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I’m a Mooz-lum

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By: Ethar El-Katatney

I cried while watching a movie today.

I never cry in movies.

But today I cried because I saw pieces of my soul in a movie. It spoke to me. Deeply.

It’s a movie that on some level I was thirsty for. So, so thirsty. And I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was.

I went to a nursery called ‘Tom and Jerry.’ The first song I learned was “Twinkle twinkle little star.” The first cartoon I watched was Barney the purple dinosaur. I went to middle school and started reading Roald Dahl. I devoured the Sweet Valley Twins series. I had a crush on Johnny Bravo. I went to high school and started watching movies like American Pie, about the trials of high school life: dating, drinking, dancing, exc.

But you see, these things were so far removed from my life.

I am a Muslim. I don’t date. Drink. Dance.

The issues I went through in high school were so much more than simply worrying about what that boy thought of me. Instead, I was struggling as the only veiled girl in the entire school. Struggling to come up with an excuse for why I couldn’t go to a friend’s 13th birthday party where you had to “bring a date”. It was a time where I struggled, hard, to balance between aspects of my identity that on the surface seemed contradictory.

I knew no one going through a similar struggle — no family members, no friends. And there were no movies or books to at least reassure me that I was not alone. Like the times when I felt like ripping off that veil or accepting that locket from a boy I liked were normal — that feeling that way did not make me bad.

Instead, the media I consumed made me feel like an alien — telling me that the lifestyle I read about in books and saw on television was the norm, and that opting out of that lifestyle made me a freak, an oddity.

Where were the people like me? In real life? In movies?

Enter Mooz-lum, stage right.

Mooz-lum is a movie that traces the life of Tariq, a young black Muslim American boy. Raised in an extremely conservative household, he rebels once he goes to college. 9/11 happens and lives change.

It’s a movie about faith. Identity. Tolerance. Struggle. Coexistence. Discrimination. Coming of age.

It’s a movie that every young Muslim will empathize with. A movie that showcases the nuances of struggling to fit in. Of the journey we take to find out who we are and how to stay true to ourselves once we do.

And it begins with peer pressure. And family.

Peer pressure is hard, no matter what faith you are. We all want to fit in. No one wants to be different in high school, let alone different in a way that has such negative connotations — “that’s a Mooz-lum name!” laughs the students in school at Tariq.

I wanted to be blonde and white.

I wanted to be like everyone else.

I wanted a mom who would cook burgers and fries. A cool dad who would drive me to prom. Because that is what ‘normal’ was.

Instead, I got parents I loved deeply, but couldn’t understand how they were so different from me. I felt like I was bending over backwards to satisfy them but it was never enough. I always felt like I was failing them.

We are a generation that is just so so different from our parents.

My dad—like Tariq’s—proudly wears a thobe and kufi out in public. I was embarrassed of him as a child. And then ashamed at being embarrassed to have him pick me up from school.

No matter how hard he tries to compromise, it is just never enough, because we come from such different backgrounds.

My paternal grandmother never went to high school, and she got married at age 15 to a 40-year-old man. My father believes I am a spinster at 23 and sees the fact that I went on to college and then graduate school as the biggest compromise. That is the way he is, and that is the way he will remain.

Tariq’s story highlights this beautifully — the struggle we go through to please our parents, and our comprehension that although they may try, they will find it hard to do as Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib advised:

“Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.”

At the same time, Mooz-lum makes you feel for the parents — they want children like them. Better than them. Children who will get the chance to do what they couldn’t. And they want to protect them from the aspects of a culture that they see as against their beliefs.

My dad forbade me to go to prom. I’ve never been to a concert. I’m home before 10pm every night. My dad wants me to read Arabic fluently. He wants me to learn the Qur’an by heart. He wants my brother to pray in the mosque. Grow a beard. Dress ‘Muslim’. He wants us to be good Muslims in the way he understands good Muslims must be. And I cannot fault him for that. And as I grow older, the more I am able to appreciate how hard it was for him to compromise, and the more I understand that being tough can sometimes be the hardest thing to do.

But how to make parents understand that culture and faith are not the same?

And how will we raise our own children? Where will we put the limits? How to raise them in a way that they choose to be Muslims? Choose to abide by the rules because they want to? Where do we relax the rules? When do we let them choose?

Do we send them to the schools where they struggle so much? Or to Muslim schools that come with their own kind of problems?

Tariq’s father sends him to a madrasa—a Muslim school where the children dress in thobes and kufis, eat on the floor from one big bowl, and basically live a life that is different from the world outside its walls.

I went to a school like that in Yemen. But I went by choice as an adult, to see what life ‘away’ from the ‘world’ is like, where in no way am I odd or strange. I do not believe that Muslim schools, run by people from our parents’ generation, are the solution. If they’re not run properly, they run the risk of alienating the children. And to be run properly they need people like me, like Tariq, to run them. Who understand what it is like to grow up between cultures and with multiple identities.

But I digress.

The question Mooz-lum raises: How to create a vibrant American Muslim culture? One that is wholly American and wholly Muslim at the same time, rather than neither nor? How to be so secure in who we are and what we believe in order to be able to develop this culture? How to find our place in this world? Where we are proud of our roots and history, proud of our faith, and yet truly citizens of this world?

And these issues aren’t just limited to Americans. We talk about globalization. But the reality is, we’re talking about Americanization. The world is becoming Americanized.

I’m sitting at Starbucks in a mall right now, sipping my tall-skinny-vanilla-latte and staring at a Christmas tree while listening to Frank Sinatra. I just finished typing an analysis of a Harvard Business School case for my MBA class on my MacBook, I’m sending a bbm from my blackberry, and I’m staring at the Apple store across from me and wondering if I really need an iPad, and whether or not I maxed out my American Express credit card this month.

I’m dressed in Levis jeans, Converse trainers, a GAP sweater, and I just came from Gold’s Gym. I’m meeting friends in an hour to see Tangled at the 3D cinema, where we will buy caramel popcorn and then have lunch at Chilis or TGIF. And then dessert at Haagen-Dazs. Then we’ll walk around the mall — I want to buy the new Jodi Picoult book from Virgin, that dress I liked from Zara, and the new raspberry body butter from The Body Shop.

But you see, I am not in America.

I am not American.

I have never even been to America.

I was born in Saudi Arabia.

The mall I am in is in Cairo, Egypt.

I am Egyptian and I have lived in Egypt all my life.

And yet — my identity is no longer purely Egyptian.

In the world we live in today, so many Muslims are going through what I am going through, without ever having stepped foot in America. We don’t have to be American to be Americanized. And we don’t have to be Americanized to struggle as Muslims in a world where religion is seen as backward. Where modernity and civilization seem to be mutually exclusive with faith.

We’re all adrift in confusion. Trying to make sense of our identity, and trying to see where we fit.

As Muslims, we’re struggling to find the balance. Struggling against the loud voices that tell us our faith is violent. Struggling to prove that it is not. Struggling against ourselves and against an outside world that seems to be against us.

It’s so hard.

And sometimes, we slip up. Sometimes, a small little voice tells you:

“Dude, your life would be so much easier if you could just go with the flow.”

If you didn’t have to announce to the world that you were Muslim, with all the baggage and connotations and responsibility that it entails.

If you were just like everyone else.

Tariq decides to be T. To shed the part of him he doesn’t realize is his core. He goes drinking, clubbing, kisses a girl, and decides he doesn’t want any part of ‘it’.

But even when we slip up — the guilt is there.

There aren’t enough words to describe the scene where Tariq recites the Qur’an out loud and tears up. Because that’s what it boils down to — if you truly truly believe, you will not find a joy in this world that is as beautiful as the joy you do when you submit to God.

And that is what makes the struggle worth it — to find the place where you are comfortable in your dual identities, part of the world, not isolated, and yet not schizophrenic, torn apart.

So that was how Mooz-lum impacted me on one level. And partially why movies like it are necessary—for Muslim youth who need  to know that they’re not alone.

But the movie is so much more that.

In American society today, artistic expression, and more specifically movies, are the way to impact people. Once upon a time it was poetry. Then it was books. Now, it is movies. As Ingmar Bergman, the famous Swedish director and producer, said:

“Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.”

When I left college I became a journalist. My job is media. I live in it.

And I don’t think anyone would argue with me when I say that Muslims in western media are grossly misrepresented, that misconceptions are circulated, and that we have been reduced from rich, complex individuals into one-dimensional representations and a monolithic entity. In 2001, Jack Shaheen analyzed the way Arabs (might as well be synonymous with Muslims) were portrayed in over 900 movies for his book Reel Bad Arabs. He found that only a dozen portrayals were positive and fifty balanced.

You know the drill.

The reality is that media shapes perceptions. And the western media of the world today has disfigured the image of Islam, ingrained misconceptions and stereotypes, and consequently promoted intolerance, racism, hatred, and violence.

According to Media Tenor, a research firm that monitors and analyzes media coverage of key issues

The tone of statements in US television news in 2009 about Islam (40%) was twice as likely to be negative than the statements made about Christianity (20%). Two-thirds of the television coverage about Islam associates Muslims with extremism.

A Gallup study on religious perceptions in America released earlier this year showed that the more ignorant Americans were about Islam, the less prejudiced they were towards it.

Why? Because they were ignorant — they were not exposed to as much media. If they had, they would have been more prejudiced, since the media image of Islam is violent and horrible and oppressive

And this disfiguration of the faith has gone virtually unchallenged in the public mind simply because Muslims in the west have not yet attained a high enough level of comfort in their identities to express their spirituality through the arts, whether that be music, plays, books or movies.

But this is changing. Muslims are starting to speak up for themselves. The New York Times just ran an article this week about Muslim artists who are bridging American and Islamic traditions with their art.

And that’s why a movie like Mooz-lum is groundbreaking. It isn’t a one-dimensional representation. It doesn’t portray Muslims as angels or demons. It portrays the humanity: we love, we hate, we do good, we do bad. And yes, there are people out there who give Islam a bad name: who beat children, who preach violence. And there are those who do good: who call for mercy, for co-existence, who are great human beings doing great things for the world. Nothing is as black or white as it seems, and the actors do a beautiful job of portraying the complexities of the characters writer and director Qasim Bashir brought to life.

Mooz-lum goes deep beyond the cliches and the headlines, to the heart. It isn’t the best movie you’ll ever see. But it’s a damn good one, and it is groundbreaking. Because the only way for us to start tackling the stereotypes is in the same way they are perpetuated: movies.

For non-Muslims, the movie is perhaps more important: a chance for them to hear Muslims speaking about what it is like to be Muslim. To see the nuances it would be impossible to get across in a conversation or two. To see how 9/11 impacted Muslims: In 2003, the FBI created an Arab-American advisory committee after hate crimes against people perceived to be Arab or Muslim increased by 1,700%.

I believe that working in media, creating movies and songs and books that reflect ‘us’ is just as important as everything else Muslims have to do in the world today —reinterpret scripture, properly teach Islam to children, condemn violence, etc.

But it’s a heavy burden, and not one many of us choose to bear — especially those of us who are successful, articulate, cosmopolitan and secure in who they are, and therefore the most qualified to stand up and say “Yes, I’m a Muslim. This is why. This is my community. These are my struggles. No, I am not x, or y, or z.”

It could potentially harm your career. It’ll put you in the spotlight. You will be judged as a “Mooz-lum,” and not as a lawyer, a doctor, an anchor, a teacher.

But it is our responsibility as Muslims. Actually, scratch that. It is our responsibility as citizens and humans to speak up for a beleaguered faith, which lacks the political and cultural power to fight back.

Mooz-lum Trailer

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4axp5V_j6E[/youtube]

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Avatar

    deaniedan

    June 14, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Fantastic Article :)

  2. Avatar

    SisterinDeen

    June 14, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    a VERY beneficial and informative article Masha’Allah
    and the fact your not American – Subhan’Allah
    Globalisation at its peak

  3. Avatar

    Zakir

    June 14, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    i haven’t read such a good writing for long time
    good job!!

  4. Avatar

    Think

    June 14, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I am confused.

    Why is the spread of American consumerism being portrayed in such a way in this article?

    Is it a positive, really is it a positive at all, that you spent time thinking about whether your credit card had been maxed out this month or not? That you can go gaga over absurd gadgets wherever you are, that have no functions that are necessary which laptops an eighth their cost do not?

    Do you know why so many convert? Because those things are hollow. They are vile. They are not necessary. They are not necessary at all. They feel, ‘this is where life is, this is where being is, this is how being is and this tells me where I will go when I am nothing in this world, this tells me how to offer up my heart to my Creator.’

    Is it ‘cultural’ to learn Arabic, to know the Qur’an by heart, to dress the Sunnah? You can dress the Sunnah in baggy jeans and a long shirt and a kufi. Is wearing a kufi so awful? Is growing a beard ‘cultural?’ Is the Sunnah ‘cultural?’

    Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadawi said: ‘Beware the emergence of a European or American Islam,’ and sure, maybe he said it from his background in IndoPak, you can say that if you want- but he said it for good reason. When we’ve all submitted to the mall instead of to Allah, this is when there will be problems that make the problems we have now look like ‘my kittens are too adorable.’

  5. Avatar

    Ahmed Muhammed

    June 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    I have yet to watch the movie, but it’s nice to finally see a movie that is centered around what Muslims, and Muslim youth go through in today’s society, frankly I was getting tired of movies that depicted Muslims as always being terrorists. I think that’s another reason why I gained a liking for blaxploitation films from the 70’s like dolemite.. wouldn’t suggest watching it, but it shows a different side of black america than what was out there at the time, where african americans were depicted in a negative light.

  6. Avatar

    Rebekah

    June 14, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    wow. What a fantastic article. I completely and totally understand this struggle. Being a white American convert to Islam (as an adult–age 24) with two small children (they were 3 & 5 at the time) and later marrying another convert who converted in college at age 21, who is also a white American, and being the only white Muslim family in our area (and one of only about 4 Muslim families total in the town) and my children now being 11 and 13, its very real to me, every single minute of every single day.

    Even the Muslims speak to me in Arabic, because they dont even consider that I wouldnt speak Arabic, and Im so used to being stared at, that I joke about wearing clothing to advertise causes I am passionate about, just to get awareness out there, because I know everyone will stop and look at me.

    My children are having a very difficult time, my oldest does not want anyone to know he is Muslim, because he is afraid of what they may do to him, because he has seen how people see Muslims in America (and abroad too unfortunately) and how hateful and cruel they can be, and kids in middle school are that way to everyone, much less someone “different’, but I wear hijab, every single day, so as much as he wants to hide his religious identity, it doesnt work all that well, because everyone knows who I am, I get described as “the white woman who wears the headdress”.

    I feel the most for my daughter though, she is 11 and masha’Allah she is strong and values herself as a person above all else, and as much as she wants to be like all the other girls, she knows that its not the right way, and she knows why, and she CHOOSES not to do things that are against Islam on her own (at least most of the time) I think in some ways, being a convert makes that easier on our children, because I know what that “other life” is like, and I can share stories, and the good and the bad, and I never, ever approach something that is against Islam with “dont do it because its haram and you will go to the hellfire” I tell them, dont do ___ because people wont value you for your mind, and wont respect you or treat you nicely and it makes you look like a bad person” and then I let them choose what to do, I wont force them to do anything, their spirituality, as much as I wish I could make it what I want, is not under my control, it is my job to influence them and teach them why Islam is right, and good and why they should love and follow Allah, but forcing them to do so, when every single person they know or talk to or hear about—including all of their family other than their parents (some of which are openly hostile about Islam to their faces)…since being converts, we have no Muslim family–is going to push them away from Islam, period….and I know that intuitively, so as hard as it is for me to watch them struggle, its something I have to do, and they have to make their own way.

    We have made our own Eid traditions, we have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner and hang green lights and give each person wrapped gifts on their prayer rugs at Maghrib on the first day of Eid and they help me make decorations for the house and we go to the mosque and just try to make it as fun as possible. We give them an allowance based on “good deed points” that they earn for chores and positive behavior during the week, and just try to point out the practical values of being a Muslim in addition to spiritual and eternal values of Islam. Its hard work, but Insha’Allah it will be worth it.

    Im very glad that there is a movie like this, and I have been able to find a book or two about being a teen Muslim today that I bought for the kids, and Insha’Allah, we will make our voices heard and things will change for our children and their children, and

  7. Avatar

    Muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    I find it saddening to hear that people have to turn away from the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to build a bridge between themseleves (as Muslims) and the West.

    Personally, I don’t see why there is this gap between religion and a Country or place that a person lives in. I believe that people create these problems themseleves as Islam (as the sister explained in this article) is not presented in the media the way it should be portrayed. I completely disagree on the idea that we as Muslims should use music, or in other words, go against the Qur’an and Sunnah just to capture our identities because by following the Qur’an and Sunnah that ultimately leads to our real identities. Where we live is merely our geographical positioning on the Earth. I won’t be asked on the Day of Judgement about the land that Allah has placed me in, rather, I will be held accountable for the state of my heart and my actions that I carried out whilst I lived in this short transient life.

    I am a Muslim youth who lives in the West and have been learning this religion in practical for nearly two years. If anything, ISLAM has taught me how to be a part of society. Islam has taught me how to assist in aiding others. Islam has taught me how to respect and honour my parents. And Islam, has taught me how to deal and be tolerant of those who disagree with my belief- that being to have patience.

    Sadly none of these teachings have been taught by the West and in actual fact, the West teaches pretty much the opposite.

    Islam is the way forward. It’s the media that strives to suggest the reverse.

    • Avatar

      Brother

      June 14, 2011 at 7:37 PM

      I completely disagree on the idea that we as Muslims should use music, or in other words, go against the Qur’an and Sunnah just to capture our identities because by following the Qur’an and Sunnah that ultimately leads to our real identities. Where we live is merely our geographical positioning on the Earth.

      Jazakum Allah khayr!

    • Avatar

      tuwaylib

      June 14, 2011 at 10:12 PM

      masha allah, an excellent response to the article. I actually watched this movie to see if it really depicted the life of a muslim. Rather its trying to show that as a muslim, you dont have to be conservative. You can be american as apple pie and still claim to be a perfect muslim.

      awful movie, i wouldn’t recommend it.

    • Avatar

      MM

      June 20, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      @Muslima,
      “Sadly none of these teachings have been taught by the West and in actual fact, the West teaches pretty much the opposite.”

      I completely disagree that “Muslim” and the “West” are different. If so, you are saying that the “East” is Muslim/Islam.
      If we are ever to move away from the idea that Islam/Muslims are aliens, we need to break down this false category of East/West. This includes referring to the false dichotomy of “Muslims” and “Westerners” as distinct. I am a “Westerner” and I am Muslim. The two identitities do not clash.East/West does not exist–we live in a round world and the geographical maps are superficial.

      As a Westerner, I also hate that “the West” is always under fire for being “anti-Islamic” when most Westerners (Muslim and non-Muslim) stand up for democracy (and other Islamic values) than so-called Muslim countries. “The West” is not the bad guy.

      • Avatar

        Muslima

        June 20, 2011 at 6:34 PM

        @Brother and @tuwaylib, may Allah bless you.
        @MM:

        “If so, you are saying that the “East” is Muslim/Islam.”

        Well no, I’m not saying that. I’m sorry if you haven’t understood my point. I was arguing exactly what you just stated; “East/West does not exist–we live in a round world and the geographical maps are superficial”. I specifically related to the West as that was a simple comparison I was making between the teachings of Islam and the teachings presented in the West.

        “The West” is not the bad guy”

        No one’s claiming that a piece of land is the bad guy. Rather, it’s what the West promotes that clashes with the teachings of Islam and I’m sure you are well aware of what those teachings are. With regards to democracy, well actually if you looked into the English law you would find that this law is highly undemocratic and has been criticised to a great extent.

        Moreover, Islam does not go hand in hand with democracy. Democracy is a man-made system which in essence is law made by man for man. Thus it is contrary to Islam, because rule is for Allaah, the Most High, the Almighty, and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being, no matter who he is.

        “..that Islam/Muslims are aliens”

        – I’m not sure what you meant here. How are Muslims aliens if they form a part of society? Perhaps you are relating to this hadith:
        “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” [Sahih Muslim]

        • Avatar

          MM

          June 20, 2011 at 6:52 PM

          I just do not understand what exactly is “the West”. I understood your points, but what I never understand is how people refer to “the West” as if it is one monolothic body. What exactly is “the West?” And how is geographical location clash with Islamic values? In your response, you clarified this and said that you are referring to the values that “the West” promotes. This is problematic for me. There are plenty of trash values being promoted in so-called Islamic countries. I say “so-called” because I do not believe that there is one true Islamic nation on this Earth. In many so-called Islamic nations, you have the denial of basic women’s and human rights. You also have stealing and killing and promotion of violence. Whatever “bad” values you are assigning to “the West” are not “Western”…they are simply bad values that can be practiced by anyone anywhere.

          “Moreover, Islam does not go hand in hand with democracy. Democracy is a man-made system which in essence is law made by man for man. Thus it is contrary to Islam, because rule is for Allaah, the Most High, the Almighty, and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being, no matter who he is.”

          I think many Muslims would disagree that democracy is unIslamic. Shariah law is also manmade. There needs to be individuals to interpret the Quran in order to decide how to implement laws. Surely, you do not believe that God talks to us directly, do you? If so, I do not know what else to say to you. There needs to be a system in place and that system is developed and implemented by fallible beings–just like any other manmade system. One can have a democracy without having it necessarily clash with Islamic values. I live in a democracy and I practice Islam. I am mature enough to make my own decisions without having a mullah over my head telling me what to do.

  8. Avatar

    Abu Fatimah

    June 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Could the author of the article explain why s/he is talking about serious sins of his/her past, such as watching filthy movies like american pie, listening to music, and immitating the most corrupt kuffar culture in the world. I have no idea what the aim of this article is except to corrupt muslims. Sorry to be harsh but I really advise you to learn your deen and make dua that Allah remove this pathetic attotude of muslims in arabv countries from trying to act american. Makes me sick. Im a british convert who lives smack bang in teh middle of dar al kufr in teh UK and I really dont feel any need for music or christmas trees or trying to immitate kuffar. Dont you understand that these are serious issues in the religion? Allahu musta’aan. This website should be combatting these tyoes of things, not justifying them and promoting them. Wallahi the muslims deserve to be in the mes we are in today

    • Avatar

      Dreamlife

      June 15, 2011 at 4:13 AM

      I think she wrote it that way because she was telling a personal story – a story which helps readers, who grew up like her, to relate to why this movie was so important.

      We all know the truth – that we shouldn’t be watching such movies, listening to such music, etc. But the reality – as highlighted in her personal story – is that much of the Muslim youth worldwide DO grow up in cultures that are Americanized. So you see Saudi and Egyptian kids imitating this ‘kuffar culture’ – because globalisation has made this ‘kuffar culture’ that standard in today’s world.

      We may not like that – but it’s the truth.

      And we can’t blame the ‘kuffar’ for all of this. If we were strong in the deen like we should be, we wouldn’t have allowed their culture to come in and colonize our hearts and minds. But it’s weakness of deen that makes us vulnerable – and when that happens, it’s easy for the soldiers of shaytaan to come marching in and corrupt and entire society.

      Brother – I understand your wanting to be strong and anti-this culture; but when dealing with youth, we need to be smart about how we preach and teach. Taking a hardline approach and immediately condemning their actions – their acceptance of this ‘kuffar culture’ – is not the route to go.

      Perhaps because you didn’t grow up as a Muslim youth in this kind of culture, you didn’t experience the dangers of that approach: when a Muslim kid lives in a Western culture, and then you get the hardline imams who are preaching fire and brimstone, fear and hellfire.

      That approach just doesn’t work for many Muslim youth. It pushes them away – rather than bringing them into the deen.

      Some could take the attitude: ‘If i’m so bad and going to hell – like your preaching implies – I may as well enjoy my life here in this world.’

      Our ultimate aim is to show them that that culture is wrong, and to encourage them to leave it.

      But the APPROACH needs to be wise, and needs to use what will be effective for THEM (as long as it is within the realms of Shariah – which obviously rules out things like music).

      There’s such a thing as da’wah to Muslims. And in my view, that requires just as much effort as da’wah to non-Muslims – because we see how many of our Muslims (and youth especially) are drowning in the unIslamic cultures they live in…(EVEN in Egypt or so-called Muslim countries).

      I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment – that we need to enjoing the good and forbid the evil.

      But I disagree with your approach.

      We need to call to Islam with wisdom and good words. And that means being sensitive to the dilemmas of the youth, and preaching the message in a way that is effective – that speaks to THEM…NOT in a way that is harsh and threatening.

      After all – you catch more flies with honey than vinegar…right?

      I’m not saying do haraam things to get the message across (e.g. da’wah through punk rock music which has lyrics calling to Islam)…but I am saying choose your methods in the ways that are most effective, within the bounds of Shariah.

      • Avatar

        Rebekah

        June 15, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        I couldnt agree more. When I think of how to deal with teaching Islam, to myself, my husband, my children or anyone else, I think of our Prophet (saw) and how did he teach the Muslims in Makkah and Medina? He didnt start out saying “wear hijab, dont listen to music, dont curse, dont drink, etc.”, he gave them small instructions, the Sahabah didnt even pray until after the Miraj, so why do we expect kids who are raised around other cultures not to rebel if all we tell them is what they “cant do” and dont give them reasons and show them the beauty and the logic of what they can do. I dont know many adults who would embrace Islam when only taught halal vs. haram and never had any explanations of whats wrong with the haram and whats good about the halal in today’s world, and especially so when all their friends and other non-Muslims are telling them to go and do the exact opposite of what they are being pushed to do by their parents. but giving them reasons why doing it is okay or better and treating them like they have brains in their heads to make choices for themselves.

        Thats one of the reasons why I became a Muslim in the first place, because I asked “why is it this way?” and got answers that made sense and wasnt told “because its the way it is” or “because I said so” or “because you will go to the hellfire” thats what pushed me away from how i was raised to begin with, that my questions were dismissed as unimportant…and our children are the same way.

        We have to treat them like people, and realize that Allah considers them adults at puberty, so if Allah thinks their mind is sufficient at that point to know right from wrong, why should we not think their mind is the same and teach them, rather than force them as if they didnt know any better? After he reaches puberty, Im not going to be asked by Allah, why my son did this or that, Im going to be asked “why didnt you teach him the right way?” and since I am doing so, at least to the best of my ability, my heart will be clear in that regard.

        thats just my 75 cents on the subject :)

    • Avatar

      Dawud Israel

      June 17, 2011 at 10:34 PM

      You were reading a different article…

  9. Avatar

    Abu Fatimah

    June 14, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    I see that your a sister, sorry if my tone was innappropriate and rude towards a sister, but wallahi its saddening taht i come into islam and the muslims and trying to be the very kuffar i just left, this whole american arabs thing makes me physically sick and its really not something to promote to the ummah, its something that is sinful and we should be ashamed of these things, not writing about them on blogs. this is a disease that has plagued the ummah. I see many saudi students here who come in looking and talking like americans with music blasting and honestly i just feel sad that they could turn out like this when they grew up in saudi arabia of all places and makes me realise that something has to be done about the corruption teh kuffar is spreading in the muslim lands as nowhere is safe now from their fasad

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      June 14, 2011 at 10:50 PM

      Salaam,

      I don’t think the author meant to promote her past sins. It seems to me that the author is trying to express their struggle in life with their identity as a Muslim. She is just being real about her feelings and frankly telling the truth about what the Muslim youth is going through.

      See, there is one thing to do wrong things in life. Committing many sins and then eventually repenting from them because you and society knew all along very clearly that they were wrong. The problem these days is that living a life of sin, materialism, 24/7 entertainment and being immodest is actually accepted/promoted by society and the youth of this world are being hit with this message on a daily basis. So its not just the author having fun talking about her sins or what not. She is expressing how a young person struggles with this unique environment that we call the 21st century and that many scholars call the “Akhira Zaman” – the end times.

      MashaAllah you wrote that you are convert. You came to Islam living in the west. There is a big difference between how you see the world and how the Muslim world sees you. I also grew up in the west. I see the results of “American Culture” on society, on family and on a individual’s heart and soul. I live in a developed country who rules the world. I do not ever truly feel threatened by another nation’s power over my country and I have never worried about starvation for myself in my life. Never. Not even once. Matter of fact, I have never worried about how I would get anything in life. I have always had a good job or business where money was rolling in. Good credit. I can get anything I want that is advertised on TV in less than a week delivered to my door.

      And after all of that, I am SICK of all this materialism. I am sick of 100 cable channels. I am sick of being able to just click away and buy almost anything I want whenever I want it. I am sick of enjoying the view of half naked women everyday. I am sick of hearing people’s drunk stories. I am sick of hearing the stories of people getting laid every week, sleeping with each other like a sick drama, committing fornication and adultery. I am sick of watching movies. I am sick of advertisements of movies and people talking about every single move they see every week like a religion. I am sick of feeling over full in my stomach from the amount of food I eat. I am sick of having the ability to eat American food, Indian food, Chinese Food, Arabic Food, Russian Food, Chinese Food, Caribbean Food, Moroccan Food, Turkish Food whenever I want all within half an hours reach. I ask myself is this life? Will any of this help me to be able to one day have a moment of realization that Allah is watching me? That I will be returning to Allah? Will I ever be able to feel that part of my existence that is more important than my brain and physical body? And I am sure this is the way you might also think. Because you have had enough of it. You have seen that it leads to nothing. And you know deep inside that maybe you are not sick of these Actual things but sick of the fact that everyone around you seems to think that these things are happiness and the purposes of their life. That is what you are truly sick of and sad about.

      But Muslims living in the Muslim world have not had these experiences yet. They are just starting to indulge in this western culture. And, yes, we have to admit that they are indulging in it at an even faster rate that the West is, but they just started. They are viewing the western world through the strong, powerful and misleading lens of the Media. What they think everyone in the west is doing might not necessarily be what the west is actually doing. They are made to be interested and infatuated with living this “western” life that seems mysterious and so fulfilling to them. And they are being caught off guard through this powerful technology that brings these messages to them. They don’t understand how strongly it will penetrate them. How strongly it will penetrate their minds and pierce their souls.

      Two different perspectives.

      I always tended to see the Muslim world as the young buck coming up in the world not knowing what they are getting into when they are following the ways of Western Life. And I always saw myself as that old man who has gone through the waves and motions of life and the western world and I know how foolish these youngsters are thinking that they will find any peace or contentment from pursuing this path in life.

    • Avatar

      BintKhalil

      June 15, 2011 at 12:43 AM

      Assalamu alaikum

      Brother Dawud, I completely agree with you that it is absolutely pathetic that Muslims in Muslim lands are so steeped in this unfortunate lifestyle and I can only imagine what it must seem like for someone who has come from a non-Muslim lifestyle and considers himself liberated from it by Islam. However, the fact remains that this is indeed the case no matter how much we in the West might choose to ignore it.

      It is good to acknowledge the problem and speak about how a person overcame it, rather than have everyone who is unfamiliar with that part of the world, live in delusion, don’t you think?

  10. Avatar

    muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    i think you guys should watch the movie ” arranged” . heres the trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPnYPtbjUVo its about a muslim and a jewish girl.
    mooz-lum is good..but i think it could have been better.

    • Avatar

      Halima

      June 15, 2011 at 9:06 PM

      This article is awesome! It really makes a lot of sense, had to read it in parts since it was pretty long tho :D
      I’m definetly excited to watch Mooz-Lum the movie now good work :D

  11. Avatar

    Hamza 21

    June 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    It’s interesting to read what an non-american’s view of the film was especially since although African Americans make a huge percentage of the American Ummah they’re basically ignored by the media,Muslim and non-muslim. Though I’m sure the film wouldn’t resonate with Muslims of different backgrounds if the Muslim family in film weren’t portrayed as people adopting a foreign culture. A film where Muslims,especially Black Americans dress and live as Americans rather than pseudo Arabs or Pakstanis probably couldn’t get made. That seems to be the narrative the media wants to always project Musilms = foreign. Yet the movie is still a move forward in highlighting Islam in America just as another film “New Muslim Cool”.

    Also Qasim Bashir uploaded the first ten minutes of the film for those who want to see more of film before purchasing it.

    http://vimeo.com/24795145

  12. Avatar

    muslima

    June 14, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    movies such as “arranged” make you feel good about religion… the movie shows 2 modest girls from different religions who are pretty much practising their faiths. they are also shown to pray, not drink ,wear decent clothes , have ‘arranged marriages” and have happy lives. sweet.

    • Avatar

      AnonyMouse

      June 18, 2011 at 9:09 AM

      Oooh, I watched that movie! It was brilliant, and I really, really enjoyed it masha’Allah.

  13. Avatar

    kl85

    June 15, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    I’m sitting at Starbucks in a mall right now, (…) staring at a Christmas tree while listening to Frank Sinatra. (…) Harvard Business School case (…) MBA (…) MacBook, (…) blackberry, (…) Apple store (…) iPad (…) American Express credit card (…) Levis jeans, Converse trainers, a GAP sweater, (…) o see Tangled at the 3D cinema, (…) caramel popcorn (…) lunch at Chilis or TGIF. (…) Haagen-Dazs. Then we’ll walk around the mall (…) Picoult book from Virgin, that dress I liked from Zara, and the new raspberry body butter from The Body Shop.

    The sad thing here is that “American Culture” is almost exclusively identified with consumer goods and ways to make money.
    The question: Why is that? Because American Culture has really become that shallow or is that just the distorted picture we get here on the other side of the Atantic? (I’m from Germany.)
    It’s an honest question! It’s a sad thing if a culture is reduced to consumerism, and that’s exactly the image of the USA we get here….

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      June 15, 2011 at 1:38 PM

      I live in America – we have no culture here except consumerism. The only cultural things we have here are certain holidays like memorial day, labor day, presidents day and independence day. And most of the population here doesn’t even know the history behind these holidays and celebrate it by getting drunk and having BBQ dinners. And, of course, attacking the malls because of good sale prices on those holidays.

      Our clothing here has no cultural base. Whatever the TV tells people to wear here, they wear it.

      Our music has no meaning or cultural significance. One day everyone hates hip hop music, the next day everyone loves it. That is all determined by what the Music producers and advertisers want the public to like.

      Religiously, people are empty. Many of the religious movements in our country are just superficial and extreme and are more of a cult and have to do with people wanting to belong to a group rather than a true spritual understanding of the world.

    • Avatar

      Rebekah

      June 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      being from America, and never having lived anywhere else, I personally see that the majority of people here are so ethnocentric that they rarely even acknowledge the world outside of America unless it directly affects their well being, as in the case of 9/11. They get in their cars, go to work, come home, go out to eat, watch tv, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it again, without much thought at all to the world outside of their daily life, and to them “ignorance is bliss” because if they dont seek out something more, then they dont have to face the possibility of being wrong, or needing to change, or seeing a better way and being socially ostracized (by converting to another faith different from the “accepted” one in their community) or having that image of a “perfect life” that they have created in their mind, be destroyed by the reality of people starving and dying and homeless and the reality that other parts of the world live with daily and cant ignore. Its just easier to “not think about it”, although I dont know if its even a conscious decision for most Americans, its just the way “everyone” does it, and being “normal” is an obsession in our country, you protect the status quo at all costs. although I do think that if asked, Americans do care about other nations, but it becomes very easy to ignore their problems until you are confronted with them, so they dont even cross the radar of the average American on a daily basis, and thats very sad.

    • Avatar

      ahlam

      June 15, 2011 at 9:13 PM

      Its supposed to be that way…Capitalism. You need to have consumers who are constantly hungry for more to have a stronger economy, hence this ”buy your happiness”.Morality or society’s well-being doesnt matter, what matters is: does it sell? And it should.

      • Avatar

        Rebekah

        June 16, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        and that is exactly why I am not a proponent of Capitalism.

  14. Avatar

    convert

    June 15, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    When i converted to be a Muslim, I was afraid that I couldn’t fit in. I like movies, be it from Hollywood, Iran, India, China, or Europe. I enjoy music, from rock to jazz to pop. I also love gadgets. When I converted, I was afraid I had to give them all up. I was afraid that as a woman, I would be confined and degraded by men.

    Fortunately I have a good husband. He told me to always stick to the Quran whenever I have doubt, because people misinterpret a lot of things about Islam based on their traditions, their habits passed down from their parents, or even based on their own thinking. Some are based on Islam but some are not. I was very fortunate to have known ustazah Azwan who also told me the same thing.

    Checks in the Quran: none in it says that we can’t watch western movies, none says that we can only listen to Arabic music, none says that we can’t wear colourful clothes, none says that we can’t enjoy or use technology/gadgets/Ipad, none says we can’t have burgers. In terms of food, of course we have to have halal food. We still can have halal burger.

    • Avatar

      AbuJ

      June 20, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      To ‘Covert’
      Sister, The Qur’an has to be understood with the Sunnah and vise versa, both go hand in hand. If a certain is is not in teh Quran we look at the ahadeeth and see if the companions said anything about it. Music, alcohol, Zina, gambeling, etc are explicitely in teh Quran and Ahadeeth that says it is Haram. Whereas Movies, Hollywood or Boolywood etc that have no concern to a Muslim and her/his eemaan, ilm, that have music, free mixing, showing of Awrah, beauty, handsome men and beautiful women etc, this is not permissible to watch. Music and Arab or non Arab not permissible. Nasheed with only the Daff and good words amongst children and women on Eid or wedding and happy occasions is permissible. A principle of Ahlus-Sunnah wa Salafiyyah; Regarding the Dunya, everything is Halal, unless there is evidence of its prohibition and regarding the Deen everything is Haram unless there is evidence that it is allowed.

  15. Avatar

    Abu J

    June 15, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    The only way to combat steryotyping, negative portrayal of Muslims, is to be a Muslim, living and breathing the teachings of Islam correctly. Not trying to be like them or immitate them as it is Haram. Nor fight with same bullet. They make movies we make movies, they sing and dance , we sing and dance and name it Islamic Movie or Islamic song. No. May Allah guide us. No wonder we Muslims are in a mess, as we have turned away from the original Islam as understood by the Companions. The so called Muslims in teh Muslim land are striving to be like the Kuffar and compete and please them, what can be said about those who reside amongst the Kuffaar.???

  16. Avatar

    Khadeeejah

    June 15, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    Salam aliakum, After reading this article yesterday i immediately watched the movie, And walahi I had alot of issues with the movie, No.1, we Mulims don’t close our eyes while praying, 2. From what i got from the movie your allowed to have a relationship with the opposite sex, It’s Ok to listen to music,…….etc. Yes I know the Writer/Director had good intentions, But lets face it we can’t promote Islam through Haram methods, we will only get corrupted, Mislead Muslim youths, and deviate from our Deen. I totally agree with what Dream life has said, youths of nowadays are living in a time where almost everything around them is being westernized, so trying to follow the teachings of Islam could be a tad bit difficult, so a subtle, wise and firm approach should be taken in educating our youths but not through haram methods.

  17. Avatar

    Brother

    June 15, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Is watching this movie (just like any other movie) haraam? Of course, if you watch other movies, then this one is sure to be better (in terms of less haraam content) than them. It might be impractical to watch it if we want to lower our gaze. Also, I saw inappropriate gender interaction between Muslims in the trailer, i.e. not a good example.

  18. Amad

    Amad

    June 15, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Amazing article… fluid, eloquent and well-written!

    jazakillahkhair Ethar for sharing this with the MM audience.

    • Avatar

      SabunJameel

      June 15, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      MashAllah!, ditto
      It was a great read Barakallahu fiki

      There’s also a Movie review of Mooz-lum by Brother Dash on his website for those interested;
      http://brotherdash.com/?p=1128

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      June 18, 2011 at 5:35 AM

      Being fluid, eloquent and well-written is all that matters? What about being islamicallt correct?

  19. Avatar

    Abu Abdillah

    June 15, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I fail to see how this author is referring to life in Egypt. She mentions wishing she were blonde, invited to birthday parties where she requires a date. How did she experience such peer pressure in Egypt?

    The only places I know of in Egypt that would be so corrupt in upbringing are the foreigner schools like the British school, American, or Canadian. Having a religious father (according to the article), even if he desired for her a western education, there are plenty of American diploma schools in Egypt that follow some form of Islamic teachings, lifestyle, and education. Even some non-Muslim schools have quran classes! On top of that, a practicing father would have more than likely had his daughters goto azhar girl highschools growing up.

    Could someone please clarify, because she mentions that she spent her entire life in Egypt, I am curious about how exactly she felt out of place as a Muslimah, or the “only veiled girl”?

    • Avatar

      Holly

      June 15, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      Asalaamu alaiki not all of Egypt is Muslim run, nor are all Egyptians Muslim. There are are christians and NON Practicing people of both faiths living there as well. Also, not every “good parent” send their children to “Muslim” school. Some public school because they have to and others private or homeschool. Egypt is NOT all Quran and Sunnah everywhere and their mall has Huge Xmas trees and such other “Americanized” things and places.

      • Avatar

        Abu Abdillah

        June 15, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        walaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

        I am Egyptian and live in Egypt so I know well how it is. Like I mentioned, even many egyptian christian schools have muslim teachers for quran class and a place to pray the daily prayers. More than 90% of the country is muslim. The souq is and has always been a place of evil and shayateen, so it does not surprise to find places like city stars and such full of sin and transgression, but that it not the issue at hand as practicing families usually stay clear of those places.

        The question again is how does a practicing muslim man in Egypt who wants his kids to memorize the quran and pray in the masjid and wear a thawb (where in cairo it is uncommon save for practicing people) send his kids to schools so bad (and rare) that even being veiled and somewhat practicing is considered being an outcast? I’m sorry but as an Egyptian this scenario is very difficult to believe.

        Azhar schools are cheap and everywhere where even with their problems and underfunding they are far from Americanized in any way, as are pretty much every school in Egypt with the exception of foreigner schools as mentioned. I really can’t understand the aspects of her childhood and how she felt left out for being a practicing muslimah. wallahu ‘alam

  20. Avatar

    Abu Abdillah

    June 15, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    “My dad forbade me to go to prom. I’ve never been to a concert. I’m home before 10pm every night. My dad wants me to read Arabic fluently. He wants me to learn the Qur’an by heart. He wants my brother to pray in the mosque. Grow a beard. Dress ‘Muslim’.”

    Doesn’t seem to me that a practicing religious Muslim would send his children, let alone his daughters, to the Western owned schools in Egypt which are known for all kinds of evils and sins (a majority of teachers not even being Muslim or Egyptian). Furthermore, in a country like Egypt, there is no contradiction when it comes to those issues, as they are not cultural, rather religiously encouraged. I do not believe MM should be posting articles like this, as they paint a very negative and fictitious image of the Muslim world, in this case Egypt. The events or scenarios described in the article affect about 1% of the population, the top elite class who strive and struggle to become like Americans in every way, the majority of Egyptians don’t shop in those malls, don’t study in those schools, and have little in common with the feelings of alienation from their culture or religion.

    • Avatar

      Rosemary

      June 15, 2011 at 9:32 PM

      This article had me fooled, as I believed in the beginning its author was a Muslim raised in America until she stated otherwise.

      I do however find it a bit odd that a Muslim can feel alienated in a Muslim country.

      I’m also a bit tired of hearing how the “American or Western culture” is taking over the world. It only replaces another culture if the people welcome it and allow it.

      It seems to me the author had a choice here, somewhat, in that she could have maintained her Egyptian identity had she honestly wanted to do so. She did not and chose to become the “other” in her own country. Very odd.

      Odd and naive but to be expected from someone so young.

      • Avatar

        Rosemary

        June 15, 2011 at 9:36 PM

        I was not replying to Abu Abdillah. I was just posting a general comment really.

  21. Avatar

    Lonesha

    June 15, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    I have to echo what everyone else has said… this is a fantastic article. Jazakhah Allah kaire. It inspires me to be a Hijabi… to do better…

  22. Avatar

    Wahida

    June 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Salaams
    Where you get educated doesn’t matter IMO because I went to a Muslim school and not everyone was practising but I knew what was right and wrong Alhamdulillah. I won’t say I didn’t listen to music and watch all these American movies. Yes, it was a choice and I would love to blame it on peer pressure but I did have a choice and sometimes I did make the wrong choices. That’s part of growing up. It is those mistakes that have made me who I am today. Islam is not a forceful religion and like my sister said ‘if you truly, truly believe’ then Allah (swt) will never let you go astray. Realising your mistakes helps you become a better person. It is better to talk about the past mistakes that way you can share your stories on how you realised your wrong-doings, how you realised that these American practises were damaging your balance, how you realised that Astaghfirullah you’ve been wasting all that time when you could have been doing Ibadah. If anything this should make you fasten your hold onto your belief.

    It is especially hard for a Muslim child growing up in a non-Islamic state. Today, at 22 I live in a city where everyday, and I’m not exaggerating, everyday I get asked ‘why must I cover my hair, why do others observe the niqaab, why can’t I shake hands with men?’ And I have answered their questions as patiently as I could. So you can imagine what it is like for a child!! They tend to question themselves when asked by their peers about their religion. All we can do is gently guide our youth, teach them about the deen as much as we can, make them feel like they can talk to you (Alhamdulillah my parents always made me feel this way), most importantly be very patient with them and pray that InshaaAllah, Allah(swt) will show them the right path.

    Jazakallah sister, for the amazing read.

  23. Avatar

    Muslim

    June 15, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Great article, I just got done watching the movie after waiting months for it to come out on DVD. I’m only 15 but i realize now that it wasn’t what people were going to think of me, but more of what I thought of myself. I’ll admit I was ashamed when around my parents (especially when they were wearing traditional African clothing) and how embarrassing they were, now whenever one of my friends make an comment about me being African I just laugh along cause all there trying to do is make people laugh, they finally realized it gets old but they still do, only they say sorry after. Anyway Masha Allah on the article.

  24. Avatar

    Kimberly

    June 16, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    Reading this article gave me chills. It’s content, structure, style, and tone is brilliant. As an African-American revert I feel the author left no stone unturned in regards to prospective. I feel the author could not have been more relevant, eloquent, or poignant! Barakallah feek! Speechless. . .

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      June 18, 2011 at 5:31 AM

      So if an article is eloquent that makes it islamically correct?

  25. Avatar

    Mutiara Fatimah

    June 16, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Please next time videos should using caption/substitle so deaf muslim can understand about the content of that videos. After all it was good and like to watch it fully. Thank you.

  26. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    June 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Fantastic film review. Been a while since I read a good piece on MM. :P

    The twist in the middle where she’s actually in Egypt was a big surprise but very true.
    I hope to read more of Ethar El-Katatney’s writings here on MM.

    Shukran.

  27. Avatar

    Abu Sumaiyah

    June 18, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    Why do people consider this article good? What is the evidence from the Quran and Sunnah? Let’s refer to Allah Azza wa Jall and His Messenger.

  28. Avatar

    sister

    June 20, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    Wow. mashaaAllah..an amazing article.

    I have to say that i was shocked when you said you were in Egypt!

    i might actually watch this film now that you gave it such a good rating inshaAllah.

  29. Avatar

    Amina (mother of two)

    March 7, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Marsha Allah and I also cried at 46 years old! I also enjoyed your article. Very introspective- very real. One thing that the movie also showed was that true Islam does not tolerate extremism such as the abuse young Tariq suffered as he was learning to recite the Quran. I badly want my parents to see this movie. It moved me in a very real way. Our children in Trinidad do not seem to feel the pressures around them as in the States but we do have our fair share of hearing and reading what’s in the media. Thank you for your article again. Marsha Allah

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#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?

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Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:

immorality

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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A New Eid Tradition: Secret Gift Exchange

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Eid Al Adha, Eid Gift Exchange

Gift exchanges–they’re common traditions for many gift-giving holidays in America. I’ve participated in gift exchanges in religious and secular contexts and I’ve loved being a member and even a host of them in the past! This past Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr, I organized a secret gift exchange (we called it “Secret Bakra” from the Urdu “bakra” which means goat) with my siblings, cousins, and their respective spouses who live all over the US and it was one of the most memorable and fun things I have ever done for Eid in my life! The best part of a gift exchange like this is that I don’t have to feel the pressure of gifting 13 people gifts every Eid, but I feel as if I have!

Here’s a quick guide and some tips to help you and your family or friends organize an Eid gift exchange!

Gift Exchange Basics

A gift exchange requires: 

  • a group of 3 to 40 people
  • a budget range for the gift
  • deadlines for sending/receiving gifts
  • an organizational system to assign members who they will be giving gifts to

Optional parts of a gift exchange can be:

  •  some sort of exchange party (in-person or virtual)
  • gift recommendations/interests for each person to help nudge the gift-giver in the right direction)
  • an anonymous/secret exchange system with a reveal during the party/after everyone has gotten their gifts

Why a (Secret) Eid Gift Exchange? 

Following the Sunnah and Bringing People Together

The most important motivation anyone can have to organize or participate in a gift exchange is taken from a hadith of the Prophet (S) in which he says, “Mutual gift-giving increases the love between people.” This hadith can be taken as advice for a way to bring people closer together and with the intention of following the teachings of the Prophet (S). 

Celebrating Eid and Creating Meaningful Traditions

Another important motivation is to celebrate Eid, as the Prophet (S) has mentioned is a main annual holiday for Muslims, and to also make Eid special for you, your family, a group of friends coworkers, masjid volunteers, etc. Not only is it important for individuals and families to establish Eid traditions that everyone can look forward to (Eid shouldn’t just be fun for kids!), but it is particularly important in communities in which Muslims are a minority. I’ve always been a firm advocate for making fun, memorable Eids with exciting, wholesome Eid traditions and festivities. 

Manageable Way to Give Gifts within a Large Group of People

A gift exchange is a great way to give gifts in a large group of people without breaking the bank and without exhausting yourself trying to think of gifts for a bunch of people and then buying or making them. My cousins and I have gotten closer more recently due to an upswing in family weddings, and I really felt like giving all of them gifts last Eid.  But realistically, I didn’t have $200 to get all 9 people in this group a decent gift, or the time to make 9 gifts that were meaningful and special for each person, or the energy to come up with different gifts for all 9 individuals. A couple of years ago, my husband and I sent ice cream gift cards and personalized Eid cards to each one of our cousins (allocating $5 per cousin per family). It felt great to extend an “Eid ice cream on us” gesture, but for $45, it didn’t seem like we really got much of a bang for our buck. By doing a Secret Bakra Gift Exchange, we both spent under $30 total for our gifts, but it felt like more of a meaningful gift.  It also felt like each one of my siblings/cousins gave a gift to everyone in the group–and that’s the magic of gift exchanges! Although we didn’t give and receive 9 gifts on Eid, we all came together to celebrate our family ties and Eid in a special way and everyone felt like they scored on Eid. Lastly, if there’s a dedicated group of people that you always do a gift exchange with, such as extended family in my case, theoretically everyone will end up giving everyone else a gift when you consider probabilities if you do a gift exchange every Eid for enough years, right?  

Bridging the Gap: Togetherness Despite Age, Distance, Financial Means, etc.

One thing that was super magical for my cousins and I this past Eid was having the feeling that we celebrated Eid together. We’re always lamenting the fact that we seldom get together and rarely with all of us or talking about how if we were closer to each other then we’d do xyz awesome, fun things together all the time. This gift exchange wasn’t just about giving each other gifts–it was also about making time for a video call in which we all made it despite being strung across three different time zones and having work/school the next day to unwrap our gifts and wish each other a blessed and joyous Eid. It was also about creating a more tight-knit group and welcoming the newcomers to our extended family (we’ve had two weddings in one year and we’re all still getting to know the new spouses and vice versa). We’re all different in many ways–age, gender, religiosity, personality, etc.–and we may interact with each other (and even be fond of each other) at varying levels. Doing an anonymous gift exchange is a great way to force a person’s hand into making a greater effort to connect with another person in a wholesome, beautiful manner. Lastly, we considered our budget range to accommodate our financially-dependent younger cousins in high school, our unemployed bunch, our students, etc. No one felt burdened by the price tag for the gifts and everyone felt like they made a meaningful contribution no matter what their lifestyle or financial means allow. 

eid gift exchange

Tips on Making Your Secret Gift Exchange Easy, Fun, and…Did I Mention Easy?

With the business of worshipping in Ramadan and Dhul Hijjah on top of daily life struggles, who has the time to monkey around with extra nonsense like a gift exchange for Eid? Following these tips will help YOU pull off a great gift exchange with minimal time, effort, stress, and hiccups! (These tips will be particularly useful for people conducting a long-distance gift exchange.) 

  • Use a self-generating exchange system like “Elfster.” Have one person do it (it only takes 5 minutes to set it up) and send out the sign up link. You can even take turns every time you do a gift exchange. This way, nobody has to sit out the game because the website takes care of matching people in the group and can also let an administrator get in behind the scenes in case a problem arises (like someone doesn’t send their match a gift.) For the rest of the participants, signing up takes less than 5 minutes if you’re a first-time user and less than 2 minutes if you already have an account. The site draws names, notifies everyone of who they received, provides your match’s address, etc. It basically takes out all of the headache stuff that would discourage someone from wanting to organize one of these exchanges.  It can also allow for anonymous messaging, which can be handy for contacting your match to inquire about clothing sizes, color preferences, delivery options/issues, etc.
  • Set a budget range that’s friendly for the people of less financial means in mind. Think of the spread of your participating group members and make the exchange accessible to those who have the least means. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful and you don’t want to set a $80 budget if someone in the group is struggling to make ends meet every month. My recommendation is to choose a budget range so that each person isn’t busting their brains to try to get a gift as close to $15.00 as possible, for example. Determine whether or not you’d like to include shipping costs inside this budget. If someone is making a gift, then estimate how much you’d buy whatever is made if you got it from the store (this is probably a bit harder than just buying something that has a price tag associated with it.) Give a $3-7 range around a price point everyone seems comfortable with. Our budget for the last exchange we did was $12-17. Most participants bought gifts at the $14-17 range (which I think is better.) Some good budget range recommendations I have are the following: $14-17, $15-18, $18-22, $20-24, $25-29. For a higher budget: $28-33, $38-42, $48-53. 
  • Set a strict deadline for receiving the gifts before Eid and keep in mind your gift exchange party date/time. Make sure everyone knows that they need to have the gift delivered on or by a certain a date. Don’t have a “send by” date, that doesn’t really make any sense, and don’t have a deadline that spreads across a couple of days because it’s too confusing. My personal recommendation for the deadline is to have the deadline at least one or two days before the earliest day anyone in your group might be celebrating Eid (#MoonWars). This way, everyone can take care of their gift before the Eid madness sets in which can make Eid more enjoyable because no one is stressed out about their gift being delivered on time, and it gives a little bit of a buffer if there are any complications with delivery or fulfilling an order/shipment. 
  • Virtual exchange party: set it before Eid prayer. Eid day is just too crazy because people have a lot of things going on. Now take into consideration the fact that people celebrate Eid on different days…exactly. If you set your virtual exchange party for the night before the earliest Eid’s prayer, you’re nearly guaranteed to be able to catch everyone because no one will have an Eid dinner invitation for that night. Additionally, it will feed into the excitement for Eid which will be on the next day or two. 
  • Alternative virtual exchange party. You can have everyone send a video recording of themselves opening their gift on whatever day the gift deadline is or whatever day you want to have your “party.” This way, everyone can participate despite schedule conflicts. If there are a handful of individuals who can’t make the actual party, you can also have them send videos beforehand instead of joining into the party on the video call. This might also be helpful if you’re doing an exchange party in-person if you can have the one or two people who can’t make it video-call in or send video recordings beforehand (if it’s before, then that person would need their gift before the party.)
  • Anonymous gift-sending and guessing who the gift-giver is. Make sure that the person giving the gift does not reveal their identity in any way, whether that’s putting gifts in a dark room before the party starts or making sure that their name is not on the package being sent at all. What we like to do is to have the person guess who they think gave them the gift after they’ve opened it. Our rule is that if the person guessed correctly, then the gift-giver should confirm it was indeed them that gave the gift. This is one of the most fun parts of the exchange party in my opinion.
  • Have a code word in your package to signify that it’s a gift from the Eid exchange.  Let’s face it–online shopping is convenient and becoming increasingly so. It’s more likely than not that you will order something from online during the gift exchange, so in order to prevent confusion, include a code word in the name of the person you’re sending the Eid gift to. We chose to write “Bakra” as the middle name, so it’d look like “Muhammad Bakra Ahmad” on whatever package was intended to be their gift for the Eid gift exchange.

I hope all of these tips were useful! If you end up doing this Eid gift exchange in your family, let us know what the best gifts were this time around! 

Here are the gifts that we had in our Eid al Fitr gift exchange this past June!

  • Juvia’s Masquerade Eyeshadow Palette
  • NASA Worm Logo Shirt + The Great Wave off Kanagawa Tapestry
  • Jade Roller for Face
  • Music Record
  • Nose Frida
  • Campfire Mug
  • DSLR Camera Remote
  • Llama String Art Kit
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** + Knife Sharpening Stone
  • Philadelphia Eagles Sun Hat
  • Golden State Warriors Mug

May Your Eid Be Blessed!

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