Hijab (head), niqab (face), and jilbab (body)

Sociology of Gender: the Hijab

The following is a final exam paper I wrote on the practice of hijab (Islamic veil).  I was in a Sociology class called “Sociology of Gender” taught by Dr. Elizabeth Bernstein at Barnard College.  It presents the results of a survey I conducted at Columbia University that shows that non-Muslims and Westerners fail to understand this and other practices because they focus on forcing their assumptions on the situation rather than considering what Islam really means.  I got a B+…

_______

Daniel Nehemiah Oliver

Sociology of Gender Final Question 2

There is no god but ALLAH.  Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of ALLAH be upon him) is the Messenger of ALLAH.  Sincere belief in these statements makes one a Muslim.  They are the fundamental, guiding principles of Muslim life.  They, for instance, establish the Qur’an unquestionably as the word of ALLAH, brought to humanity by his Messenger.  Belief in ALLAH and His Messenger and the authority of the Qur’an figure importantly in the Muslim/Western

Dr. Homa Hoodfar

debate over veiling moreso than Hoodfar, in The Veil in their Minds and on their Heads*, realizes.  She rightly identifies the Qur’an as an influencing factor in Middle Eastern veiling practices, but her essay does not explore its implications.  Her argument is based mainly on historical and sociological sketches that illuminate truths about Middle Eastern society and Muslim culture, but by ignoring Islam as a faith, and failing to acknowledge Muslims as a distinct, diverse group, held together by and operating upon the dynamics of this faith, the discussion of veiling loses credibility and explanatory value.  This paper presents the findings of a study aimed at exploring and explaining this crucial and little understood aspect of veiling.

Palestinian Christians in headscarves

To this end, I selected a survey sample that could represent these unheard and ignored voices.  I picked 3 types of respondents, whom I coded as “Muslims”, “Muslimahs” and “Hijabis”.  The Muslims were two male Muslims, one born Muslim (Muslim B) and one revert to islam (Muslim R).  (Those who accept Islam from another faith are called reverts rather than converts, due to a belief that all things are born in, and some later corrupted from, fitrah, a natural state of submission to ALLAH.)  The Muslimahs were two Muslim women who do not veil;  one born Muslim (Muslimah B) and one revert (Muslimah R).  The Hijabis were two Muslim women who do veil, also known as wearing hijab;  one born Muslim (Hijabi B) and one revert (Hijabi R).  All six of these were affiliated with Columbia University or Barnard College either as undergraduates, graduate students, or staff.  Their ages ranged from 18-29, and their backgrounds and living experiences represent the diversity of the world’s Muslims to as great a degree as possible given the sample size.

Islam is the basis of a worldwide community united by belief in the Lordship of ALLAH and the messengership of Muhammad.  This community is diverse in every way that a community can be:  linguistically, culturally, economically,Hijab (head), niqab (face), and jilbab (body) geographically, economically, theologically, and so on.  Veiling and most other practices are not uniform.  These differences, however, are usually not based on belief, but on interpretation of belief.  Take the Qur’an, for example.  There are no versions.  The only variation lies in the rendering of Arabic terms different translators may choose.  So, in the original Árabic, every Muslim reads the same thing, but inevitably many individualized readings result.  Consider the following:

(With the Name of Allah, the Universally Merciful, the Discriminately Merciful)

And say to the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts, and not to show their ornaments except what is apparent, and two draw their veils over their bosoms and not to show their adornments except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women or what their right hands possess, or to their male servants who have no vigor, or children who are not yet aware of women’s private parts…

– Qur’an, Chapter 24 an-Nuur/“The Light”: 31

And

O Prophet, say to your wives, and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their outer garments over themselves.  As such it is likelier that they will be recognized and not molested.  ALLAH Is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

– Qur’an, Chapter 33 al-Ahzab/“The Confederates”: 59

It must first be said that this paper is not gaging the accuracy of this translation from the original text.  In addition, the purpose of this paper is not to explain or interpret these verses.  These verses have been presented simply as evidence that the Qur’an contains mandates concerning the practicing of veiling or hijab.  (The word hijab means “screen or veil”, rather than, for example, for example, “headscarf” or “cloak”.  There are many words for Muslim womens’ outer garments, not all of which are found in Islamic literature.)  To Muslims, again, the words of the Qur’an are no less than the words of the One, True God.

All but one respondent, Muslimah B, agreed that hijab is legislated by the Qur’an.  In the words of Muslimah R, “It was prescribed in the Qur’an for women to cover themselves”.  Hijabi B simply answers “ALLAH Commanded it”.  These statements begin to answer one of the questions central to this study and the lager debate over veiling:  why do Muslim women veil themselves?

Hoodfar unduly emphasizes Arabian and Mediterranean traditions dating back to antiquity, but only presents the fact of veil-wearing:  its first recorded references, its changing role in societies over time, etc.  However, the reason for veiling is largely untouched in her essay.  Westerners and feminists have for some time defined their reasons for other women’s veiling customs:  patriarchy, notions of the harem, and extreme repression and domination by men.  This colonial method of assumption is prone to great misunderstandings because these “studies” of Muslims have mostly been unaccompanied by what makes them Muslim:  Islam.  This ignorance seemed apparent to Hoodfar at times, though she did fully address it or elude it.  It was not lost on Hijabi B, quoted here at length, who summarizes wonderfully how Muslims feel about the views of Westerners and academics whose conclusions about Muslims are formed without consideration of Islam.

Did you ever think to ask me?

“Responses to common misconceptions (even by [Columbia] professors teaching about Islam”  Hijab was not a left-over practice from pre-Islamic culture, it doesn’t mean our parents force us to marry our cousins, it’s not just a political statement, it doesn’t limit intellectual development…  it’s not a symbol of male domination, it doesn’t have to be black, it doesn’t make our heads that much warmer in the summer”

She finishes with a telling reflection:  “It can be some of those things, but often is not.”

Other respondents described hijab as:

– “the ultimate necessity for any woman (Muslim R)

– “unfair” (Hijabi R)

– “a chore” (Hijabi R)

– “a wonderful way to protect the modesty of a woman” (Muslimah R)

These are all things that wearing hijab or veiling can be, according to the respondents.  But in the end, they are largely the effects of hijab, not its causes.  For example it is doubtful that that Hijabi R, who feels that hijab is unfair, wears it because it’s unfair.

Regarding cause, interestingly, none of the stereotypical, Western/academic-assigned causes for veiling were quoted by the respondents.  Some were actually refuted, as in Hijabi B’s above quote.  Family pressure was mentioned once, but only as a discouragement against veiling.  All respondents were geographically and socially distant from the Middle East, negating it by default as a cultural explanation of the veiling practice.

To the Muslims of this survey, veiling has a meaning, and a power, that is lost on the minds of Western academia.  Just is in Hoodfar’s essay’s explanation of the veil carrying a sense of power, Hijabi R said that hijab was a way to “fight in the way of ALLAH’s Cause”.  To Muslimah R it was a statement of faith.  Muslimah B felt it “shows one’s inner strength”.  To these women, whether or not they chose to wear it, the hijab was a force, and a statement, as well as a shield and display of modesty.

Why has Western academia, with it sustained contact with Muslim population groups, failed to recognize the value of the practice of veiling?  It is not just because of the colonial/propagandist motivations that do too much to frame western discourse on Muslims.  The seemingly blind misunderstanding is one symptom of a larger problem:  willful ignorance of Islam and refusal to acknowledge faith.  One does not have to be a Muslim to study the practice of veiling, but how can studies of veiling ignore Islam when the practitioners list ALLAH, Islam and the Qur’an as the cause?  Western/non-Muslim perceptions, and to an extent Hoodfar’s essay, fail- refuse, in fact- to capture the reality of veiling as an extension of their refusal to acknowledge Islam.  Sympathizing Western feminists thus perpetuate the paternalism and repression that they suffer by re-inflicting it on Muslim women.  If Western men have historically treated women like objects, then that is all the less reason for them to do the same thing to Muslim women.  The feminist protest is against being treated like a docile, disenfranchised second class, yet feminism, out of ironic sympathy, approaches hundreds of millions across the globe as exactly that.  How can feminists insist on their voices being heard, when they drown the voices of Muslim women?  How can they, perhaps even more ironically, oppose being treated like sexual objects, while fighting for their right to look like one and belittling the women who refuse to?

Veiled Hindu women at a temple

This guise of objectivity is itself a veil, masking an academic and cultural arrogance that causes the scientific standards of Western academia to falter and the societies which it informs to suffer.  Some studies show American Muslims to live at a higher standard-of-living and education level than American non-Muslims.  The statistics of homicide and sexual violence in Western societies soar high above those of Muslim populations.  The tendency to criticize and patronize should be replaced with one to recognize.

The West, especially and perhaps because of its academics and feminists, succumbs to the subjectivity it is so wary of internally because it refuses to subjectively evaluate the meaning, or even acknowledge the statement that there is not deity besides ALLAH and Muhammad is His messenger.

* 1997. “The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: The Persistence of Colonial Images of Muslim Women”, Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, David Lloyd and Lisa Lowe (eds). Duke University Press, (reprint).

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Changing Her Fate

I read article called “Changing her Fate” by Margaret Coker in the 6 May 2007 edition of the Austin-American Statesman,  ‘Insight’ section.  I do not have access to the Statesman’s archives, but I found the article here.  Read it.  It’s about a girl forced into prostitution and forced later to suffer for it, all of which is blamed on Islam, rather than the misguidance of a minority of individuals.

This is the response I wrote:

Dear Statesman,

I am very moved by “Changing her Fate” (Insight 6 May).  Sadr was spot on for saying “It’s a monopoly of power.  They have a mentality that’s very traditional.”  She’s right.

Islam, like America, has a constitution that has been subject by manipulation by the power-hungry.  Traditionally, worldwide, the culprits are male.

Unlike America, Islam’s constitution is constantly judged by the worst, never the best, of its constituents, rather than being evaluated on its own merit.

No one, for example, assuages that drug use is American- rife though it may be- because our written law makes the opposite clear.

So what are the true fundamentals, the valid traditions, of Islam?  Consider, for example, the authenticated saying of Prophet Muhammad that heaven is found at the feet of the mother.  What about the prophetic injunctions encouraging men to provide for, entertain, and strive to sexually satisfy their wives?

Are we now prepared to accuse Islam of being a medieval matriarchy?

What of this, that Allah Himself Said “And do not force your girls into prostitution, if they desire chastity, seeking the benefits of worldy life.  And whosoever forces them, then Allah Will Be, after their compulsion, Pardoning and Merciful.”  (Qur-an 24.33)?  Is this not sufficient to free Islam of all the oppression that women like Layla have suffered?  As for why men claiming to be Muslims perpetuate and punish unwilling prostitutes, ask them;  Islam is free of them.

So why don’t we stop accusing Islam altogether, and stop propping up every misguided man and political machination as a bona fide example and proof?  These war-mongering charades are made more transparent by the millions of converts to Islam worldwide, including many, many women from all walks of life.

P.S.  I challenge you to a test of journalistic subjectivity by printing my response to this article.

——-

The challenge was not accepted…

Taking charge of her fate…

The “Arab Spring”: Revolution or Awakening?

Last night (Day 4, 23 Shawwaal 1432 – Wednesday, 21 September 2011) I was a call-in guest on a show called Awakening.  The topic was “Islamic Awakening and the Arab Spring”.  It’s a program on a satellite channel called Sahar TV, a subsidiary of the IRIB network.  They sent me the questions a day earlier, and here are the responses I typed up in preparation for the show.  It’s just about what I ended up saying on the show.

——-

1 The World Bank and the G8 are already planning to sponsor the so-called Arab Spring. Less than a fortnight ago, G8 finance chiefs pledged $38-billion in financing to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan over 2011-13, widening a deal agreed in May and offering Libya the chance to partake too. Analysts are now concerned over a possible Euro-US containment of the regional movement through this type of “cheque book diplomacy”. What’s your take on that?

Worth the paper it's printed on?

What is money anyway?  A bunch of pieces of cotton paper?  A readout on a bankslip?   It’s a promise to pay and I can tell you about the G8’s ability to pay.  The UK has been bankrupt since a hundred years ago, and it’s owed money to the U.S. since WWII.  The US, in turn, owes money to China and Russia.  So how can these bankrupt countries lend money?  All their doing is tricking Muslim countries into promising to pay them money that isn’t even real, that they don’t even have to lend in the first place.

When they lend this money, they lend it at interest.  Allah says in Surah Baqara 279 that He and His Messenger are at war with people who devour usury.  This is because it enslaves the borrower to the debtor.  These Islamic populations have just freed themselves of West-serving leaders.  By indebting themselves to them, they would be re-enslaving themselves, and this is the goal of cheque-book diplomacy, to create a situation by which they can continue to dictate over us.

2 A large number of scholars have constantly been warning against the risk of the revolutions being hijacked or contained in one way or another. How concerned should we really be about that?

One common colonial trick is to make the village thief the village chief.  There will always be someone without scruples, with no goal beyond his own selfish interests.  Colonial powers usually find that person, support him with every means, such as money, glorification in the media and so forth until he rises from vagabond to ruler, from thief to chief.  Then, because the colonizers, not the people, are his true power base, he does their bidding to ensure their continued support.

This is how I see things being hijacked.  In the end, a politician only cares about one thing.  He doesn’t have a religion.  He doesn’t believe in any idea or purpose.  His only goal is to get and keep power, and he will do whatever it takes to do that.  They let the parade get going and then run out in front of it like they’ve been leading it the whole time.  Colonial powers are only waiting for that man, woman or group to show themselves and start the politicking.
3 I think it’s fair to say that the reaction of the West towards the wave of Islamic awakening in the countries affected has been quite selective. Let’s talk about the most recent case, i.e. Libya, where we saw military intervention. Do you think that NATO may follow the Libyan model of intervention elsewhere in the Arab World?

The West’s selection process is based on what they think serves them best.  They use language clevery to disguise their self-serving intent in the language of freedom, democracy, human rights, etc.  For example, there has been brutal repression by certain regimes, even invasions and occupations, but this is either completely ignored.  For example, the Bahraini royal family, which hosts the US 5th Fleet, is immune to criticism no matter what it does.  As for Qathafi, whose friendship with the West was less easy, but a friendship just the same, they wanted him out, and made sure he got out.  What’s the difference?  Why do they support Syrian protesters, and even go so far as to reveal their arrogance by mentioning that al-Asad is “expendable”?  Why don’t Bahrain protesters get any support?  The only consistent factor has nothing to do with rights or freedom or legitimate aspirations.  It has only to do with who they want, and who they don’t.  I would say that Western powers are willing and waiting to intervene in other countries.  They are going through no end of rhetorical gymnastics, political treachery and covert operations in the meantime to justify an attack on Iran, as we all know.  I would also say that Syria is another target.  They’d be more than happy to make it look like their helping the people like in Libya rather than a full invasion like Iraq, because it’s easier to justify and probably cheaper.  In these cases, the revolutionaries run the risk of being nothing more than volunteer soldiers in a Western invasion.

4 A serious problem in the countries affected by the wave of Islamic awakening is- as a matter of fact- the problem of a strong leadership leading the opposition in those countries. In fact, in several cases those working under previous dictatorial regimes are still ruling the country. Is there any solution to this problem?

Well, in the case of Libya, to my understanding, the transitional government has been planning and plotting for years while in exile in England, and there’s only one reason why that government would support them while they were doing that.  If I’m correct.  Otherwise, the greatest threat to these movements is the lack of leadership.  The Islamic revolution in Iran is unique because there was already an established figurehead, Ruhullah Khomenei, even though there were groups of many different stripes. He united them. 

Shocking the world...

Islam united them.  But look at the movements today, there is no one leader.  There is no spiritual leader uniting them.  The most basic elements of history’s greatest revolution are two:  negation of falsehood, and affirmation of truth.  With the words “laa ilaaha” we negate every falsehood, every impure motive, all the weaknesses in ourselves and communities.  The revolutions of today have thrown out corrupt rulers, but does this mean the people have achieved self-purification?  The leaders were corrupt, but we have to remember that a leader is of his people, he reflects their characteristics too.  The people need to revolt internalyl-, the inner, greater jihaad– against their own corruption.  And they can only achieve this, the life that is lived by truth with the second half of our testimony of faith:  illAllaah.  They must make the Qur-aan their constitutional document, and the shari’a– which literally means “path to salvation”- as their new legal framework.  For that a leader must arise with the knowledge and integrity to rule by Islaam, and the people must recognize and pledge allegiance to him.

'Ilm & Taqwa (Knowledge and Piety)

5 The question that everybody’s now asking is whether the unexpected, amazing and unique wave of Islamic awakening will shape, influence or rather change the future of the Arab world in particular and the whole world in general. Now has Islamic Awakening got the potential to dramatically change global equations, do you think?


Muslims got to open their eyes to the ground beneath their feet.  We have every imaginable resource from A to Z- untapped human potential, water, oil & natural gas, agriculture, precious metals and stones, varieties of landscapes, geo-strategic position.  Pakistan’s soldiers are arguably the best in the world.  Egypt and Syria alone could have defeated the Zionists in Palestine and completely checked other Western powers in the Middle East more than 30 years ago.  Look at how much Iran changed the equation from 1979 until now.  What if we all did the same?  Pakistan and Sudan alone could feed the world.  WE DO NOT NEED THE WEST.  WE DO NOT NEED SYSTEMS THAT DON’T EVEN WORK FOR THEM.  

ALLAAH HAS GIVEN US EVERYTHING.  When we realize it, and when the people who realize it insist on leading and refuse to be misled, we’re gonna unleash peace all over this planet.  But, there is only one condition.  Allaah Doesn’t

Change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their selves.

6 What’s the most important challenge that the Islamic Awakening in the Middle East and North Africa will have to face?

The Awakening part.  The people who we let lead us are obviously corrupt and naïve, but so are the people.  We have no idea how eager the Zionists are to control Libya’s vast water reserves.  That’s their whole M.O. in the Golan Heights, for example.  We’ve forgotten- though the Western polities haven’t- what happens when we think for ourselves, such as the 1973 Oil Embargo, the Iranian revolution.  We’re unaware of the lengths these fading, illegitimate powers will go through to make sure we do NOT regain autonomy.  Here’s an example:  they bombed the bomb the Islamic Courts

Refusing to be misled...

Union out of Somalia, even though they restored order, justice and peace to the extent that Mogadishu’s airport was running again, just because they were not indebted to and controlled by anyone.  They were of, by and for the Muslim Somali people.  They would rather tempt a country into civil war that leads to famine than allow Muslims to decide what to do with their uranium, their geographical position, and their coastal waters.  We need to wake up to this level of awareness, which will lead us to believe in Allaah’s Promises, rather than the unsubstantiated promises of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

EXTRA

1 How do you think the momentous events of last few months or the so-called Arab Spring will help shape the future of American relationship with its allies in the region?

The best possible outcome is that it is the foundation of a model- the Islamic society- which will provide the alternative to the Western lifestyle the world is starving for.  We did that before- our societies have inspired and uplifted the world- but that was long ago.  Instead of always quoting anecdotes from our great past to defend Islam, we need to present Islam in a real way as the hope for the future.

2 How successful and effective has the US policy been in the Middle East since the Arab Spring started?

It has been effective in some instances.  So far the regime in Egypt has only changed in name.  Whereas Mubarak was its face, now it has no face and is in that sense all the more deceptive.  In North Africa in general, with the exception of Libya, it has made sure the people think they get what they wanted by allowing the dictators to leave on a golden parachute, without any fundamental or meaningful changes.  There not less but more American military bases and operations in North Africa, for example.

On the other hand, they have lost their complete stranglehold on Muslim’s imaginations.  We know we can stand up to their strongmen.  We’ve reminded ourselves of a lesson we learned in 1979, that Allaah Supports the believers when they unite, wa Huwa l-Wahidu l-Qahhaar.  Politically, there are some instances of greater unity between Muslim governments, such as Palestine’s confidence in pushing for full recognition by the UN, greater ties between Egypt and Iran.  And it’s efforts to isolate the powers it doesn’t support have not been very successful, though the double treatment of Syria and Libya compared to Bahrain is a glaring exception.

Overall, revolution is not really a solution.  Heads of state have been changed, but that has been the only result so far.  We have yet to see if the lives of the people will improve, and right now they are actually worse in most cases.  It is an awakening and revival of our Islam that we need, not a revolution.  Revolution is only one vehicle towards this- not necessarily the best one- and we only get to the point of dealing with the external after we’ve dealt with the internal.  A Muslim has the duty and right to rule if he excels the people in knowledge and piety.  At the very least, he should not block the people from Islaam.  After that, it doesn’t matter about a vote, or what they think of him, or how the West evaluates him.  They should follow and advise him.  Lastly, we have the duty and right to rule ourselves by Islaam individually, and accomplishing that is the true Awakening, Revolution and Spring.

Duties and rights go hand in hand.

Growin’ up Oliver

When I was growin’ up, we used to put Vaseline on our faces to keep ‘em from lookin’ ashy.  Somedays us kids would do it ourselves and show up to school with so much grease on we looked plastic.  Good morning to you, good morning to you, We’re all in our places, with bright shining faces…

We was always late for school, man.  When you showed up late, you had to get a late pass from the office before you went to class.  We were late so much, our late passes would already be ready when we showed up.

We would be late for everything.  They got this saying, “fashionably late”.  Man, if being late is fashionable, we shoulda been on the runway in Paris.

I remember I had this wristwatch, and I liked to see when it was 11:11 11, the whole clock on the same number for only one second.  Well, church started at 11:00 00, but I usually caught all 11’s on the way.

My dad said in the car once, “From now on, we’re going to be on time.  We are the On-Time Olivers.”  We got a lotta laughs outta that.  We had this idea about making black satin jackets with ‘On-Time Olivers’ written on the back in yellow.  Anyway, we continued to be late, majorly, and every time we would say “The OTO’s are at it again…”

My dad is a funny cat, man, and the funniest thing is, he doesn’t try to be.  Everyone gets the joke but him.  He went through this phase where he was out of style on purpose.  It was just a few years.  I guess it was his mid-life crisis.  We had to force him not to leave the house with sandals and socks on, or a with a hip pack on years after they went outta style.

DAD?!

“What?!”

“Where are you goin’?”

“I’m goin’ to the store.”

“You can’t go out like that!”

“Like what?  I’m just goin’ to the store.”

“But you’re wearing sandals and socks.”

“So what’s wrong with that?”

“Dad, please, man…”

“What?  I don’t care what nobody thinks.”

“But we do, man.”

“Yall aint even goin’.”

“Dad, please.”

“Yall are crazy, I’m just tryin’ to go to the…”

He’d mumble under his breath on his way back to the room and re-emerge with the appropriate fashion correction, or occasionally with something even worse on, then we’d have to go through the whole thing again.

My dad was old school, militant, a big, black, 6’2, 250 type-of-cat.  He coulda went to the NFL, but it woulda been as a free agent and they didn’t get paid much back then.  So when my friends saw him, and heard his deep voice, they’d be scared.  But he was really a beautiful cat on the inside.  I mean he would play with us until we were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  I remember he used to take us to church, and when it was over we’d be looking all over for him.  Where’s dad?  Excuse me, have you seen my dad?  Do you know where he’d be?  In the car passed out ‘sleep.  The cat just couldn’t stay awake and he didn’t wanna be disrespectful by sleepin’ in the middle of worship.  We used to laugh and tease him about it, but lookin’ back, I respect it.  I mean if you believe in somethin’ you should give it all you got, even when you know it ain’t enough…

But you know what’s the funniest thing he ever did?

I can’t even tell you.  There are too many to choose from, and you had to be there anyway.

I can tell you ‘bout my mom, though.

Go look on TV at a nature channel when they show birds.  Or look at a picture of an eagle.  See it’s eye?  It’s like this emotionless piercing beam.  But you can only look an eagle in the eye one at a time.  I used to always be gettin’ in trouble and lyin’ about it, and my mom was always out for the truth.  So we would do this prosecutor-defendant thing, sometimes for hours.  Suddenly, outta the blue, my mom would put her eagle eye on me.  She would just stop cold, and beam me with her eyes wide open, mouth closed, nose flared.  Dead silence.  And she would just hold it, dead still, without even blinking.  It was her last tactic.  She was clever, but so was I;  I learned it from her.  I used to sit in the bed at night going over all my lies to make sure I had not only the story, but every story straight.  This was a game of poker.  If I win, I live to sin another day.  If she win, it’s fire and brimstone.  I could either confess, and tell the truth about everything, or I could plea bargain, and give up a little bit of stuff and not get in trouble for the rest, or I could keep bluffin’, but that risked a greater punishment if she actually did know somethin’.

Sometimes I would get bold and eyeball her right back.  Sometimes when I did that I couldn’t hold it as long and I would look down, which was like a confession, or smile.

“Why are you smiling?  Is something funny?”

And every now and then, rarely, I really hadn’t done nothin’.  But who could believe that?

I remember this one time when I was in 3rd grade, my mom walked in while we was in eatin’ and was like “I’m not washin’ yall’s clothes anymore,” and then just walked right out.  So I had to learn it all from scratch from that day.  All my white clothes turned pink, all my red clothes turned pink, and everything else shrank.  She was Austin’s top real estate agent, so I guess that’s one chore that had to do.  But she was and is the best cook in the world.  But she had this one thing:  she wouldn’t clean up the kitchen.

And she wouldn’t cook if the kitchen was dirty.  She would just walk into the room with this sweet voice and say, “Oh, I was just about to cook [favorite dish], but the kitchen wasn’t clean so…”

“No, mom,” we’d say all desperate.  “I’ll clean it right now.”

“No, it’s OK,.” she’d sing out, “by the time you finish I won’t have enough time.”

“No, we’ll clean it right now.  We can do it fast.”

“OK, well, call me when it’s done and if there’s still enough time, I’ll see what I can do.”

Mind games, she was a pro.  She had us on point.  We’d be watchin’ TV after school, and she would just walk in, turn it off, not say a word, and walk right out.  We would just look at each other, sniggling under our breath, and find whatever was wrong in the house.  And speakin’ of TV, we were four kids with one remote.  Sometimes we all wanted to watch the same thing, sometimes we didn’t.  So whoever had that remote, that was power.  And you better not sleep on it either.  Because the other ones would be watchin’ you and as soon as we could see the veins stop poppin’ outta your hand SNATCH!– there go the remote and your favorite channel.  One time my big sister had it, then my mom told her to go clean the dishes.  So you know what she did?  She took it right there with her in her back pocket.  She coulda at least put it on the channel we wanted to watch.  We tried to sneak up on her, but this was a big sister, she had eyes in the back of her head.  That dish rag came flying…

My mom’s the best mom in the world.  My friends wanted her to adopt them.  She used to take time off work and take us to nice hotels for Spring Break, and my dad would come when he finished work.  She would let us pick any recipe in her dessert cookbook and we would cook it together, and you know the best part was licking the spoon…

You know what she used to love for Mother’s Day?  Bath stuff.  She used to love taking a good, long bath.  And she deserved it…

Do you wanna know the worst thing that ever happened to my family?

A box of ice cream sandwiches.

We had ‘em in the freezer, but we had to ask permission to eat them.  One day, my mom checked and the last two were gone, but no one had asked to eat them.

Controversy ensued.  Interrogations went on for days, and suspects were re-called for further questioning.

“Don’t get in trouble tryin’ to protect Daniel.  If you know somethin’, tell me.”

That’s what they told my little brother.  I was far and away the most likely suspect, but wallahi, I didn’t do it.

Me and my brother were on the same Little League basketball team.  We had a championship game that Friday, but the situation hadn’t been resolved.  My mom promised that there would be no game and instead we were gonna all stay home and get our behinds beat.

We were all looking down, then up at each other, and then all at me, but really, I didn’t do it, and even if I did, as bad as I was, I was a team player.  I wouldn’t let anyone go down for me.

Finally, at the last minute, my mom called off her bluff, and we went and won the game.

No one has ever confessed to this crime, but I have a theory.  I had this final project my senior year of high school and I had to stay up late a few nights to work on it.  I noticed that sometimes my dad would come walkin’ in out of his bedroom in the middle of the night.  He’d go right to the fridge, eat somethin’ and go back to the room, without a word.  I would even say somethin’ to him but he wouldn’t say anything back.  He was taking his midnight snack sleepwalking.  I would even ask him about it the next morning and he didn’t remember.  So that’s my theory.  I think deep down in his inner psyche, he was harboring deep-seated longings for ice cream sandwiches, perhaps triggered by traumatic memories of missing  the ice cream truck as a child.  You know how it is, by the time you hear it and go ask for change, he’s gone.  So he subconsciously arose and devoured them, wrappers and all in a sleep-like state, then went back to bed with no recollection.  I’ve put this theory to him but he’s not convinced.

I wish I could tell you the ice cream story he does know about, but he made me promise to stop tellin’ it.

There’s one other story I gotta tell you, because if you meet my family they’re gonna tell you anyways.  We moved to North Austin, but we still got our hair cut in East Austin, at Green’s barber shop at 11th and Rosewood.   That could only happen on the weekend, and some weekends my parents were busy.  This one time in 4th grade, during Christmas break, I had had enough, so I went into their bathroom, took out the clippers and decided to do it myself.  I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that Mrs. Green used a guard on the clippers, so I just turned ‘em on and promptly cut a bald spot onto my head.  After that I just panicked.  I kept trying to fix it, but it was just cutting more bald spots.  It wasn’t working like it did in the barber shop.  So I came up with a plan.  I would put on a hat, go to bed early before my mom came home, then sleep late until she left for work in the morning.  It woulda worked if it wasn’t for my own big mouth.  We were sitting at the table and I started smarting off to my sister.  So she flipped the visor in my cap and everybody just froze.

“Oh my god!  Mom’s gonna kill you.  What did you do?”

“I was trying to cut it and I don’t know what happened.”

“But why did you try to cut it?”

“Because nobody will take me to Mrs. Green.”

So she took me back to the bathroom.  She tried the same thing I did, with no guard, but from the top.

 

Bzzzzz-GHHH!  “AAHH!!”

It wasn’t working.  So she took some scissors and cut my hair all the way to the bone by hand, then smoothed out the chilly bowl with the clippers.

But what would my mom do when she saw me with a haircut?  We decided I should stick to my original plan to go to bed early.  But… my mom came in to say good night anyway and noticed I had gone from Bone Thugz to Michael Jordan.  Admiring my sister’s craftsmanship, she decided to let it go.  Had my dad been the one to discover it, he probably woulda just been like, “That’s one less trip around town for me…”

And since my little sister would probably be the one to tell you this story, I’m gonna tell you one about her.  It’s the pre-emptive strike doctrine.

She ate dog food once.  She was probably only about 5 and we were all at home alone.  She just snuck and ate some and we caught her.  We freaked out.  I mean, it was for dogs, it’s probably fatal to humans.  So my big sister called 911.

“Hello, this is 911.  What’s your emergency?”

“Hello, ma’am, my little sister just ate some dog food.”

“I’m sorry, did you say she ate dog food?”

“Yes.”

“How much was it?”

“It was just one piece, ma’am.”

“Is she OK?”

“Cicely, are you OK?”

“Yes.”

“She said yes.”

“OK, well just give her a little milk and she’ll be fine.”

“OK.  Thank you, ma’am.

“Mm-hm.  Thank you for calling.”

That’s my family, growin’ up Oliver.  You had to be there…

Is Muslim violence a proof against Islam?

This is a comment to an article about the role of Zionism in the Norway massacre.

 

Name any nation that is not at war…  you can’t.  Nearly every country in this world is in some sort of conflict.  No matter what religion the majority of their citizens claim.  Read the news:  Buddhist Thailand vs. Buddhist Cambodia, over a temple.  Civil wars and rebels all over the Christian nations of Africa.  The secular and Christian nations of the West occupying, attacking or aiding conflict all over the world.  Zionist Jews in Palestine.  Hindus committing atrocities in Kashmir and against Muslims and Christians in India.  It’s everywhere.  EVERY religion has members that are fighting, that kill innocent people, that commit murder and rape, that embezzle, scandal, scam, scheme and plot, rob, plunder and steal, commit adultery, abandon children, can’t read or write, molest children, bribe their way out of justice, etc., etc., etc….  And secularists, atheists, agnostics, and humanists get in on it too, so don’t blame religion

 

As you can see, a religion’s texts are a proof for or against its members.  They are not a proof for or against it.  You measure a religion by its book, and you measure its members by its book, too.  They either live up to it or fall short of it.

 

Let us look at an example.  It is true that many Christians were at the forefront of abolishing slavery worldwide (many were also the leaders of enslavement).  Should we judge Christianity by that?  According to some places in the Old Testament and Romans 13.1, opposing the laws that allowed slavery were AGAINST what they consider to be the word of God.  In other words, they had to step OUTSIDE Christianity to free slaves.

 

Islam’s Qur-an and Hadeeth (Prophetic narration) literature support abolition and forbid enslavement outside of the context of war-captives when there is no exchange for prisoners.  So while many Muslims were involved in the slave trade, they were stepping OUTSIDE of Islam to keep slaves.

 

Judge them by the book.

 

The United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, celebrated symbols of freedom, enslave Africans, dispossess Native Americans, deny the rights of non-landowning white males, and deny the rights of all women.  So freedom, justice and equality can only be achieved by stepping OUTSIDE of America’s founding principles.

 

This is why we Muslims argue from our book.  That, not the action of the next Muslim you walk past, is Islam for us.  We only know the Qur-an as Islam.  We don’t know what every Muslim in the world is doing and why, but we will argue as strongly against a (seemingly) good deed as we will against a bad one if it is inconsistent with our law and doctrine.

Oh my God!! They're eating ice cream...

The truth is that Muslims also do a lot of good things, for the sake of Allah, in the name of Islam, to get a reward in heaven, etc.  Find them and what they do.  See, do they outnumber the wrongdoers?  I leave that as an open question to any sincere seeker of accurate information, I won’t answer it for you.

 

Personally- and this is admittedly subjective- I’ve been around the world and read and heard viewpoints from many walks of life.  I was in NYC on 11 September 2001 and accepted Islam there 3 years later.  Islam is my free choice because after research and experimentation, I found it to be the best and most complete way of life.  I won’t lecture you that I’m right, but I assure you that I’m aware and sincere.  See for yourself:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/11/

 

So please, do justice to yourself and stop ignoring all the wrongdoing and conflicts involving non-Muslims, and all the good done by Muslims, to prop up an argument that is an offense to intelligence, reason, history and logic.   Islam is singular in its establishment of justice and right.  Why do some Muslims act to the contrary?

 

Ask them.

 

For more on the accusations of rape, sexism/masochism and slavery in Islam:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/category/stockholm-syndrome/

To see the deceptive and erroneous nature of Islamophobia and WikiIslam exposed:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/dealing-with-doubt/

To see whether Islam is incompatible with democracy:  https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/is-democracy-islamist/

To see if there is any difference between Arab culture and Islam:   https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/is-islam-arabian-part-i/

To read what Islam actually is:   https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/what-islam-is/

 

stockholm syndrome

 Excerpt of a letter from a friend:

“I have only read the Quran in English so the translation might be bad, but what i read says that a man can rape his wife and his slave girls who are unmarried and married. And since a husband can punish his wife for having sex with somebody else, this is really bad. Then there is also the fact that women is not found as mentally fit as a male when it comes to giving legal testimony. Not that the Bible is any better, I would say worse. The Quran doesn’t say beat your children and kill them if they are disrespectful, nor does it promote genocide and it promotes slavery more. And not that the west does a good job either. Its amazing in Canada, the % of political leaders that are slightly chubby, grey haired white men. And it was only recently that the age of consent for sex was raised from 13. And, raping your wife has only been a crime for about 20 or 30 years or so. However, still better than Saudi which has now had to ban maids from Indonesia the Philippines because they kept fighting back when being raped.”

Dear Friend,

Thank you for taking the time to write this.  I’m glad you trust me enough to be honest about thoughts that you probably assume I will not like.  It is useful and enjoyable to hear your impressions and views about Islam and the Qur-an, and I think I’ve learned a lot about what some people may think or feel.  I can see that you’ve taken pains to say what you know I won’t agree with in a way that does not insult me, and to show that this is a general criticism rather than a grudge against Islam.  I thank you for the respect and consideration you have shown, and most of all the honesty.

From what your message contains, either your translation of the Qur-an’s meanings was scandalously (and singly) inaccurate, or you have succumbed to that all-too-human phenomenon of memory fading with time, and being replaced with impressions of things we think we remember…

I have been blessed enough to have read the entire Qur-an in its original Arabic, along with the entire translation of its meanings.  Simply put, the Qur-an does NOT:

(a) say that a man can rape his wife,

(b) say that a man can rape slave-girls, married or unmarried,

(c) say that a husband can punish his wife for having sex with somebody else,

(d) say that women are not as mentally fit as males, or

(e) promote slavery.

It does touch on all of these subjects.  I am not a scholar, but I read and listen to the words of people who are known as scholars.  From that, my limited knowledge, I will do my best to address these and your other points.

stockholm syndrome 2: marital rape

(a)    Spouses’ sexual rights.

A man has the right, freedom and duty to have sex with his wife, and a wife has the right, freedom and duty to have sex with her husband.  This is clear, and considering what comes from other religions and their sects, as well as some Muslim sects, this is one of the beauties of Islam and the Qur-an.

The Qur-an, Chapter 23, Sign 1 may be translated as

“The believers have succeeded.” 

This sign is followed by a list of qualities of these believers, including Signs 5-7 which can be translated as

“who guard their private parts, except from their wives, or those whom their right hands possess, for with regard to them they are free from blame.  As for those who seek beyond that, they are transgressors”

So it is clear then, that a man is permitted to have intercourse with his lawful wife (“those whom their right hands possess” shall be discussed in point (b)).  To state it bluntly, a man can have sex with his wife.  But nothing in the original Arabic, or English attempt at translation implies force.  Not in this or any verse is force implied.  Being able to do something with someone, and being allowed to force that person to do that thing are entirely different and separate matters.  It does not seem to need an explanation.

Now, the ahadeeth, or narrations of Prophet Muhammad- May Allah Pray for him and Give him glad tidings of peace- contain a hadeeth, or single narration, on this subject.  Unfortunately I do not have the book that contains it in front of me, but I remember the wording as something like “If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, the angels will curse her until the morning.”  Let us assume for the sake of argument that this narration is authentic.  It means that a wife who refuses to have sex with her husband will be cursed by the angels for some time, i.e. that such a thing is blameworthy or discouraged.  But does it say or imply that a man can force his wife to have sex if she does not want to?  No.

Another narration is remembered as stating that a woman should answer her husband’s call to bed even if she has just saddled herself on a horse.  Again, if this is authentic, it is an encouragement towards sex, or even a claim of a man’s right to it, but it does not imply the use of force.

The so-called “right” to rape simply has no textual basis, and therefore no place in Islam.

Whether or not marital sexual rights as I have outlined them are found to be objectionable by some or many, it is clear that rape has no place in them.