Friday, July 25, 2014

#EidBook


There were no references for me as a kid - in popular culture, storybooks or in the media that I was exposed to...there was nothing to find myself in, or any kid that looked like me. It was like sailing through childhood without an anchor.

There were no storybooks about Muslim kids, there were no movies about Pakistani kids. There were tons of cartoons, movies, stories about Christmas and Halloween...I wanted so badly for our holiday to be as fun. But it always seemed more about stuff the adults wanted to do, than making anything about the kids. It wasn't about passing on a feeling, a tradition that was made to be enjoyable for children, it wasn't tailored to fit us, we were tailored (literally) to fit Eid.

Sheer Khorma (a vermicelli milk-based dish) is not exactly a child-friendly dessert. A stark white envelope of cash is not really fuel for your imagination. Of course, some individual families may make the effort to buy gifts and wrap them up, do more kid friendly things - but as a whole Eid doesn't measure up. Let's face it. And it's on us, we as a culture don't make the effort to make things kid-friendly.

I am not a fan of religion, nor an adherent. But the Muslim part of me is my history. Its an important part of my identity. I may not be a practising Muslim who will raise Muslim children in the traditional sense. But all the biases and prejudices against Muslims do affect my life. I have a Muslim name, an olive-skinned face, my over 65 year old dad has been harassed on a plane before because of his Muslim name. My brother was yelled at on the subway and called a 'terrorist', because he has a tiny goatee. I won't even get into the countless issues my husband has had with travel because of his name. So being 'Muslim' is a part of my life, whether it is my religion or not. This is why I chose my next book to focus on the Muslim holiday of Eid.

I want our kids to see themselves in books, to see the diversity amongst Muslims. Every child in the world needs education about diversity, but Muslim kids are in desperate need of it. Increasingly so, fundamentalist Muslims interpret their religion in a way that is rigid, literal - with no room for diversity. In their eyes, there is only one kind of Muslim, one way to practice. People who practice differently or don't practice at all are worthy of death. This is the ignorant hateful mentality that is at risk of spreading.

Muslim children's stories should be told too. As I've mentioned before, in my opinion - Muslim kids have *very* little in terms of resources that are not written from an extreme religious perspective.

Diverse storybooks are also desperately needed globally, especially in multicultural societies like the one I live in, in Toronto. Non-Muslim children need to hear about Muslim children in a positive light, not just in the way the media portrays the culture and community...

I may be a non-believer, but I recognize that Eid or Islam, or religion in general is not going anywhere. Which is why I think its important to stress that we re-evaluate, reform and seriously update what we do have in existence.

I will not raise my future kids in the faith, but they'll definitely know what Eid is. And perhaps we will have a re-interpreted, non-religious celebration of it in our home. I'm sure there are plenty of other Muslim, Ex-Muslim parents who feel that way. But in order for that to happen, we need to bridge the gap between our lack of belief in the religion and our culture/history. As it stands right now, these aspects cannot co-exist peacefully.

What I have tried to communicate in the story below, is a delicate balance. It was incredibly difficult, and I don't know if I succeeded at all - but I will lay my aims out and patiently await your judgement;

I aim to speak to both non-theist families as well as traditional Muslims, while referencing the holiday of Eid. I hope to have created something that children will enjoy visually and conceptually. I also hope it is relatable to children from muslim families of all types, all over the globe.

I feel it's important to bridge this gap between the practicing and non-practicing especially in Islam, because it is really only us that interpret things so literally still. It is Muslims who cling on to blasphemy laws. It is Muslims who wish to punish people who have left the faith, and the less extreme wish to scrutinize those who are not as pious. In most other religions, whether you practice or not isn't regarded with such strictness...Imagine if our children were taught this fluidity, this softness and tolerance.

All I want to say is, that its okay - whatever your family is like and however they choose to practice or not practice... its okay. The degrees of religiosity of the characters in the book vary to a great degree. Some pray, some don't. There is mention of 'blessings from above' which I hope to be interpreted in whatever way you see fit - either the traditional 'God has blessed us' or simply that blessings from above could refer to the sun's energy and its link to our ecosystem...

I hope, for kids like myself who would have rather played Super Nintendo in their rooms throughout Eid parties, that more kid-friendly Eid things follow. I hope children can be taught that varying degrees of religiosity or non religiosity exist, that several types of Muslims exist. That Muslim kids in the West can see themselves in the general narrative...that they stop being seen as the 'other'...that the rest of the world gets to see Islam in a softer, more positive light.

For me, Eid didn't rock from an early age, and it definitely lost almost all its appeal when I was too old to receive cash (the only incentive I had). I think that happened when I was about 13...for my future kids I hope to include Eid in their life, and I hope its a little more fun by then. Its time Muslim culture did more things that were kid-friendly, that didn't involve harsh, rigid religiosity, it's time we let Muslim kids breathe, play, imagine...

This book is dedicated to everyone who has been told they are not the right kind of Muslim, to all those who have been told they are not Muslim enough, to anyone questioning and needing the space, to ex-Muslims who's history is delicately intertwined with their lives. To Ahmedis, To Shias, To Ismailis ...may we raise kids with more tolerance than the current generation.

Enjoy!

Ps - I realize that some of you might scream 'Orientalism' about my minaret skyline, I will ask you not to be so tightly wound. A condo and skyscraper skyline was just not cutting it.


(click photos to enlarge)

















Saturday, July 19, 2014

Muslim Guys for fun *after* Ramadan


So someone forwarded me a link to an Ad on a classifieds forum, the text reads:

*twenty-something* male in toronto, student looking to connect with guys on-campus or nearby after ramadan. i'm not gay, just looking to jerk, suck, and fuck. 

hoping to hear back from guys of colour and other muslim guys. 
i prefer middle eastern, south asian, and any muslim. i only suck clean cut cocks.


--------------

I have blocked out all identifying information, as well as any parts of the photo that might have identified the person.

But there isn't much to say, as the text really speaks for itself.

Just a very straight dude, looking for post-ramadan gay sex.

 "i'm not gay, just looking to jerk, suck, and fuck."

Of course, yes, a quick suck and fuck never made anyone gay. And so glad you're keepin' it holy by only soliciting for such activities post Ramadan.

"hoping to hear back from guys of colour and other muslim guys."

Ah yes, the religious beliefs of your one-night stands/casual encounters are so important.

"i only suck clean cut cocks." 

Such specific preferences for someone who's NOT gay.
-----

This is funny, but its also sad. Reflective of a lot of our desi/Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality. Sheds some new light on the term 'holy hypocrisy'.

But poor guy, it must be tough living in a world where you want to have gay sex bad enough that you have to solicit it on a forum, but also have to justify that you're *not* gay simultaneously. Not accepting yourself is painful. And my heart goes out to him. Its hard to want to do something that is obviously a grave sin in your religion *and* adhere to the religion....you find some compromise and do it outside of the holy month of Ramadan...but surely the internal conflict goes beyond that.

I once interviewed a 20 year old, who thought somewhat similarly. Having engaged in a same sex encounter himself, but when asked about his thoughts on homosexuality referred to it as 'disgusting' :/

Today as I was about to post this ad, it just so happened I heard from him again. Below is our conversation:

A: u judged me kinda inaccurately in your last post about me, in the concluding paragraphs.
    lol i remember i filled this out in my university's pc lab

Me: so what did u find inaccurate

A: the gay thing. you said my young mind was confused about the gay thing. I was never confused on the gay thing

Me: you still find it disgusting?

A: if i think closely about it, then yes, i find it disgusting

Me: why would you do it yourself then?

A: but at the same time, i support gay marriages an equal rights for gays and the lgbt community

Me: thats confusing...how can you support something u find disgusting?

A: i will try to elaborate.
     in absolute honesty, if truth be told.
     I wasn't horny at that time, i had just gone thru a break up, so i was exploring other, erm avenues.

     to this day, i kinda feel some degree of carnal affection for my male friend
     but i cannot stand the idea of doing it with other man or boy.
     that would disgust me.

Me: yeah but if you find it disgusting, why would you...
       ....but yet you feel carnal affection?

A: towards that one male friend only, yes.

Me: but you do see how that could classify as having 'homosexual' feelings

A: yes, those feelings are homosexual.
     i know that

Me: so then how can you find homosexuality disgusting?

A: but i would never feel the same feelings, nor think the same way, about any other man or boy, that would be disgusting

Me: does this internal conflict not tear you up?

A: no it does not.

Me: why is it ok about this one boy?

A: we got comfy together, thats my guess. we no longer meet up though.

Me: so would it not be possible in the right circumstances that you could get comfortable with another guy?

A: no, it would never be possible, the idea of it would disgust me.

Me: you see, that is really confusing to me
how did it not disgust you with this one person?

A: with this one person, the process was gradual.
we started slowly, then became gradually bolder. 
he started it

Me: But in order to 'start', there have to be some feelings involved, no?
or was it just out of convenience?

A: it was just out of convenience, and strictly carnal.

Me: but still...the fact that you say you find homosexuality disgusting .. is baffling to me
finding it disgusting is different from finding it just 'not for you'

A:  i dnt find homosexuality in general to be disgusting
if i find 2 people kissing in front of me, with both being men, i would be okay with it.
its just that the idea of getting involved with those men sexually myself would disgust me
is it clearer now?

Me: 'disgust' is a strong word .... especially for someone who has been in a same sex encounter before...

A: i know its strong, but it is the one word
which describes my feelings completely

Me: but yeah, from what u told me in the interview i don't think i judged you inaccurately

A: for the most part, you didn't, i agree with you.
its just when you referred to me as 'confused'
i was never confused, i never felt conflicted
there was no emotional ordeal involved, except the one of having lost my girl friend

Me: i mean if someone were to tell me to picture a same sex encounter, and I am straight....i wouldn't say i feel 'disgusted' by the thought, i'd just say .. nah .. thats not going to work for me... it'd get awkward really fast ...

A: i understand what you mean

Me: so to the naked eye, you do appear confused
with the information i was given, it was the kind of conclusion anyone would draw..

A: if some were to tell me to picture a same sex encounter, i would feel disgust
as in, the pukey kind of disgust.

Me: but thats what i'm saying

A: and i agree, i do appear confused.

Me: that is really intense
especially for a supporter of LGBT rights

A: to the naked eye, you're absolutely right
maybe its just that i find too many things disgusting

Me: if you logically know its just like any other sexual encounter, then why have 'pukey' feelings about it ?

A: well, as every paki 12 yr boy would tell u
when a paki boy pictures that encounter
automatically, an image of a dirty, smelly pathan chowkidar [regional stereotype] groping a 9 year old boy comes to mind. maybe that has something to do with it.

the disgust is embedded in my childhood.

and for the record, i dnt think all pathans are gay, on the contrary, some of my best friends are pathan.

Me: and that is SO wrong, so inaccurate...to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia.....

A: but in pakistan, there is no clear distinction between the two

Me: that distinction needs to be made and understood. 

yes and the ethnic/racist aspect to it, well thats another wonderful part of our culture, to let false stereotypes flourish and go unchecked

A: the closest Pakistani men come to discussing homosexuality is discussing groping pathans

Me: one is not related to the other at all

A: i understnd, and i agree.

Me: you do realise that pedophiles can be straight too...and often are
i don't think they swing one way or the other as a group

A: yeah, i realise that
i understand all these sexual orientation related distinctions
because i bumped into your blog
at a very tender age.

Me: im very glad about that!

A: so am i.

------gonna take a moment and squeal with joy!! How fucking wonderful is that?! that one person was positively influenced by stuff I say/draw. You have made my week A ... thank you------ 


Me: Pedophilia and childhood sexual abuse is another thing we desperately need to create more awareness in our culture about

A: yeah

Me: but anyhow, please.... do make the distinction

A: i do make it, dnt u worry

Me: good

A: and all the maulvi's raping boys in the masjids (mosques).

Me: homosexuality has NOTHING to do with pedophilia NOTHING

A: yeah, i understand that!

Me: but then you need to stop thinking of it as 'disgusting' or 'pukey'
especially if you're an ally and supporter
its offensive
       
A: and i say ur blog taught me that a long while ago, so you need to have faith in ur writing

Me: thank you
that is a HUGE compliment

A: you're welcome, and i thank you too, for all that your blog taught me

i think i started reading ur blog when i was in my o' levels (10th &11th grade)....

coming back to the 'disgust' thing

its psychological, i can't help it, its something which is deeply embedded in every paki boy's childhood.

i dnt feel 'disgusted' by choice.

Me: interesting point you bring up
and that is something we need to change
and I hope projects like 'My Chacha is Gay' can work towards that

A: we grew up discussing rapist maulvis and gay smelly pathans.

Me: those are pedophiles, (and the second is just a racist/homophobic false stereotype)
predators, who will prey on any child that is accessible...

Me: to equate them with lovely, respectable people who value consent like any decent human being, but just happen to be attracted to the same sex is offensive, and awful. i know you realise that.

A: i do, yeah.

A: but you need to understand
in the average paki person's mind's eye
its all the same

Me: yeah but you are not the average person if you recognize all these things

A: i'll make a confession
I have an important physical fitness test coming up next week
which means i haven't masturbated in like about 3 weeks

i just hope i clear it, and i want u to pray for me, okay?

Me: what does masturbation have to do with a physical fitness test?
haha i send you positive vibes but you are asking the wrong person for prayer :P 

A: i know, and i asked for the positive vibes only.
i am an agnostic, as i told u before

well the masturbation thing is another example of the paki concept ingrained in our minds since     teenage.

that masturbating will decrease ur strength.

Me: yeah, thats not true
lol
come on ... you know that
have you read my posts on masturbation?

A: i have, i know.

A: i know it ain't but i dare not masturbate until after monday, when my test is over

Me: because some things are just that deeply embedded eh?

A: exactly!

Me: and that explains everything
the disconnect between your logical thoughts and your gut reactions

A: i will give u another example

Me: jeez, we can do some serious damage to our kids, huh?

A: we do.

Me: well ... at least you recognize it...
and i believe that is the first step towards recovery

A: i do, but that doesnt make me any better for it.
i am an agnostic, but i still feel depressed sometimes....

Me: it does... im sure you can work towards changing it now you know its there

A: ....thinking that because i do not pray 5 times a day, i will go to hell, and all

Me: you won't :P 

A: i smile as i type 'i agree' right now

Me: living with that kind of fear is a hell in itself

A: but in my mind's mind, there remains that lingering doubt.
and that is because
though my parents never spanked me
i received a helluva lot of beatings from my maulvi (Quran teacher) 

Me: you're still young... and you're on the right track... read more, learn more about the world... and you'll be ok.

Me: thats FUCKED UP

fuck

did u tell your parents?

A: when reciting the quran, he would hit my knees with the miswak (teeth-cleaning twig) 

Me: did they have him arrested?

A: no, my mother supported him
and my maternal uncles supported him too.
and even i supported him then
i was told that this beating here, was better than the beating of hell fire
and at that time, i felt elation at the idea that he fucked my knees up
and thats every paki boys story

Me: this breaks my heart..... that is plain child abuse
I am so so sorry

A: you dnt have to be, almost every paki boy has suffered it.

--------

Anyhow, we had to part ways shortly after....

but there you have it, the inner workings....the damage certain things can do...the extent of that damage, how confusing it can be for a young mind....and how hard it is to let go of things deeply ingrained.... an irrational disgust of homosexuality...an irrational fear of hell fire.... these are things we carry with us, and sometimes find hard to escape. Please, don't do this to our future generation....its in your hands...

much love and gratitude to A for sharing his story and for explaining quite well some of the contradictions that keep cropping up...

As an aside; why do so many Pakistanis use the word 'paki' - its such an awful derogatory term...but anyhoo, thats for another day, another post. 

-E 



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chacha and Israel

So, I was recently approached on Facebook by a reader, who asked me what my thoughts were on the Palestine-Israel situation. I mentioned that I thought it was awful, as any minority exploitation is. The amount of violence in that region, both ways is beyond tragic.

He inquired about why I haven't raised my voice against such injustice?

I mentioned the fact that I don't really comment on the situation because;

a) The facts do get lost in a lot of religious hate. I feel like its hard to make a clear unbiased decision on whats happening because of all the 'my god is better than yours' that's going on throughout this.

b) I have some very good Israeli and Palestinian friends that might hold different opinions than me, and to pick a side and rant about the other would stir some unpleasant feelings. I assume they extend the same courtesy to me.

c) I am not a global political analyst. I am a mere sex blogger, and illustrator. My focus lies in Pakistan, and the atrocities going on there. Of which there are plenty.

***

He then responded, something along the lines of, "You're being hypocritical, because you have no problem offending Muslims. Your book 'My Chacha is Gay' has offended countless Muslims and you had no problem creating that. But you can't offend Jews."

Woahhh, haha I've heard a lot of crazy shit before. But this is a fresh angle.

I mean of course I've heard the conspiracy that my book was funded by Israel or 'The West" to singlehandedly destroy Islam, but not that I favour Jews because I constantly offend Muslims with my work, but refrain from offending Jews.

My work is focused on Pakistan. And my distaste for religion is universal. If conservative Jews want to be upset about a Gay Pakistani Children's book, that's fine by me... but no they haven't gone out of their way to find me and tell me I've been 'eating souls' or whatever. That's all been angry, ranty Muslims. Mashallah.




Please tell me, how on earth I went out of my way to offend Muslims by writing a children's book about love, tolerance and diversity?

If you interpret it as evil, that's on you.

I have plenty of beef with Islam, but I refrain from going into great detail about it publicly. Because I have some Muslim friends and relatives that would be deeply hurt. I don't want to go around hurting people for the sake of it. No matter what their religion is. If there is an attack on me, my morals - yes I will answer back. Some of what I say in my defence may offend you. Heck the mention of evolution is offensive to some. That's not my fault, educate yourself.

But please, know that it is not my intention to offend people of faith unless they are using their faith to kill, oppress, exclude or manipulate. Then, fuck em.

The reader who started this conversation did mention that I 'owed' it to the people of Palestine to speak up in solidarity. Come on now. Yes there are horrific things going on, and death is awful on both sides....I am truly sorry and can't stand to see the pictures of the torture. STOP SHARING PICTURES OF DEAD BABIES FFS!! They are really not helpful to share, and often times inaccurate, the purpose is to just cause blind hate, incite violent gut reactions.

I don't know if the picture of Israelis eating popcorn and watching bombs drop on Gaza is real, I don't see the whole picture... so I can't make a call. I can't say where the pictures of victims are coming from and whether they are from this war or not, so I can't make a call. I'm not saying I don't sympathise, but I'm saying it's not my place to pick a side and bash the other.

My heart goes out to minorities all over the world...

But, I as a blogger about sex in Pakistan do not 'owe' a stance or an opinion on world politics to anyone. I don't owe anything to Israelis or to Palestinians. I do, as a human being have thoughts and feelings, about so much cruelty that is happening all over the world. I try to write and draw about some of the injustices that I see in my own culture. But to approach me and ask me to pick a side on something I don't have all the information on, is unfair.

Anyhow, at the end of our little chat, he was quite understanding and did recognize that my goal is not to lash out at Muslims, while sparing Jews hurt feelings. And that I am not required to pick a side (the Muslim side). I write about sex and feminism, and on occasion I will reference Islam, I may write about Islam - and thats because its my history, and I have personal experience with it. I cannot speak much about other religions because I haven't been affected by them as much. So, I'm not picking on Islam, I am sharing my thoughts on the faith I was raised in.

I have very dear friends from both sides of the land. And I view them as individuals, not as the geographical land mass they happened to be associated with. So can we please focus on spreading love, not hate. On calling for peace and not violence, on tolerance and diversity - sharing photos of victims and calling for the death of others is awful on both sides. Human lives are human lives. I totally respect your point of view, and your right to have it, but don't force me to have your opinion.

My book was not funded by Israel, but there will be a hebrew version coming soon! Let the conspiracy theories begin.





Friday, July 4, 2014

The Fundistan Circus

I haven't written a poem since I was an angsty teenager. 

The other day, I had some random words floating around in my head. I tried to push them to the back of my mind, but there they were buzzing around, like irritating high-pitched mosquitos. Finally I sat down and spat them out. And then my brain was at ease again. 

Wtf was that after all these years? Who knows. 

Sometimes my mind has strange responses to Ramadan, when everyone's godliness comes out to play (yes I pronounce Ramadan with a 'd' because I grew up in Arabia, don't hate me). And don't get me wrong, I love OD-ing on samosa grease. Who doesn't. But aside from the post-sunset snacks its not a very comfortable time for me. This 'manufactured' annual ultra-religiosity is something I can't easily digest. 

Its not just Ramadan though, it's the general state of the motherland - the sweeping radicalization that's erasing all traces of our once colourful subcontinental culture.

From all the way over here, it really seems like some dark circus...too fucked up to be real. It conjures up visions of a macabre fair ground...

(*** indicate a change in speaker)

click picture to enlarge

The Fundistan Circus

A ringmaster with a turban
erases my bourbon…

He’s mad about swine 
better hide my wine. 

He’s an ‘honourable' man, 
doing whatever he can…

to rid the world of sluts and whores and women with feeling
The volume of prayer calls has my head reeling. 


***

You’re a filthy, filthy woman
we won’t use a gun. 

We’ll chop off your head, 
(not before we take you to bed) 

At this circus, 
the tightrope is where you live. 
The bearded man cracks a whip, 
till you’ve got nothing left to give. 



if you're draped in black cloth we can save your soul,
As long as you ignore that big gaping hole…
in our morality, 
would you like to see….

my cock? 

doesn’t matter, 
already hard as a rock. 

I’ll put it inside, so you can fulfill your duty. 
I like how this cloth covers your beauty. 

It’s mine to enjoy, alone. 
I can’t make you moan…

from pleasure that is. 

But I can make you scream, 
it would seem.
If you disobey me in the slightest. 

As a male, I am the rightest. 

These clowns at the circus do what I say,
I can push them around in any way. 

I speak to the skies,
and they are wise. 

There are voices in my head. 
Telling me to make you dead.

***

Come in, come in, 
please come in.
Enjoy the show, 
-segregated seats, though.

We cannot mingle, 
our genitals tingle. 
are you single? 

Join our troupe,
we’ll give you soup.
In the after life, 
we’ll find you a wife. 

The end of the show, 
we go out with a bang. 

Here put this on, 
It won’t be long. 
It’s just a vest. 
Then you can rest. 

popcorn for sale, 
it’s a little stale. 
But so is our tale.
Our snacks say Bismillah,
You gotta love the Shariah!  


would you like to believe? 
on this starry eve…
believe in magic, 
but the kind that’s tragic. 

It should wrap you in fear,
and extract all you hold dear. 

That’s how you’ll know
you’re enjoying the show!