Friday, February 17, 2012
Comment on Vapid, Inane Herald Column
First the Column:
Love, American Muslim style
By Raakhee Mirchandani
| Monday, February 13, 2012 |
anzila Ahmed loves a man with a Mohawk. Tolu Adiba is a lesbian. And Aisha C. Saeed married a man she only knew for six weeks.
Meet the American Muslim woman looking for love.
Fed up with stereotype of the sisterhood — all that subservient, veil-wearing, submissive stuff that painted them as oppressed and promised in marriage to old, bearded men — writers Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi are telling it from their perspective, and the perspective of 25 other ladies in their new anthology, “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.”
Mattu and Maznavi decided on the universal appeal of love stories to take ownership of the conversation about American Muslim women. Through a social media campaign and word of mouth, the duo solicited stories of love, loss and lust from women within their communities. After more than 200 submissions, they knew that it was time for the voices to be heard.
“A lot has been written about Muslim women but very little has been written by the Muslim women ourselves. And we really wanted to sort of shift the paradigm around, turn it on its head,” said Mattu, 38. “Many Americans don’t know a Muslim woman personally but they have this image of her. ... We felt that this was sort of our moment to come forward and tell their stories.”
The stories are filled with the kind of raw honesty usually reserved for private chats with your best friend. And together they successfully weave a new tale that transcends the idea that Muslim women are any different than those in any other religion.
Leila Khan recounts the painful day her non-Muslim fiance labeled all Muslims as terrorists. She had packed her bags, quit her job and was planning to move to Europe with him. It was the last day she ever saw him. Nura Maznavi dishes on resisting the urge to smooch Rohan, her “hot Catholic personal trainer” while on a Fulbright Scholarship in Sri Lanka. She was saving every part of herself for marriage, even her lips. Navja Sol remembers what is was like to lose her virginity at 15, after drinking cheap keg beer at a friend’s party. At 21, she comes out to her conservative Iranian parents in a coffee shop.
It’s interesting to see how faith intersects with love for these women — “InshAllah” means God willing —some convert, some grapple with the duality of worshipping Allah while still choosing lifestyles that conflict with traditional Muslim thinking. It’s a coming of age that any immigrant or child of an immigrant can understand. The complexity of straddling two identities, navigating two worlds and finding a way to successfully honor your culture and religion without losing the very core of who you are is a constant struggle for so many.
Ultimately, “Love, InshAllah” speaks to the most common of all human needs, the desire to love and be loved. And that transcends gender, religion and race.
Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi will read from “Love, InshAllah” today from 7 to 9 p.m. at Boylston Hall at Harvard University. Visit loveinshallah.com for more information.
Now the comment:
News flash: American Muslim women have "love lives". Who knew? These love stories are secrets, though, heretofore untold. I can't imagine why. The columnist feels though it is high time they came out from under wraps due to the vicious stereotyping faced by those women "in the community".
In facing down these ugly images, Ms. Mirchandani and her coterie of storytellers come up with boilerplate patterns of their own:
American "non-Muslims" (the distinction is set in stone, eternally so it seem) are depicted as thinking strictly in terms of terrorism and "all that subservient, veil-wearing, submissive stuff that painted them as oppressed and promised in marriage to old, bearded men". "Americans" the writer says, fancy "Muslim women" as "different". Now why would anyone think that?
Is it possible this "false image" has to do with insular behavior of folks who stay methodically "within their communities" unlike immigrants of yore? Would the example given of the lady who had words with her fiance on her wedding eve be telling? One disparaging remark (about Muslim men) and she's out the door. One can see where the loyalties lie in cases of conflict with "traditional Muslim thinking".
It is true that many who came to this country had problems with assimilation, but that had always been the goal.
Here's an idea for those "grappling with the duality of worshiping Allah" and, how should I say this...being a modern American woman? Forget it (your religion)! America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. Those rational tenets are the basis of our laws, our freedoms, our successes and our prosperity, and I daresay, our happiness. Islam, notwithstanding its monotheistic roots, and its laws and politics are antithetical to Western mores, codes and principles.
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