Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

November 29, 2007

Introducing the "Beginner's Cheat Sheet" Sound File!

Bismillah

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatuallahi wa Barakatuhu and Greetings to Non-Muslim Readers!

As it happens, I am not one of those people with the gift that allows one to memorize well or to learn foreign languages. Al-hamdulillah, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is okay with that, insha'Allah! But it set me to thinking that for sure I was not the only one with this handicap!

So, I set out in the early days of my writing to compile a list of Arabic words and phrases that I could, in the very least, incorporate into my writing. I was keen to do this because I had become aware of the significance and potential for reward, or acceptance as good deeds, for those things that Muslims say and do in remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. It stood to reason, in my mind, that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala was already aware of my handicap, so if I made the extra effort, the potential for reward would be even greater. The list of words and phrases I chose to compile each contain a form of the word "Allah" - and as such, as I understood it, when used or spoken, became reward worthy! 

LINKS TO AUDIO FILE
SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/aishah-schwartz/aishahs-beginners-cheat-sheet-audio
DROPBOX: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2k1nb5e88scshqt/tasabeeh.mp3

Then I got to thinking, hey! How great would it be to share the list with others! And then every time someone used one of the words or phrases from the list they received from me, I would receive yet another reward! At that point the whole reward system was looking pretty good to me! *smile!*

And then I got another idea!

What if I could get the list recorded so that people who do not speak Arabic and are not even around other people who speak Arabic, could actually hear how the words pronounced and defined! Has anyone ever played the board game SCRABBLE? *lol* My brain was running in over-time mode and I was thinking, "Triple points!" (rewards.) *lol*

So, on November 18, 2005, I distributed an email through my e-distribution lists in search of a volunteer willing to record the list to create an up-loadable audio file of the now, much re-cycled Sister Aishah's "Beginner's Cheat Sheet" (inserted below).

Al-hamdulillah, 16-months later (March '07) the task was, at long last, embraced by a dedicated Muslim brother from Jordan. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward him greatly, in this dunya and in the Hereafter, insha'Allah.

LINKS TO AUDIO FILE
SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/aishah-schwartz/aishahs-beginners-cheat-sheet-audio
DROPBOX: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2k1nb5e88scshqt/tasabeeh.mp3

Now lets review.

There is reward to be found in each word used for each time I speak or write it.

Then the reward is multiplied for each time another person speaks or writes it.

Then there is a reward for each time another person hears the words, repeats and/or writes them!

Then there is a reward for each time the person you share the list with who repeats and/or writes them!

And so on, and so on, and so on!

Is anyone else seeing the potential for reward here that I am? *smile*

And all you have to do is click on the share link...imagine that.

Could remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala (or dawah even!), possibly get any easier?

‎"Allah the Most High says, 'I am with my slave when he thinks of Me and I am with him when he mentions Me. For if he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in a gathering, I mention him in superior gathering. If he approaches Me by a hand's width, I approach him by an arm's length, I approach him by two arms length. And if he comes to me walking, I hasten to him swiftly.'" [Bukhari]

LINKS TO AUDIO FILE
SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/aishah-schwartz/aishahs-beginners-cheat-sheet-audio
DROPBOX: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2k1nb5e88scshqt/tasabeeh.mp3

THE LIST!

ALAYHIS SALAM - Alayhis Salam'Peace be upon him', a formula used after the name of a prophet.

AMEEN - Ameen - The Arabic expression meaning 'Please accept'. Used at the end of prayers and supplications (duas).

ASSALAMU ALAYKUM - Assalamu Alaikum - 'Peace be upon you' the greeting of the Muslim. [The reply is 'wa alaikumus salam' which means 'and peace be upon you'. The fuller version reads, 'assalam u alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa baakatuhu' which means'peace be upon you and the blessings and mercy of Alllah' the reply is 'wa alaikumus salam wa rahmatulahi wa baakatuhu'].

ALLAHU AKBAR - Allahu Akbar - The Arabic expression meaning 'Allah is great(est)'. Also called the takbir.

ALLAHU A'ALAM - Allahu A'alam - An Arabic expression meaning 'Allah knows best'.

AL HAMDU LILAH WA SHUKRU LILLAH - Al Hamdulilah wa Shukru Lillah - The Arabic expression meaning which means 'Praise belongs to Allah and all thanks to Allah'.

ASTAGFURALLAH - Astagfur'Allah - The Arabic expression meaning, 'I ask forgiveness of Allah'.

AUDHU BILLAHI MIN ASH SHAYTAN AR RAJIM - Audhu Billahi min ash Shaytan ar Rajim - The Arabic expression meaning, 'I seek protection in Allah from the accursed satan'.

BARAKALLAH FIK - Barak'Allah Fik - An expression which means, 'May the blessings of Allah be upon you.' When a Muslims want to thank another person, they uses different statements to express thanks, appreciation and gratitude. One of them is Barak'Allah. 

BISMILLAH AR RAHMAN AR RAHIM - Bismillah ar Rahman ar Rahim -The basmala. 'In the name of Allah, the all Merciful the all Compassionate' [this is also translated as In the Name of Allah most Gracious Most Merciful].

FI AMANALLAH - Fi Aman'Alla - Valedictory (expressing or containing a farewell) phrase meaning 'In Allah's protection'.

FI SABILILLAH - Fi Sabilillah - The Arabic expression meaning 'In the way of Allah', 'For the cause of Allah' [also used to mean 'for the love of Allah'].

HASBALA - Hasbala - The Arabic expression, 'Hasbunallah wa nimalwakil' meaning'Allah is enough for us and an excellent Guardian'. Usually known as 'Hasbi Allah'.

INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAYHI RAJIUN - Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajiun - This is something which a Muslim expresses when he is afflicted by a misfortune, the meaning of which is, 'We are from Allah and to Him are we returning.' It is taken from an ayat (verse) from the Quran (ch 2 vs 156). [This is usually said upon hearing of the death of an individual.]

INSHALLAH - Insha'Allah - The Arabic expression meaning 'If Allah wills' - 'God Willing'.[This is usually said when referring to a situation in the future e.g. IinshAllah I will go to the grocery shop tomorrow." etc.]

ISTIGHFAR - Istighfar - To ask the forgiveness of Allah, especially by saying,Astagfur'Allah, 'I seek the forgiveness of Allah'.

JAZAKALLAHU KHAIRAN - Jazaka Allahu Khairan - Jazakallahu Khayran - This is a statement of thanks and appreciation to be said to a person who does a favour. Instead of saying 'shukran' (thanks), this phrase is used. It means 'May Allah reward you with good'.

LA HAWLA WALA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAH - 'la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah' - The meaning of this expression is, 'There is no power nor strength save in Allah' . This is said by a Muslim when he/she is struck with calamity, or is taken over by a situation beyond his/her control.

MA SALAMA - Ma'Salaama - With peace', a formula for ending letters [in reply, "Fi Aman'Allah" - In Allah's Protection].

MASHALLAH - Masha'Allah - A phrase literally meaning 'What Allah wishes', and it indicates a good omen. 

RABBANA WA LAKAL_HAMD - Rabbana wa Lakal Hamd - 'Our Lord, Praise if yours', said after rising from ruku after saying 'sami Allahuliman hamidah' [which means 'Allah listens to the one who praises him']. 

SUBHANALLAH - Subhan'Allah 'Glorified is Allah.' - To honour Allah and make Him free from all (unsuitable evil things) that are ascribed to Him, (or 'Glorified be Allah').

SUBHANALLAH WA TA'ALA - Subhanahu wa ta'ala - 'Glorified is He and exalted', an expression that Muslims use when the name of Allah is pronounced or written [this is often abbreviated as (swt)].

TABARAK'ALLAH - Tabarak'Allah - The formula 'Blessed is Allah' [usually used in the context of when one hears good news].

YA ALLAH - 'Oh God' - or 'Lets Go' Often used by Aishah's heart-adopted sister, Sameera (in Saudi Arabia), when she would call out, "Ya'Allah! Aishah! Come!" *smile*

LINKS TO AUDIO FILE
SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/aishah-schwartz/aishahs-beginners-cheat-sheet-audio
DROPBOX: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2k1nb5e88scshqt/tasabeeh.mp3

SPECIAL NOTE OF THANKS AND REMINDER

Please remember Br. Omar of Jordan in your duas and ask that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward and bless him for his contribution in providing us with the wonderful audio file that brings this list to life, and insha'Allah serves as a reminder to one and all the importance in remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in all that we say and do, insha'Allah.

---
If I am right, it is from Allah; if wrong, it is from me. I ask Allah Almighty to protect you and me from errors and from all that displease Him. Al-Hamdu-lillahi rabbil-alameen.

November 21, 2007

MAS Freedom Condemns Saudi Miscarriage of Justice in Gang Rape Sentencing

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Muslim Community Called Upon to Stand in Solidarity Against Human Rights Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Nov. 20, 2007 – MAS Freedom (MASF), as the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS), in response to what is clearly a gross and cruel miscarriage of true justice, expressed both outrage and intense protest to the government of Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of a judicial decree to punish a 19-year old female victim of gang rape, known only as 'Qatif Girl', with 200 lashes and 6-months imprisonment.

According to Arab News, CNN and other international media sources, the victim had been gang raped by seven Saudi men, when she attempted to retrieve unspecified photographs from allegedly being used in a blackmail scheme.

However, when the woman made a public protest in response to what she and her attorney, Abdul-Rahman Al-Lahem, considered the inappropriately lenient prison sentences given to her attackers-ranging from ten months to five years-she herself received a court sentence of six months in prison, and 200 lashes.

The victim's attorney was subsequently disbarred by a Saudi court and prohibited from further representing his client as a result of protests lodged regarding the lightness of the court's prior decision on the sentences of the convicted rapists.

Al-Lahem was scheduled to meet with an administrative judge on Monday to seek reinstatement to the bar and permission to continue representing his client. It is reported that Saudi officials have not responded to media requests for comments on the case.

Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of MAS Freedom, issued the following statement regarding this incident:

"MAS Freedom views the sentencing in this case as an unspeakably cruel and brutal miscarriage justice, and a clear violation of the compassion and mercy taught by the religion of Islam. Not only has this woman endured the horror of gang rape, but she is now being subject to an equally terrible infliction of pain and harm by the legal system of Saudi Arabia.

We call upon the Saudi government to overturn this cruel sentence, and to immediately reinstate her attorney to the practice of law so that he can give her the legal representation that she is due.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught in his Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) that 'Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers'. How, then, can Muslims tolerate the violent abuse of women in the eyes of any legal system?

American Muslims must not be silent in the face of such blatant violations of decency and fundamental human rights. We call upon our entire community, and American Muslim organizations nationwide to condemn this terrible miscarriage of justice.

MAS Freedom believes that the true value and beauty of Islam can only be manifested when women are afforded the respect, and human rights given to all human beings by our Creator. We reject the distorted, and un-Islamic idea, that regards the systematic oppression, and even physical violation of women as tolerable."

The victim's husband (and 'legal guardian') is scheduled to receive a copy of the verdict this coming Saturday from the Qatif General Court, after which the defendant will have 30-days to file an appeal with the Court of Cassation.

RELATED:
Saudi Arabia: Rape Victim Punished for Speaking Out
Rape Victim's Lawyer Refuses to Give In
A Saudi Hero: Abdul Rahman al-Lahem
Petition for Reform of Legal Guardianship of Women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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MAS Freedom (MASF) is a civic and human rights advocacy entity and sister organization of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the largest Muslim, grassroots, charitable, religious, social, cultural, civic and educational organization in America – with 55 chapters in 35 states. Learn more here.
-------------------------------------------------------------

MAS Freedom
1325 G Street NW, Suite 500
Washington DC 20005
Phone: (202) 552-7414
Toll Free: 1-(888)-627-8471
Fax: (703) 998-6526
MASF on the Web
Contact MASF by Email

April 20, 2007

Please Help the Family of Slain VA-Tec Student Waleed Shaalan

Bismillah

Assalamu Alaikum.

I am passing the following message along; please help if possible - even if all you can do is continue the forwarding of this message, insha'Allah.

Jazakallahu khayran.

Ma'Salaama,
`Aishah

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) National is trying to raise some fund for the family of Waleed Shaalan who was killed last Monday at VA Tech. He left behind his wife and a one-year old son.

If you like to donate via the Web, please click on http://www.msanational.org/finance/vt07donate.html

If you would like to send a check, please mail it to:

PO Box 1096
Falls Church, VA 22041
Phone: (703) 820-7900

Check should be payable to "MSA National".

On the memo section, please write: "Waleed Shaalan".

Some info about Waleed Shaalan from from MSA Natinoal website:

Waleed Shaalan, 32 years old, first stepped onto the Virginia Tech campus in August 2006. An international student originally from Zagazig, Egypt, with no family members in the United States, Waleed quickly became an essential member of the Blacksburg Muslim community. Among those mourning his death are his two roommates (Fahad Pasha and Irfan Waseem) to whom Waleed was their loving older brother, cook, academic and spiritual mentor. Waleed was known for his broad smile and wave that he gave everyone.

Waleed left behind Amira, his wife for 3 years, and Khaled his one-year old son.

For more information about Br. Waleed or the Virginia Tech MSA please visit http://www.msavt.org/.

NEW!! From MWA Member Sumayyah Meehan: Sa`d and Sara's Escape (Part 1)

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
ANNOUNCING!!!
http://www.islamonline.net/English/Family/2007/04.shtml

Also Stop by Sister
Sumayyah's Online Store

Muslim Women's Boutique
The Muslim Women's Boutique is an online cyberstore created by Sumayyah Meehan.
She is an American revert to Islam and has been Muslim for almost 11 years.
Currently, she lives in Kuwait with her husband and 3 children.
The purpose of this site is to provide high quality and
low cost Islamic products and apparel to our customers.
Established in 2006, MWA's mission is to inspire Muslim women to collaborate with one another
for the common good of the Muslim Ummah, and to be of support to one another in fulfilling
their aspirations to become established writers. Applying Islamic principles, boundless
enthusiasm, experience and resourcefulness to every project embraced, MWA members are
dedicated to one another's success.
Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms
Online Petition to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

March 23, 2007

For Immediate Release

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Muslimah Writers Alliance Director to Appear on Channel Islam Radio in Support of Islamic Initiative at Johannesburg's Rand Show

Aishah Schwartz, Yvonne Ridley, Na'ima B. Robert, and Idris Tawfiq unite on Channel Islam Radio in support of a new initiative to be introduced by Channel Islam International (Cii) at the 112th Annual Rand Show. The Cii Islamic Information Center will provide information conveying the true beauty of the message and teachings of Islam, with a special emphasis on dispelling misconceptions.

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) March 23, 2007 -- Channel Islam International, a part of the Cii Network of South Africa, is embarking on an initiative to take Islam to the masses at one of South Africa's premier events, The Rand Show, which runs from March 30 through April 15, 2007 in Johannesburg.

Now in its 112th year, The Rand Show is a highly anticipated event, attended by over one million people from all walks of life and religious affiliations.

At this year's event, Channel Islam International will sponsor an Islamic Information Centre. The premier initiative will focus on providing information conveying the true beauty of the message and teachings of Islam, with the hope of also dispelling any of the misconceptions those passing by the Channel Islam booth may have.

In promotion of this year's Channel Islam Rand Show initiative, Aishah Schwartz, Founder and Director of Muslimah Writers Alliance (
MWA), has been invited to join Idris Tawfiq, a former British Catholic Priest who accepted Islam, Na'ima B. Robert, author of "From My Sisters' Lips", and Yvonne Ridley, a journalist who accepted Islam in Afghanistan, for a live radio event on Friday, March 23, 2007 between 8:30 and 10:00 pm South Africa time (2:30-4:00PM EST). The program will be available online through Cii's website at http://www.ciinetwork.net/broadcasting.

The program's guests will share with listeners their thoughts on the importance of introducing Islam to others and how initiatives such as the Cii Islamic Information Center can be instrumental in the educational process.

Raised in Michigan as a Christian, Ms. Schwartz, after learning about Islam through the internet, made her Shahada at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in April of 2002. Now fulfilling a commitment she made to God over 20-years ago at a Baptist University in Ohio, Ms. Schwartz is dedicated to serving the Muslim community as a civil and human rights activist focusing on women's issues through her writings.

Her work is often published at Naseeb Vibes, the largest internet-based E-Zine, with over 320 thousand subscribers. A catalogue of Ms. Schwartz's intriguing Islamic journey series of articles can also be found at her personal website
http://www.sisteraishah.com. She is also a member of the Muslim American Journalists Association and the National Association of Women Writers.

Cii is a diverse media brand, driven by a fresh, young company which spotted a clear and consistent gap in the global media market, especially in English language media: up until now, there has been no concerted effort to target relevant, useful information to the global Muslim community.

Cii fills that gap, providing high quality Islamic content to more a million listeners worldwide.

In South Africa especially, Cii reaches a relatively affluent target market, with the result that there is great opportunity to leverage the relationship for the greater good of Muslims around the world.

Today Cii is known to be a pioneer in Islamic satellite audio broadcasting and has become the benchmark which is setting the pace for the proliferation and growth of Islamic media globally.

Channel Islam is a part of the Cii broadcasting network.

Established in 2006, MWA's mission is to inspire Muslim women to collaborate with one another for the common good of the Muslim Ummah, and to be of support to one another in fulfilling their aspirations to become established writers. Applying Islamic principles, boundless enthusiasm, experience and resourcefulness to every project embraced, MWA members are dedicated to one another's success.

Resources:

Aishah Schwartz Biography
http://www.muslimahwritersalliance.com/biography/Aishah_Schwartz.htm

Yvonne Ridley Biography
http://www.yvonneridley.org/bio.php

Na'ima B. Robert
http://www.nbrobert.com

Idris Tawfiq, Former British Catholic Priest Returns to Islam
http://www.backtoislam.com/?p=131

The Rand Show History http://www.randshow.co.za/Exhibitors/Exhibitor_Background.aspx

SOURCE: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/3/prweb513822.htm

###


Press Contact: AISHAH SCHWARTZ
Company Name: Muslimah Writers Alliance
Email: email protected from spam bots
Phone: 1-866-405-5981
Website:
http://www.muslimahwritersalliance.com

Copyright © 2007 MWA
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.

March 06, 2007

To Advocate or Abdicate: Muslimah Writers Alliance Stands in Defense of Islam

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

March 5, 2005

By Aishah Schwartz

I received an email this week from a friend who writes for a mainstream media publication in Miami, Florida. She was writing to tell me that sometime mid-March she would be interviewing the infamous Ayaan Hirsan Ali, and asked me what I 'thought' of the interview candidate. I had to admit the necessity of Googling the interviewee's name before offering my reply; and so I did.

Interestingly enough, on March 4, 2007, the New York Times published a book review, by Ian Buruma, on Ali's most recent Islam-bashing publication, 'Infidel'.

There is irrefutably enough evidence in Buruma's review to leave one with little doubt that the author/victim, former Muslim-turned-Atheist, was irrefutably left with a jaded view of the religion she was born into. It is here that we must be reminded that to turn away from the truth because of what others do or don't do based on misperceptions of what is Islamically right or wrong, is a decision that must not to be entered into lightly, as its ramifications far outlast the time spent in this life.

Instead of turning her back on Islam, might it not have conceivably been much more productive for Ali to have channeled her anger and resentment over the experiences of her tormented youth, into striving to rectify that which she found to be inherently wrong?

How many women could she have helped by advocating for reforms and education vs. merely helping herself as she embraced the romanticism of the West depicted in the Danielle Steel romance novels she purports to have based her dreams of salvation upon?

Ah, but then again, to be truly Muslim, one must want for others what they want for themselves.

However, I digress.

To continue, I reflectively embarked upon responding to my friend's request regarding her interview candidate and wrote the following:

My initial curiosity would be to learn what the intended focus of the article resulting from the interview would be. Depending on the editor's concept, and/or depending on what angle the writer might be going for if he/she were freelance, or if the writer were merely writing an opinion piece, any number of varying possibilities could be presented given the amount of pre-existing material on the interviewee.

I suppose focusing on a person with a background such as Ali's is just the kind of thing mainstream media would be more inclined to publish, particularly as it would be yet another slap in the face to the existing American Muslim community, given the fact that she has renounced Islam and is now seemingly dedicated to bashing the religion whenever opportunity presents itself.

Lets face it, we all know that generating negative buzz where Muslims are concerned is more likely to sell advertising space and newspapers, than publishing anything that might suggest members of the American Muslim community might be achieving, or striving to achieve, anything that could possibly be considered as having a positive impact on the community-at-large, and thereby - *shock and awe* - deeming them worthy of recognition.

In my experience as an American Muslim, I have learned that one of the things that Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims, seem to appreciate about the United States, is that, if something is seen as being inherently wrong, i.e., in respect to civil or human rights, American's will embrace their Constitutional right to do something about it.

Now, what that tells me is, that Muslims are not unaware that there are problems within their communities, particularly where it regards interpretation of the religion's teachings. However, the governments of many countries that we see Muslims immigrating to American from, do not allow such liberties as freedom of speech, press, or to peacefully demonstrate.

On the contrary, many foreign governments work harder to suppress attempts toward positive change, and either refuse, balk, or flat-out have to be lobbied into, addressing humanitarian issues; the result being akin to a feeding frenzy for mainstream media to continue delivering the spin that Muslims are nothing short of barbaric.

As can be seen from the chronological log of media coverage pertaining to the travesty of justice in the forced divorce case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, news of which the Saudi Gazette reports has also reached this years Economic Forum in Jeddah, and from the hundreds of signatures and correlating comments memorialized through the Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms online petition drive sponsored by Muslimah Writers Alliance, the true voice of the Muslim community is being heard.

The Muslim community does recognize when things have gone wrong, and is willing to call out the wrong-doers.

And finally, we can be unified for the sake of eradicating injustice - when given a platform. A platform, as might be gleaned from the forced divorce case news log, that U.S. mainstream media has notably abstained from granting us.

The forced divorce of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani was the initial catalyst for the online petition drive that strives to reunite the couple, however, it goes on to also address the root of the problem - the issues that created the fiasco to start with - guardianship, tribalism, and misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.

I spoke with Nimah Nawwab Saudi poet, activist and Young Global Leader, on the subject, and she stated, "The appellate court upheld forced divorce of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani has not only deeply traumatized this family, but it is creating a domino effect with devastating social ramifications."

The couple's attorney, Abdul-Rahman Al-Lahem, who was recently nominated by the UK's Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards committee for this year's Bindman's Law and Campaigns Award, has petitioned Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, requesting that the Al-Timani case be forwarded to the Kingdom's High Court, the only recourse left to the couple.

Commenting further, Nawaab stated, "The Al-Timani case brings to the forefront the problem of the evolving abuse of guardianship (wali al-amr). An abuse affecting the rights of women throughout the Kingdom in marriage, travel, education and work."

"It has been reduced to nothing more than a means of control, whereby even distant male relatives to whom guardianship rights have trickled down due to family circumstance, unwittingly places the fate of women in the hands of men who do not have their best interests at heart," Nawwab concluded.

Long after the case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani is settled, for better or worse, and it may very well be for the worse, as eluded to recently in the Saudi Gazette, the online petition drive will continue to accrue signatures until the necessary reforms pertaining to guardianship over women are addressed - with or without mainstream media support.

The President of the Human Rights First Society of Saudi Arabia recently invited me to join the organization's membership. I accepted. The simple fact that this organization has 3,285 members inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone, speaks volumes in-and-of itself.

The global Muslim community does recognize that all is not right with the world. And we are trying to present a united front in an effort to make a difference; one member, one voice, one signature at a time.

The Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms online petition drive has, to date, accumulated nearly 1,000 signatures representing the collective voices of Muslims from over 38 countries, 56 non-U.S. cities, 21 U.S. States, and 45 U.S. Cities.

As the Muslimah Writers Alliance petition and Burmura's book review emphasize, the experiences of Fatima Al-Timani and Ayaan Hirsan Ali - have nothing to do with the true teachings of Islam.

Aishah Schwartz is a freelance writer and director of Muslimah Writers Alliance, Washington, D.C.

-----------

Article References:

Against Submission, by Ian Buruma
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/books/review/04buruma.html?pagewanted=print

Muslimah Writers Alliance Forced Divorce Case Chronological Media Log

http://muslimahwritersalliance.com/mwa-community/al-timani_case_chronology.htm


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Forced Divorce Case, Muslimah Writers Alliance

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/2/prweb505146.htm


Forced Divorce Now a Forum Issue, by Sabri Jawhar, The Saudi Gazette

http://saudifemalejournalist.blogspot.com/2007/03/forced-divorce-now-forum-issue.html


Nimah Ismail Nawwab

www.theunfurling.com


Saudi Attorney in Al-Timani Forced Divorce Case Nominated to Receive Award

http://muslimahwritersalliance.com/articles/al-timani_attorney_nomination.htm


Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms

Online Petition to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

http://www.petitiononline.com/no24orce/petition.html

Copyright © 2007

February 15, 2007

Muslimah Writers Alliance Petitions King Abdullah to Stop Forced Divorces

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA), in support of women throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and in protest of an appellate court ruling in the Eastern Province that threatens to adversely affect Muslim women worldwide, announces the launch of its "
Say 'No' To Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms" international online petition drive. The petition addresses King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on the issue of forced divorce and the need for reforms relating to women's rights.

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) February 14, 2007 -- A January 28, 2007, appeals court decision in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, threatens to set a precedent delivering a major setback in eliminating tribal and gender bias against women in Arab and Muslim societies, unless King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz agrees to forward the case to the Kingdom's High Court.

The original legal action resulted in the forced divorce of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani. Filed by Fatima's half-brothers after the death of her father, the petition claimed that Al-Timani misrepresented his tribal affiliation (or social status) when he sought permission to marry Fatima.
Al-Timani denied the charge, and in the single court appearance Fatima was made aware of, she adamantly declared to Justice Ibrahim Al-Farraj, that she did not wish to be divorced from her husband.

Their attorney, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, has since requested that King Abdullah intercede in the matter. "The High Court is the only legal establishment that can overrule the appeals court if it finds the ruling contrary to the Shariah," Al-Lahem told the Saudi Gazette.

"On learning that the appellate court upheld the July 20, 2005 lower court ruling, obtained absentia, forcefully divorcing Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani on the basis of his alleged lower social status, there was no doubt in my mind that Muslimah Writers Alliance would join in petitioning King Abdullah to reverse this travesty of justice," stated MWA director, Aishah Schwartz.

Schwartz added, "In August of 2005, just seven days into his reign, King Abdullah pardoned three jailed dissidents who had plotted to assassinate him, and was subsequently applauded for having lived up to his reputation of being a 'staunch supporter of reforms and being close to the people'."

"And yet, a blind-eye seems to have been turned in the case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani. Fatima has spent the past seven months caring for her infant son in a prison out of fear that if she returned to the guardianship of her step-brothers, they would immediately move to have her remarried to a man of their own choosing," Schwartz continued. (Women of any age in Saudi Arabia require a legal male guardian, or mahram, who could be either their husbands or other male relatives.)

Schwartz further stated, "By sending Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani's case to the High Court, King Abdullah has an opportunity to show the world that he is, indeed, committed to reforms reaffirming the God-given rights of women set out in true Islamic teachings.""Repealing local, tribal, and socially backward man-made, convenience-based, gender biased laws, is a moral obligation we must strive for on behalf of Muslim women world-wide," Schwartz concluded.

"In Islam there is not meant to be any discrimination in terms of color, nationality or race. But the tribal element is still strong in Saudi Arabia," Al-Lahem says.

In support of the ongoing efforts by Saudi women journalists calling for the reunion of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani, MWA encourages you to sign the "Say 'No' To Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms" petition.
The petition calls for corrective measures and guidelines to ensure rejection of future, frivolous and non-Shariah compliant divorce cases brought by parties other than the husband and wife.

The petition also calls for re-evaluation of the laws pertaining to guardianship of competent, adult women.

"Every signature on this petition is critical considering that reports indicate there are already approximately 19 known forced divorce or annulment cases pending judiciary proceeding," stated Schwartz.

In September 2006 Muslimah Writers Alliance launched an online petition drive in protest of a proposal outlined in a report compiled by a committee of scholars at the request of King Abdullah. The proposal, set forth as a plan to eliminate the prayer area for women within the mataaf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba), was met by a global chorus of outrage.

The MWA Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women Petition brought international attention to the matter, and by its eleventh day the deputy head of Grand Mosque affairs, Mohammed bin Nasser al-Khozayem, announced to the press that, "The presidency (committee) [has decided to adopt a second proposal, which is to expand two special places for women's prayer, in addition to the one that already exists."

Margot Badran, author and a senior fellow at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., called the collaborative effort, "The most striking example to date of Muslim women collaborating in global protest and one that authorities could not ignore."

For the sake of Fatima, her husband, their children, and the Muslim community at large, let us pray that King Abdullah will listen once again.

SIGN THE PETITION
"Say 'No' To Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms"

Click here for a complete media documented history of the Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani case

Photo: Mansour Al-Timani and daughter, Noha, age 2; courtesy of The Saudi Gazette.

SOURCE

Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

###

February 06, 2007

For the Love of a Cat...

Assalamu Alaikum,

I just had to share something that tickled me silly a minute ago.

The sofa in the living room is a sectional with a recliner on each end. Over to my left is a single-seated recliner - that is where my roomie usually sits with her laptop, and I usually sit on the recliner end of the sofa to her right, with MY laptop. *smile* Well, this afternoon, I'm sitting here in my spot on the sofa, madly reading and typing away, completely focused to the point that I scarcely noticed that Princess (my roomie's 15lb. Siamese-mix cat) jumping onto the seat cushion to my right --- that is, until, *lol* all of a sudden it dawned on me that her front paws were feverishly plowing up and down into the nice cushiony area otherwise known as my belly, to the point of making me down at her and exclaiming, "All right! All right! All right!" *lol*

You should have seen the way she looked back at me with her boulder-marble blue eyes, as if to say, "Whaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!" before turning away.

I swear at this very minute she is now sitting perched, as if at attention, looking directly at me, to the left of my feet on the foot lounger extension as if to say, "Can I come back now??"

And before I finish typing the words you've just read...up she marched and is now laying across BOTH my arms!!! (Purring no less...)

Cats...gotta love 'em! But I gotta WORK!!!!

Hope you're enjoying your day!

Ma'Salaama,
`Aishah

P.S. - Geez! Despite the fact that I am managing to type with her laying across my arms, she is not happy with the slight movement caused by my typing and she has started growling as if grumbling under her breath at me...interesting though...my computer adhan has been playing while I was typing this and she suddenly got quiet. Hmm...subhan'Allah...

February 05, 2007

Muslimah Writers Alliance Joins Al-Timani Attorney and Saudi Women Activists in Petitioning for Reversal of Forced Divorce

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


King Abdullah Urged to Continue Support of Advances Made in the Elimination of Gender Bias Against Women


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Feb. 5, 2007 (MWANET) A January 28, 2007, appeals court decision in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, threatens to set a precedent effectively delivering a major setback in the progress made toward eliminating cultural and gender bias against women in Arab and Muslim societies, unless King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz agrees to forward the case to the Kingdom's High Court.

"On learning about the appellate court decision to uphold the July 20, 2005 lower court ruling, obtained absentia, forcefully divorcing Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani on the basis of his alleged lower social status, there was no doubt in my mind that Muslimah Writers Alliance would join in supporting their attorney, and scores of Saudi women activists and reporters, in appealing to the widely reported track record of mercy on the part of King Abdullah, in whose hands lay the power to reverse this travesty of justice," stated Aishah Schwartz, Founder and Director of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Ms. Schwartz added, "In August of 2005, just seven days into his reign King Abdullah pardoned three jailed dissidents who had plotted to assassinate him, and was subsequently applauded for having lived up to his reputation of being a 'staunch supporter of reforms and being close to the people', in addition to being called 'great man with the interest of the nation at heart'. Indeed, a tough enough course of action to live down in light of the fact that a nursing mother is sitting in a jail suffering the loss of the beloved father of her children, and fearing for her life due to no fault of her own."

"By forwarding Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani's case to the High Court, King Abdullah has an opportunity to reinforce his established trend of reform by mandating, implementing, and enforcing existing, pending, and/or proposed measures designed to ensure that women's rights in marriage and divorce, as well as various other aspects of daily life, are dealt with in accordance to the Shariah. Repealing local, cultural and socially backward man-made, convenience-based laws, is a moral obligation we must strive for on behalf of Muslim women world-wide," Ms. Schwartz concluded.

Leading the charge in providing media coverage in her capacity as correspondent for The Saudi Gazette, Suzan Zawawi reported Sunday that the couple's lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, who appealed the lower court decision on October 7, 2006, affirmed that, "The High Court is the only legal establishment that can overrule the appeals court if it finds the ruling contrary to the Shariah."

The original legal action, filed by Fatima's half-brothers after the death of her father, claimed that Al-Timani misrepresented his tribal affiliation (or social status) when he sought permission to marry Fatima. Al-Timani denied the charge, and in the single court appearance Fatima was made aware of, she adamantly declared to Justice Ibrahim Al-Farraj, that she did not wish to be divorced from her husband.

Despite the fact that under Shariah law, tribal affiliation is not a consideration for a legitimate marriage, we are confronted with the question of how this case is still front page news in Saudi society seven months after-the-fact.

It may very well behoove the Royal Court to be reminded of the Kingdom's 1970 Memorandum purporting to offer various reasons why it has abstained from signing either 'The International Human Rights Declaration' or 'The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights'.

The Memorandum states that the Kingdom's abstention from signing either document was not to be misconstrued as indicating disapproval of the aims presented, but, "because of our determination to let the dignity of a human person be protected by us without any distinction between one man and another under the impetus of the divine Islamic creed and not by the material law."

Furthermore, included in the Kingdom's "Principles of Human Rights in Islam", which contains legal provisions forming National Law pertaining particularly to freedom from discrimination, adherence to the call for unity of the human race, adherence to the call for mutual cooperation, and the right to live peaceably, there is a provision that states, in part:

"There are 'countless' other Islamic religious laws for the protection of the basic, inalienable human rights of mankind. These laws also [allegedly] deal in a 'comprehensive way' with man's economic, social and cultural rights from the humanitarian and idealistic aspects, which [allegedly], do not make any distinction, or allow for any kind of distinction between one human being and another, particularly concerning sex, color, language, religion, opinion, wealth, country, or national or social origin."

An example of this is recorded in Islamic history through the story of Al Sayeda Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid, who was not only the first person to embrace Islam, but was also the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Khadijah, observing the Prophet's reputation for honesty and aptitude for business matters, took the decision upon herself that he would make the best of the husbands. This came as a surprise to all that knew her, as she had already declined numerous marriage proposals from within her own tribe, the Quraish.



In fact, it is further reported that Khadijah also initiated the marriage proposal!

After the Prophet's uncle, Abu Talib, had given the proposed marriage his blessing, Muhammad and Khadijah were married.

How could such a divine example of non-gender biased human rights possibly be denied?

Fast forward and we have a young mother of two, who, after fleeing with her husband to Jeddah after the initial divorce ruling, was unceremoniously arrested and imprisoned in Damman, where she remains to this day, for refusing to return to the family home under the guardianship of her half-brothers. Women of any age in Saudi Arabia require a legal male guardian, or mahram, who could be either their husbands or other male relatives, and Fatima's father, subsequent to blessing her marriage to Al-Timani, passed away.

Here we read of a young woman who has endured seven heart-wrenching months of inability to fulfill her natural instinct to nurture her children, and to be a companion to the man that she loves as a result of the appellate court decision upholding her forced divorce, or should we say, because the courts did not uphold Fatima's right to choose her own life partner.

Fatima willingly remains in a Dammam prison, where she has been for the past seven months after being arrested in Jeddah for fleeing with her husband in search of a resolution to their predicament. Although she is free to leave the prison, Fatima is fearful that her step-brothers will arrange for her to be remarried before King Abdullah makes a final decision to grant a reprieve in her case.

Fatima told The Arab News in November, "I'm leaving this place on one condition only: that I go back to my husband."

Prior to the appellate court ruling Fatima was only allowed once-weekly, 15 minute visits with her husband in order to share time between their 1-year old son, who remains with Fatima, and their two-year old daughter, Noha, who remains in the care of her father.

Unfortunately the bad news gets worse, as due to the status of their divorce Al-Timani is no longer allowed to visit Fatima, compounding the couple's grief at being separated from one another.

"Fatimah's and numerous other cases are basically rooted in the right of the guardian to control life, marriage, and in our cases, education and travel," stated renowned Saudi poet and activist, Nimah Ismail Nawwab.

Nawwb further asserted, "Women all over the world are being harmed because of it [guardianship] and our local, legal decisions are being picked up by others and cited as precedents, creating a domino effect that is widespread and tragically timeless."

"We are simply embracing the ruling of traditions and customs over that of religion," stated Maysoon Dakhiel, associate professor of Education and Psychology at the Girls College in Jeddah.

MWA applauds and supports the valiant efforts of Saudi women throughout the Kingdom who launched a petition this week for presentation to King Abdullah on behalf of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani. The petition urges that the Al-Timani case to be forwarded to the High Court, and calls for the reversal of the appellate court's ruling so that Fatima and her husband can be reunited.

Additional measures are requested in the petition that would effectuate guidelines to ensure rejection of future, frivolous and non-Shariah compliant divorce cases brought by parties other than the husband and wife. These measures are critical considering that there are already approximately 19 known forced divorce or annulment cases pending judiciary proceeding. The petition also calls for re-evaluation of the laws pertaining to guardianship of competent, adult women.

"Networking among Muslim women all over the world has become a necessity and a survival strategy, stated Fatin Yousef Bundagji, Director of Women Empowerment and Research at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ms. Bundagji added, "You need never forget that a younger female generation is patiently waiting for you to secure its future."

Despite the unsettling turn of events in the case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani, it is important to acknowledge documented signs of change regarding issues pertaining to the rights of women within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 2000 the Kingdom signed the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. A nine-point program that aims to increase the role of women in the workplace was adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2004.

However, there is still an uphill battle to be forged in implementing and enforcing these changes.

A more recent manifestation of King Abdullah's commitment to supporting women's issues materialized as the result of a collaborative effort supported by Muslimah Writers Alliance through an online petition drive in September 2006. The petition was launched in protest of a proposal outlined in a report compiled by a committee of scholars at the request of King Abdullah. The proposal, set forth as a plan to eliminate the prayer area for women within the mataaf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba), was met with a chorus of global outrage.

Within days the MWA Grand Mosque Equal Access for Women Petition collected nearly 2,000 signatures.

By the petition's eleventh day deputy head of Grand Mosque affairs, Mohammed bin Nasser al-Khozayem, announced to the press that, 'The presidency (committee) [has] decided to adopt a second proposal, which is to expand two special places for women's prayer, in addition to the one that already exists.'

Margot Badran, author and a senior fellow at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., called the collaborative effort, "The most striking example to date of concerted Islamic feminist global protest and one that authorities could not ignore."

In revisiting the Kingdom's "Principles of Human Rights in Islam", and reflecting upon the call for acquaintance and cooperation for the common good, as well as for the performance of all kinds of righteous deeds towards all human beings, regardless of their citizenship or religion, in conformity with the Quranic verse [translation of the meaning]: "O mankind we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you." (Surah al-Hujurat (49:13)

Let us pray for the sake of Fatima, her husband, their children, and the Muslim Ummah at large, that King Abdullah is listening now.

Photo: Mansour Al-Timani and daughter, Noha, age 2.

Courtesy: The Saudi Gazette

For a complete media documented history of the case visit:

http://muslimahwritersalliance.com/mwa-community/al-timani_case_chronology.htm

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

Aishah Schwartz is a Muslim American revert and freelance writer. She has catalogued her journeys through Islam in a series of articles found at http://www.sisteraishah.com. She is also Founder and Director of Muslimah Writers Alliance (http://www.muslimahwritersalliance.com) based in Washington, D.C., a member of the National Association of Women Writers and member of the National Association.


Copyright MWA © 2007
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.

January 25, 2007

Violence Fails Both Our Religions


By Rev. F. Vernon Wright and Zachary Wright - 01/25/07

(Rev. F. Vernon Wright is currently the pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church UCC in Helena, Montana, and is the director of the Progressive Clergy Alliance. Zachary Wright Wright, his brother, is a PhD student in African-Islamic History at Northwestern University, and a licensed muqaddam (teacher) trained by the Senegalese Shaykh Hassan Cisse, one of the world's more renowned Muslim scholars.)

In today's political and religious climate there is growing perception that Muslims and Christians are at odds. For my brother and me from New Hampshire, this is not the case. Though we both grew up in a traditional New England Congregational church, one of us has become a Congregational United Church of Christ minister, and the other has embraced Islam. Our faiths have inevitably been the cause of heated debates, but they have also provided the basis for us to remain fond of each other, even through difficult times that would perhaps have alienated us if not for our mutual love and trust in God.

As persons of faith in Christianity and Islam respectfully, we feel jointly compelled to condemn the political and theological implications of current US militarism. In the last ten years, the American government has been steadily directing us on a course of global, military-backed imperialism.

According to the 1996 and 2000 Joint Chiefs of Staff's vision for the military, America should prepare to implement "full spectrum dominance," through which the military can control any "situation," military or otherwise, throughout the globe. Though the vision for military dominance was begun in the Clinton administration, our military commitments have intensified drastically under the Bush administration. We are behaving less like a democracy, guiding the world by exemplary respect for human rights and self-government, and more like an empire dominating the world through force of arms.

Such militarism is frightening enough, but it is positively catastrophic when combined with religious fanaticism. Recent articles by Lawrence Davidson and Gary North reveal the real reason for Protestant Fundamentalist "Dispensationalist" support for American imperialism in the Middle East: to hasten the Rapture and Tribulation and God's judgment on the non-Christians. Under-girding the new American Empire is thus a pernicious theology of "the righteous nation at war with the enemies of God."

Despite what fanatics and power-mongers on both sides would have us believe, religion can and should serve as the basis for mutual understanding and common concern. As Christian and Muslim citizens of this nation, we are infuriated that fundamental precepts to both our religions continue to be violated and neglected right here at home with our dangerous distraction in Iraq. Christianity and Islam prohibit neglect of the poor, unjust imprisonment and torture, subjugation of religious or ethnic minorities, abandoning the education of children, the rape of the environment, and not providing care for the sick or elderly. With the amount the U.S. has spent on Iraq, we could have fixed social security and provided universal health insurance, revived a public school system in crisis, and provided people with a living wage. All of these would have been acts of great faith in a Loving and Merciful God. Instead we have the privilege of being engaged in a disastrous and deadly conflict.

Christians and Muslims have a responsibility to testify to our duties to promote loving, humanitarian assistance and to establish societies of justice and peace. Ultimately Christ as interpreted by most main line Christians is the prince of peace instructing us that the Reign of God will be fulfilled not at the jack boots of advancing armies but as neighbors and enemies alike love one another. The Qur'an declares that God's purpose in creating diversity among humanity is that the various communities and tribes should come to know one another, not to show enmity towards each other. In the end, those who would use their faith for the murdering of innocent civilians of another religion, whether by hijacked planes or cluster bombs, have not taken to heart their own faith.

"Full Spectrum Dominance," combined with the theology of "hastening the rapture," goes beyond the need for a nation to defend itself from attack. It constitutes nothing less than an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, ungodly assault; not only on thousands of children, women and innocent civilians murdered by US military attacks, but on American citizens themselves. Too many of us are marginalized, unfed, uneducated and forgotten. Let the people of faith unite to spread the message of the Merciful God, who requires us all to feed the hungry, care for the sick, be kind to our neighbor and educate our children. Together, let us put down the weapons and rhetoric of tyrants, and revive the ideal that has always inspired this nation: a merciful and just society which would stand as a beacon of light to the world.

SOURCE:
http://www.helenair.com/articles/2007/01/25/opinions/a04012507_02.prt

Alexandria, Egypt - Vol. I

January 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak

edited by Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

Written by David Barker
Published January 22, 2007

PURCHASE ONLINE HERE

Living Islam Out Loud is one of the best non–fiction works I have read in a long time. It is a collection of pieces by Islamic women living in the United States. Their stories reflect a diversity of experience — from growing up within the tradition–laden strictures of immigrant families, to Afro–American women who are children and grandchildren of Nation of Islam founders. A common theme beneath these accounts is the hyphenated nature of existence for Islamic women living in a predominantly secular/Christian culture.

When I was a child growing up within Ontario's public education system, I was exposed — like thousands of others my age — to a social studies curriculum that betrayed more than a small hint of anxiety about the Canadian identity question. How were we to resist the looming presence of American culture creeping up from the south? One answer, as a matter of educational policy, was to teach us that there were differences, however subtle. One difference was the American melting–pot/Canadian mosaic distinction. Both countries are peopled predominantly by immigrants imposed on dwindling native populations. When immigrants come to America, there is a tacit expectation that they will blend in, dress in jeans, eat at McDonald's, watch Hollywood movies, and (of course) learn to speak English. But in Canada, perhaps because of Qu├ębec's presence as a constitutionally protected "distinct society," there is less pressure — at least officially — for newcomers to blend in. We belong to a mosaic. The hyphen is essential to our identity. And so we are Indian–Canadian, Euro–Canadian, Chinese–Canadian, and so on.

Sometimes I'm skeptical whether there is any truth to the official indoctrination we received as children. However, at least conceptually, we understand what it means to have a hyphenated identity, and, at least conceptually, we have little problem with the idea that a person might want to assert the part they have brought with them from their homeland. And so the voices I encounter within Living Islam Out Loud strike me as more assertive than necessary. Then I remember: I am not an American reader.

One of the boldest pieces within the collection is "The Muslim in the Mirror," by Mohja Kahf, and it perfectly illustrates the demand to be acknowledged as distinctive, She writes: "If there's anyone I was more sick and tired of than Muslims, it's Muslim–bashers. No one is allowed to criticize Islam and Muslims but those who do it from love. Those who do it from hate, step aside. And step aside, those who do it as a way to fame and fortune funded by neo–conservatives who think they can kaCHING up genuine "reform" in Islam and manufacture docile little McMuslims for the maintenance of U.S. McHegemony in the world. Neocons can kiss my Islamic ass.

"Not exactly the writing we expect from our stereotypical woman of Islam, demure in her hijab! But that is one of the points of the book — with women claiming identity from so many different sources, there is no such thing as a stereotypical woman of Islam.

Perhaps it is increasingly difficult for people in the U.S. to maintain the story of America as a cultural melting pot. I think of Ada Maria Isasi—Diaz, author of En la Lucha (In the Struggle): A Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology, who writes of mujerista theology among Hispanic women in America. There is a growing trend among Hispanic women to expect not only their faith, but also their social services, including education and health care, to happen on their terms, to be delivered in Spanish, and to be sensitive to the particularity of their culture and history as a distinctive people. What may strike some Americans as uppity (or even as bordering on treasonous) is a 350–year–old fact of life on Canadian soil — and no one seems to be worse for it. In fact, the converse may be true. It may be that we find ourselves enriched for allowing those we encounter to live on their own terms. Could America be moving in the same direction?

However, it would be misleading to suggest that the women contributing to this collection are primarily engaged in struggles against a hegemonic American culture bent upon pouring them into Barbie molds. For many of the contributors — certainly all those born to immigrants — the greatest points of tension arise from within Islam. The question of hijab is the least of their worries. Or perhaps, by its many different understandings, it reflects the complexity of life for women. For some, wearing hijab is an attempt at earnest devotion, for others, a bold assertion of identity, for still others, a great way to deal with a bad hair day, but for many, it represents views of sexuality whose unhealthiness has intensified once transplanted to American soil. Surprisingly (for a Westerner like me), if there is oppression of women, few of these writers find it in Islam itself. Like the Bible, the Qu'ran can be interpreted to support all sorts of nastiness, but these women read it in ways which affirm them. Instead, most oppression in their experience arises from an insecure foothold in a strange new land.

So, for example, Samina Ali tells how she came with her family to Minneapolis from Hyderabad, India. When she married, she had to be a virgin. If not, she would be useless to her husband and would bring dishonour to her family. Along with her Islamic friends (making lasting friendships with Americans was out of the question), she was married off to a young man from India.

"Our parents plucked these men out of their homelands for this very reason: the daughter's purity should match her groom's, a man not exposed to and perhaps even controlled in some invisible way by demonic Western possession. In this manner, the daughters of the community became mere vessels of parental legacy.

"Utterly naive, Samina Ali blamed herself when, after the wedding, her husband refused to touch her and was repulsed by her body to the point of vomiting. She was convinced that she must have done something wrong. Even after he confessed that he was gay and left her, she continued to believe that her own faithlessness was to blame for the failed marriage. Family and friends disbelieved her story and assumed she was slandering her husband. Her husband could not possibly be gay; she was merely failing in her duties as a wife. What followed was the difficult work to establish a sense of herself apart from family and faith, before re–entering her faith with a more mature understanding.

But we must be careful not to presume too much sexual oppression. "A Day In The Life," a poem by Su'ad Abdul–Khabeer, makes it clear that if we use Western mores as our yardstick, we may find ourselves on questionable ground:

"And their mani–pedi
consorts
talk smack,
frontin'
like they kick it
with freedom on the regular
their angular
sentiments
under the guise
of liberty.
Free yourself!
they tell me,
patting my hand
tugging my scarf,
From the tyranny of Faith —
So ...I can be neatly chained
to a thong?"

Another struggle from within Islam arises from the segregationist practices of many mosques, which require women to use separate entrances and to pray behind a curtain or wall. In 1994, only one-third of American mosques had instituted this practice, but by 2000, the number had risen to two-thirds. In "Being the Leader I Want to See in the World," Asra Q. Nomani tells how, despite feelings of inadequacy, she found herself inevitably challenging the practices of her mosque in Morgantown, WV. It began as personal indignation, and grew into a national media event that brought about change and resulted in "An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques" and "An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom."

Although this book is about gender and identity and asserting power over one's own destiny, all these themes get rolled into a larger theme — this is a book about spirituality. It isn't surprising, given that Abdul–Ghafur serves on the Board of Directors of the Progressive Muslim Union, that her book includes several progressive contributions. So, for example, Mohja Kahf concludes her piece with two wonderful paragraphs that seem to rise out of Islam resonate across the faiths. They begin with:

"...I began to free myself of the false god who lived within, the god whose obsession is obedience. I had been battered by an internalized idea of this god. My prior clumsy attempts to make my way around him by myself gave me that crazy schizoid feeling — that I must be doing something terribly wrong in going outside the house of tradition, disobeying, while a yaqin–certainty told me that not to do so violated everything I knew to be sacred.

"And near the end, Inas Younis offers "My Son The Mystic," which grounds some of the most profound reflections on the nature of spirit in the experience of dealing with an autistic child. Her reflection runs in two directions. Looking one way, she asks: how could it be wrong for her to make room for ego when it was the absence of ego which lay at the heart of her son's disease? And looking in the opposite direction: was there not something strangely holy about her son who lived permanently in a state that only the holiest of Sufi mystics ever knows? While the challenge which Younis must confront differs considerably from the challenges of the other contributors, she follows their path insofar as she rejects a simplistic understanding of Islam and moves to a more mature engagement with her faith. Perhaps that is all any of us, whatever our faith, can or even should aspire to.

Theoblogger - a forty-something ex-lawyer theologian from Toronto dedicated to finding the nuggets beneath the mountains of crap that some try to pass off as belief.