Posts Tagged conversion

Guest post: Reflections on slavery, hijab, male authority, and convert neo-traditionalist apologetic bafflegab

(by Rosalinda—largely in response to this post)

I am under the impression that the whole women’s dress thing is something no woman can ever, ever do “right” in the eyes of these men. First, they claim that all women should wear hijab.

And when women where hijab, those scholars/brothers talk about how a woman wearing hijab shouldn’t wear pants, colourful clothes, jeans, jewellery, tight clothes etc. So a woman can never win. Talk about gaslighting…………

Here is a good take on the whole “correct hijab” thing by Orbala.

And yes, even Hamza Yusuf claims that a woman who doesn’t wear hijab “dishonors herself”.

OMG I can’t believe this! He uses the fact that enslaved women weren’t allowed to wear hijab by 3Umar al-Khattab and that they were bare-breasted as an argument for the “tolerance” of “traditional islam”.

This is of course NOT true: Hijab could, in that day and age, only be worn by free Muslim women to distinguish them from enslaved Muslim women, whose bodies were basically fair game – a slave owner had the right to have sex with an unlimited number of his female slaves, who, like Kecia Ali puts so eloquently, “weren’t in a position two hold or withdraw consent.”

But this argument of his is really mind-blowing…..

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How I know I’m still Muslim: because I’m still as critical as all hell :-(

Some days ago, someone sent me a link to a video of British Muslims being, well, happy. Lip-syncing, dancing, smiling, and acting goofy, mostly. Women, as well as men and children. Not all the women were wearing hijab. One hijabi was biking, and a number were dancing. I watched it, and had two automatic and rather contradictory reactions—“awww, that’s kind of cute” and “the following things in this video are haraam, makruh or at least Islamically questionable and therefore the makers probably should have avoided them, because X quranic verse and Y Z A hadiths and the sayings of such-and-such scholars.”

And the thing was, these were my automatic responses, that I didn’t even have to think about or try to formulate. Not just the “awww…” response, but the second one, the hyper-critical, These Are All The Things That Are Wrong Here And These Are The Proof-texts Why response.

Thinking about the second response, I am taken aback… and not in a good way.

Where does this hyper-critical response come from, complete with its associated proof-texts?

Sure, this stuff was all pounded into my head years ago, when I converted. But I’ve been away from conservative Muslim communities for a while now, and seldom interact with conservative Muslims (aside from a few family members). I don’t usually listen to conservative khutbas or attend mosques or read books written by conservatives or (god forbid) go to those fatwa sites. So, it’s not as though those attitudes and proof-texts could be expected to be uppermost in my mind, because they aren’t exactly receiving reinforcement.

And, these are mostly ideas that I don’t rationally believe in either (more on that in a minute).

So, where does this come from??

Well, wherever it comes from, it soon became evident that I was not the only person who has the same inbuilt Islamic Carping Criticism-o-meter (ICC), because it did not take long for a “halal” version of the video to be posted. Meaning, a version in which most of the women have been edited out, and those remaining are hijabis. Only the upper one-third of their bodies are shown, and they are mostly standing still. Not only are the dancing women now gone, but even the hijabi riding her bike.

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Q 4:34–Don’t tell me pretty lies (cont.)

Recently, I encountered the claim that wadribuhunna has some meaning other than “beat them” in a speech given by Yusuf Estes in the film, The Mosque in Morgantown.

According to the film, the back-story of that speech was that Yusuf Estes had been invited by conservative Muslims to give a speech at the university in Morgantown. Given the timing, it appears that this was intended to counter the bad press that the mosque there had recently received due to its opposition to Asra Nomani’s quest to be able to enter by the front door and to pray in the main prayer hall. The talk was about whether “in Islam” women are treated as equal or with equity.

[Just lol at the optics of that—counter “bad press” caused by a brown woman publicly protesting discriminatory treatment at her mosque… by bringing in a white male convert who is well known to be conservative (and to have come from a Southern Baptist background) to talk about… wait for it… women in Islam.  It’s the sort of thing that makes me think that a Muslim Steven Colbert would never, ever be short of material. Hell, maybe I should consider a career in comedy. I suppose it’s never too late.]

Anyhoo… Nomani googled Estes, and found a speech that he had given, in which he said that Q 4:34 allows a man dealing with a disobedient wife to “roll up a newspaper and give her a crack” or to use a “yardstick” on her, if his attempts to rein her in by admonishing her or refusing to share her bed hadn’t had the desired effect. Horrified, she wrote an article for the university student newspaper condemning the invitation of a speaker with such views.

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Of bus ads, “dirty laundry,” and moving beyond extremes

A couple of days ago, several emails alerted me to the dust-up about bus ads in San Francisco that quote homophobic statements made by six notorious Muslim leaders. The ads apparently are intended to (wrongly) imply that all or most Muslims are violently hateful to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans and other queer folks.

Why not just put this ad on every bus in North America?(

I like this bus-ad just fine. I’d like to see it as I ride the bus on my way to work (and on the bus-shelters I wait in)….

Which also implies that the categories of “Muslim” and “LGBTQ” are entirely separate. Mutually exclusive.  Which is obviously ridiculous.

And which also seems to imply that those in North America who most loudly oppose all manifestations of Islam today (aka strongly right-wing conservatives, a number of whom subscribe to particular socially conservative interpretations of Christianity) are also strong supporters of equal rights for LGBTQ people… unlike those awful Muslims.  Except that such right-wingers often aren’t.

Yes, the bus ads are hypocritical and misleading. They seem designed to promote hate. They erase the existence and activism of queer Muslims and their Muslim allies.

But for every cloud, there is a silver lining… or so I’ve often been told. As I read the article I linked to above, I knew that I should feel grateful. For it indicates that there is apparently a slow sea-change taking place among some Sunni Muslims in North America. A small number of fairly prominent figures who are looked up to by conservative “mainstream” Sunnis are coming out (pun intended) and saying that gays are welcome to pray at their mosques and criticizing Muslims for taking hateful or exclusionary attitudes to LGBTQ people. Which is such an improvement over what I am used to.

Yes, I know I should be feeling grateful, happy, even hopeful. So, why am I having flashbacks instead?

Flashbacks to talk after talk after sermon after pamphlet after book after study-circle… an endless loop of just really awful ideas on a range of issues, from sexuality to family to educational policy to world politics. Ideas publicly expressed, in the name of Islam, at Muslim conferences or from the minbar or in Muslim student groups or a events organized for families (or for “the youth”), or even at da’wa events (!?). Often in the hearing of supposedly intelligent and responsible Muslims who did… absolutely nothing.

In my memory alone, I realized, I have enough shocking quotes to fit on hundreds of buses. If not thousands.

If I asked my convert friends for their memories of horrendous quotes, I wonder how many we’d come up with.

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Some unhelpful things to say to survivors of religious abuse (convert edition)

Well, nobody forced you to join that group/mosque/community (or to marry that person). You chose to join it (or, to get married).

In other words: What happened is at least partly caused by you. So, stop blaming the group/mosque/community/your abusive spouse, and focus on what you did wrong.

But the thing is, sometimes religious authority is misused. And sometimes adults do get drawn into things against their better judgment. Female converts in particular have often been pressured by people who supposedly had “Islamic knowledge” into getting involved in controlling or cultish communities—“satan attacks the one who is alone,” and all that—and even into marriage with people that they hardly knew.

Saying this sort of thing handily shifts accountability for whatever happened away from the shaykh/mosque leadership/community leaders or husband—meaning, away from those who had more knowledge and power, and who the convert was led to believe that she had to listen to “Islamically”—and onto the convert herself. And what it sounds like to the survivor is something like this:  No matter how badly you may have been treated, your life just don’t count nearly as much in the greater scheme of things as the reputation of that group/mosque/community/man does.

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Apology #1: from a Muslim pamphleteer

The following is a part apology, part letter to the community, that I hope that I will hear or read some day, from a brother who wrote dawah pamphlets, and delivered numerous talks on “____ in Islam” in different parts of North America. Yeah, it’s completely fictitious. But a sister can dream, right? Anyway, it’s an apology that I need to hear.

I know that his ideas about “what Islam is” and how Muslims should live definitely weren’t his alone. And, that he probably sincerely believes to this day that such interpretations are the most correct, and that Islam (as he understands it) is the One True Way that alone will save people from hell.

I also know why these ideas seemed to “make sense” to conservative immigrant Muslims like him, who were preoccupied with preserving their “Islamic identity” in North America, as they struggled to build a decent life for themselves and their families. They faced an unbelievable amount of prejudice and ignorance, and especially in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution, they felt under a lot of pressure to “explain” Islam and Muslims to non-Muslims—and what better way to make yourself feel better than to go beyond merely trying to rationally justify your beliefs and practices to producing pamphlets and giving talks aimed at non-Muslim audiences, arguing that Islam is the truth?

But still. It cannot have been unknown to this Muslim pamphleteer (and many others, mostly male but sometimes female) that Muslim students groups and mosques were distributing these pamphlets to some pretty vulnerable people, as well as to some Muslims who would use them for their own selfish purposes. Any sensible person could anticipate that there would be some pretty bad results from doing that.


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Islam, and in humanity,

Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. I greet you all with the greetings of peace, and wish for you the mercy and blessings of God.

Years ago, I wrote a number of booklets on aspects of Islam, and gave talks that further expanded on those ideas. I have come to realize that a number of the ideas and practices that I promoted have caused harm to others, and for that, I am deeply sorry.

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How we were sold on patriarchal religion: reason #97

In a word: adab.

Not so much how we were sold on patriarchal religion initially, but definitely an important reason why we couldn’t ask critical questions about it for the longest time.

Knowing your “proper place” and staying quietly in it is the best way to avoid being told to watch your adab. Even if your “proper place” is small, cramped and doesn’t allow you to see or hear properly….

Adab. Good behavior, refinement of character. It sounded like a much-needed antidote to the harsh angry black-and-white take no prisoners Salafi-influenced rhetoric that we had had way too much of. As in, let’s have a civilized Muslim discourse in which the speaker doesn’t accuse those he doesn’t agree with of being kafirs, and different perspectives can receive a hearing. Nice idea, in theory. But in practice?

Too often, adab became a handy way to shut people down. And up. Especially women. Most especially young, convert women. Because in the end, adab was all about power, not civility or respect for others. So those with more power  (or aspirations to cozy up to those with more power) played the “careful of your adab” card on others.

There was such a long list of things that were bad adab, in a conservative, insular and cultish community I was involved in:

-Asking most kinds of critical questions, whether about the Qur’an, the hadith, fiqh, the life of the Prophet… and so on.

-Not unquestioningly following what we were taught is the sunna. Even if it didn’t make sense, or seemed absurd or unnecessary.

-Any kind of parody, joking, satire, etc about scholars or religious leaders who were deemed worthy of respect.

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