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!