“Violent” verses in the Qur’an don’t bother me anymore.

There was a time when I used to read the Qur’an daily for about 30 minutes. When I did this, I noticed myself changing and was forced to reduce the reading to twice a week. When I read “too often,” I became calmer, more at peace, and I cared very little about troublesome events or material loss. It was as though I were turning to water. Unfortunately, this all also meant that I was too tranquil when any kind of injustice befell me. I can not afford to be so forgiving. I need to be a fighter.

I was thinking recently, with all of the Islamophobia I’ve seen, with Muslim women harassed, with men showing up at masjids with guns, that the “violent” verses of the Qur’an that used to bother me–don’t anymore. I’ve written an entire series about verses taken out of context, about how they are actually defensive, but even when I knew that, they’d still bothered me a little, because who really wants to see any unashamed advocation of violence anywhere, even if it is in self-defense, especially in their religious texts of Love? And now they don’t. I have always been unapologetic, but I have never been as unapologetic as now. The non-Muslims who present these verses out of context to prove how violent I am have literally driven me to not caring, to thinking “Good. I hope you learn not to oppress those who are coming to worship.” It made me realize that what I thought was a virtue of my character, the sense that these verses were too harsh, was an unkindness to those whose situations I could not understand. What seems like God’s vengeance towards one group of people is in truth God’s mercy toward another.

The Pledge to Eliminate All-Male Representation

The pledge below, a collaborative effort of Orbala, myself, Zahra Khan, Laury Silvers, and Saadia Sultana, among other Muslim feminists, seeks to boycott panels, anthologies, conferences, etc. where at least half of the speakers are not women until this cute, unIslamic trend is eliminated entirely. We advise that only men should sign the pledge, as women are presented too few opportunities to partake in the boycott.

This is a pledge for men with a sense of morality to sign. By signing below, you are agreeing to the following:

I agree and acknowledge that women are our community, and their voices, struggles, authority, and experiences have been ignored for centuries. I not only condemn this but am willing to commit everything in my power to correcting this gender imbalance so that it does not continue. I pledge not to participate in, attend, or otherwise support any panels, conferences, meetings, events, etc. where a fair representation of women does not exist; ideally, the number of women present in such meetings should be at least that of the male contributors. Similarly, I will decline to contribute to any anthologies and edited volumes with an unfair or no representation of female contributors. I will recommend possible female panelists so that the organizers can contact them instead. I also pledge to attentively address the concerns of female authors, panelists, speakers, leaders, and scholars who are participating in a male-dominated environment that they are unable to boycott due to too few opportunities. Finally, not only will I withhold my support of these meetings and books, but I will also openly condemn them so that the men in charge understand that their discrimination against women is unequivocally unacceptable and has to end yesterday.



Of course, if this petition were truly “Islamic” as patriarchal scholars have come to understand, we should require two female speakers for every male speaker.

Please sign and, most importantly, pass along. Be aware that once signing the pledge, you will be held accountable for upholding your promise.

I recognize no “founding fathers.”

“[…]we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us…”
–the words of Christopher Columbus, quoted from “El Requerimiento” in Wilcomb Washburn, ed. The Indian and the White Man

Many are under the wrongful impression that the United States of America not only embodies all the ideals of liberation and compassion required in a just nation, but that the formation of ideals in the creation of a utopic society is unprecedented. At best, the concepts of freedom and individual rights on which America was (supposedly) founded were borrowed, pre-established wisdom, appropriated from the Constitution drafted (unwritten) from the Iroquois by racist slave-owners (your beloved founding fathers) and imposed on an unsuspecting population, while modern-day white feminism championed by Abigail Adams and her like was in itself appropriated from Native women. None of the ideas of tolerance, acceptance, or freedom for which the United States are famous–and infamous–are unique or even attributable to the white patriarchal league of so-called “founding fathers.”

While non-Native recipients of the sneer, “Go back home if you hate it here so much” are accustomed to retorting with, “Go back to Europe,” a poignant response to the non-Native non-African circumstance is to draw attention to the fact that Europeans have illegally invaded, slaughtered, conquered, and raped populations in all but 22 countries and now fear the repercussions in “their” country. The reality that a white person would spew anything along the lines of, “Go back home,” to a person whose country he invaded, which includes not only Native American nations–though let’s not be mistaken, Natives should be the focus as we both unwillingly and willfully reap the benefits of stolen Native land–is nothing short of preposterous. I’ll get out of “your” country if you get out of mine.

In Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, Juan Gonzalez has the same thought,

“If Latin America had not been pillaged by the U.S. capital since its independence, millions of desperate workers would not now be coming here in such numbers to reclaim a share of that wealth; and if the United States is today the world’s richest nation, it is in part because of the sweat and blood of the copper workers of Chile, the tin miners of Bolivia, the fruit pickers of Guatemala and Honduras, the cane cutters of Cuba, the oil workers of Venezuela and Mexico, the pharmaceutical workers of Puerto Rico, the ranch hands of Costa Rica and Argentina, the West Indians who died building the Panama Canal, and the Panamanians who maintained it.”

All countries contemporarily viewed as “backwards” or “depraved” have been made so by an influx of white illegals (the only kind), who ravaged the land and population of its resources. Based on the precedent–and divergent from the precedent–established by these war criminals, I claim the US against the wishes of white settlers as negatively incorporated into my identity, and I live within it with as much peace as I can muster considering the violence in the history of this nation, because those who rule it colonized and occupied the country of my birth. I recognize that the land on which I live rightfully belongs to the Ohlone, was built by slaves and immigrants, and is wrongly credited to white patriarchal and false founding fathers who should be stripped of all dignity. White violence continues to plague Native peoples as well as the descendants of African slaves, and the recent violence in Ferguson perpetuated by white supremacy can attest to this.

I am a settler, and I am prepared to undo this history.

The violence with which Native American nations and the women of which they were composed were tortured, imprisoned, and dehumanized is glossed over even despite clear documentation. A childhood friend of Columbus, Michele da Cuneo, recounts amusedly in his journal the rape of a Native woman,

While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked—as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But—to cut a long story short—I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.

Native American girls as young as three were sold in slave markets by the colonists, trafficked for both labor and rape.

Much like the abstract concepts of freedom and protection are falsely attributed to the United States, so were many of the innovations invented by the Natives. Contrary to what is taught in history textbooks, Native Americans did not “live like animals”; in fact, while Europeans fetched drinking water from fetid rivers for centuries even after encountering the complex irrigation systems of the Natives, refused to bathe and never removed their clothes, and dumped the corpses of their dead into open pits, the white men were astounded by the Natives’ cleanliness and hygiene. The Natives of Tenochtitlan had a complex network of canals as well as gorgeous floating gardens. They attempted in vain to teach the white men how to bathe.

History books deliberately paint an inaccurate picture of how advanced and well-equipped the Native Americans were, and how strategic the organization of Native cities, because Europe was so shamefully backwards in comparison. In fact, the word “city” is rarely used, if ever, in history books to describe the living organizations of the Natives, relying instead on the connotations of the word–outrageously enough–“settlements.” Even the white colonialists, however, had referred to these places as “cities.”

When we entered the city of Iztapalapa, the appearance of the palaces in which they housed us! How spacious and well built they were, of beautiful stone work and cedar wood, and the wood of other sweet scented trees, with great rooms and courts, wonderful to behold, covered with awnings of cotton cloth […] we went to the orchard and garden, which was such a wonderful thing to see and walk in […] the paths full of roses and flowers, and the native fruit trees and native roses, and the pond fresh water. There was another thing to observe, that great canoes were able to pass into the garden from the lake through an opening that had been made so that there was no need for their occupants to land. And all was cemented and very splendid with many kinds of stone monuments with pictures on them, which gave much to think about. –journal of Bernal Diaz del Castillo

Instead of learning from the Natives, the white settlers dug random holes in search for gold, until they began to starve and dug up corpses of passed away indigenous persons to eat, at which point they captured some Native Americans to force them to teach the settlers how to farm. As Robert Beverley recounts in History and Present State of Virginia on what is known today as the “Thanksgiving” feast, “the colonists offered the Indians a toast to eternal friendship, whereupon the chief, his family, advisors, and two hundred followers dropped dead of poison.” The extermination of the Native American race was approved by the “founding fathers” including George Washington, who wrote, “The Indian country must be destroyed.”

Untold in most history books is the slavery of both Native Americans and Black Africans, so immense and horrifying that entire cities of Natives and Blacks would join to overthrow white settlers. Together, they had been a strong force and white settlers would face defeat over several years.

Settlers of color, these are the rightful founders. You owe the recognition of your rights not to the illegal confiscation of a nation by war criminals, but to the Native Americans who suffered to overthrow them, and later to the Black Power Movement that secured your rights.

Denounce the term “founding fathers” and all its associations; it is unacceptably patriarchal and devotes itself to a legacy of genocide, rape, and nonconsensual governance.

Guest Post: Polarized Realities: Living a Theo-secular Purgatory in the Workplace

Zeina Shaaban is a graphic designer with interests in English and creative writing. Her approach to Islam is graced with wisdom, serenity, knowledge, and understanding. Those of you who have read this website for quite some time might be familiar with her; you’ve met Zeina before, and, as she has been a friend very close to my heart for nearly four years, it pleases me to introduce her to this space again, this time as a guest writer. Deeply invested in women’s security and freedom, Zeina has actively campaigned for legal consequences for abusive and controlling men, so that women can continue to live full, fulfilling lives that rival the liberation enjoyed by their male counterparts. Her exegesis of Islamic texts is caring, compassionate, sensitive, and highly detailed. In the tradition of the Prophet and early scholars, Zeina incorporates the contextual realities of century and society into her interpretations, and, most notably, an awareness of the spectrum of linguistic possibilities, to bring to life an Islam that is both sensible and sensitive.

For all her resilience of character, please welcome Zeina Shaaban.

There is a certain drive to modernity in Lebanon that is heavily associated with secularism. Or should I say, anti-theism. This is manifest in a way where all things religious are looked down on or automatically associated with backwardness and closed-mindedness. Of course, this also means that the religious frown down upon this modernity for that very same association. And the rest of us who don’t belong to either polars, get sucked into the purgatory of their in-between.

Sexism in the workplace is pretty much commonplace everywhere. But, at the very least, you would think that in an Arab country like Lebanon, worrying about things like wearing the headscarf wouldn’t be an issue. And you wouldn’t be farther from the truth.

I mean, sure, I get it. Sectarianism has really done its job screwing this country up and leaving us where we are today. I get this wanting to completely dissociate from it, and all things related: religion. And in attempts to move forward, you want to move past all of this rubble. That’s great, really. The problem comes in with the ostentatious know-it-all attitude, and in the shoving this worldview down people’s throat. “We don’t believe in it, so you’re not allowed to believe in it either/not allowed to display any sign that you believe in it.”

A young woman who was traveling to Canada saw the stark difference in university classes. When in Canada, she was not only allowed, but respected for asking for a small time-window to pray, in Lebanon, you are not even allowed out of class for Friday prayers. Because prayer is stupid, and doesn’t belong here, so we won’t tolerate it nor will we allow you to cultivate it.

Taking this conversation into the workplace: A flabbergasting amount of companies in Lebanon have completely forbidden all religious symbols. This basically means necklaces with a cross, and the veil, among other examples. It is interesting to note how the symbols they are restricting are conveniently symbols donned by women usually. And this becomes just another way of controlling women and what they can and can not wear/do.

I have often daydreamed about interviews where the interviewer would ask about my veil and I would look at him, shocked, “Veiled? I’m not veiled!” and would tell him that I’m wearing this scarf for beauty/fashion purposes. Or an interviewer asking me whether I would take the veil off, and I would say yes. Then come into work with a hat on that serves the same purpose but does not fall under their category of “religious symbol.” I would wonder if they would create a new “no hats” rule just for me. There is something very horrible about the fact that I even have to consider scenarios like this in the first place. Something very flawed in that women are being forced to hide how they choose to represent themselves.

This is not reserved to the secular companies. As I said, Lebanon is very sectarian, and its political parties represent the sects of the country. Then, you have major corporations who will support a certain political party as a call-out to their sect. This means there are big companies in Lebanon that associate with the Sunni political leader(s) and the Shiite political leader(s) (this also means that they probably have shares/have invested in the corporation in exchange for this support.) I am only focusing on the Muslim sects because I am discussing the issue of the veil, but the above also applies to Christian political leaders as well. However, even in those companies where they are supposedly by the Muslims and for the Muslims, the veil is still not allowed. (Note: This is a generalization and is certainly not true in all cases, there are even companies that ONLY hire veiled women, and here the issue is the same, only reversed.) Banks, TV shows, you name it, all those bigshot places where men and women are the company representatives, the veil is not even up for discussion.

This, and we did not even go into the default disadvantage we’re at for simply having two X chromosomes. The major I studied has a ratio of 5:1 women to men in classes on average. You would think that this means women would only naturally be more dominant/present in the workforce. However, what I’ve noticed is that: Sure, almost all the designers, the employees, are women. But almost all the creative directors, the CEOs, are men. Men who probably don’t even realize their privilege of not having to push against an almost unbreakable glass ceiling to get to where they are, and presumptuously attribute it to their own mastery.

In other majors, where there is a more balanced ratio, or in a ratio where the men rank out higher, companies will almost always prefer the men. Their rationale supposedly has nothing to do with sexism, too. It’s simply the more convenient choice.

Hiring a woman means she might get married one day/get pregnant if she is married, and leave the job to take care of her children, so she is not worth a long-term investment.
Hiring a woman means she can’t go to Saudi Arabia alone because they forbid traveling without a mahram (a male relative or husband).
Hiring a woman means her husband/father will not let her stay late at work and so she won’t be able to carry the unthinkable load we want to put on our employees
Hiring a woman means her husband/father won’t allow her to travel, and so she won’t be able to carry out some projects through till the end
Hiring a woman means you have to worry about her getting raped when she goes to construction scenes/is a liability
Hiring a woman means you have to tolerate one regular day a month when she might not come into work because she is in too much pain
Hiring a woman means you will be subject to her regular mood swings, and cat fights with other women, because women are more emotional and not as professional as men

Most of these points are riddled with sexist thoughts and assumptions. And it’s because men themselves perpetuate those thoughts that they expect it of the men in the women’s lives also. As a man, he expects his wife and daughter to be stay-at-home moms, or do a job that doesn’t disrupt her “household duties”; he will not allow her to travel or stay late at work, and most certainly won’t allow her onto construction sites and the like. As a result, he will most certainly assume that not only is it the correct way to go about things, but that ALL men of the country will treat their wife/daughter the same way.

So they will hire women, but they will hire just enough to make them look like an equal-opportunity employer, then move on to giving all the spots to men, because it’s more convenient.

This is why in an interview, before I am asked to show my work or share my experience, I am asked (after the interviewer noted that I am a newly wed) whether I have a curfew or should be at home a certain time (read: what is the latest that your husband allows you to stay out?). I can hardly contain my disdained surprise in my response: “Who the hell do you think I married?” The reason this is so problematic is because it can be two-fold: The interviewer can either be of the religious/conservative party and asks this question because he actually perpetuates it and believes in it, and my response to him is “Your standards do not apply to me,” – or he can be of the anti-theist party, and the question carries an undertone of cynicism. He carries with him the assumption that all (backward) veiled ladies would only marry (backward) religious men who do not allow them to work after sundown. Considering the pretentious tone with which the question was asked, I would say it’s the latter.

So my being a veiled married woman ends up putting me at a triple disadvantage in the workforce, before the employer even opens up my portfolio. I am sure that this purgatory where the religious and the modern do not clash in arms has a whole community of people, who, like me, are fed up with not pleasing either side of the spectrum and not belonging anywhere. And this community should have its own companies and its own vision for how they perceive the future.

This is a community I would like to foster.

You have the right to bear children.

You have the right to bear children. No one may enter your body and alter the state of your existence with an entitled twist of cold medical instruments. If you are impoverished, you have the right to bear children. If you are disabled, you have the right to bear children. If you are of color, you have the right to bear children. If you are transgender, if you are intersex, if you are not heterosexual, if you are diaspora embodied, if you are ill, if you cannot read this, you have the right to bear children. You have the right to bear children in a country that is not yours. You have the right to bear children who may “burden” society for 18 years. You have the right to bear children of men who resemble you. You have the right to bear children of men whose hearts have been crushed by the weight of distress. You have the right to bear children of women in male bodies. You have the right to bear children you cannot afford. You have the right to bear children who are disabled, of color, transgender, like you. You have the right to bear children. You have the right to love, and you have the right to bear children.

And once they have been birthed, your children have the right to exist.

#ENDForcedSterilization