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Sleeping Through the Night

Against everything I thought I was doing right.

Listening to Tears

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When my daughter Ruby didn’t sleep through the night, I wasn’t really looking for a solution, I didn’t like the concept of sleep training. Ruby and I co-slept so when she woke it was easy simply to just feed her and then fall back to sleep. I was still getting my full eight hours with a few short interruptions. I assumed that she would sleep through the night eventually.

But after eight months, nothing was changing. I started to wonder why she was waking more than she did as a newborn. When I fed her she didn’t seem that hungry, and just sucked for a minute or two before falling asleep again. I read about sleep cycles, and how a baby needed a way to soothe herself back to sleep. It made sense that other babies were self-soothing back to sleep with their thumbs or a dummy, whereas I was…

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Let’s talk about Feminist equality, not just equity.

“I, personally, do not self-identify as a Feminist or feminist because of epistemic issues I have with contemporary Feminism. That does not mean, however, that they do not carry legitimate tools and that I do not take the good knowledge and ideas produced within the discipline of Feminism into my own life and practice. After all, it were Feminist analyses that showed me how capitalist and statist mechanisms strip me of my stature as an equal in my society, how my body is used to promote grand scale consumption and how I am taught to expect little of myself and my gender from a young age. Can I not use Feminism as a description and Islam as a prescription?” – Sana in The Islamic Monthly

Women dismantling gender roles every day, but what about our men?

SubhanaAllah, I’m not sure why it is so difficult to accept for women in our community the legitimacy to identify with feminist notions/arguments/ideas about equality. Even in Dr. Yassir Qadhi’s beautiful article on the recent issue with Abu Esa’s posts, we see a qualified, limited permission to identify with feminism.

He says:

” I firmly believe that the sacred texts of Islam, the Qurʾān and the authentic Sunnah of our Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are the ultimate sources of our theology, legal code, and ethics. Hence, any attempt to discredit these sources is one that I will oppose in every way possible. I will not and cannot accept that men and women are physically, physiologically, emotionally, biologically, and psychologically the same. Any claims of this nature contradict known facts, lived experiences, and explicit Scripture. Hence, the Shariah views men and women as having complementary roles in society and in family, not identical. While men and women are spiritually equal, and both have equal opportunities to earn Allāh’s Pleasure and Paradise, in this world, the Shariah takes these differences into account, and does have different sets of laws for them in some arenas (not all). Any attempt to claim otherwise is simply wrong and untenable in light of the Islamic tradition, and I will oppose it as a Muslim scholar and theologian.” MuslimMatters

I’m only using his comment as a springboard to highlight the dire need for more conversation on these issues, I’m not saying what I argue is implied in his words.

I wish our scholars could be more precise about how they envision this to play out in terms of gender roles.

Spiritually equal … that is clear and understood … that in the sight of Allah they are equal.

Now, I understand the shaykh refutes the notion of equality in terms of physiology and psychology, but what does this then mean? That women can’t do what men do? Who sets the limits? How do we know if a woman is physiologically capable of this role or not? How do we know if psychologically,  she is able to fulfil a role or not?

I mean other than giving birth and breastfeeding, what other roles confine a woman to the ‘feminine’? What other ‘feminine’ roles is a man not capable of doing? What are we actually talking about when we regularly and consistently assert that men and women are not equal according to Islam?

Equity, as in they are different. Again, who determines this difference? If the Quran and sunnah are our guide, then we can easily conclude that other than that the man is financially obliged, and the woman is children obliged (which some even question), what else does gender limit?

If a man is responsible for earning, does that mean a woman can’t enter into this role, as in, earn? Who has the authority to put this limit? If a woman has a child, does that mean the man doesn’t have to parent? Who has the authority to determine these responsibilities?

Men and women are different, but what does that mean? A woman can’t do a man’s job? Who defines what a man’s job is?

And here I come to the point that Sana made in her article, where she emphasized that the Quran and sunnah are not in a vacuum, but are texts that we read with our interpretations that are contextual. Islam is universal because it allows and accepts the role of context in producing new meanings.

When Allah subhanahu wa taala prescribed the role of men and women, he didn’t provide us with a guide so that we then begin to say women should breastfeed and men can’t do the dishes.

I think both breastfeeding and doing dishes are honourable jobs, but they need to be freely negotiated between men and women, without reference to some sort of prescription based on a literal interpretation of religious text. What does Islamic law have to do with whether a woman wants to be a doctor or be a stay at home mum?

Women should not be guilted into roles because they are physiologically and psychologically different because we do not know and I believe it is a serious sin to arrogantly assume without evidence that a woman should do something that Allah did not say she needs to do. The reality is that many women are dismantling gender roles, and contributing in various ways for the sake of Allah beyond their prescribed mother role, but what about most men?

Let me just express that I don’t understand, men are different, as in, they aren’t as soft or nurturing, or kind as women? How are they different? Just because he is the breadwinner of the house, does that mean Islam is saying he is unable to be nurturing and soothing towards his children and loved ones?

As far as I know, the prophet was sent a mercy to mankind. He was tough on the disbelieving enemies, and the opposite on the believers, first of whom are his family. He was a parent, and we cannot reduce his responsibility to being a source of income, but we don’t need law to tell us this, it should be naturally mandated!

So until we actually know (which is probably never because scientific research can only provide correlation) how men and women are different, who are we to set limits on what we can or can’t do based on sex? Who are we to prescribe instead of respect and value and educate men and women on negotiating responsibilities according to what works for them in the context that they live in, bearing in mind, of course,  the ethics of Islam. Is this feminist discourse? Maybe, it is,  so what?

Dr. Qadhi goes on to say:
I also recognize that the Shariah allows for change and reform in some areas, and I feel it is imperative that religious scholars, duly trained in the sacred sciences, take the lead in such reform. Historical traditions are not necessarily sacred and immutable, and I welcome changes that the Shariah allows. It is of little concern to me whether one wishes to call these types of reforms ‘Islamic feminism’ or not. What matters is meaningful change that the Law allows and which betters the lives of Muslim women, not cheap slogans devoid of meaning. Yet, I would be unwilling to call for reform in, say, the Islamic laws of inheritance, since these have been explicitly laid out in the Sacred Texts.”

We need reform, and I think as a community this starts in embracing complexity instead of trying to give answers to social issues that are dynamic and need hard work and long term effort to negotiate and resolve. It’s easy to say men should do this amd women should do that, but how fulfilling is this, and more importantly, how just and fair?

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What after facebook for political action?

I haven’t been using facebook for almost 3 months now. I haven’t shared any good reads or important news stories and I’ve had to hold back on commenting on current affairs and social trends.

I was a regular active facebook user that utilised its full capacity to connect, network and share. From parenting pages, to discussion groups, to creating events and promoting ideas, facebook was my public channel. I did post a few photos of my son in between the interesting quotes, and I often commented on friends’ posts but mainly to present a point of view on an article or issue they’re raising.

But then I stopped all this, through one deactivation.

The problem I’m realising is that in indulging in a culture of online liking, sharing and commenting, we begin to believe that we are somehow, to some extent, making a difference. Well we are making a difference in that we are adding to the amount of data people scroll through on their devices, but what are we doing to address real grievances?

If making a change requires challenging cultural hegemony through raising consciousness, it is logical to believe that awareness through facebook could be a suitable avenue, through sharing articles and posting statuses on political ideas. But how do we measure whether this methodology is directly contributing to the goal of raising consciousness? 

Awareness … as in knowing that something is going on … yes that can effectively be delivered through facebook. But awareness … as in a realisation of the problem … how can we expect to achieve this through online channels?

I’m starting to believe social media is a planned and corrosive distraction to numb us from moving in an influential and coordinated way towards change. I’m not here to fantasize about traditional forms of political subversion.  But I will say that we need to critically assess our methodology when online avenues have replaced what used to be collective action.

When there is a dire cause, now activists try to get people to like a page about it. How does this a) raise awareness and b) address the cause?

Let’s say we are angry about Target’s sexualisation of children, for example, and we have reached 10,000 likes and that’s huge, but what next? We have 10,000 likes sitting there, but most consumers who consumed the like page, have not changed their purchasing choices, and ok Target does hear of the likes, posts a letter explaining the situation, but simply keeps on going.

So instead of fuelling this delusion of change, I think we need to remember that we cannot give up the real work of raising consciousness and advocating against injustice.  If the Arab spring remained online, no power would have shrugged. And for us in the West, if our complaints remain online, no corporate power will slightly even blink.

Corporations are already onto creating online like pages to causes, just highlighting how futile our online efforts are against cultural capitalism. Our work is empty.

So, for me, now that I’m not on facebook, I’m faced with the pressing question: how can I address political problems? Where do I start?

And I think a lot of young people need to get away from social media to begin to realise that they need to do more collectively.

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Libya’s Lost Literature

Brave New Libya

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the job of the firemen is to burn books. Because in a totalitarian society, nothing is more dangerous than a conscious citizen:

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

Another aspect of books is the spread of words and therefore thoughts and ideas. In George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak was the method employed to combat this threat to the autocracy:

“…the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. “

Oppressive dictators think alike, and Libya’s former tyrant was no different. In order to keep a leash on the minds of the people, Gadhafi abolished Libya’s previous culture, replacing it instead with an engineered image…

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“Who are you to judge that Sharon will burn in hell?”

Always, you get some Muslims online who police other Muslims for their irrational, hate-filled reactions. Claiming to uphold the true faith of Islam, of peace, justice, hope in every sinner, they launch an attack on the angry, vengeful trends.

Who are you to judge that Sharon will burn in hell? Only God knows that, I don’t care if he was Satan himself, no Muslim has the right to condemn anyone to hell.

I just thought I’d write an open letter to these depoliticising voices:

How are you more concerned about preserving this polite and proper image of The Muslim, totally dismissing the real grievances expressed in the posts?

You care more that a mass murdering war criminal, who is applauded and saluted around the world, is disrespected when Palestinians give out sweets to mark the befall of an oppressor. I would have thought the disrespect is in the violence victims are subjected to when the perpetrator is heralded as a hero, right.

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You care more about the wrong language used by ordinary people trying to articulate their betrayal than the sinister echoes of world leaders who use his death to glorify their support for an occupying, genocidal regime.

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You care more that a cartoonist depicted Sharon dragged to hell to answer for Sabra and Shatilla, than the massacres that painted Lebanon’s soil with the blood of innocent souls.

Your ill-placed sense of justice is outrageous. How many Palestinians are experiencing hell on earth, tortured using the most psychologically traumatising means, besieged, dumped, without homes, jobs, identity?

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How many Arabs are grieving the slaughter of their family members in Sabra and Shatilla, in Jenin? Their tears have not dried yet, their hearts pained with the disappointment that the butcher has been under medical attention for years, respected, honoured, while their children’s blood spilt and their toys found graveyards in the rubble of demolished homes.

Save us your moral high ground.

After generations of trauma, heart-ache, abandonment, bitterness, the criminal dies a natural and inevitable death, a death undeserving of him, for he should have been hanged and reawakened to hang for every murder, and even that would not answer for the crimes he committed, after his honouring as a brave man of dignity, a Muslim writes a facebook status filled with hate, and you pop up to put them in their place with your belittling ‘who are you’, um, are you serious?

Who are you to deny the oppressed the only avenue they have to scream out. Who are you to come out and correct them for their misinterpretation of Islam, for their wrong prayer?

Decency is in recognising the legitimacy of anger in protesting against oppression. Deceny is in defending the voiceless.

If there’s a needed reason to believe in an afterlife,  it’s that we know God promised to answer the call of the oppressed. He promised that no matter what failures of justice we face on earth, He Knows and He will account.

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The latest realisation I’ve reached is that the monstrosity of capitalism is in its ability to reep from all forms of good or bad that we indulge in. If I recycle or buy organic, I distract away from the thought that we need real structural change than small lifestyle feel good initiatives. If I dont recycle or buy organic, I’m a careless consumer contributing more waste to the earth we’re entrusted to look after and I don’t challenge or demand companies act more ethically. The only way out that I see is to minimise consumption and to boycott where I can. But I have to work to undermine the forces of capitalism otherwise the lifestyle choices are becoming my way of passive inaction and complicity. And then I realise that these ethical dilemmas are from a position of privilege as most people around the world worry about liberation from occupation and exploitation and I’m here like I have to stop buying anything. There are layers upon layers of thought stifling systems that reinforce capitalism and let loose those who privilege from it.