Thursday, November 6, 2014

"We have been silenced whenever we attempted to criticize..."

Something amazing showed up in my inbox last night, and I wanted to share this bit of very honest, and wonderful correspondence with you. There are some Muslims that want change, that want to push for change - Muslims that are willing to acknowledge the issues....

*Some* of my anti-theist friends hold the view that all religion should be abolished, in an ideal world perhaps we would have no divide such as religion.  But its not very realistic to hope for billions of people to miraculously de-convert in our lifetime.... When I see people like 'M', who wrote to me last night....my heart is filled with hope. Some might see it as naive, ah well. 

But when people come together, despite some fundamental differences, like religion (or lack of)...then wonderful things happen. This is what an actual willingness for conversation looks like. Can we please hear from more people like her? 

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Dear Eiynah, 

I recently came across your blog, though I heard about your book on buzzfeed (which I loved) a while ago. But anyway I came across your blog and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for speaking about sex, sexuality, sexism, etc. in Pakistani/(Muslim?) culture. 

I am often told I don't have the right to speak or critique Pakistani culture since I am American-born and raised, but I still feel the sexual repression that comes with Pakistani culture as I grew up in a Pakistani household. 

Hear hear! I cannot tell you how much I relate to this. As someone who was raised outside of Pakistan, I too am often disregarded as an invalid voice... my experiences and interpretations of the things I see in our culture are not taken seriously. So I get you. But the culture carries across the ocean, we in North America are plagued with the same issues, but perhaps in a less obvious manner. The strict gender roles, the segregation, the misogyny and homophobia, the lack of freedom of religion... these things are with us. Our experiences of these aspects might be different in some ways, but they are definitely real. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Shutting you down because you are 'not Pakistani enough' is just another tactic to avoid hearing critique. I'm sure no one would tell you you are not Pakistani enough if you were praising aspects of the culture. 

I will not deny that I have the better end of it all. I have been taught to be empowered, strong, intelligent, and sexually aware. My mother being a doctor taught me about menstruation at a young age (and told me there was nothing shameful about it, simply science), and taught me about birth control (though that came mostly from my high school). Our home is loving and accepting as could be, but still in our "progressive" social circles I have always felt the repression that you so boldly speak of in your blog. 

This is precisely what I want to draw attention to. People often assume my atheism is some sort of 'reactionary response' ...they assume I must have had very strict parents and an awful childhood. The truth is, my parents are perfectly lovely, progressive, liberal people. And yet, I can't avoid seeing certain issues. The inequality, the lack of freedom..it's everywhere. I did not need to be severely oppressed by religion in order to see that it wasn't for me. 

I suppose in an attempt to preserve our culture, my mother taught us to be proud of Pakistan and the culture. But in the process we have been silenced whenever we attempted to criticize or discuss any negative aspect of Pakistan. Being a feminist I try to discuss the misogyny in the country, and my sister being an atheist tries to argue against Islam, But we are always silenced. If a progressive family like ourselves cannot discuss then what change will ever come? I don't know.

Exactly! Even my wonderfully supportive, open-minded parents refuse to listen to critique about the religion. They just politely ask that I refrain from it because it upsets them. But I have had a lot of questions, especially when I was younger...ones they couldn't answer, because even discussing the topic was too 'offensive'. If not in our 'progressive' homes... then where? 

Reading your blog made me realize how much I would like to discuss but how I am always silenced from doing so. The accusation against it? "Tum log bus gorey hojao" (why don't you kids just become white) or "It's always anti-Pakistan" or "America is not perfect either". 

I never understand the defensive finger-pointing...yes - no place is perfect, but our Muslim countries have serious issues with tolerance...issues that don't exist anywhere else in this century. To try to avoid acknowledging those by pointing things out in other places just seems juvenile and Reza-like dishonest. 

Since reading your blog I have picked up more and more on little moments within our modern, progressive muslim/Pakistani social circles that irk me. The sexism is rampant, there is so little talk about sex, we are at a young age segregated by sex, taught how to be "good muslim girls" etc. Before reading your blog I just laughed it off, but now I pick up on it, and it makes me... angry. Why do we feel we are above the criticism? Why are we so afraid to discuss topics like sex, sexuality, and equal rights even in progressive circles? 

I am so glad. Thank you. It really makes it worthwhile for me when I hear someone say that my writing/drawing has made them notice something and take the issues more seriously. I am glad you are more aware, but sorry you will continue to be irked by those instances now. Its hard to unsee that kind of stuff. But if we can get enough people to be a powerful collective voice... imagine the possibilities. And if people from within the culture don't want to discuss it, then there is no harm in appealing to the rest of the world to hold us to the same moral standards. 

Again I say that my family and situation is at the better end of it all, so perhaps I don't have the right to complain. I have it good compared to the sad sad stories I read on your blog. And yet the sexism and the repression is still there. I can't pinpoint it, but it is. 

I suppose we are the "progressive" muslims who have failed you by silencing discourse in one of the few places it could happen. 

So again, thank you for pointing all of this out. I love it. I love that someone is talking about it. You are doing amazing things. More people need to read your blog :) I hope to write a blog as well one day, just waiting for the right time. 

I love that you are talking about it! 

Your blog has been circulating among our feminist friends. Hopefully it'll be Thanksgiving dinner table conversation! Now I'm excited. 

I certainly hope so too! Keep challenging! 

I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Keep writing!!

-M

Feeling so much love for this girl right now. Where are the others? Rise up, speak up! I hope for nothing more than for you, the progressive Muslims to prove me wrong when I say there isn't an actual call for reform... that no one is willing to admit to major flaws within the doctrine. 

17 comments:

  1. My husband and I touched on the flaws in Islam last night. I recently left Islam having been a convert for 15 years. I fell in love with the message of peace, compassion and common-sense I found in my research but became disillusioned by my failure to find it in reality. Throughout my time as a muslim I was subjected to racism (frequently having to sit and listen as my Pakistani in-laws dissected the evils of the West, never quite sure if they still saw me as part of it or not), judgements about my piety ('not a real muslim','not a good enough muslim' - this last pronounced as a reason for my miscarriage).
    I have spoken at inter-faith meetings and written about the Islam I saw in the world around me (that's you Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and all the people campaigning for gender segregation and Sharia law in the UK and elsewhere), about how that wasn't the 'real' Islam, but how long can a person continue to deny that what is reality is less real than words in a book?
    My faith began to crumble and when I immersed myself in research and reading to boost it I only found more reasons to doubt it.
    My husband believes I get bogged down in the detail (I have Aspergers so he's right there) but I'm starting to think that when we say FGM, child marriage, blasphemy laws and honour killings AREN'T real Islam we're diminishing the victims - they don't HAVE any other reality.
    I just couldn't live with being a part of that anymore.

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    1. My heart just broke into a million pieces for you. I am happy you had the courage to leave it. If something doesn't welcome you for who you are, there is no point in defending it of trying to belong....this is the conclusion I have come to after many times being told as a kid, that my family wasn't muslim enough, or I was too westernized so my voice didn't count. Thank you for leaving this comment. The muslim world did not embrace you, for the wonderfu sacrifice you made of converting and trying to belong.... for that I am so sorry....I am sure the ex-muslim world will be there for you, if you ever need any support xx The reasons given for your miscarriage are not only heartless but completely ignorant of science and biology. Much love to you. Thank u for speaking out. xx

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  2. So your failure to understand the religion is being projected back onto the religion and those who do follow it ? So much for logic (or lack thereof, if you're sarcasm challenged).

    Try for a second to think outside the box that you find yourself in and realize that trying to blame the consequences of the things that people do wrong on the beliefs that they claim to hold is absurd and fallacious.

    Yes, I know you think that those who oppose you follow the religion as it is meant to be but they don't. You have this idea about the religion that you've gotten from the experience that you've had and you've internalized that to equal the actual religion which it isn't. Stop projecting your fallacies onto the religion, if you can.

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    1. Ah yes, my failure to understand the religion indeed.

      On Apostasy:

      Qur'an (4:89) - "They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper."

      Qur'an (9:11-12) - "But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief - Lo! they have no binding oaths - in order that they may desist."

      Bukhari (52:260) - "...The Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

      Bukhari (83:37) - "Allah's Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate."

      Bukhari (84:57) - [In the words of] "Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

      On Blasphemy:

      Qur'an (33:57) - "Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah hath cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and hath prepared for them the doom of the disdained"

      "Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter."

      When someone was very upset about a cushion:

      Narrated Aisha:
      (the wife of the Prophet) I bought a cushion having on it pictures (of animals). When Allah's Apostle saw it, he stood at the door and did not enter. I noticed the sign of disapproval on his face and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I repent to Allah and His Apostle. What sin have I committed?' Allah's Apostle said. "What is this cushion?" I said, "I have bought it for you so that you may sit on it and recline on it." Allah's Apostle said, "The makers of these pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be said to them, 'Give life to what you have created (i.e., these pictures).' " The Prophet added, "The Angels of (Mercy) do not enter a house in which there are pictures (of animals)."

      —Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari[35]

      Also, very sweet to smash things others hold sacred:

      To show the superiority of the monotheist faith, Muhammad smashed the idols at the Kaaba. He also removed paintings that were blasphemous to Islam

      On slavery and Polygamy, which is of course, skewed to favour men:

      Quran (4:3) - "Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess."

      ----

      I could go on...what fallacies am I projecting exactly? Please, do enlighten me.... please go ahead deny that these hadith are authentic...and explain away the Quran verses.... fact is , you can't change whts been written.... denying it is only helping the problems to increase. Face the issues, and come join us in the current century. Cheers!

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    2. "On Apostasy" - And that is exactly what I was talking about, you failure (intentional or otherwise) to understand the religion.

      Quran 4:89 has absolutely nothing to do with apostasy but everything to do with hypocrisy. I suggest you try something called context, more precisely, not taking Qur'anic verses out of theirs. How about reading the verses prior to and those following 4:89?
      4:88 very specifically mentions the Munafikoon (hypocrites) and why Muslims are divided over their opinion of them. Then 4:89 explains that the hypocrites would love to turn the Muslims away from Islam and it is for this reason that they are advised against taking them for friends.

      4:90 goes on to elaborate that reason and concludes with a counsel for peace (yeah, you read that right, peace) if the other party "remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them."

      (Note how it says "do not fight you" meaning they are the ones who started it. Every single instance where the Qur'an mentions fighting, it always mentions that as a condition, that it be in defense against an attack and ALWAYS counsels peace if the other party so desires. EVERY SINGLE VERSE that deals with fighting in the Qur'an is preceded by a verse that states that it is to be in response to an attack AND followed by a verse that counsels peace as the better option. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Challenge you to prove it wrong.)

      And that is what you understand as apostasy and crudely imply it's punishable in Islam ? Way off the mark.

      "Qur'an (9:11-12)" - Again with the fallacious lack of context. What was it that you said, "fact is , you can't change whts been written". You certainly seem to be trying very hard to do just that. Why don't you try looking at just a couple of verses before and after those verses you've quoted and see what they say ??

      [http://quran.com/9/8-15] - 9:8 very specifically states the context of the verses following it as applying to those " if they gain dominance over you, they do not observe concerning you any pact of kinship or covenant of protection?" If they don't keep their promises, Muslims aren't obligated to bear the brunt of it.

      9:13 "Would you not fight a people who broke their oaths and determined to expel the Messenger, and they had begun [the attack upon] you the first time?" -

      Notice the "determined to expel the Messenger" & "they had begun [the attack upon] you the first time". Would you counsel anyone to sit tight while they were being hounded out of their own homes ?

      Granted, I'm surprised you didn't quote 9:5 when you had the chance but these same reasons apply there too.

      "very sweet to smash things others hold sacred" - Lol, now that is precious :) I'm not supposed to laugh during a religious discussion (the Qur'an advises against it) but bear with me on this one a bit. You don't see the irony in sarcastically pointing out that Muhammed PBUH smashed idols in the Ka'aba (pieces of stone that can neither benefit nor harm anyone but worshiped to anyway, explain that to me) and yet find it in-congruent that the Qur'an frowns upon blasphemy? I mean Muslims hold Allah and the Prophet PBUH very dearly but that's fair game for blasphemy but idols in the Ka'aba aren't ?

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    3. "On slavery and Polygamy, which is of course, skewed to favour men" - Aah, yes, the misogyny and slavery claim.

      Let's deal with polygamy first, shall we ? The sole purpose of marriage is to determine the lineage of children and as a consequence assign responsibility for their upbringing. In a monogamous un-adulterous relationship, that is easily done. In a polygamous relationship too, the parentage of the offspring are never in doubt, one father one mother. Now if your implication by the words "skewed to favour men" is somehow an argument for polyandry, do tell how to determine the parentage of the children born out of such an arrangement ? Motherhood is fine, who's the father ? So you see, there's nothing skewed about it to favour men, just logic and biology.

      And about slavery, incidentally women are also allowed to have and marry their believing slave men, so how exactly is that skewed to favour men ? Polyandry isn't allowed for obvious logical reasons but other than that, women have pretty much the same rights as men regarding marriage.

      (I'm also assuming you're not directly dealing with the 'slavery' issue as such but do let me know if that is the case too.)

      You see the fallacies in your 'arguments' yet ?

      "I could go on" - hehe, so could I, so could I .. :)

      P.S. Apologies for the caps emphasis, haven't figured out the formatting options for blogspot.

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    4. "please go ahead deny that these hadith are authentic..." - Now why would I do that. I would however point out that the hadith comes in a close second in the hierarchy of sources of Islamic law with only the Qur'an trumping it. And you know what the Qur'an says about religious freedom ?

      "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing." Qur'an Ch.2:V.256 (http://quran.com/2/256)

      I'd say the threat of death is the biggest compulsion there is and that is forbidden by the Qur'an, which trumps the hadith as I pointed out and as any Muslim worth his salt will tell you too.

      "explain away the Quran verses" - Aah, so you're not willing to hear out a valid explanation for the Qur'anic verses you've misunderstood ? Just your (distorted) view or nothing else huh ?


      "fact is , you can't change whts been written.... denying it is only helping the problems to increase."

      "Face the issues" - Yeah, you might want to look up strawman fallacy [https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman].

      "come join us in the current century." - Hehe, oh the irony. You do realize that as a woman you'd actually have been better off in pre-world war 1 Islamic states than in pretty much the vast majority of the last 100 years? Most of what you enjoy as 'feminist' rights were brought about by Islam 1400+ years before the west even thought about it. Go check out when women were allowed to vote, rule, hold property, get married or divorced of their own free will among other things, in Islam and the current century (make that the last 100 years) and let me know how that comparison goes.

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    5. Please, the context excuse is my favourite. Thanks for using it. Its used to explain away anything Muslims cannot defend comfortably. "But thats out of context" Even when in NO context is it ok to ask people to kill others, for abandoning beliefs. NO context makes that ok. And if you think asking ppl to kill hypocrites is better, then you can't be helped. In fact I think that would include you wouldn't it?

      "4:90 goes on to elaborate that reason and concludes with a counsel for peace (yeah, you read that right, peace) if the other party "remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them."" - Right.... we all know the Quran has many contradictory verses, like any other religion. Even acknowledged by god of dishonesty Reza Aslan himself. On the one had it tells you to kill those who leave the faith, in another verse you will find it telling you 'there is no compulsion in religion' - the very fact it cannot make a point without contradicting itself should clue you in to how pointless it is to try to follow something like this to a T ...

      Seriously the context thing is getting old. In NO context is it ok to ask a guy to sacrifice his son to show how devoted he is. Only a dickhead would ask for such a sacrifice. And today if anyone mentioned that they tried to sacrifice their son because god spoke to them, they would be put under strict mental health supervision... Context is a bs excuse, there are some things not ok in any context.

      "Hehe, oh the irony. You do realize that as a woman you'd actually have been better off in pre-world war 1 Islamic states than in pretty much the vast majority of the last 100 years? Most of what you enjoy as 'feminist' rights were brought about by Islam 1400+ years before the west even thought about it."

      Lovely, I didnt realise we were talking about another century, I am talking about the current day. If Islam was so wonderful for 'women’s rights'... why did it stop somewhere long long ago? Why is it unable to catch up currently with this so called 'progressive spirit' in favour of equality. I love how the best you can do is point to times long past... but but we were pretty good to women back then - yeah ok ... im talking about now. What worked 1400 yrs ago as rights, does not today. Sorry... this doesn't get you a gold star. Also no one is saying the west was lovely to women throughout history. It still isn't. But its miles ahead of anywhere in the muslim world. Because they have learned not to take religion so seriously. The times religion was regarded so literally in the west... things were pretty shitty here too. Moral of this story is.. don't ... take...religion....seriously...

      "And about slavery, incidentally women are also allowed to have and marry their believing slave men" Oh wonderful.... - how timeless and ethical for the Quran to get the slavery bit right! If god is all-knowing why could he not put in his book that slavery is vile?

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    6. "Let's deal with polygamy first, shall we ? The sole purpose of marriage is to determine the lineage of children and as a consequence assign responsibility for their upbringing. In a monogamous un-adulterous relationship, that is easily done. In a polygamous relationship too, the parentage of the offspring are never in doubt, one father one mother. Now if your implication by the words "skewed to favour men" is somehow an argument for polyandry, do tell how to determine the parentage of the children born out of such an arrangement ? Motherhood is fine, who's the father ? So you see, there's nothing skewed about it to favour men, just logic and biology."

      Are you trying to be a caricature of an apologist? Seriously... have you heard of a little thing called 'science' ? We have contraceptives now.... we also have something called a DNA test. And if god is such a stickler for parentage... why not just keep it at couples? So that both parties may be equal... ah yes, I forget... the Quran doesn't care much for equality. And what of the people who get together who can't have kids? What of homosexual couples? Ah yes thats not ok either. So tolerant and loving.

      You cannot be serious: "very sweet to smash things others hold sacred" - Lol, now that is precious :) I'm not supposed to laugh during a religious discussion (the Qur'an advises against it) but bear with me on this one a bit. You don't see the irony in sarcastically pointing out that Muhammed PBUH smashed idols in the Ka'aba (pieces of stone that can neither benefit nor harm anyone but worshiped to anyway, explain that to me) and yet find it in-congruent that the Qur'an frowns upon blasphemy? I mean Muslims hold Allah and the Prophet PBUH very dearly but that's fair game for blasphemy but idols in the Ka'aba aren't ?"

      Are you conflating the freedom to draw a cartoon or 'utter a word' to going into someone elses sacred space and smashing up stuff they hold dear? That is the worst false equivalency in your argument this far. And the bar wasn't high to begin with. Smashing people's things are not the same as uttering words and drawing cartoons. FFS. Sorry that you think those acts are equal, as a Muslim, but you do me favour by demonstrating the mentality we are up against. I repeat... it is not ok EVER to go into people's spaces and break their things. Doing that makes you an asshole. Drawing a cartoon in the privacy of your own home is entirely different. Uttering a word is entirely different. You should have the freedom to do those things. I can’t believe I have had to explain this to you.

      ""I could go on" - hehe, so could I, so could I .. :)"

      You are really smug for someone who hasn't given a single convincing argument, and in fact proven all my points for me. Thank you. Read more books.

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    7. Also Sabeer, sad to hear that your religion dictates when you can and cannot laugh.

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    8. INFIDEL MISUNDERSTOOD THE RELIGION
      TERRORIST MISUNDERSTOOD THE RELIGION
      THOSE WHO INQUISITION THE RELIGION MISUNDERSTOOD IT
      EX XX MISUNDERSTOOD THE RELIGION

      ALL PEOPLE MISUNDERSTOOD THE RELIGION OF PEACE (RATHER PIECES OF BODY PARTS)

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    9. HOW SABEER CAN SAY IT IS CONTEXT BASED AND AT THE SAME TIME HE CAN CLAIM THAT Q-RAN IS FOR ALL TIME AND FOR ALL CONTEXTS

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  3. I can completely understand. I too come from a liberal, progressive family but was always shunned whenever I pointed out the misogynist approach of Islam. I donot identify myself as an atheist but rather as a Deist. It took me some time to realize that I cannot think of "my" God as someone who is prejudiced against women folk. Islam was just not for me.
    - Zara

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    1. glad you had the strength to face up to that... many people do not. Good luck and stay safe!

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    2. I LIVES IN SAUDI, THE COUNTRY OF RELIGIOUS APARTHEID. HERE WOMEN ARE NOT PERMITTED TO DRIVE, IF THEY HAVE TO GO OUT THEY MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY A MALE MEMBER OF THE FAMILY.

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  4. I just found your blog. I'm really impressed with what you are doing. I was raised fundamentalist Christian and I identify with the evils of Islam and any fundamental religion that dehumanizes, reduces women to vessels... dogs that need a leash. When militant Christians bomb abortion clinics or murder the doctors, the bulk of Christians all say it is wrong--but if you hear them whisper in their homes, so many say it is god working justice for the killing of the unborn. They agree with it in their hearts. So many. Many also believe that god won't allow you to be raped unless you did something to deserve it... and if it were truly raped, then he wouldn't allow you to get pregnant either. They are horrible. All the fundamentalists of the world. I hide behind a pen name as well. I have suffered many atrocities for my writings and drawings in the past and now I stand alone with my children. I'm not doing good like you are doing. Maybe one day I will be able to help others. I am just trying to heal myself for now. I wish you all the best and hope that your message reaches and changes many people.

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