عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّى

It has been brought to my attention that my article “A woman has the absolute right to voice her frustrations against a Prophet. Sit. Down.” has garnered ableist comments with which AJ anchor Sana Seed agreed. In addition to appreciating the opinion of a man who devalued those who are “mentally ill” and have “meltdowns,” Saeed also had this to say:

Her remark of course, is an example of colonialist Islam, which I’d defined earlier as Islam that is misogynist, anti-black, transphobic, disableist, and oppressive in ways specific to the regressive European colonial influence in the Middle East and South Asia. The root of Colonialist Islam is the belief that “Traditional islam” (or Colonialist Islam), as defined by self-described “traditionalists,” is not diverse in tradition, when history proves otherwise. The term shouldn’t erase or dismiss deeply-rooted pre-colonial oppressions, but challenge the erasure of varied tradition in favor of colonialism’s superficial unification under, for example, anti-woman and anti-LGBT laws. A symptom of colonialist Islam is the belief that either colonialism is the only oppression that exists, or that it should be prioritized over all others. It is revertive and does not recognize that colonialism interfered with/halted the progression of social development in favor of colonial domination because it cannot distinguish the continuation of those progressions from colonial influence.

A couple of you stated you expected better from her, but I did not. I was aware of Saeed’s sexism years ago when she dismissed issues of women’s rights in the Muslim community when they were too “extreme” for her, such as women leading mixed-gender prayer. Subsequently, her ableism came as no surprise to me. Sana Saeed, who is unfamiliar with my anti-colonialist work but contributes intricate theories regarding it, has always prioritized only certain types of Islamophobia. She does not view gendered Islamophobia within the Muslim community as a type of Islamophobia (unless it has to do with hijabs probably), but rather as tradition in what she vaguely describes as “what Islam really is” versus “when Islam stops to look like Islam.” It is easy to see then why she wouldn’t view ableism as a form of Islamophobia against disabled Muslims.

This is a not-so-random reminder that disabled Muslims exist, and that the Prophet was one of them. These comments are fascinating to me considering so many of these individuals claim to love the Prophet. I don’t openly clarify my position, and this would be why. This kind of holier-than-thou-while-I-lowkey-insult-who-the-Prophet-was type behavior is so bizarre to me and completely turns me off. It is common for Muslims to deny that the Prophet was disabled, because after encounters with Christian colonizers, the Prophet was depicted as having been possessed by demons. Instead of addressing the true evil of this accusation (the disgusting Islamophobia and ableism), Muslims downplayed the fact that he had seizures and was not accessible during Revelations, claiming it could not be epilepsy. Maybe it wasn’t. In this context, the diagnosis itself is not so important as the Revelation-caused seizures by which society would render him disabled. What we as an ummah should have said is that it is truly appalling to discredit the Qur’an because of this prejudice. But we didn’t, and we don’t. We erase the disability instead.

A disability is created when society is not built for a specific type of ability, i.e. like if we lived in a society where everything was built for people with wheelchairs, or if the lights turned off when you needed them because you were the only one who wasn’t. You’d be disabled. A friend and I have been discussing whether or not the seizures constitute a disability because of how the episodes were regarded/accommodated in his community as an expectation, but it would certainly qualify as one were it anyone else. This is why it’s so particularly aggravating when the people pretending to defend him use this kind of ableist language. It is for the Prophet to believe whether they truly love him. He would believe it, because he was kind. He was also disabled, and orphaned, and illiterate, and I cannot understand why these characteristics don’t soften the hearts of those who rage, supposedly on his behalf, by using them to insult disabled Muslims.

[Edit] Some have messaged me to ask whether I am disabled myself i.e. whether Jonathan AC Brown, who is clearly still in his feelings about me calling him out for “objectively” defending rapist Tariq Ramadan to whom he is incidentally related, was being ableist against me. I am not disabled in any shape or form, at least temporarily. Abled people cannot face disabelism, so he was not being ableist against me. Just against a large portion of Muslims, including the Prophet.

Forced sterilization is wrong. At any and all times. (or, Why Men Don’t Talk About Abortion 101)

This post is brought to you by a couple of commenters on the last post (their comments have not been accepted) advocating forced sterilization for those neurologically atypical.

Are you kidding me? You do not have the right to anyone’s body. Ever. Ever. That right is their own and it is inalienable. It is inseparable. You cannot take it. We have already historically forced sterilization on women of color, whose reproducing bodies were viewed as a threat to white supremacy. We have already historically forced sterilization on lower class women, whose reproducing bodies were viewed as an affliction on society. We are still forcing sterilization on women with disabilities, whose reproducing bodies are viewed as less than human. And it is not okay. It is never okay.

Don’t EVER forget, that while white women were fighting for the right to contraceptives, women of color were fighting for the right to have a family.

Forced sterilization? And who gets to decide who can and can’t have sex or give birth? You, I presume? Forget everyone else biologically or intellectually inferior, YOU are the best thing that ever walked God’s great earth and YOU should grace society with copies of your genes!

Forced sterilization has been racist. It has been classist. It is still ableist.

And that ableist bullshit will not be published here. Never. Never! If you believe women should undergo forced sterilization you are not welcome here.

If you support forced sterilization, you are denying someone inalienable rights and therefore you are dehumanizing a human being. If you support forced sterilization, you are promoting rape culture.

Let me remind you why men—cisgendered men who are biologically male and cannot become pregnant—don’t talk about abortion in feminist circles. It is not because women have a monopoly on these discussions. It is not because only anyone with a uterus has a something viable to contribute to these discussions by the magical sparkly powers of the womb. It is because if it’s not your uterus, you don’t any right to it.

It is because the rights of the father begin at delivery, not at conception. Neither does any woman who is not pregnant have a right to another’s. A woman who is not pregnant, a man who is not pregnant, a person who is not pregnant, does not have any right to another’s uterus or pregnancy.

If you are a father (by legal role or biologically) your rights begin at delivery. If you are a mother (by legal role) your rights begin at delivery. If you are anyone but the pregnant woman the rights you may have begin at delivery.

Feminists who dismiss the opinions of cisgendered men on abortion but also support forced sterilization have no idea why they disregard the opinions of men. Stop doing shit just because everyone else is. When you don’t accept the opinions of men you’d best understand it’s because no one has the right to someone else’s body.

Your legal and social obligations as a member of society to other members of society begin at delivery, not at conception.

And people with disabilities are a natural part of our society. They have inalienable rights. And they will be regarded as people. And their inalienable rights as people will be respected and observed. Because they are, in fact, people.

If you support forced sterilization, you are anti-choice.

If you support forced sterilization, you are anti-choice.

If you support forced sterilization, you are anti-choice.

The Mosque and (In)Accessibility

Recently a friend of mine sent me a 25-minute video in the mail titled “We Will Not Be Hidden” about disabled Muslims and the (lack of) accessibility in mosques. Most of those who spoke in the video made points I had heard; then one woman mentioned that she would love to actively contribute to her spiritual community and attend important meetings, but could hardly even ever participate in regular activities because she is deaf.

A realization struck me: of course I was aware of the complaints of disabled Muslims elsewhere—but I had subconsciously believed, all these years, that the reason we don’t have ramps or accessible restrooms in my own community is that we didn’t need them because there were no disabled Muslims.

That this is a sudden recognition, something that should be the most obvious and logical thing the world, is shameful. Of course I never see disabled Muslims at the mosque. How would a Muslim utilizing a wheelchair reach the prayer area upstairs? What good is it for Muslim who is deaf to attend sermons that are only orally spoken? Regardless of how much they may wish to attend and participate, disabled Muslims are barricaded and in their forced absence invisible to me.

But the most disturbing part of all about the video, is a man who described his mosque as using the only accessible restroom for storage, even though he regularly attended the congregation. After he had contributed to creating the video, as my friend informed me (he knows the man), his community shunned him. All he had said is that he would appreciate an accessible restroom! He hadn’t even disclosed in the video the name of the mosque or the state in which it is located. He had to leave the state for spiritual fulfillment.

He had to leave his state. For spiritual fulfillment. Because he mentioned in a video that his mosque used the only accessible restroom for storage.

I can’t get over how outrageously heartless this is. What’s wrong with us?

“The Prophet said people with disabilities are a natural part of the Ummah,” a woman in the video stated sadly.

My how things have changed.

“Don’t call me special.”

An instructor in New Jersey threatens a student, who records in on camera. Watch the video here, embedded at the top of the article. Trigger warning. Serious trigger warning. The student makes a simple request, and his voice is calm and polite throughout the entire video. The instructor, whose voice rises to dangerous levels, looks like he’s about to physically attack him. The instructor’s fists are clenched for the majority of the video.


“Don’t call me special.”

“What? Oh my God, fucking *** tard. Jules, just what do you think you’re in here for? What does the title on the front of that school say? SPECIAL EDUCATION.”

“Don’t call me special.”

“What would you like me to call you Jules.”

“Normal. Just don’t call me special.”

“Are …what’s the definition of normal?”


“You wanna be called normal but YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS! That makes a WHOLE LOTTA SENSE.”

(instructor walks toward board, then turns back around)

“What do you want me to call you Jules?”

“I don’t know. Just don’t call me special.”

“What’s gonna happen—?”

“Don’t call me special.”

“What’s gonna happen to me?”

“Don’t call me special.”

“Alright, what’s gonna happen to me?”

“I’m just telling you, don’t call me special.”

“I will say whatever I want about you. You don’t like it, OH WELL. You know what, the truth hurts. Reality hurts.”

“When I get out of this school, you ain’t gonna be calling me special no more.”

“You know what, Jules? I will kick your ass from here to Kingdom Come until I’m 80 years old.”

“Don’t threaten me.”

“What’re you gonna do? What’re you gonna do? YOU GONNA GET A CHOPPER AND CHOP ME? Like I’m scared. You’re never gonna be able to beat me ever. You’re never gonna be big. You’re never gonna be tough. That’s the real world. You threatening me?”

“I’m not threatening you!”

“You said when you get out of this school you’re gonna do something. What’re you gonna do—?”

“No, I didn’t!”

“–What’re you gonna do?”

“Get out of my face.”

“What’re you gonna do?”


“You didn’t say that? You didn’t say when you get out of school—”

“Get out of my face!”

“—you’re gonna do something.”

“I didn’t—no, I said when I get out of this school, what’re you gonna say then. When I get out of this school—”

“When you get out of this school, I’ll be right there. You tell me where you are and I’ll call you anytime–”

“—I said when I get out of this school—then—”

“—there ain’t gonna be a stinkin thing you can do.” (student attempts to speak) “There ain’t gonna be nothin’ you’re gonna do. There ain’t gonna be nothing you’re gonna ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER, EVER, do!”

“Get out of my face.”

“What’re you gonna do? What’re you gonna do?”

“Just get out of my face.”

“I be where I want WHEN I want. What’re you gonna do? You won’t do a thing.”

“Get out of my face.”

“You don’t see me movin’ do you? Do you see me moving?”

“Get out of my face.”

“You ain’t gonna do a thing. NEVER.”

“Alright. Just get out of my face.”

“You ain’t NEVER gonna be big enough or bad enough. Never! That’s the truth. That’s why they *inaudible* You ain’t never gonna make it *inaudible* Life sucks. Reality sucks. Walk into the real world.”

on ability and relevance

The first time that blogger failed, I had a post up announcing that “glasses are sexy!” along with the following picture:
sexy glasses
Shortly afterward, I met with a friend for lunch, who casually expressed surprise, “You know, Nahida, that post was kind of ableist.”
Pushing aside my slight hurt, I asked, “What do you mean?” but even as I did I could see what she meant: I wouldn’t tell someone xir broken arm was sexy, because it’s fetishizing and creepy, what the hell was I doing implying, “Hey it’s really sexy that you can’t see at full capacity.”
“But that’s–” my voice trailed off as I thought. But that’s what? Different? Because glasses are a lot more socially accepted compared to pretty much every other tool for pretty much every other physical disability?
But even the sexualization of socially acceptable characteristics is (rightfully) offensive. I’m constantly irritated when men tell me, “You’re really smart. That’s hot,” because it’s fetishizing and belittling, and it means they’re not taking it seriously. Instead this characteristic has conveniently become an object of sexual attraction, something to be put away when they’re done. My intelligence is a real part of me that does not exist for the fetishes of others.
I tried to pretend that it was someone else, telling me my glasses were sexy. Considering that I need them, and depending on the context–yeah, I may possibly find it really, really strange. If I had just gotten new frames, and it were a friend comparing the old with the new: “Your glasses are sexy,” I’d be flattered, because she clearly meant the frames themselves–not the fact that I have to deal with horrible vision. If it were in a different context however, a stranger saying, “It’s really sexy that you wear glasses,” I’d be a little disturbed–and though I wouldn’t immediately have known why, it would be the same subconscious discomfort I’d feel if they’d said, “It’s really sexy that you wear a cast,” had I a broken arm.
If I’d decorated the cast, I wouldn’t mind someone telling me it looked good.
“I meant the glasses themselves,” I explained meekly.
She smiled, “Yeah I know what you meant. But what if you said that wheelchairs are sexy?”
“I was just thinking something along those lines. I think… when people say glasses are sexy you can safely assume they don’t mean that the characteristic of less than 20/20 vision is sexy, because they’re practically a fashion trend. Like sweaterdresses or high heeled shoes. But wheelchairs aren’t nearly as openly accepted or willingly accommodated. A guy telling you your wheelchair is sexy sounds like the same ass who tells you you’re exotically beautiful and fetishizes your race, or tells you how your intelligence is sexually attractive.. and he’s your boss or something.”
Context counts for this one, but I’m still tentative with that conclusion.

While I don’t have a cast or a wheelchair, I emphasize that glasses are sexy because I wear them. Is it not as douchey when it’s a way of reclaiming what others disagree about?

All the cool kids have sideways crappy cellphone pictures.

Where Feminism Falls Short

Womanist Musings posted yesterday about feminists persistently neglecting to come to the defense of any woman who is not white, able-bodied, or class-privileged.

If someone so much as gives the side eye to Hillary Clinton, one can be certain that it will appear on feminist blogs repeatedly. Hillary is continually championed and this is deemed a necessary action to help fight sexism. Even Sarah Palin, who is clearly no friend to progressive women, has been defended by feminists. I have no worry that when it comes to White, able bodied, class privileged women who appear to be gender conforming, that feminism will rush in with a battle cry of vengeance, against those who would dare challenge their right to participate. My concern is for women that fall outside of this very narrow category. When I wrote about the overt sexualization of Michelle Obama by Tracy Morgan, I knew that Womanist Musings would be one of the few blogs to do so. Despite claiming that fighting sexism is a concern of feminists, attacks against Michelle Obama continually get ignored. It is left to women of colour to point out the link between sexism and racism that combine to oppress her.

Hearing about sexism aimed at Hillary Clinton does not rile me up or encourage me to wage battle, because I know that she will be defended ad nauseum — instead — it causes me to think about women that are daily being erased while promoting the idea of female unity. Until feminists can dedicate as much time as they spend defending Hillary Clinton, to women who exist on the margins, I see no reason to feel inspired. This is not to say that the sexism aimed at Clinton is not harmful, but the erasure of the experiences of multitudes of women needs to be recognized, otherwise we are simply continuing the marginalization and oppression of women, based on a desire to uplift a small elite group. How can marginalized women be expected to continually rush to the defense of this small elite, when daily we are erased to promote the idea that we all experience sexism in the same way?

Feminist history in the United States is infected with overt racism. Racism and other -isms in US history aren’t particular to the feminist movement, but considering the purposes for the existence of this movement, it is especially shameful. White suffragists used racist arguments to fight for the right to vote. The reproductive rights movement with the agenda of eliminating through compulsory sterilization those who were seen “unfit” to have children–basically poor women, women of color, and women with disabilities.
No doubt that there’s more. There’s probably an inconceivable amount of untold stories and frantically buried histories, because it’s certainly something to be ashamed of. I’d like to say that history is history and we’ve moved on–but we haven’t. Marginalized women in the feminist movement may not be fought against as actively today, but what’s almost as alarming is that for the most part they are silenced and erased, but are conveniently pushed to the front when the validity of the movement is called into question. We may still be struggling to define what feminism is today, but the silencing of underprivileged voices and women in marginalized bodies is absolutely inexcusable.
I can’t explain the frustration I feel when a non-Muslim woman, claiming to be a feminist, tells me I’m not as familiar with my own religion as she is, and then proceeds to explain for me using her own terms. The first time this happened, it amazed me. It took all my self-restraint to keep from telling her to shut the fuck up and sit the hell down. We live here, in the US, with a history that tells us that white women began the feminist movement, worked hardest in the feminist movement, are here to thank for the feminist movement, and are ideal icons of feminism–when in reality, not only was this achieved by actively shutting out Other Women, but there are countries, with women of other religions and other histories, who actually fought for their rights before American women, and obtained those rights even before the existence of America.
You did not invent feminism, white American women. You hijacked it. It already existed, and you didn’t join it, you took it.
It hurts me to write this, because I’m categorizing myself in a way with which I don’t identify–saying that I’m not white implies that I am something, and I don’t want to be anything that I feel is useless as an identifier. But it doesn’t matter if I don’t identify with a race, because race doesn’t concern the individual. Race erases the individual. People actively look for a race when they see me, and as long as they must have it it won’t matter what I say. When the rest of the world pushes me into a category, it doesn’t matter.
I hate talking about race. I am so sick of it. But I have to live in this world, with other people, and Womanist Musing‘s post is a reminder that racism hasn’t left us. I’ve experienced it in my life, subtly, but until I read this I didn’t fully realize that that’s what it was, because it felt ridiculous to wonder if the reason I didn’t feel that those with whom I am acquainted in real life don’t rush as quickly to my defense, or that even if they know me well enough to know that my daily pleasures are dreaming and long walks and long showers and nothing any different from how they spend their time there is always a degree of suspicion, because I don’t look like them, either with not being white or not being the model minority. That would just be me being paranoid right?
Except this can’t just keep being a coincidence.
It’s so subtle that I rarely pick it up. It exists in the subconscious without any real applied occupation.
But I wish it were gone entirely.