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!