Missing…

As the reality of being a woman in the Middle East sets in, I am becoming increasingly aware of my limitations in social opportunities. I talked to a friend who is doing research in Europe. She has gone through the same thing. We have very few people to hang out with. Everyone else has their own things going on and not a lot of time. On top of that there is the whole language barrier thing.

But Kuwait is different from Northern Europe. It is not like I can go out to cafe and meet new friends. Nor can I just go for a stroll, catch a bus downtown and explore Kuwait city by myself. Buses in Kuwait are filled with male laborers. I was told you better be a tough woman to handle that experience. Honestly, travelling alone as a woman in the Middle East is the pits. During my stay in Morocco, I had to gather up the will to explore Fez. Sometimes it was just plain tiresome. First, you have to develop hard look in order to reduce the unwanted male harrassment (i.e. the walk by “zwaina” or the cat calls, I mean for reals they used the same sounds you called cats with). Then you have to be prepared to avoid all eye contact with any males, such as looking up at the sky and risk falling into some hole in the ground (and in Morocco there are many ditches, potholes, and uneven pavement). The most effective method is looking at the ground and watching where you are going. This too has downsides because you can miss some very nice sites and historical landmarks. Plus I had to map out my route, I wanted to avoid the 100 to 200 glaring eyes that follow any woman who passes the packed cafes. I wasn’t in Egypt long enough to make any lengthy commentaries, but from my experience Cairo seemed pretty much the same.

But Native Kuwaitis are pretty good about not harrassing, I’ve only gotten a few staredowns in stores and businesses. But, there are tons of single men immigrating from the Middle East and South Asia. I’ve heard that depending on the neighborhood, you can get annoying harrassment. But my friend said it’s not that bad as places like Sanaa, Yemen. There if you walk down the street and don’t wear the face veil you’re a slut, if you wear a veil you’re a slut, if you have your whole family in tow you’re a slut, because honorable women apparently either stay at home or they only have cars. But in Kuwait even the men who are pretty hard up for women (the country has a population of 60% adult males) don’t get too bad because no one wants to get deported.

So, with that in mind I don’t feel like I’m going to be bombarded by men whose pasttime consists of making lewd comments to passing women. But, I am following as much of the decorum and etiquette as I can. So, I’ve only had very limited interactions with men, that is even on a professional level. I am sure this while change when I enroll in my course at the University. But I wonder how much will that change. I really doubt I’ll make any substantive male friends or be able to chop it up in a mixed setting (unless it is at one of the East meets West centers). The most common interaction I’ve had with men is being told that a male is coming so go some place not to be seen, usually to my room or close the kitchen door. We have a Yemeni couple as neighbors. So, apparently in their culture women can be heard (but not talking to you if you are a male), but not seen. I know this because all day my friend’s husband gets hear our neighbor’s voice call our maid for various tasks “Adaam, Adaam!!” Very opposite of the old school thing about children, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” In the Middle East, by the way, children run the whole show. The children running freely in American masajid are just a taste of the wild antics in the Middle East.

But I digress. So I scratch the whole thing about being able to chop it up with Muslims of all shapes and varieties in Kuwait. In reality, there’s not much to do for a woman by herself. There are family things, stuff women do in groups. I don’t have any kids. If you ever want to feel like a fifth wheel, try being the only single girl on a multiple family outing. Basically, if the kids aren’t spitting up on you some one may want to spit on you if they think you are looking at their husband sideways. So, besides looking at the ground and occassionally trying to match the dozen children to mothers and fathers, I just looked at the ground feeling awkward like the poor miskeena over thirty and divorced without kids that I am.

I read a thing that said that Kuwait was family oriented. Unlike more open societies, those that follow gender segregation such as Kuwait have nice accomodations for women. There are Arabic and Islamic studies classes, social clubs, swimming pools, and gyms for women. But sometimes they can have their downsides, especially if you don’t understand Kuwaiti Arabic. One time I had to try to find information about some religious studies programs for women. But the building was closed to men, so I had to go at it on my own. Nothing beats down your confidence in your Arabic skills like trying to get information.

I guess I’m realizing that I haven’t explored much. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been to several hyper markets, been to several car dealerships, the ministry of communications, two universities, to an indoor park, to a souk, prayed in a mosque, visited a Kuwaiti home, stuff like that. I realize I haven’t left the house since Saturday when I went food shopping. It’s just not as easy as a woman to meet new people or do new things. There are lots of Muslim women who live like this, never going out, cooking, cleaning, arranging, hanging out with kids, eating to fill the void, obsessively checking email and reading blogs. I have skyped a few times. IMed my sister the other day. On days like this, I miss television. There’s not a tv in this house. And I think I need one bad to pass the time. I’d prefer to have all the stations in Arabic. My eyes hurt from the Arab channel’s tiny pixelated boxes and chopping programs.

It takes awhile to settle in. I’m beginning to realize how far I am from home. I think about all the women who are at home, as their struggle to not be lost in their relationships, as the reach out to maintain their connections. Are they missing some of the same things I’m missing?

In the Muslim World

What does it mean being in the Muslim world? Does it mean that a society is more Islamic?  Does the percentage of Muslims make a difference? What about the percentage of women who cover and men who wear big beard and long thobes? What happened to all those traits we’d hear about in khutbas about the Ummah being an exemplary community, the best of peoples, etc…etc…

Well, the Muslim world isn’t this happy Muslim place where people are singing “Tala al badru wa’alayna” skipping down the streets giving salaams to their neighbors. No, the Muslim world is a place where a woman will get hit on and ripped off by an airport worker within 1/2 an hour of stepping on Muslim soil. The Muslim world is where a throng of people pass by an old lady struggling carrying her loaded bags and some random western woman offers to help. The Muslim world is where cars mow down pedestrians on the road and where everyone cusses each other out. The Muslim world is where men say disgusting things to hijab wearing women sweating profusely in the humid  air.

Being in the Muslim world means your landlord commands you to cover the toilet seat because there are jinn residing in the toilet and he accuses your roommate of practicing magic. It also means that he or his sons feel like they can come into your apartment at any time at night and take stuff out.

Being in the Muslim world means being thankful that you meet up with old college friends who will take care of you and make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible. It means you are thankful for the rare and random acts of generosity from those Muslims in the Muslim world who truly exemplify the beauty of Islam—Sadaqa and Karamah.

Cross Dressing For Allah

So one of my friends asked me what did I think about the Red Mosque stand off. You know, the one where the pious Muslim leader tried to escape out the backdoor dressed as a woman. I’m not one to write too much about politics. I am also very careful about writing on events that I don’t understand. But who could ignore the dramatic events and the burqas. Umar Lee has made some very interesting comments on this piece in his blog. My response is delayed because I’ve been really swamped with my work and studies. But with the flurry of blog entries, here’s my two cents.

There is so much discussion about women’s dress, hijab, niqab, and burqa. A few years back, Michael Jackson made headlines by dressing in an abaya and veil and powdering his nose in a bathroom. Himesh Reshammiya pissed off a lot of Muslims in a shrine. Himesh and Michael were just trying to escape paparazzi. But there have been a growing number of stories where bank robbers and Muslim militants donned the burqa to escape police or military capture. In the case of the mosque standoff, I think I’d cut the brother some slack if he didn’t have such a hard core deen-or-die-rough-rider-pakistani-style rhetoric. So what’s up with that ready to die as a shaheed, but dressing up as a meek Muslimah? I’m really rusty on my Fiqh, but last I heard was that cross dressing was haram. In fact, I’ve read works by Muslim writers who condemn Muslim women for wearing jeans and pants like men. But maybe in this case they used ijtihad and came up with some ruling that it is okay to cross dress fi-subil-Allah.

Top Searches that People Used to Find My Site Today

Sometimes, I wonder what is the intention of the people who google “Why you shouldn’t marry a black woman”? Was the searcher a man? Was it a woman? Were they black? Were they joking? Or do they have beef with black women? What do they think of what I have to say? Or has gendered racism prevented them from valuing anything that I have to contribute?

When I think of the people who visit my site I wonder if they have been weighted down by the same issues that have made my life feel heavy? Do I help give voice to something that they had trouble articulating? Is my blog divisive? What about those readers that I challenge? How mad do I make them? Well, I don’t feel bad because I make someone angry when I express my own subjective position. I am angry, and there should be a whole bunch more people angry about injustice and deceit. I have always had my identity and my personal choices tested, questioned, and challenged. Learning can be painful, as many of my undergrad students will attest to. Students have their presuppositions challenged, they get tested and critiqued, they have to stay up late at night trying to make sense out of seemingly incomprehensible problem sets and dense readings. Maybe some of those who visit my site find something reflected back at them that they don’t like. Some may find a reflection that affirms the struggle they have been going through. Ultimately, I hope to give speak for the voice-less, the groups whose voices have been submerged by the dominant narrative.

Search Views
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Muslim Guy Shortage!?

Hmmmm, I’ve been blogging about this for awhile now.

A SISTER WRITES:

“I’ve noticed in our Muslim communities that there are plenty of single, religious, educated, Muslim sisters, yet there is a great lack of like-minded brothers available for marriage. Thus, we have sisters in their late 20’s and 30’s who desire to get married but cannot find a suitable prospective.”

Why do you think this is the case? Is it due to the Muslim brothers not bothering about the Deen so they are not at par with active, religious sisters? Or do you think it’s a demographical problem? What do you think?

JOIN MECCAONE THIS THURSDAY WITH IMAM ZAID SHAKIR, UM HASSAN, AND YOU, THE LISTENERS FOR AN IMPORTANT DISCUSSION, DEBATE, & DIALOGUE!

Thursday, March 8th, 2007
5-6pm on 90.5 FM KSJS San Jose, CA
Live World-Wide
CALL IN LIVE! 408.924.5757

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Prison Da’wa and Marriage to ex-cons

You see, Muslim women are like women all over the world, we have a lot to worry about. How do you know if you’ve actually fallen in love with a child molester, wife beater, womanizer, or emotionally abusive man? There are often signs and we often ignore them. Maybe we all need to do a background check. But what if a brother’s background is less than perfect? I think this is an issue Black Muslim women deal with more than anybody. We have a lot of infrastructure to proselytize to incarcerated men. And the conversion rates are pretty promising. Many men who convert while in prison really struggle with their deen once released into society.

The problem that I have with the prison system is that it is not there to reform people. Instead, it is a brutal system that brings the worst out of people. Taking shahadah wipes away someone’s previous sins, but it doesn’t erase niggerish tendencies. That takes a lot of work. And man, it’s a struggle out here. I mean, I know Malcolm X was an ex-con, but that was Malcolm X. You know what I mean?

There are some hard brothas who are released from prison who have straight beef with the whole womenkind. For those brothas that like to box women, maybe they need some women who can box dudes. I don’t know if they do dawa in women’s prison. I think they should. Maybe they can get a Michelle Rodrigues to take them on or what’s her name from “Million Dollar Baby.” I know it isn’t just converts and ex-cons who beat their wives. I’ve heard of brothers asking about how big can the miswack be to hit their wives. Maybe they were joking, but that shit isn’t funny. And the Muslims women’s shelter gets all sorts of abuse and death threats from angry husbands, fathers, and brothers. I don’t know the exact figures that could possibly correlate rates of incarceration with domestic abuse. But if somebody knows, get back at me.

As an African American convert, I think I’ve had to deal with this issue more than any of my Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian, white, and Asian counterparts. You see, I grew up in East San Jose and attanded the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara. Very middle class and affluent and immigrant oriented. A few of my second generation immigrants friends would tell me that I’d find my ideal match in East Oakland. That’s where Masjid al-Islam is and a lot of angry brothers would be there. Sure, they looked a lot better than many of the pasty engineers in Silicon Valley. But were they ideal matches? A number of them sold incense and oils. I remember when this one North African sister from East Oakland pumping up this other African American brother who had asked for me. Like many of my non-Black friends, any guy was a good match–as long as he was Black. She was like, “Gurrrrrrl, he has his own business.” It turned out that he sold books, but this wasn’t a Barnes and Nobles operation. It was one of those book stands you see set up next to the incense and oils stand in some Flea Market (not even Berryessa but the smaller more rundown Ashby bart variety). Now, this was a little bit much for me. I would get in arguments with my friends who would make a case for marrying one of these struggling brothers. They would advocate for them. We should only look at religion, if the brother prayed, if he was a good Muslim, etc…. But meanwhile their fathers made sure that only doctors and engineers couls step to them. They would also introduce their white convert friends to the doctors and engineers. They’d tell me, “but there’s plenty of brothas for you up in Oakland, Aziza.” Meanwhile, masjid al-Islam became the bastion for polygamy and these brothers were pulling one, two, maybe even three wives. I guess I was too ambitious to throw myself into a cycle of poverty. Maybe the brother who asked for me got it together, I pray that Allah grant him tawfeeq. But I thought about practical things like being able to pay rent, health insurance, paying tuition so I could get a degree in community college and make a contribution to my family. I think that the brother discovered Islam while in prison. I don’t think he had been out that long and the selling of books was this big push towards the entreprenurial spirit.

Okay, let me get this straight. I know I’m kind of a square, but I used to run the streets a bit and I’m familiar with the whole thug lifestyle. Back in highschool thugs were in and getting locked up was sort of a rite of passage. My mom put a block on our phone to prevent prison collect calls from my homeboys or boyfriends. So I would get the lame three-way calls or requests to make three way calls to call somebody’s people. Nowadays, you can’t click over and use three way. So anybody locked up calling my mom’s house is pretty assed out. Anyways, for some of us ladies could deny the appeal of a brother who had been locked down. Usually they come out all swoll and muscles cut from benching, pull-ups, push-ups and sit ups all day. I don’t know if they look the same since they’ve banned weights in the yard. Brothers come out of prison well read and articulate and seem so motivated. All they had to do all day was work on their Islam. But then they get out, no support, no one will hire them, bougie–and especially immigrant–girls won’t marry them. And I have just never been in a place in my life where I can carry a brother through the fire.

I used to have long conversations/arguments about this issue when one of my friends would try to push off the surplus of struggling brothers from Oakland. One friend was especially dismissive of my concerns (Perhaps she was playing devil’s advocate). I developed a motto, “No incense and oils sellers!” Not any disrespect to any brothers who have a hustle and make it work for them. I guess there was little recourse for me, being that I came into Islam in a predominately immigrant community, and little recourse for them. When I was 20, I just had one simple requirement, that the brother have an associates or at least be a junior in college, with some job skills. Otherwise, how was the brother going to hold down a family?

Muslim brothers use all sorts of innovative techniques for giving dawa to pretty women they encounter in the work place, on the street, and in their social circles. They’re not giving dawa to women on skid row. They are not giving dawah to women in correctional facilities. They are not giving dawa in halfway houses. So, that means, that the community is not really dealing with as many women who need help reintergrating into society. In fact, it means that Muslim men have better options for suitable matches. On top of that, Muslim men a clearly not limited to Muslim women. They can marry Christian and Jewish women. I know of a number that marry Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Agnostic, and Atheist. This doesn’t inlude the foreign brothers who go abroad marry some poor hapless women who knows nothing about American society and lives isolated thousands of miles away from her friends and family. When you add it all up, level headed brothers actually become rare commodities. I know a lot of Muslim women who are actually opting out of marriage because it is such a headache.

I know brothas are doing some serious dawa work as prison chaplans and whatnot. But for reals though…can yall do some dawah to brothas with jobs for some of us sisters. So, please even up the chances for sistas by working on your male friends, co-workers, and assocites who don’t have super long rap sheets and records that prevent them from working. I know way too many on-point sisters who are wont to find a suitable partner. There’s a Medical School, Business School and Law School just walking distance from me. I can show you right where they are at, or you can Google Map it. Set your dawa table right across the quad. I’ll support yall. We gotta balance out things the demographics. Also, let’s hook up the struggling brothers. Maybe we sistas need to work on some dawa for the ladies in the correctional facilities, aka the industrial prison complex.

What To Do When Muslims Behave Badly

By behaving badly, I don’t mean Muslims not praying or transgressing personal morality. I mean things that violate someone else’s humanity and dignity. You know, things like genocide, terrorism, enslavement, child abuse, and violence against women. How do Muslims come to terms with the atrocities committed by other Muslims?

Should their actions cause a crisis of faith? Should we reflect upon our core beliefs to understand why the trans-Saharan slave trade occurred, why genocide is going on in Darfur, why there is still the enslavement of blacks in Mauritania, why female genital mutilation is praticed in many parts of the Muslim world inluding Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, and in some parts of the Levant and Iraq? Or should we Muslims try to defend our faith and seek the core spiritual truths. Do we explain that these actions were due to cultural practices, even though the perpetrators may sincerely believe that they are doing some actions in the name of the faith? How do we come to terms with the fact that religious ideology is used to justify all sorts of brutality?

My understanding of these issues have been shaped by my training as a Western scholar. But there is the part of me whose identity is tied up with the cultural religious complex called Islam. Although I try not to let my faith blind me from seeing historical realities, my identity shapes how I understand those realities. I have read several articles that make broad generalizations in their critiques of Muslim/African encounters and Arab/African encounters. Often Arab and Muslim are depicted as synonomous. Right now, Arabs are the only ethnic group that it seems generally okay to say vehemently racist things abou them. Many Arabs are Muslim, but clearly not all Muslims are Arabs. In fact the majority of Muslims come from Indonesia. Few people have bad things to say about Indonesians. But I digress.

I am in a society that is largely hostile to both my race and my religious beliefs and practices. Our communities tend to circle their wagons and in this defensive position we are less likely to be introspective or reform driven. Instead, any criticism from outsiders is taken as an attempt invalidate our beliefs and identity. But this does not mean that we should focus on defending our beliefs and cultural practices against important critiques. The truth of the matter is that Muslim women are still not able to secure the rights accorded them in the Shariah. There is a huge difference between High Culture, popular culture. Doctrine and ideology does not determine the actions of individuals. Instead, a full range of overlapping and conflicting interests can drive why individuals and groups choose to do certain things. What I think is important is to expose how individuals manipulate the naivete of their followers. It is important to look at the political economy of any movement. It is essential to look at the material motivations, as well as consider whether or not spiritual beliefs were sincere. And just because someone is sincere in their beliefs, that does not mean that they are not misguided. This is why it is important to move beyond the Us/Them mentality. The Us/Them mentality is really the thing that allows us to behave badly against other human beings. Anyways, that’s my thoughts for now. This meditation will continue…

Time wasters

Okay, I’m procrastinating big time right now. I have this paper deadline and I really hate it. I’m going to get started on it, for reals. But a new curse has entered our household. It is called basic cable. So, I’ve read all this stuff on slavery in Africa, the Sokoto Caliphate, and trading diasporas. I have 15 pages to write and about 25 hours to do it. I think I’m going to miss this deadline. I was really busy. We had this Barbecue on Saturday, house guests all week. And then, like I said, tv channels.

But that is not the kind of time wasters I’m talking about. I mean the real time wasters. Time wasters are those dead end relationships. People who are up in your face because they want to hear themselves talk. People who need constant attention in meaningless interactions. Looking back at the past two years, I think about some of time wasters who have monopolized my time. I’m really jealous of my time too. I sometimes wonder why some men want to be all in my face wasting my time. Maybe its because I’m pretty laid back and pretty open. Do I look and talk like I’m some fun-loving, adveturish air-head?Maybe I should act a little bit more diva-ish or something. I dunno, but I’d like for the time wasters to keep moving on. I’m making it my next mid-week resolution to swear off time wasters. I have proposals and exams to prepare for. Plus I need a side job tutoring rich brats. I can be far more productive if I avoid this breed of human beings. You know the time wasters I’m talking about. The people who message you and ask: “How are you doing this evening?” Or they ask for my IM address so they can chat up my precious spare time.

What about the men who want to fly in like they are on some kind of vacation and have me show them around? Look man, do I look like a tour guide? Dude, this is not your fantasy vacation. Creepy out of towners who write me that they want to meet me. Meet me for what? Because long distance poonanny has less strings attached than local poonanny? Anyways, what do I get out of it? I could have male attention to affirm my feminity, a meaningless interaction, or maybe some temporary physical gratification where I’m left wondering if the feelings were mutual or was I just being used.

I find local dating hard enough. It is often a cat-and-mouse game. Sort of like how long can I maintain his interest and avoid getting boned or left for someone else who will get down with him. I personally find dating obnoxious for all its games. And because I don’t like the game nor do I play by its rules, I really am unfamiliar with all the protocols of dating.

Anyways, there are tons of admonitions against Muslims dating. The whole halal-style meeting leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Plus I don’t have that good old reliable ethnic network where you can find out if a brotha is shady from word of mouth. And brothas are real quick to secure a marriage before all the dirty secrets come out. There goes the more natural, un-artificial way of getting to know someone before jumping into a relationship. Anyways, I’m not really interested in dating in the conventional sense. But at the same time, I’m not interested in hook-ups. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in getting to know people. It is all about bringing It with the right intentions.

Since few men are really approaching me with a realness and depth that I think I deserve I’ll substitute it for some other needs in my life. For instance, I could use a really great free translator. As far as the interactions I could really use, would be someone who is well read and a sharp intellectual. I would love to run into another academic who can help me in those intellectual quagmires I find myself in. Do they understand what the hell the subaltern school people are saying? Do they understand the shortcomings of World Systems Theory? Can they give me a break down of Heidegger? Can they help me through the murkiness of post-modern theory. More than anything I need a reliable editor who has a good turn around time. Often, I am let down by people who offer even the most simple feedback. Their follow through has left something to be desired. I resolved myself to not to turn my writing it its most vulnerable stages unless I am sure that my reader will help nurture my ideas and thoughts. So, I substitute real interaction and even real writing for this blog stuff. Now that I have wasted 50 minutes writing this blog…I supposed I can get back to writing these crappy papers.

The Veil and the Male Elite

Yes, I read Fatima Mernissi’s book. I think she has some interesting ideas, although her writing is problematic. I especially found her memoir super problematic with its orientalist imagery of Morocco. She also had some ridiculous notions of race, i.e. planting of the banana tree to make the sub-saharan African woman feel at home. But that is besides the point, we can forgive her for having the perspective of an elite Fessi woman. So, as I was saying, I read her book years ago. She brought up some interesting points about the relationship between men and women in Islam. I admire her courage for bringing it up. The interaction with the opposite gender is a true testament to their moral character and spiritual state. The relationship between men and women in both the African American community and the Muslim community has so much more to be desired. But being that I’m talking about the veil and male elite, I will focus on the relationship between Muslim men and men. And in particular I am focusing on my own subjectivity as an African American Muslim woman. 

One of the teachings in Islam that really attracted me to the religion was conveyed in Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon: “The best of those are those who are good to their women.” Coming from a broken home, I was so drawn in by the image of idyllic Muslim home life that was painted in dawa books like “Islam in Focus.” When I initially became Muslim, my mother’s friends told her that my husband would beat me, that he would have multiple wives, and take my children away. Before I got married when they found out that he was Muslim, they kept warning her that I would be treated badly. To this day, Muslim men have a pretty bad reputation.Now, not all of the bad stuff happened and a Muslim man has never laid a hand on me, nor do have I any children to take away. I do think Muslim men get a bad wrap. But then again, I am tired of sweeping some horrifying stories under the rug. 

I think our community leaders are not very responsible when it comes to dealing with the conduct of some of the men. I know of cases where the community has come in support of the brothers who abused their wives. I know that the Muslim women’s shelter gets death threats. Domestic abuse comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. Muslim men are not the only perpetrators, but the fact that this institution is a threat to Muslim community identity is telling of some of the problems we have. So, some traditionalists say that you can beat your wife lightly, or with a miswack toothbrush. I have some miswack, and it is kinda big. Besides that, it is just plain humiliating to be reprimanded as a child. Abuse comes in many forms: some emotional and some physical. Which ones leave the most scars? It depends on one’s resilience, how deep the wound, how brutal the blow. Abuse is about power and control. Abusers use a number of tools to manipulate their victims. Often the blame is laid upon the subordinate member of this assymetric power relationship. A number of academics have written that in every relationship there is a power dynamic. Often this power dynamic is assymetrical, meaning that one person has more power than the other. In relations between a man and a woman, it is often the case where the woman is subordinated to the man. While in the Quran says that men have power over women, it advocates being giving more allowances to the woman and not abusing that upperhand. This indicates that Islamic scripture recognizes female gender vulnerabilities and encourages Muslim men to be sensitive to that in disputes with their spouses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. 

Some American Muslim men claim they are down for the liberation of women from patriarchy. But they insert their own culturally specific misogyny. While Muslim women in America have more options than many of their counterparts in the Muslim world, they still have a number of gender vulnerabilities and struggles. I have seen women subject to a number of abusive situations: verbal, emotional, and physical. I have seen men prey on young women in an effort to find someone they could control and manipulate. Others prey on the insecurities of older women who have settled for less out of despair. I suppose this makes them feel more powerful, huh? It sort of shows me that they are much less of a man and that machismo front is a facade for a dislocated spirit, diseased heart, a broken soul, and a weak mind. 


You are what you do, not what you imagine yourself to be, not the image that you construct for yourself: If you lie, you are a liar. If you cheat, you are a cheater. If you steal, you are a thief. You are what you do. Who are you really? What are you doing? Are you trying to change what you’re doing? Rumi said something along the lines of “Be as you appear and appear as you are.” This was part of my reason for unveiling, this is me. I still love my tradition, I can historicize the process by which the laws and regulations were transmitted. But, I respect the scholars, I know right from wrong. I know when I’m doing wrong and when I’m doing right. 





But I appear now as I am, in protest for the lack of commitment from my entire community. You get your act together and be as you represent yourself. Me, I’ll do what I do. I’ll keep speaking my mind articulating for the voiceless. You want to see me bagged up, wrapped in that more traditional role. But, I’ll do that outward more superficial veiling when you lift the real veils off your eyes. In the meantime, your motives and weaknesses are transparent. Wake up brothas, do yourself a service and stop selling your sistas out. And for those who have stayed true and are striving on all fronts, you have my utmost respect. For the misguided, I keep praying and hoping that the word gets out to you. Insha’Allah, one day both my African American and Muslim brothas will have a reputation for being the best of husbands, fathers, brothers, son, and friends.

 (Also, I’m really pissed off about the execution of a 16 year girl for adultery in Iran. WTF??)

Wedding Bells

I went to a beautiful wedding this weekend. A classmate of mine married her boyfriend of six years. They are an amazing couple, perfect fit. It was a dream wedding, the kind you see in movies. Everything was well done, with the kind of class and attention to minute details that only the affluent could buy. My friend has told me about some of the snide comments other grad students made about her background. Sure, her father is a wealthy lawyer who’s worked some high profile cases. And sure her new husband comes from a wealthy shipping family. But they are not the Onassis family, dammit!. A lot of graduate students take on this air of poverty, as if they become the long suffering proletariat. Though this was not a proletariat wedding, I have an admiration for my friend’s realness. She also has a sharp mind and a great sense of humor. She’s also not full of the pretensions that mark a lot of academics. Though they envy the world of my friend’s parents and in-laws, almost all of them come from privileged backgrounds. Their parents are lawyers, doctors, professors, and business men. They all exist in a world that seems to operate parrallel my own. When you see the mating habit and partnering customs of your peers, nothing hits home more than the trials and tribulations of being a single (and trying hard not to be bitter) black woman.

As I was cleaning up my hard drive, I came across some scraps of articles I pasted into a word document:

“African-American men are much more likely than white or Hispanic men to engage in polygamous relationships, the scholars found. About 21 percent of the African-American men had at least two partners at the time of the survey, compared with 6 percent of men overall in Cook County.”
“Furthermore, the researchers found that polygamy is more common among better educated black men, who presumably have more income. As a result, the number of men available for stable marriages in the African-American community is reduced, leading to the large differences in marriage rates between African-Americans and whites, the researchers pointed out. About 57 percent of black men have been married, compared with about 72 percent of white men, according to census figures.

from article: “Urban areas organized in well developed partnering markets,” University of Chicago research shows
http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/04/040109.sex-market.shtml

“African Americans marry at a significantly lower rate than other racial groups in the United States. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that by the age of 30, 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics and Asians will marry, but only 52 percent of black women will do so.”
from: “Marriage rate low in black community”
http://www.suntimes.com/special_sections/marriage/day2/cst-nws-black09.html

The numbers of “Blacks who marry whites is still small, just 6 pecent of b lack men and 2 percent of b lack women. “source unknown

This data are like bombs leaving lots of food for thought. There was a movie that came out in January that sent a message to black women which basically told us that our problem is that we aren’t open to dating outside our race. I know a number of black women who don’t, but then again I know a number of black women that have never had a man who isn’t black approach them romantically. Maybe they missed the signals. I also know from experience that black women dating outside their race is looked upon disapprovingly (even at times by black men who themselves are in interracial relationships).

Last year, there was a discussion about serial polygamy organized by the Black Graduate students. I bounced out of that meeting because for some polygamy was a theoretical issue, but I had dealt with that on a real level. I don’t know that stats for how many black Muslim do it, but it is a rather common phenomena, much like our high divorce rates. (These viewpoints are mainly on sunni Muslims, as I don’t know much about the marriage and divorce rates in the Nation of Islam) A number of my second generation immigrant Muslim friends commented on the instability of marriages in the African American Muslim community. They also have noted the tendency for out in the open polygamous relationships among African American Muslim men. Brothers are real quick to be like, “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!! Three strikes you’re OOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUTTTTTT!!” My friend’s husband divorced her three times, and then she had to get married to someone else and then they got back together. He married someone else on the side, then divorced her, but then somehow after their third child they got back together again and are living abroad. Last thing I heard was that they were happy.

Well black women, maybe you found a group who has worse stats than you. Black Muslim women, yeah. We’re like 2 percent the population. Muslims do heavy recruiting in the prisons, meaning that brothas who are unable to secure stable jobs are over represented. And if you’re married to one who is doing well for himself and is attractive, chances are that there will be sistas out there willing to fill in three of the empty slots (he is allowed four under Shariah after all). Also, Muslims do not recognize a marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man. But a Muslim man can marry a Christian or Jewish woman. Not fair? Who said life is fair, the issue is how you navigate the constraints, disparities, and inequalities. Sigh, I guess I shouldn’t complain about the statistics. I am one of the lucky 52 percent thirty year olds. I got married. Sure, I am divorced but the cup is half full, right?

(Disclaimer: This is not to say that all African American Muslim men are naturally inclined towards polygamy. There are some really great families out there and really great husbands. The only problem is that suitable mates for an educated sista are in low supply. )