with one another. Women may not have more than one husband. Islamically, polygyny is what is currently practiced. For those who are fully appaled by the idea of more than one wife, please be aware that the Qu'ran only came to abrogate the Bible which states no limits of wives, concubines or sex slaves. Look it up!

So Islam technically allows polygyny. Fine. There are some conditions, however. The husband MUST be able to treat each wife fairly and equally and provide for both emotionally and financially. Oh wait, what?! That's right, the Qu'ran does state that each woman must be treated fairly and equally.

Unfortunately, women have very little recourse to prevent their husband from judging themselves able to take another wife. BUT women have the right to write flat out in their marriage contract that they will NOT accept that their husband take any other wife, not even temporarily (nikha mu'tah). [That's going in my marriage contract with a clause that if he does get another wife, I get absolutely everything.]

I'm all for consensual relationships, so any idea of a man to marry more than once without the previous wife/wives' concent is very disturbing to me. The simple repercussions on consensual sexual relationships is enoguh to make me believe consent is mandatory and any marriage without it is NOT by any stretch of the imagination fair.

In Canada and in the United States, all forms of polygamy are illegal. Men and women are only allowed one husband or wife each. End of story. For a Canadian or American Muslim man to claim he can marry more tahn once is bullocks. How can you treat 2 or more wives EQUALLY when you can only marry ONE legally. You can potentially claim that Islamically you are married to all of them but the reality is that in the eyes of the law, only one of them will have legal recognition, inheritance and priviledge over her husband. That's not equal.

Now, all things considered, you are in a country that allows polygamy, your first wife is okay with the second, etc. WHY THE HECK WOULD YOU WANT TWO WIVES?!?!?!?!

Most men have a hard time satisfying one of us, never mind two, three or four!

Let's just take the issue of jealousy. Men and women have different responses to jealousy (that's not my theory, that's psychological facts); when men are jealous, they they to react edfensively and protectively, bonding themselves closer to their partner in order to repell any potential suitors. That's the magic of biology for you. Women, on the other hand, have the reverse approach, where they tend to remove themselves emotionally and sometimes even physically from their partners. That might be swell from a guy who's hoping that his wife will let him be with the new girl in town, but that also means that the guy will no longer have the same emotional loyalty from his wife as previously. Oh wait, what?! Yes, women who are jealous are more likely to go seek another partner. Of course, Shariah in most Islamic countries call for stoning if a wife cheats... so how fair is that to a husband to create a situation where jealousy is not only possible but likely and therefore could put his wives in potentially fatal positions? Not fair!

We have a population surplus in the world, so the need for creating an heritage is next to none, the need for extra wives is inexistant and the situations where it is possible for a man to treat all of his wives fairly and with equality is next to none. For the love of God, women, put a clause in your marriage contract that a man who cheats OR gets any other wife owes you his entire fortune, belongings, etc. You deserve it!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shariah: God's law or People's law?

Before I really dwelved into my studies of Islam, "Shariah" was a big bad word that meant oppression and authoritarian regime. In reality, "Shariah" is much simpler and much more peaceful: it stands for "path" or "way". In short it is the way of life of Muslims . For example, prayers are Sharia, as in they are part of the path to God.

Anyone who has studied Islam to any extend, including those who have read this blog, know that Islam is much more than simple belief but is definitely a way of life. But again, so are most faiths in one way or another. I think an important variant to keep in mind is the difference between God's word versus people's interpretation. I'm all for following the Qu'ran and living by the examples set by the Prophets (Moses, Jesus and Mohammad- peace be upon them- just to name a few are my main examples). However, I don't think that I can, or anyone can, as falible human beings, interpret the Qu'ran or any other sacred text, without any doubt or without any potential for error. I mean there is some pretty straight forward stuff (e.g. "Do not kill") but there are some blurry lines in there (e.g. the lines about taking the traditional head veil and using it to cover your chest - hijab mandatory or simply not showing your breasts mandatory?) So how can one interpretation of the Qu'ran be the ultimate best, when interpreted by failible human beings?

Even IF we were able to give a perfect interpretation of the Qu'ran (I am not saying that we can), who the heck are we to impose it onto others? If God, Himself, has given us free will to behave as we would, then perhaps we should not question that too much. Am I saying that countries should not be governed by any rules? In a perfect world, where everyone is respectful of one another and live their lives in ways that do not affect others negatively, sure! Until that happens, give me a few laws, thanksies! Laws that commend common sense and social order. I have always said, common sense was the least common of all sense, but sometimes, it just seems like some people are pushing their luck. So ask yourself this, does the law of your country really go against the Muslim way of life? For example, your country does not allow you to stone your wife to death for adultery. Well, does the Qu'ran ever mention at any point that you SHOULDN'T KILL?! Oh yeah, that's right, it does! Your country makes laws in an unbiased way to allow everyone to live peacefully following the religion/belief system they chose. Does the Qu'ran ever state that there should be no compulsion in religion? YES IT DOES!!!!

Applying Shariah should be an individual choice and involve the individual ONLY. No you cannot kill someone because your interpretation of Shariah says you can, sucks to be you, but that involves Shariah applying to someone else, and that's just not right. If two people agree on an interpretation of Shariah, let's say the division of inheritance or belongings in a divorce; then sure, go right to town with splitting it 1/3 to a son, 1/6 for a daughter and what the heck else! Have fun! but don't kill, hurt, injure, abuse, denigrate or insult someone else based on your interpretation of the Qu'ranic message.

I'm going to go even further with this and say this: if, for some unbeknownst reason, you and an individual both agree that his or her actions are worthy of death, do NOT take it upon yourselves to solve the matter. God really is the only one worthy of creating or taking away life. So have that person who you believe and who believes deserve death ask God to bring about death whenever He judges it to be the rightful time. If somehow God wills that person to live, pray that the individual becomes a better person and if it is you, work towards becoming a better person. That is all you should do. Islamically speaking, forgiveness is much better than retribution.

So please, live your lives with God in mind. Follow Shariah at the best of your ability, but for the love of God and humanity, please let it only affect yourself! Thank you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Identity vs Invisibility

When I chose to start wearing the Hijab, I had one clear goal in mind: to identify visibly as a Muslim. My friends and family had one concern though, that I would lose my voice as a woman, that I would become invisible as a person. I would love to tell them that my Hijab has made me more visible than ever, that people notice me more and that I cannot be ignored any longer... but I would be lying.

Unfortunately, the Hijab has changed people's perspective of me. Not my friends, not even the Muslim community, but the non-Muslim world now wants to make me disappear. I know it sounds silly, but how many people do I meet that know me but don't see me. They look at me square in the face, and don't smile, don't react at all, I am a complete stranger to them: until I wave, or say hi, in which case they laugh nervously and tell me they didn't recognize me. I can't help but wonder: if I wore a tuque or a baseball cap, would they have "recognized me"?

Truth be told, people see my hijab and assume they don't know me because "they don't know any Muslims/Hijabis", they stop there. They don't look any further and thinking of the possibility of someone they know converting or even at getting to know one, they stop at the Muslim/Hijab and think: not someone I know or would like to associate with.

I'm not sure that's the fear my friends and family had; they were probably scared of my Muslim boyfriend or the Muslim community silencing me, but the truth is, it is my friends and family, my acquaintances who are silencing me. Not everyone, of course. The majority of my friends are welcoming and supporting me, glad to engage me in dialogue about faith or any other topic. They treat me the same and see no difference.

There are still few, however, who make it a point to treat me differently. To make sure I know that my decision is worthy of a change in attitudes and behaviours towards me. That choosing a religion other than their own, if they have one at all, is synonymous to disowning them or stabbing them in the back. That's not how I would like to see myself or my faith.

I wonder, why is it so comforting for some people, to see Muslim women as oppressed? To see Muslims as oppresors and against human rights? Why is it that when a progressive Muslim woman comes around, the non-Muslim community is so quick to dismiss it? People are so quick to point out the ass-backward logic of Saudi Arabia's government that forces women to wear the burqa, but refuse to discuss the just as oppressing logic of France's government that forbids wearing it. No one has any business in my wardrobe, that's my thoughts. Yes, many Muslim countries are male-dominated, patriarch, mysoginistic cultures and no, that's not right. But how much better are "we" in the West, controlled by our corporations, the one percent, and biased governments? If you are going to point out the extremists of my faith, I can point out to you the KKK or other extremists groups which qualify themselves as "christians".

Oh but they're "different", you say? Well, stop and think for a moment, perhaps terrorists and other extremists Muslims are "different" from me. They're the majority, you say? No, they're the more vocal! They make the news! When have you ever turned on CNN to listen to the story about the Muslim mom who went to work, came back, fed her kids and put them to sleep, then had some quality time with her husband? Which news channel airs that story?

So next time you meet a Muslim woman or a muslim man, smile. They're people, we're people and we deserve the same respect you would give anyone else. Make sure it isn't a friend, a coworker, a family member. Look closely! You never know who could have found their faith and really, just want to feel like a person! Give us the visibility we deserve!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Bible tuera l'Église et l'homme tuera Dieu

(TITLE TRANSLATION: The Bible will kill the Church and mankind will kill God)

I take my title from the lyrics of a wonderful French-Canadian musical called Notre Dame de Paris (Hunback of Notre Dame) inspired by the famous novel by Victor Hugo. In this scene, Frollo (the priest) and Gringoire (the poet), discuss discoveries in science and technology--albeit based on 15th century Florence--such as the printing press and the rumours of round planet! *GASP!* They speculate that the world is about to change forever as all the new technologies will come to destroy the traditions and science will come to destroy faith.

In this day and age --assumed that I speak from a point of privilege as a white, bilingual, middle class (?) female in Canada-- religion has become a taboo. Especially in the French Quebecois society, but still very much all thoughout Canada. Attitudes are increasingly negative towards religion in any way, regardless of which religion. While I understand the concept of "secular" government, I often find myself wondering if I really want a secular government or if I want an inclusive government. The difference being, do I want a government which regulates the state to eliminate religion, or do I want a government that regulates the state but leaves religious practices alone. France's ban on Burqas quickly followed by similar laws in Quebec in public buildings, makes me wonder: do I want the government to tell me how I can or cannot practice my faith? Provided Quebec regulated with concerns for security, which I understand but France's ban of the Hijab also came with the ban of any other visible religious symbols and I have a problem with that! I have a problem with my government telling me that I cannot show my devotion. Just like I would have had a problem if my government told me I could no longer have a pride flag patch on my backpack! Get out of my wardrobe!

Security, in all aspects of life, should trump religious belief (i.e. I cannot kill, beat or otherwise abuse anyone based on my religious beliefs). As my father used to say "your right to swing your fist around ends where another person's nose begins"; my rights should not infringe on anyone else's rights. I've already made my feelings clear about the war on Christmas. Arguments to remove religion from our lives so as to "respect others" frustrate and angers me to no end.

Some might argue that this is in the political sphere. On the personal end, however, religion is not affected... Wrong! I had a chat a while back with my then-15-years-old cousin, who told me how difficult it was for her to find a boy who would understsand her devotion and deeply Catholic values. I was a little shook up by that: I was raised in a good Catholic home but my values as a teenager were far from being deeply Catholic or even devoted in any way. I was dragged to Church and that's why I was there, that's it! I found it touching and beautiful that a yound woman like my cousin would value religion so soon in her life, but saddening that she is part of the minority.

More recently, I started posting about my Hijabs, and my spiritual journey. This has encourage many of my friends to "come out" to me with their own spiritual understanding, many of whom have said "I never tell people that I'm [Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Greek Pagan, etc]." The reasons why so many people have such strong feelings AGAINST religion is because of the actions of the institutions and the people. Let us not forget that religion is not God but people, and, therefore, religion is, like people, failible. The Catholic Church is a prime example of abuses of power "in the name of God". more recently, Muslim extremist are doing the same. These abuses have turned our society into a bitter generation that equates religion with God and are in turn turning away from abuse by turning away from God. I can't say that I don't understand them!

I think that a good look at ourselves as believers or non-believers to see how we can make more pleasant the life's journey of others, is primordial for a just, loving world. Taking the institution out of religion and allowing individuals to chose their own path without judgement, without expectations and with true love is the only way to reconcile ourselves with God.

On Saturday, I officially became a Muslim. Of my friends present, many belief system were represented: Catholicism, Hinduism, Greek Paganism, Atheism, Agnosticism, and Islam! I am ever grateful that people of different faiths or beliefs could come together to wish me luck on my personal journey even though it may differ tremendously from their own.

From what I see, the Church may kill the Bible more than the other way around, and if nothing else, people are the ones who will bring God to life! We just need to start the process, together, regardless of our faiths, towards a just, loving, peaceful world by bringign acceptance of others into our own hearts!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I'm a Muslim!!!

I am extremely happy and proud to announce that last night, July 28th, I did my declaration of faith.

My wonderful boyfriend lead the declaration while in front of a number of friends! Thanks to everyone!

The journey is faaaaaaar from over, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. Thank you to everyone who have kept me in their thoughts and prayers: peace and blessings to you all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last minute fears...

Peace and blessings,

As you may now know, I am scheduled to take my Shahada (official conversion to Islam) over the weekend. I am excited, I am anxious and, yes, I am scared. I don't think that anyone in North America in a post 9/11 wouldn't be. I know far too well how my brothers and sisters in Islam are depicted in the media. Similarly, I also know how extremist some Muslims can be. I feel once again, stuck between two worlds.

Growing up, I was always the "daughter of the gay guy" to my straight peers, and the straight girl to my queer peers. Once again, I have decided to juggle another line: too conservative for my non-Muslim peers and too progressive for my Muslim peers. I guess I've made my bed and need to continue to follow my path the way I know is right. No one said following the truth would be easy.

While I am shaking in my pants, I know that I can do what I know is right, thanks to a number of people who have supported me throughout. My mom especially by telling me that it is perfectly okay for me to follow my own spiritual path and my boyfriend by answering all of my questions (and God knows there were many and still more to come) without ever pushing towards a specific interpretation, allowing me to make decisions on my own. I have so many friends that I can't even name them all, but in short, anyone of you, regardless of your own spirituality that have encouraged me to explore my own: Thank you. Fears aside, I am grateful to be able to make this choice for myself and I am glad that you are there beside me supporting me. God willing, I can be there for you in similar ways whenever you need me.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Five pillars examined: 3 - Charity (Zakaat)

Of every aspects of Islam, the duty of charity placed on every Muslim is probably my favourite. Many people often forget that we are one large brother/sisterhood of humanity, charity is the epitome of all moral and just treatment of our fellow man. The Golden Rule dictates to treat others as you would like to be treated. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), in one of the hadith states: "Not one of you truly believe until you wih for others what you would wish for yourself" (An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith 13, p. 56) That in itself is the true Islam but to go above and beyond is charity.

In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is quoted as answering after being asked what are human beings expected to give as charity "The doors of goodness are many...enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one's legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one's arms--all of these are charity prescribed for you. Your smile for your brother is charity."

To many people, Muslims included, view charity as giving away of our goods or money to those in needs. That does not mean that you should give away to each and everyone. In Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, the main character, Santiago, stops atop a hill in a crystal shop. He asks the merchant if he could have a cup of tea, in exchange he would clean the dusty crystal in his shop. The merchant agrees and once done explains to Santiago that regardless of his cleaning the crystal, his religion mandated for him to give him water and food but that allowing him to work as he did was better for both their souls. This is the concept of "tough love" in a way, helping people to do within thier means instead of enabling them in their own destruction. For example, is it helping then to give money to a gambler to pay their bills or would it be best to go do groceries with them and pay for the food? Tipping someone extra-good for doing their job may be greater charity than giving to those who do not work for their recompense.

With Ramadan coming up, I will be doing a lot of introspection but also I will force myself to do some more good int he world around me: smiling a little more, helping those in needs, mending my relationships with friends and neighbours. While they say "Charity starts at home" I think that it's important to look beyond the home from time to time and, whenever possible, invite someone in.

Have a blessed month of Ramadan! :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Believing in spite of science

There has been lots of talk lately about the Higgs Boson or "God particle". From my understanding, this particle comes to explain the Big Bang and other concepts in physics.

What has been interesting in the discovery of the Higgs Boson is the religious debate revolving around this discovery. So many claim that now that we can scientifically explain the Big Bang, there is no reason to wonder "who lit the match". God, has no reason for being if science can explain the universe...

A friend of mine asked me this week: do you still believe in God in spite of science? Here's my answer on that one: I don't believe in God in spite of science, but BECAUSE of science. The universe, this universe is full of coincidences. For example, in order for life to be maintained, this planet has to be the perfect size so that its gravity doesn't crush us nor leaves us loose in the universe, it has to have the perfect breathable air, which is achieved by plants creating the oxygen required by using the Co2 emissions from humans and animals. The human body is a perfect machine of genes and neurotransmitters. While free will makes us imperfect, we have to admit, looking at the world around us, that we live in a seemingly perfect world.

Now if I "ran into" my ex 12 times in one day, I would stop assuming it is a coincidence and start thinking there may be some intention behind it all. While looking at this perfect, explainable universe, I can't help but believe it is more than a coincidence: this world, these creatures, the human body, they are overall too perfect not to be intentionally so.

Some may say "but there are tornadoes, diseases, etc. How is that perfect?" Science relies on the greater scheme of things not on individual cases. Smoking causes lung cancer, it's a well-known fact. Just because someone has smoked their entire life and hasn't gotten lung cancer, or just because someone has gotten lung cancer in spite of never smoking in their life, this doesn't disprove the correlation. Just because there are less than perfect situations doesn't mean that we don't have a rather perfect planet. Tornadoes and diseases cannot be avoided but they have their own reason of being such as remaking the environmental landscape or be caused by environmental toxins.

So here it is, I don't believe in God in spite of science. I believe in God because science has proven to me that the world is too perfect not to believe in a higher power!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Five pillars examined: 2 - Prayer (Salat)

"Lord, please give me the courage to change the things that I can, the serenity to accept the things that I can't and the wisdom to know the difference"

The prayer above is known as the alcoholic's prayer. While I am not an alcoholic (though my first two years of university might have brought me dangerously close), this prayer resonates deeply with me. It reminds me, just as when my mom used to say "Aides-toi le ciel t'aideras!" (God helps those who help themselves) that God, while almighty, is a facilitator and that I need to change the things around me in order to receive His kindness.

My mom did attend church 5 days a week with the exception of prayer night and bible study, though I never really tagged along except for Sundays and only while living with her. However, she did teach me how to do my Catholic prayers and I have recited the rosary more than my fair share of times for a young adult in the 21st century. I used to think my mother was ompletely demantial with her church once a day, turns out, there's another people out there even more "demential" than my mother. Moreover, I am joining their religion knoingly and willingly: blessed be my soul!

Sunni (a branch of Islam) Muslims pray 5 times a day:
- between dawn and sunrise
- between sunrise and midday
- between midday and the evening (when the sun is about halfway to setting)
- between evening and sundown
- between sundown and nighttime

The concept of Muslim prayer ressembles that of Sunday mass: stand up, sit, stand, sit, kneel, sit EXCEPT replace sit by sitting on your feet, on the ground and kneeling by prostrating. Also, much to my enjoyment, Muslim prayer does not last an hour like Sunday mass, but between 10 -20 minutes depending on the prayer you recite. There is much too much for me to explain but look it up, it's very interesting. But long story short, with all five daily prayers added up, I'm basically goign to church on a daily basis! Ressemblance are so close that I even took it upon myself to compare both of the most recited prayers from Islam and Christianity:

"Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
- Bible, Matthew 6:9-13

"In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the World
Most Gracious, most Merciful
Master of the Day of Judgement
We worship You and we seek Your help.
Show us the straight way.
The way of those on whom you have bestowed Your Grace, those whose [portion] is not wrath and who do not go astray"
- Qu'ran, Al-Fatiha 1:1-7

Okay, looking at both those prayers, we can see one very obvious pattern: we both are seeking righteousness and trying to be steered away from evil/wrath. Praying to me is more than requests and demands to God, it's also submission and love for God. "Our Father", "Beneficent and Merciful" those are characteristic of love!

Regardless of all of this, it's going to be a pain to wake up early in the morning and pray late at night, but I can do this. Can't I? I'll get back to you on this once I've actually tried!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Five pillars examined: 1 - Shahada

As Ramadan is fast approaching, with it is my conversion to Islam. In my public declaration of faith, I will be declaring my belief in the five pillars of Islam, the first one of which is the Shahadah: the declaration that "God is the only God and that Mohammed is His prophet" (in Arabic: La ilaha ilalah, Mohammad-ur Rasule lilah).

This declaration, while I do believe in it, has always bothered me. To me, it ressembles the Catholic's apostle's creed "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord" Why must prophets be mentioned in what I believe is the most important declaration of all: that we believe in God? Many Muslims believe that Christians worship Jesus and many Christians believe that Muslims worship Mohammed, and when we look at some's behaviour: they do! They try and emmulate these men throughout their life, while forgetting important teachings that God sent for us. Forgiveness, Love, Charity; those divine characteristics which better our world are much more important than chastity, following specific fashion or berating others about not following "the right" religion! What happened to that?!

For my non-Muslim friends, believe it or not, Jesus is mentioned in the Qu'ran more times than Mohammed. My belief in the words passed from God to ArchAngel Gabriel, to us via Prophet Mohammed is great, but so is my belief in the actions of Jesus. The Qu'ran speaks of love, mercy, kindness, etc. Jesus preached the same. So why focus so much on the earthly traits of either of these men - yes, they were men - rather than on the Holy Message of God!

So for my Shahada, my declaration of faith, I will say the entire declaration, but inside me, in my heart, I will be reciting the first part louder and and more genuinely because His message is the message I follow. None other.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hallal, Haram, Sex, and Shaytan

And the controversy begins...

In Islam, there seems to always be this continuous debate about what is hallal (permissible) and what is haram (forbidden). One of those topics that seems to always strike controversy - and I'm addressing it anyway - is sexuality. 

Sex, according to most religion - Islam included - is only permissible within marriage. I'll agree to that. Where I will argue is in the definition of marriage.

Ideally and at its very core, marriage is a contract, an agreement, between two consenting adults. While religion will debate that it is a contract between two people before God, governments will argue that it is a contract between two adults before the state/province/country. The "institution" of marriage is a highly politicized institution where religion and governments fight for the power to legislate contracts. Governments and religions both will try and dictate who and what is permissible for marriage, from race, religion, gender, number, etc.

Unfortunately, throughout all these debates, "people" have been taken out of marriage a long time ago. It is one of a number of reasons why fewer people marry and why so many divorce: many view marriage as legal or religious contracts rather than true promises, vows, to one another. I know, I know, I promised to talk about sex and instead I'm going off in a rant about marriage. I swear I'm getting there.

Sexuality is an intricate part of the human experience. While asexuality does exist and should be recognized, most of us will experience some form of sexual attraction at one point in our lives. Sexuality, and sexual relations, can be a healthy part of the human experience, but what it requires to be healthy - maybe you saw it coming - is agreement.

Marriage can be legal or religious, but I would also add that they can also be sexual. Everyone has different comfort levels and expectations. There is no wrong or right answer to questions of sexuality and only the individuals can discuss the terms. Here are a list of talking points which should be discussed before entering any kind of marriage, sexual marriages included:
  • What are my expectations out of this partnership?
  • What do we need to do to ensure we both meet eachother's expectation?
  • What are the responsibilities that each partner takes on through this partnership?
These important questions are the basis of any succesful marriage: discussing expectations, means of fulfilling expectations and responsibilities. Sexual relations should in ALL CASES occur only in consent. True consent can only be given when all parties are aware of and understand the terms of the agreements. I am not defining marriage according to religion or according to the law, I'm defining marriage as an agreement between people. People need to define the terms of their own agreements, their own marriage to one another and set the responsibilities because people are the ones who need to live up to these expectations and fulfil those responsibilities, even in religious or legal marriages.
Can I get an Amen?!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Scarves and Rainbows

Today I'm in a good mood. No, sorry, I'm in a GREAT mood. The reason for my happiness? Well first, it is Friday and I love Fridays as they are the symbol of my impending freedom from my grown-up responsibilities. Second, I have finally published my blog for all to see, which is an important and yet terrifying step towards "coming out" as a Muslim. Thankfully, I have received A LOT of positive feedback from friends and I am looking forward on making them proud times and times again. Hoping, God wlling, that I won't offend anyone but instead will open a few minds. I don't plan on "converting" anyone, just let them into my world, which is full of contrast and, thank goodness, support!Finally, the best piece of news all week: I HAVE FINALLY FOUND A PRIDE-COLOURED SCARF! (Yes, I use capital letters because I am shouting... of JOY!!!)

Those who know me can tell you I'm easily amused. It is true, I find pleasure in the simple things in life. I can also be a sarcastic b**** but that's another topic for another time. :-D Of course, like any girly girl worth the name, I love rainbows. They are gorgeous pieces of light sent down from the heavens onto us. They are also hiding pots of gold according to some legends! In the Queer community, the rainbow also takes the role of symbol: diversity and unity within one community! As Queer spawn (daughter of a gay man), the rainbow flag has always had a special place in my heart and my life. I have claimed for years (and still often do) that my blood is half rainbow! In short, rainbows are awesome!

When I started studying Islam, my dad was terrified that I would change my mind about homosexuality, that I would suddenly hate him for who God made him and he would lose his precious little daughter. By no mean did Islam or any of the Muslims I've encountered have been able to change my mind about it all. God makes no mistakes and homosexuality is a God-given birth attribute. I disagree whole-heartedly that homosexuality is a sin in Islam just like I whole-heartedly disagreed that homosexuality is a sin in Catholicism. I'm not saying that nobody in those faiths believe that, just that through my studies, I find that the meanings of the verses used to justify homosexuality as a sin have been misinterpreted. (One day I will elaborate further, today: I'm happy, don't f*** it up!)

I love both my communities. I love Islam and I love the Queer community. As some (most) of you know, I am considering donning the Hijab after my conversion at the beginning of Ramadan (July 19 or 20). I have 100% gone crazy over scarves for the past year and now own over 50 (not exagerating, I actually counted them). One of the things that was terribly missing (yes, terribly) in my collection was a cotton rainbow-coloured scarf. Well, I actually found 3 today, two online and one in the market. I purchased everyone of them as they are all "different" rainbows and styles! That my friends, makes a fabulous Friday night!

Of course I hope to see you all out for Capital Pride Parade on August 26th where I'm hopign to march with other progressive muslims! :-) Looking forward to marching with a beautiful rainbow hijab! =D

P.s. if you haven't checked out my new Hijab and Head Scarf section, please do so. I have posted both picture and video tutorials for your enjoyment. Rainbow-coloured hijab tutorial? God willing!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Identifiable Muslim Identity

For the first two years of my journey towards Islam, I was very quiet about it. I did not know what to expect from family, friends, colleagues or from the world in general. Only in the last six months I have started to make decisions based on my Muslim Identity, which I assume even as I have not yet done my Shahada. Today, less than a month away from my official conversion to Islam, I find myself excited, nervous, anxious to finally become what I know in my heart I really am.

I have recently taken it upon myself to share with others this beautiful faith. First, through this blog: though I doubt many have seen it since I have scarcely talked about it. Secondly, through Facebook messages: disclaimer against Islamophobia at first, then more and more. Third, creating a meetup group for other Progressive Muslims. A new step is right ahead of me, for the past 4 years, I have taken part in a number of photoshoot with various beginner photographers, this weekend, I will be posing for my most revealing photoshoot: a full hijabi shoot! I say revealing, because becoming an identifiable Muslim, is an important step of my "coming out" as a Muslim. My family, my friends, my colleagues, they will all have to face a new me, a hijabi me, a woman with liberal views of the world who choses for  religious and identity reasons to cover herself and her hair.

This is to be the final step towards my conversion but only the first into the "real world" of Islam. I am looking forward to it but still have my fears of rejection, prejudice and hate. I am hoping that those around me who currently support me will continue to do so and I pray to God that He gives me the necessary strenght to continue in this journey!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Social Muslim

It's difficult to find a space that is woman-positive, queer friendly... and Muslim. If you ask me, I would say it is almost impossible! I'm a 20-something, far away from my hometown in New Brunswick, far from most of my family members, and my group of friends has changed drastically post university. We all graduated, and some moved away, moved on or changed. I will be the first to admit that, myself, have changed a lot since university and finding my faith was a big part of that change. Finding a support system of friends has been rather difficult because my two worlds rarely mix: the queer community which I support whole-heartedly and the Muslim faith which I follow with dedication.

The hardest part is to find a space where I can mention both without being put at risk for my safety or at the very least, for my sanity. I've talked about Muslims for Progressive Values in the past. The community was welcoming and comfortable, I feel free to ask questions about religion without judgement for my stance. Recently, I volunteered to push the enveloppe: create a social outlet for like-minded progressive Muslims. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as I wished and the group seemed worried that being too open would bring unwelcomed guests. That is how I decided to spearhead the new Muslims for Equality meetup group. Our calendar includes religious and social events for young adults, adults in general and families. We are woman-positive and queer-inclusive and respectful of one and all! (for more info:

Now THAT is the space I wanted. Sometimes, when you want something it's all about going out there and getting it! Spear-heading this kind of social group is going to bring about more challenging, hilarious or interesting situations, but I'm up for the challenge. God willing, I will be able to keep up with this!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

You drink, you have sex but you won't eat pork?

I've heard (and asked) this question many time: You drink, you have sex but you won't eat pork?

Post-9/11, our knowledge of Islam has "expanded" and most of us (North Americaners) are now aware that alcohol, premarital sex and swine are all forbidden in Islam just like in some other faiths. And like in other faiths, some Muslims sometime cheat. However, more often than not, at least with the Muslims I have encountered, they will often drink alcohol or have premarital sex but will still refrain from eating pork; something that baffles most of us who have delected in the awesomeness that is bacon, pulled pork sanwiches, BBQ'ed pork ribs or pineapple ham!

In western society, pork has become widely accepted, if not become a staple of our "cuisine". An awesome burger is hardly considered "awesome" without a generous serving of bacon slices! It has become so widely accepted that we almost expect everyone to have eaten pork a few times within their lifetimes. However, certain things remain tabboo: we have an age limit on alcohol consumption, and sex has an age on consent. Alcohol abuse is widely frowned upon regardless of backgrounds and varying degrees of acceptance of premarital sex exist based on age, number of partners and gender. Pork is an assumed thing, alcohol is of limited consequences, sex is an eventuality. That is the "western" mentality.

Muslims have similar views when it comes to sex and alcohol, with the added religious pressure. But when it comes to pork: the mentality is completely different. Muslims (some/most) see swine, not only as forbidden food, but as disgusting, unhealthy, disease-ridden meat. Personally, if someone were to say to me "what? You drink alcohol, you have premarital sex, but you won't eat cockroaches?" Well, no... I won't. It's not a pleasing food for me. I have heard many times before that cockroaches (and ants) are full of vitamins and are considered a delicacy in some country... but I don't particularly give a shit! You're still not going to catch me eating cockroaches EVER, unless I am literally starving; and even there! I may have an inner struggle whether death might be a more appealing idea! That's how much I do not wish to eat cockroaches!

Now if you were Muslim, and told that pork was basically a gigantic meaty cockroach, would you eat it? No. So next time, when you hear of a Muslim that will drink alcohol, have premarital sex but won't eat pork, just remember my cockroach analogy!

For me, I've had pork many times in my lifetime and it is pretty darn great, but it's still not a food of particular impact on my lifestyle. Barring pork out of my diet meant only removing the Easter ham and the occasional ham sandwich since I had already switched to chicken-bacon and beef hot dogs a long time ago for health reason. So now I chose not to eat pork for religious and only religious reasons. I have set myself a goal of removing alcohol from my list of beverage and I chose to be in a monogamous relationship (the latter is not only for religious reasons, I do lov emy boyfriend). Point being, I make choices based on my belief, but also based on my experience, my knowledge and my preferences. You won't see me be nauseated at the sight of pork like you would if it were a cockroach served to me, but cultural and religious sensitivity has to be learned by one and all for a peaceful society. So grab your preferred beverage and CHEERS TO THAT!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Now, the Present and the Afterlife

"It'll come in due time." My mother used to love to tell me this. I was an impatient child and wanted everything right away: from rewards to answers and everything in between, I wanted everything then and there. One fall, I was snooping inside my mother's closet and found a puzzle, still wrapped in plastic. I brought it to my mom and asked "Is this for me?" Of course it was. "Can I play with it?"
-This was meant to be your Christmas present, you can open it and play with it, but that is still your Christmas present! It will not get you anything else!
Her warning went completely disregarded, I had stopped listening after "you can open it". I made the puzzle  once, twice, probably three time in the weeks that followed. In early December, I had moved on to other toys and completely forgotten about this one. I did not even notice when the puzzle went missing. Came Christmas eve, Midnight Mass, I rushed home to open my presents under the Christmas tree. There was my gift! Just one? Oh well! I had sparkles in my eyes and figured this gift would have to be extra special since there was just the one. I opened it...

There was the puzzle box, the same puzzle box I'd opened months earlier, played with a dozen times, had made and re-made... that wasn't a surprise! Gifts are supposed to be surprises! My mom quickly reminded me of her words when I opened the gift. I looked at my mom, angry, sad, disapointed... ashamed! Never have I ever looked for my gifts ever again, I never questioned anyone, never snooped around: I learned the worth of the element of surprise.

In the same line of thought, when I chose to give myself three years before chosing whether to become a Muslim or not, I never shown impatience, I never gave up on learning and never looked to convert earlier. It seemed to be as much a deal with myself than a deal with God. Lately, I have been asked why I was not converting officially right away since I already made up my mind.Well, I am certain that God inspires all kinds of thing to people, to me, the deadline may have been an inspiration. God has a plan for each of us, trying to mess with the plan makes it come back and bite you in the... well, you get my drift. I'm trying to be patient and waiting. The way I see it, perhaps there are other lessons I have to learn before I convert, lessons that are not clear to me yet, but will be in due time. When the day comes, I will be ever so grateful to have been given the gift of knowledge of God, of patience and of the lessons learned. Why hurry and worry each day about the Afterlife, when we have no control over when we will reach it? God has a plan and I trust in this plan whole heartedly!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Losin' my religion...

Over the years, I have come to build a relationship with not only God, but also with Catholicism. My mother being as practicing as she was and adamant about learning about Catholicism, I managed to learn a lot have grew close to my religion. However, as a child, I questioned my religion (never my faith) on topics such as homosexuality, the worship of Jesus as a "2nd God", priests' unability to marry and the hierarchy of the church. In my late teenage years, I abandonned religion almost entirely, appalled by those discrepencies between the message of God and the interpretation (or misinterpretation) of the people. However, my faith remained strong in God and His message and while I did not share my faith, I would often pray to myself when no one was looking.

My mother's faith in God has always remained unchanging, infaillible. She prayed the Catholic way and attended Catholic churches. She never missed mass and would join with others to study the Bible or to have prayer nights. For her sake, in my late teens, I would attend mass for Christmas and Easter. It became a symbol of my love for God but almost predominently my love for my mother, and my family: my love of traditions.

Now, here I am, becoming a Muslim in the months to come. My parents are both aware of, accept and support my decision to chose Islam as my faith. To me, chosing Islam was more of a logical next step to my already existing belief in God and Jesus as his prophet. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) only re-itterated the teachings already instilled in me as part of my Catholic upbringing and clarified some confused ideas corrupted over time by the institution that the Catholic Church has become. However, on explaining to my parents why I chose Islam, my father asked "Can I still buy your Christmas gifts?" I laughed because my father is a self-declared agnostic and doesn't celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. I told him that of course he could buy me Christmas gift and that I would even return the favour. "It's not religious as much as it is tradition" I told him.

My mother asked "...but will you be able to come to Christmas mass with me?" I don't know. I honestly don't know. Would I feel like I am turning my back on Islam if I attended Roman Catholic Christmas mass? I told her that we would see, what my comfort level would be. I could hardly attend mass in a hijab, but would I be able to part from my Muslim identity to be with my mother and celebrate with her our belief in God? She doesn't agree with everything happening in the Catholic Church, she worships Jesus as the son of God, not as God Himself, she believes priests should be able to marry and women should be allowed to become priests, she beleives anyone and everyone should have the right to attend Church, regardless of faith, as long as the sanctity of the Church is not compromised. Yet she attends Church every day and worships the Roman Catholic way.

If her belief in God and his prophets and Jesus supercedes the establishment, the organization that has become the Catholic Church, can't mine? Can't I pray to God wherever I am, to myself without feeling compromised because I am not surrounded by others who share the same faith? Islam is one path to God amongst so many paths to Him. He knows what is in my heart and He understands that I do not walk away from Him because I walk into a Church, a Synagogue or a Prayer hall... just like my faith does not fail because I walk into a bar, the home of a handsome man or a breakfast joint. Where I am has little to do with my faith. So yes, I might join my mother for Christmas mass, I will exchange gifts with her, my father and my friends. I am not losing my religion, I am finding my faith, my unchanging, infalible faith in God!

Monday, April 2, 2012

God and community

When I first started learning about Islam, I expected there would be no community of Muslims that would welcoming me and my strange background partly in the Queer community, partly as a small-towner from a French Acadian Catholic community. Oddly enough, I was able to find Muslims for Progressive Values: a group of like-minded Muslims and non-Muslims welcoming of one and all or so I thought. I find myself drifting away from that community, now that I find they are much more activists than I was looking for in a religious community. I also find myself longing, for the first time, for a religious community.

I was never attracted to organized religion. I always found that the relationship between an individual and God is better lived individually. Societal problems only occur when we begin to compare our religiosity to others or leave others to define "faith", "goodness" and "evil". Most of what I find wrong with religion, is the mob mentality created by relgious organizations. Of course, those are not the traits I miss now that I am removed from religious communities, what I miss is the sharing of ideas, of ideals, of hopes and dreams with other God-minded people who wish not to dictate but to welcome my perspective on religion, politics and love.

Is it always that within any group, most of their members must conform with the same ideals to be a true community? I want to live a life enjoying the simple pleasures of life and being greatful to God for creating such pleasures! I want to share my gratefulness with members of my community, and I want them to share with me the greatness of God that they witness in their daily lives. I know the world is not perfect, but I wish to discuss God's perfection rather than people's imperfections or worse, destruction of God's work. I am grateful for the plentitude of God's love and if someone out there is as grateful as I am, I would like to share with you.

Thank you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Qu'ran on the Highest Shelf

I learned a little while back, the respect Muslims held for their holy book, The Noble Qu'ran. No one would dare putting the Qu'ran on the ground or even under a pile of books. They often position their Qu'ran on the top of their library, some even place them on its on tablet. Now THAT is respect!

My books don't get much respect. After four years of university studies, they basically are gathering dust wherever space can still be found. So when I decided to acquire a Quran, I was warned that it shouldn't just go in one of my piles of books.

This got me thinking about respect for religion and its rules. So many believers, Christians, Muslims, or otherwise, have a "take some, leave some" attitude towards religion, but in their ways of "taking and loosing" make incredibly strange choices. For example, Christians celebrate lent, the fourty days Jesus spent in the desert before Easter. The tradition upheld that one should only eat water and unlevaned bread for fourty days. As Christianity progressed, most started eating other foods, and so it was said that we should not eat meat during lent. Meat started becoming more widely available, and people started eating more. The tradition held that there should be no meat consumption on Fridays, something that was particularly true during lent. Nowadays, lent is barely the fast it used to be: people give up "one thing" for forty days, and much like new years resolutions, they often break their vow within the first few days. That's only one of the way tradition was changed. We have lost tracked of the true meaning of lent which was the deprivation from human desires.

What about the story of Marie-Magdeleine: "he who hath not sinned shall cast the first stone"? This story shows that God alone has the power to judge. Humans are inherently sinful; therefore, should not judge one another.

Similarly, Muslims have five pillars: 1-To believe in only one God and Muhammed as God's prophet, 2-To pray five times daily, 3-To give charity, 4-To go on pilgrimmage, 5-To fast during the month of Ramadan. Number 1 is inherently true for most Muslims, 2 & 5 are the ones you will hear of most often, and to perform 4 gives you a saintly status within the community... but what about 3? What about Charity!? This pillar is too often forgotten or is given very little value.

We need to start looking back at our religion and see the simpler rules and put the rules that benefit our world before those that benifit ourselves. We need to build a better world for others so that we can truly be worthy of God's world and promise. Maybe we need to put others on the highest shelf!

Friday, January 13, 2012

You're Muslim?! You don't even look it!!!

People annoy me. There's nothing new there, I've always been easily annoyed by people dumbassery, and, living in North America, and studying Islam, it seems I hear more dumbassery almost every day! Between my cousin sending me spammail to ban Islamic prayers on school grounds during lunches and breaks, and my uncles making fun of me for not eating pork anymore, I've had my fill of dumbassery in my own family, so when it comes to strangers passing their own comments on me, my boyfriend or other Muslims: puh-lease!

I have started wearing Hijabs once in a while. On my days off of work, when I have very little going out to do. Yesterday was a "Hijab day". I barely left the house, but did go out with my boyfriend to do some groceries. The lady at the cash register noticed my fashionable hijab and said "Oh wow! That's a nice scarf!!!", and em to answer "thanks!". Of course, the pleasantries couldn't just end there, she added "Is this a Muslim thing?", and when I answered in the positive, the stupidest thing came out of her mouth: "You're a Muslim! You don't look it?"

If I didn't look Muslim, then why'd she ask? Clearly, the Hijab was an indicator. Is there a certain look for Muslims? People often seem to forget that Arabs are not all Muslims and by no means are all Muslims Arab! The largest population of Muslim is Asia: India and China both have large and fast growing population of Muslims. Europe is also seeing a boost in practicing Muslims and a large number of converts are Caucasian. More than half of Africa identifies as Muslim and while Egypt does play a big role in the Muslim community, but countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Somalia and Ethiopia also have a large if not completely Muslim population! Islam is a religion, not a culture; therefore, it is widely spread from one culture to the next and has been adapted to each of these cultures. So no, I do not "look" Muslim, because being Muslim is about faith and following the right path... something I do not know how to "look" like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beauty vs Vanity

After posting last night about the Hijab, I decided to browse online for new styles and new looks. I stumbled upon an article denouncing "fashionable" hijabs. According to the author, and the comments that followed, wearing a stylish Hijab would attract attention. I think the question lies within itself: What is the true purpose of the Hijab? If it is solely to cover the hair, then any Hijab styles can do. If it is to be identifiable as Muslim, than again, any Hijab would do. If the true purpose of the Hijab is to deter attention from your hair, then, in North America, where Hijabs are not as common as in primarily Muslim countries, wouldn't a simple modest hairstyle be more effective than a Hijab?

I am by no means a scholar, nor even a true Muslim yet, but here's my two cents: I believe that covering my hair with a Hijab serves both at deviating the looks of men from them and to be identifiable as Muslim. Modest clothing is necessary; however, there is no reason why modesty and identity must be completely seperated. I can have style and yet be modest. So yes, I will be wearing stylish Hijabs and clothing but I will not have anyone be allowed to see my body without my consent, hair included!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The HIjab

I have long debated whether or not I would ever consider wearing the Hijab. People, friends, family, coworkers, have all seen my hair. It has changed colors and lenght over the years: from blond, to black, to brown, to red and even some purple and pink, from mushroom cut to mid-chest lenght. I've done it all! My hair has always been a canvas for me to express my personality and my goals, from goth as a teenager, funky and cute as a first-year university student, to stylish professional in my last and now simple easy-fix feminine style. My hair has always been part of who I am and how I look. To cover it seemed unimagineable.

In the last year, I started thinking about it a little more. If the Hijab was to signify modesty, in which way should that be reflected in my personal life. I figured I would be more modest once I would have a husband. I somehow thought that the responsibilities of married life would transform me into a modest woman. Through marriage I would find purpose in modesty. I wouldn't want other women looking at my husband so why should I let other men look at me. That was all swell and fine, but I am nowhere near getting married. I've only recently entered a relationship and I am not in any rush to tie the knot.

Seeing hijabi women everyday in the community, I wondered if there might be more to the Hijab than a simple sign of modesty. Being a convert, I figured people would pay attention to me less if I wore less fitted clothes and uncovered hair than if I chose to wore traditional middle eastern garments and a Hijab: those are not part of me or my culture, and they make me stand out and attract even more looks!

So I explored the vast virtual world and found out there are many types of Hijabs. Fashionable Hijabs! If the only purpose of a Hijab was modesty, than why would one want to "stand out" with a fashionable Hijab? That's when I started to figure out that, of course, an aspect of Hijab-wearing was modesty, but another was identification. Women wanted to be identified as being Muslim women without losing their sense of identity as fashionable and beautiful. They were covered from head to toe but in a way that reflected their personality, their mood and their sense of style.

While I have still a long way to go before I decide to wear the Hijab all of the time, I have started experimenting with different styles for when I go to the mosque or when I spend time with trusted friends. It has been great to be easily identifiable as Muslim, without losing my identity first and foremost as a woman. In the next little while, I might start posting different styles of Hijabs I am particularly fond of. Meanwhile, let's pray that my journey finds happiness and support from those around me so that I will feel comfortable wearing the Hijab on a daily basis!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Convert Connundrum

"What is your religion?" We ask this as if anyone can have a religion. religion belongs to God and not to any individual. Those born into a religion often feel like it belongs to them, and want those who convert into it, to treat it with the same respect and abiding faith as they do. So what if your view of the religion doesn't match theirs?

I find this to be the most troubling part of studying Islam. I do not believe in the more extreme perspectives, I would even go as far as saying that I'm more progressive than many of the moderates. This angers many who wish I would share their views of the religion. They're willing to accept that some may stray away from the beaten path but not those who have just chosen the religion. They want to see progressives as "lost lambs", but what if progressive views are the ones chosen by the new generation of Mulsims? This often shatters their ideals for Islam.

Unfortunately, I was never much of a follower. God is the only one I follow, and those who feel faith belongs to them: they can go to Hell. Religion belongs to God and God alone, and he alone can judge me. Unless and until they are granted knowledge of God's every desire, they have no right to tell me how to believe.

I hope and pray that those of you out there considering converting into any religion will not let others impose their views on you. Guidance is one thing, imposition is another! Let there be no compulsion in religion!