Category: Islam


 

To watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qfqz5

Make Me a Muslim was a documentary following four girls  in the UK who had converted to Islam and their reasons for doing so. It’s presenter Shanna Bukhari (who was in the news a few years for having had received death threats following her annoucement of being involved in Ms Universe contest) posed the question “why would they give up their Western freedoms, the drinking, having fun to become Muslim?” (paraphrased).This opening line set the tone for the entire 1 hour programme.

I acknowledge some meaningful frames, quips and interactions may have been edited and/or scripted out to package it for terrestial viewing but despite that there were some telling undercurrents to the documentary that not even editing could have caused.  Professing to being Muslim herself Shanna seemed to have trouble grasping why these girls had converted.  One would think maybe she had issues with the discipline involved, such as prayer, fasting, not drinking as these prohibitions were quite strict and testing for most born Muslims, so for those who choose to become Muslim these things must be much harder to become accustomed to. Or of the harder struggles some of these girls may have had once they have converted.

But the focus of the programme was to do with none of that, it was to do with what is apparent and that is their clothing. This evolved even further and became a story about Shanna’s personal journey in reconnecting with her faith

The first girl – Safia, was a bubbly, excitable girl who was in the giddy first stages of conversion. Everything seemed new to her, she loved the sisters she came across at the mosque and felt like one of them. All over Twittersphere and Facebook there were quite a few comments about Sophia shown to be praying with nailpolish on and arms bare and sharing her pre-hijab photos. She is a newbie, its a steep learning curve – no need to shoot the girl down.

The other girl, who’s name escapes me – many apologies- had met her husband when she was a teenager as he used to hang about the school playground. He married her, secretly of course, as his family would never accept a white daughter-in-law. So a few years later, he was the good desi boy and abided by his parents wishes to go abroad to marry again (probably to a cousin or other family member). She wasn’t entirely happy with this, but had come around to it as she had made him promise not to have sex with his other wife. Her sister however resented the arrangement as she felt her sister was practically living the live of a single parent. This whole story had too many cultural hang ups that in order to address them would be a whole blog post on its own.

Inayah had trouble finding a partner as most of the boys family wouldnt accept her unless she was Pakistani. Some men she came across wanted a girlfriend not a wife. She’s better off without such people – lucky escape.

Alana converted after being introduced to Islam via her fiance. Shanna asked Alana for her opinion on her clothing – to which she replied it wasn’t halal. Including the boots (which personally I loved!).  This didnt go down to well with Shanna who then piped that her lifestyle and career in modelling was a result of being a modern British Muslim and nothing would change that.  I would say all of the girls in the documentary were modern if modern means to be able to drive a car, own a mobile phone, travel, have a job, own a house etc.

Is a career in modelling, where clothing to be displayed and paraded such as short skirts, tube tops,  cannot be modest according to Islamic principles, really be compatible with being a Muslim? Seemed like she knew what the answer was to that but didnt want to give it too much thought. And of course once you justify something to yourself its easy to carry on doing it, the very advice given to her by model/fashion designer Ayesha who was also a convert. However the irony of it all seemed to hit her when she attended a fashion party of Ayesha’s. She decided to reconnect with Islam and contacted Alana. The line of “want to hook up and go pray sometime?” made me cringe!

Overall the programme missed the opportunity of really exploring the reasons and effect conversion had on the lives of these 5 girls, it focused too much on on what they were (or weren’t) wearing.

The BBC have began a series following young people from different religious backgrounds in the search for a marriage partner. Last nights “Strictly Soulmates” episode followed 3 young Muslim guys and girls. My favourite were Dimpy, a 31 year old doctor by profession and Zubair a 23-odd year old who wanted to migrate back to Lahore, Pakistan and live life there doing charity work.

Zubair was a likeable chap – a bit goofy, but in an endearing way, confident and had some definite plans he wanted to follow through on. One was to migrate back to Pakistan where he spent his teenage years to start up a charity and he wanted his wife to aid him in this charity work. It was his desire to move away which detracted from his appeal, because other than that he seemed like a decent guy.

Dimpy seemed to be unsure of what she wanted – he must be a doctor was her only criteria. But in her search, rather than appeasing her preferences she was at cross-roads with the thoughts of what her father (who had passed away) would have wanted her to do. And she held onto that so strongly that when the realisation of its futility hit her, it hit her hard.

The programme provided insight into how Pakistani arranged marriages take place.  Anyone from Pakistani or Indian backgrounds will know even in these marriage processes there are many steps involved, all of which have their own politics and unwritten but understood rules to comply with. It touched briefly upon the options Muslims have when it comes to finding a suitable partner for marriage within the rules and norms of their cultural and religious expectations and norms.

One could argue the programme was more about how Pakistani’s do the marriage game – from the “auntie” matchmaker, to samosa parties at home with the prospective grooms mother rather than how Muslims in general do it (I wont go into Islamically how people argue it is “meant” to be done, as thats a whole other blog post in itself) having a variety of Muslim backgrounds would have made it much more interesting although the manner in which spouses are found in most Muslim cultures wouldn’t differ much.

It seemed like all 3 of them ha a long way to go before finding their Mr/Mrs Right. Wish them all the best in their search.

Reading Quran with Meaning

The wonderful Mezba has shown his creative flair by creating a blog that uses LEGO to explain verses from the Quran. I think its a fantastic idea and provides a very visual interpretation to a written text.

The use of LEGO not only makes it appealing to children and easy to understand, but is equally suitable for adults too!

Do check it out over here

Last month Lauren Booth, ex-PM Tony Blair’s sister in law, declared her conversion to Islam following a spiritual experience in Iran. Ever since this news was broadcast, there have been articles in most mainstream newspapers (tabloids and broadsheets) poking fun at her, making snide comments about rolling around on the floor at a holy shrine and even commenting on her mental stability – as though to convert to Islam one either has to be a) intimately involved with a Muslim; b) experiencing some life trauma, and so are vulnerable enough to convert and c) just be plain loopy.

Most of the negative vibes come as a result of the stereotypes banded around in the media of Muslims; wife beaters, deluded, extremist, detached from society, regressive and psychotic – some exaggerated stereotypes, but some add fuel to the fire and are pandered to by some Muslims themselves. Lauren acknowledges the bad press Islam and Muslims receive – but comments on the root causes of the state of Muslim women in the Muslim world:

So let’s all just take a deep breath and I’ll give you a glimpse into the other world of Islam in the 21st century. Of course, we cannot discount the appalling way women are mistreated by men in many cities and cultures, both with and without an Islamic population. Women who are being abused by male relatives are being abused by men, not God. Much of the practices and laws in “Islamic” countries have deviated from (or are totally unrelated) to the origins of Islam. Instead practices are based on cultural or traditional (and yes, male-orientated) customs that have been injected into these societies. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive by law. This rule is an invention of the Saudi monarchy, our government’s close ally in the arms and oil trade. The fight for women’s rights must sadly adjust to our own government’s needs.

Of course as with most religions, Islam has patriarchial roots which seep into most of the practices, ideas and mindsets that Muslims have regarding how Muslim women should look, behave, speak and carry herself. Those who do not conform to these idea’s are often touted to be “modernist” or pitied as being “misguided” and in need of a huge guiding nudge in the right direction. Too often these assumptions are a result of having perceptions at a grandoise level regarding to how “knowledgable” they are – and of course these patrons are often men who’s duty it is to “save their sisters”.

Lauren as part of addressing the negativity surrounding her conversion comments on how emotionally dead non-Muslims now seem to her:

How hard and callous non-Muslim friends and colleagues began to seem. Why can’t we cry in public, hug one another more, say “I love you” to a new friend, without facing suspicion or ridicule? I would watch emotions being shared in households along with trays of honeyed sweets and wondered, if Allah’s law is simply based on fear why did the friends I loved and respected not turn their backs on their practices and start to drink, to have real “fun” as we in the west do? And we do, don’t we? Don’t we?

I couldnt help but think the lack of love-sharing in some households is not solely a non-Muslim issue – it involves factors beyond and above this; about family, character and personality dynamics and less about faith and religiousity. And the concept of personal space is a very British one – we don’t particularly like people sitting or standing too close to us if we can help it (especially the times when using public transport) be they strangers or even close loved ones. In certain cultures touching is more common, so people will greet one another with a kiss, say some words of affection and be very vocal about their feelings. Some of us want nothing more than a handshake. These are cultural not religious differences.

You can read the rest of Lauren’s article here

Recently France has been the centre of media attention what with it banning hijaab, followed closely by the outright ban of niqab in public spaces. In a form of protest against the dictatorship style role of the state, 2 French women (ethnicity of whom has remained largely unknown and refer to themselves as “NiqaBitch”) have taken to the streets in protest.  They, as with many others largely focus on clothing. But there is a twist.

They don a niqaab but bare their legs by wearing a miniskirt and sashay heels. The video is very tongue in cheek with the girls walking around Paris, posing outside buildings like the Ministry of Defence whilst wishing everyone peace – V hand gesture. Some people walk by pretending not to look, some praise them for their effort and others ask for them to pose and click away with their camera’s!


The statement these two ladies are making with regards to a piece of clothing that is considered repressive (niqaab) and the other which some would equate to as being immodest (miniskirt – lots of flesh on show) blends both the “sacred” and the “profane”.

Some may find the video distasteful, mocking the “sanctity” of niqaab (a piece of clothing cannot be sacred – the niqaab and to a certain level hijaab may for some encompass values, idea’s and beliefs which they believe manifest in it and may demonstrate a certain ideal but that ideal is a symbolic intepretation, one cannot apply those ideals to a piece of fabric!) but I feel it is an attempt to ridicule the French ban purely because their appearance is contradictory  and seems to be sending the popular message of “I am oppressed – niqaab” and I am a liberated, free woman “bare legs.

It is pertinent to note in the video that the passerby’s responses are generally of a good natured one primarily due to being aware that these girls are not donning the niqaab for religious reasons, that it is a stunt, a joke - all of which gives more weight to the islamphobic nature of the niqaab/hijaab ban. There is also the “orientialist fetish” aspect to the two ladies appearance – the veiling of the face, but the bare skin eliciting the notion of a sexual being who is “unreachable”, a mysterious being – much of which has been pandered about for a long time (and is hard to avoid it seems!)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers