Posts Tagged family
In continuing to think about why as white female converts we often didn’t experience much in the way of “sisterhood” with born Muslim women, I found a book that I chanced upon recently fairly helpful. Esra Ozyurek’s Becoming German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion, and Conversion in the New Europe (Princeton University Press, 2015) talks about converts in Germany and how they position themselves as both German and Muslim, in a country where “Islam” and “Muslim” are often automatically associated with adjectives such as: immigrant, Turkish or Arab, lower class, chauvinistic.
While I picked up the book expecting to read about how and why people convert (and how they negotiate their convert identities afterwards), I encountered some unanticipated food for thought—about the personal issues that some white converts bring with them, and also about the similarities between some types of white convert discourse and white European racist rhetoric. I will discuss the first issue (personal issues faced by some white converts) in this post, the the second (convert and racist rhetoric) in the next post.
A number of the converts discussed in the book had faced very negative reactions not only from wider German society, but also from their families. While a number of the female hijab-wearing converts’ anecdotes about the ways that they were treated in government offices, or by the teachers at their children’s schools sounded pretty familiar to me (many converts, including myself, have experienced similar things), the book presents many of these anecdotes together. so, reading them (for me, at least) was rather like thinking that you are about to drink lemonade, taking a mouthful, and finding that it is basically undiluted lemon juice with no added sugar. In other words, wow. It packs quite a punch.
I just watched the short film, “Banaz: A Love Story.” About a woman who was killed by her family in the UK. For reasons of “honor.”
Really really really bad idea. I’m still shaking. Nauseous. And it’s really late, but somehow I have to get up and go to work tomorrow. I don’t know if I can sleep.
The film itself has some issues (what film on this sort of thing doesn’t?). The oft-repeated street scenes of blurry identified hijabis, or shots of women wearing shalwar kameez through fences… were at best stereotypical and not at all original. It didn’t provide much in the way of social and political contextualization of this particular case either, which is also a definite drawback. Family dynamics like that are produced and sustained by a number of concrete social and political factors (as opposed to simply “culture” or being “old fashioned” or some immigrant mens’ feelings of being unmanned when they move to “the west”).
But. Problems aside, it was fairly balanced, I thought. Which from my perspective is not too helpful, in a way. All these years later, I am still trying to get my head around that family meeting that took place in my kitchen. About ten years ago now. I really, really should now be over it.
Another night, another nightmare.
I am with a friend of mine—a friend that I know my ex would have strongly disapproved of. All is well, it’s a sunny day and my heart is light… until a tall, male shadow approaches from the side.
It’s my ex. I am petrified. I can’t move.
And then I wake up. Whew. It was only a dream. And I woke up before he could… say or do anything.
“But I’m divorced now,” I told myself. “I’m divorced! He’s not my husband any more. He had no right to say or do anything to me or anyone else, regardless of what he thinks of anything I do or who I choose to spend time with! No right whatsoever!”
It was hard to get back to sleep.
My ex, his family, and some of my older kids have what one might charitably call a creative attitude to the law. [BTW, for anyone panicking at this point: “Muslims! Law-breaking! What, is this a Security Threat?!”—uh no, that’s not the sort of thing that I’m talking about at all. What I do mean is what has been called a “culture of illegality.” Here’s a post about what I am talking about, though this woman definitely had it worse than I did.]
Which means that now and again, they get themselves into situations. Back in the day, when I was still married and involved in very conservative, insular Muslim communities, I’d sometimes get dragged into things that I wanted nothing to do with. And looking back, my ex in particular was an expert at putting me into positions in which I was made to feel that I had to cover for him, bail him out (figuratively, not literally, but still in terms of money, time or resources), or deal with the trouble, worry and upset caused by whatever-it-was that he had gone and done—although he had gone and done it either without my knowledge, or after I had objected to him doing it.
That sort of thing always bothered me a lot. It was humiliating. Whether or not people found out, I felt wrong. Unclean, even. That was how strongly I felt about it. And all the religious, cultural, political and other excuses that my ex and others came up with to justify things that they did never quite convinced me. I wanted to accept those excuses. Sometimes I almost did. But I couldn’t, and as time went on, I became more and more disturbed by what was going on.
So, one of the benefits of being divorced and moving away from those communities (I thought) would mean that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen any more.
But unfortunately, I was wrong about that.