Guest Ex-Hijabi: Novelist and Professor Jacinda Townsend

Check out Jacinda’s novels and stories at http://jacindatownsend.com/

I had converted to Islam a couple of years earlier because it seemed, from the outside, like a religion where people of all races were truly equalized. But once I converted, that facade crumbled: one thing I quickly learned was that people considered almost all aspects of Black culture haram. Kwanzaa was haram, as were African box braids, and Public Enemy was haram—none of these things had anything to do with religion, yet they were haram. I was wearing my hair in box braids, and then I stopped perming and took my hair completely natural. The hair on my head, I decided, couldn’t possibly be haram, and I wanted to show it to the world.

H.’s Story: An Ex-Muslim and an Ex-Hindu in Love

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Content Note: This story depicts racism and bigotry launched by H.’s family towards her Indian Hindu boyfriend.

This picture was taken on Canada Day, 2014. We were sitting by the beach, listening to live music playing in the distance, having a picnic, and enjoying being outside on this warm, scenic day. My partner looked up at me and told me I looked beautiful, and then he proceeded to take our selfie. I felt happy, at peace, in love. I thought about how wonderful it is to share one’s life with another, to revel in each other’s joy, happiness, sadness; to experience all the ebbs and flows that life has to offer.

After taking this picture, my partner put his phone away and said it was for our personal collection, just for us. At that moment it hit me; we had no one to share our joys and happiness with. This most perfect moment had to be kept to ourselves, not to be re-told or shown to anyone who matters to us, especially our families. For you see, even though it looks like we’re just a young couple in love, enjoying life, our very existence as a couple shakes the very foundations of Islam; I, a Muslim Pakistani, being with a Hindu Indian.

The first time I told my mom about Sai, her first question to me was “He’s Indian? He’s…a…Hindu?” I explained to her that, just like me, Sai was an atheist, but I couldn’t deny that he had been raised in a Hindu household. That’s all my mother needed, to shower him with hatred and disgust for each time she would encounter him. I had heard it all growing up: “Hindus are our enemies, we don’t mix with them, we don’t eat at their house; if they offer you meat, don’t eat it, who knows what God they sacrifice their meat to; Hindus are dirty and they are all going to hell; you are a kaafir if you choose to be with a Hindu, etc. etc.”

It’s different though, when you have to hear these hateful things about someone you love. I loved Sai, I wanted to be with him, he made me happy, but my mother and brother never saw it that way. They saw me as rebelling, as going through a “phase”. They tried to help me, they tried to highlight all of Sai’s shortcomings; he wasn’t a Canadian citizen, so he was using me for that and would leave me as soon as he got his citizenship. He was trying to corrupt me and take me away from my family and religious roots, that his influence would take me away from Islam. They commented on the color of his skin, and how he could never even dream of being with someone like me; fair-skinned and holding a Western passport. It hurt, every time they said something like that, it felt like a dagger to my heart.

But my mom was right about one thing; Sai did take me away from my family and from Islam. I couldn’t have done it on my own. He accepted me when no one else would; he listened to me when I was sad, when I was doing badly in school, when I was lost in life. He never said to me that if I wear shorts, he’d leave me because that’s not what good Muslim girls do. He didn’t force me to eat at only Halal restaurants, to only keep the company of women because “bad” girls hang out with men. When I didn’t eat pork or bacon when I was Muslim, he would never order it when we went out, or eat it around me, because he knew I wasn’t yet comfortable with the idea of eating it, even though he had no qualms about it. When I was with him, I was free, I was away from all the toxic hatred that my family would try to fuel in me towards him and towards anyone else who was not like us - Pakistani Sunnis from Lahore. I wanted to be free, and in that process, I had to leave behind the people who were supposed to love and accept me for who I am, who were supposed to love me “unconditionally”.

I didn’t hate him then, and I don’t hate him now. What I do hate is when our friends, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, look at us and ask “So your parents are okay with this?!” It’s a very powerful thing, the acceptance and validation most of us constantly seek from our families. We always have a hard time explaining to our friends how difficult it has been for us to be together, and that our parents are not, in fact, okay with all this. But if I had to choose between being with my family and growing in hatred and intolerance, and being with Sai on the most beautiful day at the beach, him looking up at me when his head in my lap as I caress his hair, well, the choice is simple.

I choose happiness.

Anonymous asked:

If it wasn't for the bravery and courage of this blog, and other ex-Muslim/mah outlets gaining momentum online... I really would have committed suicide from the isolation I've faced in my life. Dead serious. Seriously. You're one of the reasons why I've kept going today. Thank you. Really and truly.

I can’t tell you how this pleases me to hear. This is after all why we make these projects. I’m sure you already know this, but just in case: if you live in North America and are in need of an ex-Muslim community, consider joining the Ex-Muslims of North America, which is a safe place for people like us to share, vent, and be listened to.

Mahmoud’s Story: A Rather Average Ramadan Day

A labneh sandwich made from sneaked ingredients.

I grew up in a religious atmosphere but I brought most of the pressure from my parents onto myself because I demonstrated early on that I was a religious and obedient kid. I began praying while living in Palestine (West Bank) without orders from my mom. I did it to satisfy my desire to be a “good boy”. This dutiful worship continued even after moving to the US and it wasn’t until I began college that doubts in Islam began to spring up in mind. When I began drifting away from Islam it was noticed immediately by my mother and she became sad that her ‘perfect’ son, the source of her pride and esteem, became just like any other Arab boy.

This is my second Ramadan as an ex-Muslim and unfortunately it’s also during summer break so I can’t be munching away at school. I would say that the hardest thing is dealing with the paranoia of getting caught and trying to act normal. Every day I get awaken by my mother before dawn to eat a breakfast-style meal with the family (a traditional Levant-style spread). I then go back to sleep and wake up around 7 am, before anyone else in the family. I then sneak into the kitchen to quickly drink any coffee left over from the previous night in the coffee pot, and as there is no time to heat it up or add cream and sugar I just drink it cold and black. Last summer, including Ramadan, this used to be the time that I would carve an apple (or even a potato) to make an apparatus that I can smoke out of then go to the basement and smoke a bowl or two (blow the smoke out of a stack of dryer sheets) then eat the apple and play some video games until about noon when I would get another apple and repeat the same steps 3-4 more times (yes, the apple with ash residue is considered gross by some. But not me). This Ramadan is harder because I got caught smoking for the 2nd time last month so I’m pretty much out of chances. My mom is always suspicious of my every move. She expects that I would break my fast or smoke again (she controls the latter by drug testing me now). So it’s definitely more of a challenge to sneak in food. Thirst is something I don’t worry about too much because I usually drink water during the time I’m supposed to be making wudu’ (after my mom reminds me to pray).

One thing I like to do is go into the kitchen when there’s nobody on the first floor and sneak one ingredient at a time into my pants and then into my room. I usually do this over the course of an hour and then make a sandwich/small lunch inside my room and eat it discreetly. If I sense that the risk is too high I’ll just try to sneak in an apple or two but since eating an apple makes too much noise, I’ll go the bathroom turn on the air vent and shower and eat them there. I try to not eat too close to dusk because that would make me seem not too hungry and raise eyebrows if I eat too little at that time. After eating, my mother, siblings and I go to the mosque to pray taraweeh until 11:45 pm (my dad goes to sleep early because of work the next day). I then come home, go back to sleep and repeat the cycle.

So that’s my regular Ramadan day as a closeted ex-Muslim. I have it much better than most and have no complaints. The thrill of sneaking around to eat (and formerly, smoke) is well worth the risks. The only risk that outweighs it though is angering my mom. Even though her thinking is backwards (i.e. Islamically), I care about her feelings regardless of whether they’re based on nonsense or not. So I try to keep things rather tame and pretend to be a Muslim.

To many, it might seem pointless and petty. I’ve been an out apostate of Islam for over 8 years now; what’s the point of my ordering a plate of bacon and a cheap-vodka dirty martini for a 7:30 AM breakfast at the Atlanta airport?
My reasons have to do with my past, my present, and my future.
In the past, my eating was policed as well as self-restricted because I was not only a Muslim from a strict Muslim family, I was also fat throughout my life. In addition, certain family members of mine seemed bizarrely obsessed with what was socially acceptable as a certain sort of meal and what was not. The porcine nature of the food and the boozy nature of the drink aside, the idea of a beverage and a small pile of meat without, say, rice or bread, as a mean, would shock them.
Currently, though I am out to my family, I do have to tiptoe around their rules so as not to offend them. I don’t consume non-Zabihah meat in their presence, let alone pork or alcohol. It means forgoing what I’d rather eat at restaurants in favor of what they’d approve of my eating. It’s not the biggest tragedy in the world but it is annoying.
Turning to my future, I want to continue to gain more control over what I consume. I want to be able to have whatever food I want for whatever meals I want at my sole discretion. I also want more airport meals in my future — not because airport food is the best, mind you, but because I want to continue to travel as a speaker to conferences and events.
So, despite my out status, my Haramadan Breakfast of Champions is still a victory for me.Stay tuned for more #Haramadan posts soon!

To many, it might seem pointless and petty. I’ve been an out apostate of Islam for over 8 years now; what’s the point of my ordering a plate of bacon and a cheap-vodka dirty martini for a 7:30 AM breakfast at the Atlanta airport?

My reasons have to do with my past, my present, and my future.

In the past, my eating was policed as well as self-restricted because I was not only a Muslim from a strict Muslim family, I was also fat throughout my life. In addition, certain family members of mine seemed bizarrely obsessed with what was socially acceptable as a certain sort of meal and what was not. The porcine nature of the food and the boozy nature of the drink aside, the idea of a beverage and a small pile of meat without, say, rice or bread, as a mean, would shock them.

Currently, though I am out to my family, I do have to tiptoe around their rules so as not to offend them. I don’t consume non-Zabihah meat in their presence, let alone pork or alcohol. It means forgoing what I’d rather eat at restaurants in favor of what they’d approve of my eating. It’s not the biggest tragedy in the world but it is annoying.

Turning to my future, I want to continue to gain more control over what I consume. I want to be able to have whatever food I want for whatever meals I want at my sole discretion. I also want more airport meals in my future — not because airport food is the best, mind you, but because I want to continue to travel as a speaker to conferences and events.

So, despite my out status, my Haramadan Breakfast of Champions is still a victory for me.

Stay tuned for more #Haramadan posts soon!

101 Sins I Commit During the World Cup and Ramadan Just in One Day

This guest post is from the brilliant Kaveh Mousavi, who is closeted in Iran. You can find his work over at his Freethought Blog, On The Margin of Error. He submitted this to me a couple of weeks ago, but I have sinned in my delay in posting new submissions. This the first in the Ramadan series, with more Ramadan posts to follow, and you can find them all with the #haramadan tag. I apologize for the delays. I have been swamped. I bow in penance.

101 Sins I Commit During the World Cup and Ramadan Just in One Day

1)      I eat.

2)      I drink.

3)      I smoke weed.

4)      I masturbate.

5)      I have sex (if I can get some).

6)      I don’t cheer for the Iranian national team.

7)      I’m secretly happy that Iran’s team lost.

8)      I feel disgusted at people’s zeal over football. There’s one thing to enjoy a sport, there’s another thing to treat it as more important than any event in the world.

9)      I secretly laugh at football players praying.

10)  I secretly want to slap every doctor who comes on TV and says “fasting is good for you”.

11)  I abhor the fact that people seem to eat more not less.

12)  I secretly want to slap every person who says “if you eat in front of me it’s a violation of my rights”.

13)  I abhor walking in the streets. Everywhere you see more and more signs of religion.

14)  I abhor the fact that people who fast think they have a right to be assholes.

15)  I notice the fact that food becomes scarce in this supposed month of hunger and patience.

16)  I abhor the fact that I have to justify the fact that I’m not fasting to every fucking religious person.

17)  Speaking of fuck, I curse.

18)  I lie. I lie about who I am, and sometimes the fact that I fast. That’s a sin.

19)  I am a hypocrite.

20)  Blasphemy. Fuck loads of blasphemy.

21)  I don’t pray for people when they ask me to.

22)  I think it’s stupid that they call this month “God’s feast”.

23)  Every time that someone says “We’re proud of our national team” I’m certain I’m one step closer to becoming a serial killer.

24)  I listen to Satanic music.

25)  I use the opportunities provided by arguing over fasting to try and deconvert people.

26)  I try to convince Muslims not to fast.

27)  I don’t feel nationalistic.

28)  I don’t feel one with my people. Actually I feel more alienated.

29)  I feel angry at a god who isn’t there.

30)  I feel angry at people who are there.

31)  I hate Islam more than usual.

32)  The spiritual speeches are revolting to me.

33)  I continue being an atheist.

34)  I drink alcohol.

35)  I touch dogs.

36)  I touch atheists. Myself included.

37)  I laugh at the hyperbolic awards Allah grants those who fast. You’d get into heaven if you fast this month even if you’ve committed genocide, apparently.

38)  I don’t know what to say to Muslims who complain of stomach problems during this month.

39)  Muslims are especially sensitive about their religion this month, and I’m especially insensitive.

40)  I look at the hairs of women.

41)  I look at their flesh too. Like, forearms.

42)  I would look at their naked bodies too, if they wanted to show.

43)  I think sinful thoughts.

44)  I watch porn.

45)  I write. My writings are 101 sins in themselves.

46)  I feel suffocated with every “happy Ramadan” I receive.

47)  I have no fucking idea why Muslims are so hostile and defensive this month. I wonder if they are aware of the stupidity of their display.

48)  I think “Fuck all the western media and their entertained exotic coverage of this absurd month”.

49)  I think “Fuck my culture.”

50)  I wish Allah had forbid shitting during day as well as eating and drinking and cumming and inhaling smoke.

51)  I enjoy the candies though. They’re the good part.

52)  I don’t like Star Wars. That’s a nerd sin and not a Muslim sin, but a sin nevertheless.

53)  I read the Koran again. The only catharsis is mocking the book.

54)  I laugh aloud.

55)  Sometimes I cry.

56)  When the time for Iftar comes I feel sad and alone, excluded from all the happiness it brings along.

57)  I laugh at clergies who go to the rooftop to spot the moon. Use calendars, fuckers.

58)  Seriously, there’s an official “moon spotting agency”. I laugh at that.

59)  People help charity more during this months and I think that’s not worth shit.

60)  A liberal sin: I somehow agree with Anne Coulter. I think our attitude towards football is a sign of our moral decay.

61)  People are so desperate for happiness; they use even our loss to Argentina as an opportunity to be happy. I don’t feel happy.

62)  We are a sad nation pretending to laugh and smile. I don’t pretend.

63)  I think of all the political prisoners. Are they fasting too?

64)  An atheist sin: When people pray for political prisoners and wish them a happy Ramadan, I wish I could join them, I really wish I could.

65)  The sound of Koran doesn’t sooth me.

66)  During this month I’m a bundle of contradictions and I don’t give a fuck.

67)  I think One Direction is an underrated band.

68)  I’m not proud to be Iranian.

69)  Work days are shortened, economy is further fucked, and I really think this fucking month is not worth it.

70)  I find the way journalists treat football pathetic. Fanboys and Fangirls.

71)  I think TV shows made for Ramadan are more horrible than syphilis.

72)  The chief entertainment of me and my atheist friends is mocking this month.

73)  Restaurants and coffee shops are forced to close. I think that’s stupid.

74)  There was this clergy who was asked a question by a man. The man said I can’t fast because it distracts me from studying for my exams. The clergy offered him to travel the whole months because those traveling do not have to fast. I sinned just by listening to this crap.

75)  It’s true that celebrating Eid is as cultural as it is religious. It’s also true that I equally hate the culture.

76)  I had this friend who fasted during Eid, the only day that Muslims are not allowed to fast. I admire him although what he did is basically silly.

77)  I can’t think of one good thing about this month. (Except candies).

78)  Whenever I can I don’t pretend I’m fasting, and I enjoy it when this upsets Muslims.

79)  No other time I’m so intimately aware that I don’t belong. A Diaspora at home.

80)  I want to think of one thing I can hold to and I can think of none.

81)  Many Muslims don’t fast. Even they assume I do, and I resent that.

82)  At Eid I can’t think of something to celebrate.

83)  I want to say “fuck you” to Non-Muslims who show interest in knowing about Ramadan. That’s seriously not nice. I shouldn’t feel that way.

84)  I’m not really a nice person this month. I don’t like myself as an atheist even.

85)  I’m happy that this month will pass soon.

86)  Did you know that the days are longer at this time of year so fasting is harder? I am amused by this fact.

87)  How would Muslim astronauts fast? I wonder about that.

88)  I don’t respect their religion.

89)  There’s no way I can find it in me to respect Ramadan as a custom of a proud people.

90)  I wish I could eat pork.

91)  I acknowledge the fact that our national team sucks.

92)  Like it sucks so hard it completely deserved the result it got.

93)  World Cup and Ramadan – a combo of alienation for me.

94)  But I wonder – is alienation really so bad?

95)  I actually feel proud – at least I thought for myself.

96)  The list form is an internet sin, right?

97)  This distorted digressive list is a good representation of my mind.

98)  At heart, I’m much less charitable that I am in rational arguments.

99)  But oh – let the people mention the Green Movement, and I feel I’m one of them again.

100)  Against all odds I still hope. Isn’t hope a sin?

101)   I am sinner. A sinner is who I am. It is my identity.

I will have sinned at least 3030 times by the time this month has ended.

See you all in Hell, my human friends.

Jameela’s Story: Defying the Hijab

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As soon as I came to London from Afghanistan at the age of 9, I was forced to wear the hijab, I was brainwashed and abused - I won’t go into details. And the older I got the worse it got. 

I was constantly reminded of marriage, how I should behave and was threatened that if I disobeyed them they will cane me and they even threatened to kill me if I ever thought of running away. I was a slave, I was forced to pray too, every aspect of my life was controlled. I could not have Facebook or Twitter, but I secretly had Twitter and one day they found out I had Instagram, I was beaten, and was made to kneel and apologise for my “slutty behaviour” and was given a final warning that they will take me out of university. Getting into university was hard because I had to beg and I had to have excellent grades to be even considered, it was my only alternative to staying at home. 

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When I started university I had to give in my timetable, I was not allowed contact with the opposite sex, my biological parents used Islam to justify their actions, saying that men and women should not be in the same room otherwise they will commit zina. They even forced me psychologically and physically to hand over my student finance loan and grant for “only sluts have money” and “you have to support the family”.

As I was getting older, talks of marriage became increasingly frequent, and so my biological mother also raised the issue of a wife’s “duties”.  I asked my biological mother what if a woman says no, she replied saying “no such thing”. 

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I met someone on Twitter last year who understands me, cares for me, and loves me, and I feel the same way about him. I fell in love and there was no way going back, I did not want to get married to someone against my choice. Girls in the Afghan culture get married off early and there were many proposals from Afghanistan and Pakistan and my parents were planning to go there on “holiday” and they said they will take me with them too. 

My partner is Jewish, and my biological parents have always referred to Jews as “filthy” and used Islam to justify their hate against Jews. I wanted to escape that hell, and I did. 

I bought a ticket to France and left. The first thing I did the moment I got on the train was throw the hijab in the bin where it belongs. I hate the concept of hijab, it is a symbol of oppression, created by men to chain women and anyone who speaks out against it is “disciplined” by ways of corporal punishment and/or rapes.

Me and my partner have got numerous death threats, and I was threatened with rape too. I recently got a message saying that I will be found and killed and my primitive biological father once told me that he is willing to kill for honour and he is more than happy to go to jail since “Queen Elizabeth, Her Majesty” will look after him. He calls himself a “proud” British citizen yet supports the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaida, every known terrorist organization. 

Now I am free, independent and I lead my life the way I want and with whom. I dress the way I want, I eat what I want, I control my life, I would rather die fighting for my principles than live on my knees.

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The World Behind the Veil: What Listening to Women Taught This Man

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This is a guest piece by Mazen Abdallah, an ex-Muslim, comedian, and teacher. He is an American of Syrian-Lebanese origin who lives in Lebanon, and would like to talk about how the Ex-Hijabi Photo Journal has influenced his perception of the culture around him, and the drastic differences in the ways female and male bodies are perceived. 

I’ve never really asked veiled women or ex-veiled women about their experiences with the veil. There are a number of reasons for that. The first is that I come from a culture where the veil was totally normal. So asking someone about it would be really weird, it’d be like asking why someone wears shoes. The second reason was that I assumed I knew the story already. To me, there were two categories: Women who were forced to veil and women who did so by choice. I never really thought past it at all. Over time I saw the nuances more and more, but for some reason I didn’t really ask anyone for the full story. I debated the veil’s societal role, I passionately argued with people about the rights of women, but I never stopped and asked a woman ‘Hey, what is/was it like for you to wear a veil’. Even when I thought I was this progressive, cultured guy advocating the rights and critiquing a society that would curtail the freedoms of women, I didn’t make an effort to actually understand the lives of women who had worn the veil for any reason whatsoever. To me, it boiled down to ‘someone is forcing you to do something that you do not want to do’ and it became this basic matter of personal freedoms. But there was so much more that I wasn’t seeing. The fact is, many women develop a complex relationship with the veil because it represents so many different things: identity, family, spirituality, personal development. It was so much more than either doing something or not doing it.

First of all I realized that, a lot of the time, it wasn’t necessarily forced upon the children by their parents. Some women decided to wear it as part of a philosophical decision in their exploration of Islam. Some were emotionally blackmailed, pressured by their families and their communities. Some came into contact with pro-veil ideology. Others wore it to fit in. That’s one of the things I learned: The veil means different things to different people.

But one common narrative came about as a result of it. I realized how much emphasis was placed by Islamic culture on conservative dress and being presentable in a certain way.

Every kid is forced to do things by their parents. Like, put on this sweater before you go outside, do your homework, etc. At the end of the day, that’s what parents do, they put their feet down. So if you think about it that way, maybe the veil isn’t so bad. But when I started reading Ex Hijabi Fashion, I realized that parents don’t just walk in, hand the kid a scarf and tell them they’re wearing it now. They’re giving them a philosophy, an ideology. They’re telling their girls that they need to cover themselves up, to be modest, to avoid attracting attention from boys. In some cases they’ll get in the heads of these girls and make them feel shame because of their bodies. I was forced to do a great many things when I was a kid. I’m a grown-ass man and my mom still puts her foot down. But I was never made to feel conscious of my body or exposing it.

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I never really looked that much into the veil. To me, it was about covering up your parts so that men wouldn’t be tempted by you. And once the veil came off, boom, not religious anymore, not veiled anymore, problem solved, let’s move on. But the women I read about on Ex-Hijabi fashion had gone through so much more than covering up. They had been made to look at their own bodies in a shameful way. To feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in their own skin. Even some that had veiled of their own volition would start to feel this way about themselves.

We all have body issues, hell, I have a bunch of my own. But I never felt this need or desire to cover myself up and obscure a part of me. Like, I probably should. I’m overweight, and fairly conscious about my man-tits, but past that I have like no problem taking off my clothes. Even if I’m in company, I end up taking off my shirt or (if I’ve been drinking) at some point my pants and I have no problem with it. Obviously guys have a threshold for that sort of thing so I’m eventually asked to put my clothes right back on, but past that I don’t really mind having them off. And I realize, I’ve felt embarrassment about my body plenty of times, like you would with a house you haven’t properly cleaned up. But I’ve never really felt shame. I’ve never really felt that it was wrong of me to expose my body. I laughed like a madman every time I made a dick of myself in public in a way that involved nudity, and it just didn’t matter. And hell, a lot of guys I know were also like that, whipping their dicks out for comic effect or mooning each other. We never had anyone tell us we should be ashamed of our bodies.

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The veil isn’t the problem here, the problem is the culture that the veil emerges from. What surprised me in some cases was that the family wouldn’t really be particular about the veil, but they would have their own strict set of modesty rules that shamed women. You didn’t need to have a veil on to feel shame.

Ultimately my eyes were opened to the diverse range of experiences women faced with the veil. It opened my eyes to the way that being asked to cover up and be modest, demure and conservative affected them and changed their outlook. It opened my eyes to the fact that veiling sometimes had little to do with their families but had more to do with their own body image or ideology. And I think, before we start talking about the veil and what it means in society and who can wear it and ‘oh look at this fatwa’, we should maybe ask women what they think.

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Women Attacked for Their Islamic Clothing

Just submitted:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/28/women-targeted-attacks-muslims

With regards to the rise in attacks against Muslim women, an article published yesterday in the most popular British newspaper. 

"More than half of Islamophobic attacks in Britain are committed against women, who are typically targeted because they are wearing clothing associated with Islam, new data reveals”

Anti-Muslim bigotry at its finest; where people who are publicly perceived to be Muslim are subjected to attacks. This is against everything this project stands for; the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, where nobody will attack you, denigrate you, or mistreat you for your clothing or beliefs. 

Because far too many people are controlled, policed, and restricted, including many of our contributors, I call on everybody who reads this journal and believes in its cause to condemn violations of bodily autonomy to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, hijabis and ex-hijabis alike.  

Z’s Story



I have a lot of love inside of me and it pours out in abundance. 

When I wore hijab, it was out of religious fervour and love. Young love - I was fifteen. The Islam that I was taught enamoured me. I wanted to be identified as a Muslim, for political solidarity purposes.

Then came internet Islam, where my religious phases ranged from initial rigid alienating (black and white) adherence to Islam to overly relaxed Sufi halaqas to studying Shafi’i and maliki fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) with “students of knowledge” whose chain of knowledge went back to the Prophet Muhammad. I eventually phased  into another form of extremism, of the pseudo-secular kind. The storm of teenage-hood (haha) has finally calmed into moderation. In everything and anything I do.

This is why seeing young men and women falling into extremism, breaks my heart. Young adults and on terror-watch lists, not having had the chance to phase out and mature, to be calm as a river. The wrong place, at the wrong time, misdirected anger, frustration and love.  

I have always been ungovernable, a truth seeker and honest to myself: Hijab isn’t for me. I now see Islam as part of a cultural heritage I want to retain. You could call me a “cultural Muslim”, I don’t care. 

Perhaps this is another phase I will look back on and cringe at. But for once, I am at peace. 

Where am I now? Unapologetic. I work, study, explore romantic pursuits, enjoy the pleasures of life.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. 

I am trying to undo my obsession with not being misunderstood. I was going to write something much longer, but I am trying to actively remind myself that I don’t owe anyone an explanation on how I govern my body, my mind, my interactions and my life. 

Signing off from Toronto, 

Z (instagram: che3kouka) 

Anonymous asked:

Will you be participating in Ramadan this year? (not religiously wise, but cultural, I suppose)

exhijabifashion answered:

I probably would if I lived in a place with more community. I live in a Midwestern college town where I haven’t met anyone like me and it’s lonely to try to bring up the flavor or Ramadan on my own. I do tend to celebrate Eid, throwing a small party for friends and putting my own spin on the traditional foods I like to cook, incorporating alcohol and bacon into the recipes.  I find it a great way to reclaim my cultural belonging without the impositions and restrictions and limitations.

I’ve written about the magic of Ramadan here: http://aveilandadarkplace.com/2013/07/22/why-i-miss-ramadan/

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exhijabifashion:

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exhijabifashion:

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I don’t understand you at all. 

you celebrate Eid? yet you aren’t a Muslim. Eid isnt “cultural” neither is ramadan… if you aren’t Muslim DON’T celebrate Muslim RELIGIOUS holidays, it is a slap in the face especially because you are anti-Muslim yourself. 

Oh we are giving *commands* now, are we? And yes, it is clear you don’t understand this. So in your estimation an atheist from a Jewish background can’t celebrate Hannukah and an atheist from a Christian background can’t celebrate Christmas? I wonder what my followers think about that. I celebrate Christmas too, with my atheist primary partner and his Christian family, because it’s a time of family and goodwill and love, and we enjoy it. 

Religion and culture are intermeshed. It’s nonsensical to pretend that they aren’t, especially when a religion purports to be a way of life that addresses matter of dress, food, social interaction—all cultural things. People who choose not to believe very often keep celebrating the holidays they grew up with, because it’s a part of how their societies and families do things, an essential fabric of their upbringing. And often when people have been forced to practice something their whole lives, it is healthy and fulfilling for them to reclaim it in a positive, enjoyable way later on. Imagine a closeted nonbeliever being forced to fast year after year, even though they’re not actually religious. Now imagine that as soon as their nonbelief becomes *known* someone up and tells them that they no longer have the right to sit down to iftar with their community, or come to Eid celebrations, or have anything regarding these customs and norms that have been enmeshed in their whole lives.

I leave you with an atheist Christmas carol (Tim Minchin ftw):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q&feature=kp

You’re very hypocritical though? So you hate Islam and bash Muslims YET you celebrate a MUSLIM holiday… Im not talking about Christians and Jewish people, Christmas has nothing to do with christianity. Please don’t give me that bullshit.. ”oh you want us to be outcasts in the community”. YOU chose to leave the community, YOU bash the very community you want to spend time with and celebrate.

Makes 0 fucking sense. Also, by celebrating Eid and Ramadan you are in theory “accepting” the Islamic ideas behind the holidays. It’s like me saying nah I don’t believe in Christianity, I hate christians but ya know what I’ll go to church and sit through the sermons because ya know community.

If you weren’t a Hijab and Islam basher i wouldn’t give much of a shit that you celebrate Eid or Ramadan with your family. I just think its pretty ironic you are celebrating Ramadan and Eid when you HATE Islam. 

Sorry honey, but you seem LOST. 

Leave Islam altogether and leave the community. You say its a pain being “forced” to fast year after year. YOU’RE A GROWN ASS WOMAN. You said no to Islam, so say no to fasting. “But my family will disown me”.. I’m sorry but thats tough shit and that IS sad as fuck if they do. No point living a lie, if your parents REALLY love you they would accept you for what you are, an ex-Muslim, ex-Hijabi girl who runs a blog bashing the religion they believe in. 

I don’t hate Muslims or Islam. I did not express those sentiments anywhere on this site. I have plenty of Muslim friends who I dearly love. Please don’t put words in my mouth. Also, note that some people are unable or to say no or to leave their communities despite being grown-ass women. It took me 6 years to do that with mine, after my first attempt to leave had Hezbollah track me down and drag me home. It’s not so easy for many people, because they don’t live in a place where they have rights or resources.

And I’m unsure why it’s so difficult to understand that people can accept certain parts and reject others of their cultures. Don’t plenty of Muslims do that too with their religions, all the time? Don’t you do it, since you are a queer non-hijabi, both things that official scholarship in most sects condemn, things you would not be allowed to be if you lived in another place on this earth?

It is clear to me that either I am not doing a good job at communicating all of this or you are willfully misunderstanding me, and I’m sorry for that. I do not hate Muslims. I condemn anti-Muslm bigotry. I don’t endorse judging Muslims for their bodily practices at all. I only object to normative religious doctrines that dictate what others must do and how and why. This blog is in dissent to that very widespread phenomenon, and a space for women to talk about their lives and share photos of themselves and have a place for personal expression, because some of them *have no other place*. Can you imagine?  

If you still don’t understand that, then I’m sorry, I guess I have nothing more to say to you. 

But your blog is about how Islam and the Hijab is oppressive and how Muslim women are oppressed. Thus you are spreading Islamophobia, what do you think white people, especially white feminists are going to think? OF COURSE they will get the wrong impression, put Muslim women under one category- as oppressed, view Hijabis as oppressed- therefore rip their veils of their heads to free them. Im sorry but thats the impression i have gotten from your blog and so its very easy to reach the conclusion that you hate Islam and you pity Muslim women who CHOOSE to wear the Hijab. If you “dearly” love your Muslim friends WHY are you going to spread false information and make such dangerous generalisations about their religion?

Fair enough about being unable to leave the community in a Muslim country… I thought you lived in US, correct me if Im wrong, to this day, you are away from Hezbollah, so you dont need to abide by Muslim laws, you can leave Islam altogether? 

But you are an atheist? why are you going to be taking the parts of Islam you see as “good”, you dont even believe in the reasons behind celebrating such festivals. As for being queer, there is a large LGBT Muslim group in the UK and across the world. If you are talking about the whole “sodom and gomorrah” story the original story has been misinterpreted to a large extent. But thats another topic for another day. And with the “taking” and “rejecting” parts of Islam, as long as they classify as Muslim thats no ones business. You reject the religion all together so its pretty pointless, in my opinion to “accept” and claim certain parts of the religion as your own.  

You forget that A LOT of the rules set in place in each country pre date Islam. There have always been rules set governing the bodies and lives of women and even men. In a lot of countries, especially South Asian, culture plays a HUGE role in everyday life and in a way is more influential than religion. 

I feel the blog can be used and twisted to support white feminists and islamophobes, they see you girls and they’d start to believe that ALL Hijabis and Muslim women are oppressed. They already strongly hate the Hijab and see it as a tool to “control” women, your blog is “proof” they see one girl have a HORRIBLE experience and they generalise that all Muslim women have the same experiences, when that is no where near the truth.  The Hijab applies for men too… and for non-Muslims thats not the “head scarf”, there are rules for men too about clothing. 

If I have misunderstood you I apologise. I thought the blog was beautiful in a way, something I could relate to, to an extent, because I too “de-veiled” for similar reasons. Your blog, unfortunately does give off an “anti-Muslim” vibe, and I bet you, you have some islamophobes following you. By all means have a space where you can discuss such issues and post stories, Im not telling you to stop doing that. I’m only pointing out that this blog is to an extent dangerous as it can be grossly misinterpreted, as I have mentioned a hundred times. 

I’ve added this permanent page right at the top of the tumblr linking to my essay about not judging hijabis and with a clear disclaimer condemning judgment and bigotry towards hijabs. Hopefully that will help more people to not misinterpret. It’s harder to misinterpret something that is explicitly stated:

http://exhijabifashion.tumblr.com/dontjudge

And unfortunately there will always be people who misinterpret things and have bigoted reactions. We know that. You’ve just demonstrated how you believe much of the official scholarship dominant in Muslim-majority countries misinterprets your scripture to oppress LGBTQ people. But we have to decide whether what we’re doing is too important to not be silenced for fear of misinterpretation—just as many Muslims wouldn’t dream of leaving Islam or stopping their public practice of it because Islamic interpretation elsewhere in the world oppresses LGBTQ people. Yes, people will misinterpret, and I’m trying to safeguard against that by explaining over and over again how this is about autonomy and letting women choose forthemselves. I wish you could know how much this project means to so many people who have so little. And yes, modesty requirements extend to men as well, which is why the FAQ page says that men and genderqueer people are also welcome to submit to this blog. 

Also, a shoutout here to all my white feminist friends who are sensible and ethical and would never dream of touching someone else without their consent and telling them what to wear or not to wear. 

Women here are telling their stories. They are telling the truth, and they are describing reality for way, way too many people, and that is important. It is not misinformation, and it is real and important, because millions of Muslim women *are* restricted, controlled, and coerced in a myriad of ways, and it needs to be talked about. I hope people do not generalize from their circumstances, but I also hope that people recognize that there is a very widespread problem in Muslim-majority countries, rooted in, as you say, the intermeshed way in which scripture and background culture have developed and evolved, creating many many different forms of Islam and ways of Muslim living. Our point isn’t to point to these problems and say ‘this is because of Islam’. That’s just falling into the ‘No True Muslim’ fallacy, by generalizing Islam or Muslims as one thing and one thing only when there is so much diversity of experience and interpretation and belief. The point is to say, ‘here is my story, my body, my life, and I finally have a space to talk about it.’. 

And I assure you that if and when anybody ever expresses bigotry towards Muslims on this page, I will check them strongly and explain their misconceptions to them. 

I am doing what I can.