Thursday, October 18, 2012

It seems like yesterday...

But it's been over a year. If anyone stumbles across this little ol' blog again, HI! If anyone has been anxiously awaiting another gem and drowning in tears of frustration because I haven't posted, um, sorry.

Now that's out of the way, here's me and the things I've been doing. I don't say they're interesting, but that's the way I like it:

1) Getting the ivy covered cottage in shape. Seriously, the house is overrun with ivy. We've tried everything we can think of short of calling in an exorcist. I used to find ivy rambling over a house charming. Now it makes me uneasy. Things shouldn't grow that fast.

2) Considering one day finishing this dissertation. My advisor insists. I drag my feet. The end.

3) Finally getting the rail at a Rammstein show!!! One of the top five most memorable and joyous events of my life. I even got a guitar pick. I was a bit taken aback at how haggard Till looks, but Rammstein is still a thing of beauty and puts on the greatest live show on the planet.

4) Leaving Facebook. It's been about five months. Liberating, yes, but I miss it from time to time. Had more than five of my 400 FB friends noticed I was gone, I might have gone back.

5) Convert bashing. Or so I'm told. I was briefly involved in a convert-outreach group. I felt the women we were trying to assist would benefit from practical advice (like why it's not a good idea to agree to be someone's "secret" wife, or how Islam is not going to fix your daddy issues in 24 hours, or why islamqa is not an authoritative site, or why it's not necessary to get married within a week of saying shahada...). Alas, the others felt differently and felt the "sisters" (that condescending, mealy-mouthed term makes me vomit) primarily needed advice about menstruation and making sure they're "properly" covered and getting rid of the evil Western habits they'd grown up with (note that the women running the show are converts too, so perhaps they do know better than me).

6) Interviewing midwives. One expects that a midwife will be down for minimal intervention and opposed to the routine infliction of horrors like purple pushing and no-reason episiotomy. Alas, most of those I've consulted aren't at all opposed to checking me in, starting an IV, and doing it the doctory way. One actually told me that she prefers women push from the supine position because "it's easier to see what's going on." If I don't find someone soon, I may have an "accidental" unassisted home birth.

That's it, aside from watching as much reality TV as possible. Perhaps next time I'll write about how I love Honey Boo Boo and why I find the family so likeable.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Some other reasons you won't find me at the masjid

     And I mean the reasons apart from the wholesale gender apartheid rampant in mosques throughout the US. There are several masjids in my city and the accommodations range from tolerable to nonexistent. At the one I used to attend (that my husband still attends regularly), the room is big enough, but is used primarily as a storage space. It's entirely removed from the main congregation; women can't see the imam, but only hear him via a single crackling, screeching loudspeaker. Not that most are paying attention anyway, after all, it's been made quite clear that their participation in the service is unnecessary. Since the khutba and prayer aren't for them and their presence is merely tolerated, why should they listen? Better to cluster up for a nice gossip and take the opportunity to let the kids run about for a while.
     But segregation and inferior accommodations alone did not drive me from the masjid. So without further ado, some reasons, chosen at random from my ever-growing list.
     Reason 416.7
     Political diatribes masquerading as khutbas. Ninety-five percent of sermons are about politics. While the goings on in Palestine, Lebanon, and the rest of the Arab states are surely important, it would be refreshing if once in a while we might hear about Islam. (Note: I mention Arab states because Arabs predominate here. I'm sure if this hood were primarily South Asian, I'd be complaining about the barrage of Indo-Pak-centric sermons.)
     Reason 212.4
     This one is tangentially related to reason 416: The nurturing of our persecution complex. Every single week, we hear about how the world is against us, how there is a vast conspiracy to humiliate and conquer Muslims. We hear that we must be wary of all non-Muslims and ready at a moment's notice to defend Islam against...well, against pretty much the entire world. Nary a mention of the problems within our communities (unless it's about the number of Muslims engaged in illicit sex, in which case it's blamed on "Western media" anyway). Yes, our internal issues are best swept under the rug.
     Reason 671 
     Strong arm fundraising tactics. Last year I went for Tarawih one fine evening. Throughout the night, we were hearing about our responsibility to support orphans (Palestinian orphans). Finally, the imam paused and shouted, "BROTHERS, WE WILL NOT PROCEED UNTIL WE HAVE COLLECTED AT LEAST $5000." And we didn't. There we sat for almost 30 minutes in relative silence as the masjid minions waded through the crowd, stopping in front of each of us to give us the stare of death ("sisters" were expected to give as well, even though we didn't warrant a mention from the imam). This doesn't happen only in Ramadan, but every single week those attending Jumma are bullied into giving to someone's cause. Now, I'm a great promoter of charity and I do think it's every Muslim's responsibility to give as much as he or she can, but am I mistaken in saying it's meant to be done privately? Charity loses much of its blessing if one is shamed into giving. I also wonder why no one has considered that there are among us those who literally do not have a penny to give.
     Reason 38.9
     Unqualified speakers. Most masjids have Friday guest speakers who are seemingly chosen at random from a pool of available men. One would think this would ensure a fresh and ever changing perspective. Alas, most are not only ill informed about religion, they're terrible public speakers. At my most recent masjid, there is a large number of black American converts, many of whom are invited to speak (that is, the men are invited). They are, to a man, proudly introduced as "Brother So-and-So, who came to Islam X-number of months ago." Said convert will relate his conversion story, then tell how he spent three months "upon the knowledge" in Yemen or KSA, funded by the generosity of the congregation. He will then proceed, with his newly acquired slightly foreign-sounding accent, to rant for 30 minutes about the "kuffar" and how important it is to be "upon" various things (the haq, the minhaj, the knowledge, whatever). Embarrassing. The point is to congratulate ourselves for gaining converts and to seem less racist, which is awful in its own right, but we do it by forcing the congregation listen to meaningless drivel picked up from websites and "teachers," then regurgitated for the rest of us.
     Reason 709
     The stench. A masjid is the very last place on the planet one should expect to find rampant body odor and foul feet. And do please spare me the "some people have a disorder..." excuse. It is statistically impossible that so many hundreds of people gathered in the same place should, all by chance, have the same funky disease. That the men have just come from work also doesn't cut it. While a number do perform manual labor, taxi drivers and waiters should not smell like anything apart from motor oil and french fries. Not to mention that a huge part of the overall stink emanates from the women's section, wherein fully half are either teachers in the attached Islamic school, receptionists, or homemakers. No  excuse for the reek of unwashed bodies and clothing there either. I've also heard "wearing deodorant is alien to such-and-such culture." Fair enough, but I'm talking about skipping soap and water, apparently for weeks on end and far outside any country plagued by water shortages, alhamdulillah. I really want to know where so many Muslims got the idea that it's ok to stand before the Creator while smelling like a donkey.
     Reason 2
     The Shady Sheikh. I'm not talking about one in particular, but it's a serious problem at a number of masjids in the area. I can't stomach the thought that the ones who are meant to be setting an example for the rest of us are so often the worst hypocrites among us. The so-called sheikhs in this city engage in insurance scams, embezzlement, cover up for abusive men, perform Green Card marriages for cash, and pressure female converts to marry men who need papers, are already married, or have just been released from prison.The common response, when one points out that our community leaders are little better than criminals, is "But he went to Azhar!" To that I say pssshhhhhh. Azhar, like any other institution, has its share of bad students and people who misuse or misunderstand what they learn (though it does seem suspicious that so many of those ended up in this city). The other thing we're not supposed to mention is, that because Azhar is free and many other religious institutions are relatively low cost, the slowest or most inept kid in a family is often the one who gets religious training, while the most promising are sent off to be lawyers or engineers. Same goes for families with a lot of kids. The money for education is depleted by the first three or four and the rest have to study religion. So in many cases, it's not that one has any vocation or the desire to study the din, rather that there's no more money and religious education is a sure way to a steady income. In fact, it's a joke among many people. If someone's kid screws up or gets bad grades, parents will often laughingly say, "Well he'll have to study religion." Thus the unqualified and downright stupid end up being the people who run our mosques.

     The above list is by no means exhaustive. There are plenty of other reasons I'm not likely to set foot in a masjid any time soon. These are just some of the standouts. 

     Coming Soon: The reasons you won't find my kids in an Islamic school...

Friday, September 2, 2011

There are no women in Morocco

     It seems all the women in Morocco have gone mysteriously missing. This epic tragedy has come to my attention over the last years, as I've noticed that Moroccan men are generally forced to turn to the Internet in their search for spouses. ( The Internet, you see, is where lonely American converts dwell, the low self regard foisted upon them by our sick culture driving them to stay in their homes and avoid human contact if they happen to be a bit shy, or overweight, or over 25, or divorced....)
     Honestly, the number of Facebook statuses, blog posts, and other online forums detailing the sad stories of American convert women taken in by unscrupulous Arabs and South Asians in Internet marriage scams has skyrocketed in the past two years. I could go on the usual rampage about how these Muslim men are sinning and committing a terrible transgression against their sisters, and how they'll answer to their Creator for their acts, etc. Or I could rationalize their foul behavior by explaining that employment and marriage prospects are abysmal in North Africa and South Asia, so desperation drives such men to use American Muslim women as a way out. But I think enough has been written about these dirtbag men (although the writing has come mostly from bloggers and scorned women, rather than from religious authorities whose duty it should be to intervene, alas, they find it far easier to turn a blind eye to the degradation of their so-called sisters).
     Instead, I'd like to address the women who find themselves duped by Internet suitors from foreign lands: You bear plenty of responsibility for the situation. It's hard to be alone, sure, but does it really drive you to be so self deluded as to believe that some dude on the Internet, living 8,000 miles away, who is likely unemployed and without prospects, is really your soulmate? This yutz you've never met, who can hardly communicate in your language, who wants you to pay for an airline ticket and your own wedding, as well as funding and sponsoring his move to your country; is this the fella who you really believe loves you to distraction and can't live without you? Nonsense. You're not that stupid. And there's no need to be that desperate. There's more than likely already a man living right there in your own country who was just made for you. And if not, isn't it better to stay single than to be used, humiliated, sucked dry, and discarded? (If you answered no and find that it might be better to be all those things than to face the horror of being single and self-sufficient, read no further.)
     So, some tips for those of you lost in the labyrinth of Muslim matrimonial sites who aren't sure how to spot a Green Card vulture:

  • Does he live in your country? If no, block him immediately.
  • If it's too late and you're already chatting up some dude who doesn't share your citizenship, has he professed his undying love for you? Have you been chatting less than a full year? If the answer to both questions is yes, block him immediately.
  • Is he more than five years younger than you? If yes, he wants more than your bod; block him immediately.
  • Does he look like an underwear model? If yes, there's no reason he can't find a woman in his own country. Block him immediately.
  • Has he given you the sad story about how there are no jobs in his country? How there are absolutely no "good women" in his country? Block him immediately.
  • Has he made promises about treating you like a queen and loving you to pieces and worshiping the dust under your feet, but said very little about how/where he intends to contribute to your support? Block him immediately.
  • Still unsure? Block him immediately.
     As for the rest of us, those who are fortunate enough to be in stable marriages, or single and happy, shame on all of us for not warning our sisters about these predatory men. Protecting Arabs at the expense of converts is becoming a habit, a filthy, nasty habit and it needs to end. Or maybe we worry too much about hurting someone's feelings if we tell them their fairy tale online love is probably made of lies. That needs to end as well. It's sheer cowardice. If you lose a friend or cause a moment's offense because you tried to be the voice of reason, at least your conscience will be easy. And you might save a fellow Muslim a great deal of heartbreak and humiliation.

**Disclaimer: Although it should go without saying, I feel compelled to add--before someone comes along and yells at me for generalizing and slandering Moroccans and others, because her online romance with a foreigner has turned out well--that I understand that not all such relationships end badly. I concede that at least one in 37 million will work out beautifully.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sectarian wank and spending time wisely

     Last weekend, we went for iftar at the home of some friends of friends. It was my first time meeting them and everyone seemed nice enough. After dinner, we all gathered outside to smoke arghileh and drink coffee. A typical summer gathering for us.
     Until, that is, the lady of the house, who was seated near me, started holding forth on all matters religious. Fine. Her house, right? But she would brook no dissent. She informed us that polygamy is legal in some US states, unless Muslims do it, in which case it's vigorously prosecuted. 
     Amid murmured protests, I countered that polygamy is illegal in all states and that even if it weren't, there is a federal law in place anyway, so that takes care of the issue. I added that it's not often prosecuted no matter who's doing it, unless those engaged in it are also involved in other crimes. Says she, "I doubt you've done as much research on it as I have." (She told us she'd watched a documentary about it.) I informed her that I'd recently completed a scholarly article on the topic of Muslim polygyny in the U.S., so had read a good deal of the existing literature on the topic.
     When I said "scholarly article" she immediately went on the defensive. "I go to college too. No one else in my family has, so they depend on me for information. I have to make sure I know what I'm talking about." (She's in her first year of nursing school.)
     Seeing my husband's pleading look, I let the matter drop. I shrugged, "As you like." We moved on, she and I avoiding eye contact. Until she turned on me and said, "Which madhab do you guys follow?"I informed her that we're Sunni and that while my husband prefers one madhab to another, I follow no madhab. She informed me that not following a madhab is haraam. "You have to follow a scholar," says she. I responded that "following" anyone is the antithesis of Islam. I added that I was unfamiliar with Shi'a thought on the matter, prepared once again to let it drop. From left field she said that she didn't understand how the Sunna could just make du'a any old way. "Our way is better, we have the most beautiful du'a and they're all written out for us."      
     That was the beginning of the end. From there, the conversation degenerated into why Shi'a are superior in every way. I clammed up, remarking only that I don't have a dog in that fight, but it's best not to piss on another Muslim's beliefs.
     Now it was my turn to signal my husband and we left with insincere promises of getting together soon, etc. I ranted for 20 minutes on the way home and thought no more about it. Until a few days ago when my husband chuckled while informing me that the woman in question had told all of our mutual friends that I was terribly misguided, don't believe in hadith, and pretty much cursed Ahl al Bait. I chalked it up to simple misunderstanding, rather than outright lies, as I did state my position on hadith, which might easily be misunderstood by a bad listener solely focused on what they're going to say next. I dismissed her, relieved that I'd never have to see her again.
     Until today, when my husband, in near hysterics from laughter this time, told me that so-and-so called one of our mutual friends and asked her to bring me to lunch because she really liked talking to me last time. I told my husband that I'd rather eat dirt.
     This woman might very well have had a fine time trying to bully me, and a few years ago, I likely would have agreed to lunch with her in the interest of being "nice." But I've realized since that life is short and my time is too valuable to be spent with those whose company I don't enjoy. This may make me less "nice," and I'm sure there are those who might say that I should go see this insufferable woman again simply because she's Muslim. To those people I'd say, you go sit with her.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A brief introduction and some promises

Err...I guess this is where I start
Preferred topics are in the blog description. To recap: Islam, politics, race, Rammstein, grad school, and television. These are subject to change, of course, so if you're looking for a particular theme to carry you through the coming years, prepare to be disappointed.
About me
A somewhat grumpy, socially awkward, mid-30s Muslim PhD student who loves cats, reality TV, Rammstein, MMA, and reading until my eyes bleed. I'm also married, have an 18 year old, and am TTC baby #2.
Sacred Vows
To you, future readers, I promise the following: 
  • I will never use white text on a black background. It's ugly and bad for the eyes.
  • I will never post cute pics of cats or kids and ask you to admire them.
  • Should I decide to stop posting or go private, I'll give you advance notice. I can't promise to update regularly, but I'll do my best. So, even if I haven't posted in a while (which will happen, as my laziness often overrides my will to communicate), it doesn't mean I've disappeared.
That's me and this is my blog. Keep in mind I'm new, so should I commit some grievous breach of etiquette, please be gentle in informing me of it.