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Black+Muslim+Woman+Trump

It has been interesting experiencing the election and post election reactions in Africa.

I was in Bamako, Mali eagerly anticipating the results. I constantly kept refreshing my computer screen and when the lights began to flicker I knew the electricity was about to give out. I decided it was time to give it a rest and I closed my laptop. Pulling the mosquito net across my bed I felt a world away, both physically and figuratively, from a place I often referred to as “home” when strangers would ask where I was from. It didn’t quite feel like home, rather a foreign place that didn’t want any part of me. None of me.

My Blackness.

My Islam.

My womanhood.

The following morning I woke up to the news that Trump had won. I sat at the breakfast table with my heart resting heavy in my chest as French TV blared and images of Trump and Clinton rotated on the screen. The rest of the world was equally invested in the U.S. presidential elections. For this, I was a little surprised but it further proved the point that U.S. foreign policy truly set the political tone for the rest of the world. This fact was undeniable.

I scrolled through my Facebook timeline searching for some sort of solace (also in an attempt to avoid talks of American politics at the table.) As I swiped through my timeline I came across countless stories of Muslim women being physically attacked, homes spray painted with vulgarities, nasty notes left on peoples cars and places of worship targeted with hate.

No surprise to me.

My Blackness has always been a threat. My gender has always been a point of contention. My faith has always roused a sense of fear.

I am a Black Muslim woman. The embodiment of everything that America hates.

So, when non-Black Muslims came out whining and crying about how awful a Trump presidency would be for Muslims I side-eyed them.

Side-eyed them reallllyyyy hard.

Some people went as far as saying that “Muslim is the New Black…”

My jaw dropped. Nothing will ever be the New Black. Muslim immigrants enjoy the benefits of being in this country. Living in good neighborhoods, having the financial ability to send their children to decent schools and a sense of community.

Since when did the existence of America ever become a good thing for Black folks?

America been good to y’all. So, please don’t complain to me. I am not the listening ear, especially when you try your best to distance yourself from anything remotely related to Blackness. But you like Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. They will forever be the homies.
I am the wrong person to whine too. Not today!

Then I thought to myself…

Should I have empathy? Perhaps a little understanding? I should feel something, right?

It is too hard to feel anything close to empathy. The same communities that look down on Black people and perpetuate the same anti-Black attitudes are now looking for support. Muslims that preach about Islam and its racial equities but fail to practice any of it are holding out a hand for understanding. Some would argue and say that this is now the time to build bridges of solidarity.

Sure, I get that…

I still take issue with certain Muslim communities that have to be convinced that #blacklivesmatter and who have absolutely forgotten about the mass injustices committed towards other groups of people in America. I’m not even bringing up indigenous Americans. This post would go on for days.

Injustice is still relevant, even if you aren’t the victim. This is America, remember anyone has the risk of being victimized if you aren’t the status quo.

As a Black Muslim woman, I have a deeper interest in building alliances with marginalized non-Muslim groups before I work with anti-Black Muslim communities. This is the honest truth.

Black Muslims already know the deal. Mainstream politics never favor our interests. I don’t know when Arab and South Asian Muslim fell for the facade that America actually loved them.

Don’t nobody love you.

Black Muslims know the hostility that this country has always brought forth and are the outright victims of its policies. Some of us convert to Islam thinking that religious salvation will rid us of the racism we endure. We are persecuted for both our Islam and Blackness. Black people are too familiar with this. All of this. For us Trump is just the embodiment of the true face America has always had. A face that our forefathers faced with impunity and a face that our grandparents and parents fought so hard against.

Though unwelcoming it is a face of familiarity and it has always existed. Many communities who emigrated to the U.S. still remain absolutely oblivious.

This country doesn’t want you just as much as it doesn’t want Black folks. Doesn’t matter if you come with an IT degree from India or a medical degree from Lebanon.

This is the everyday reality for Black people in America. Some Arab and South Asian Muslims want to assimilate into society so badly, to the point that they will ignore the injustices other groups are facing. At times, they will even perpetuate the same racist attitudes of mainstream America. Now those same injustices are only relevant only because they, themselves, are the victims. Like I mentioned earlier, injustice is still relevant even if you aren’t the victim.

At the mosque Omar is your brother in Islam until jummah prayer is over. Any other day you won’t even acknowledge his ‘salaam’.

Not so brotherly or sisterly in the real world.

Big Black Omar might save your Muslim ass now.

Remember that.

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personal, stories, Uncategorized

Garbage lady

The first time it happened I was walking down the driveway on my way to work. I paced down the narrow driveway with my purse in one hand and lunch in the other. I took a quick glimpse at my watch. It was starting to get chilly and I was happy I wore a long sleeved shirt underneath my scrubs. I took note that I would be hot later in the day. It wasn’t quite summer anymore but it still wasn’t autumn. The seasons were flirting with each other. Like a lover not ready to say goodbye the summer sun still lingered high in the California sky. Sometimes she lingered behind a cloud. Her bashfulness wouldn’t last too long because by midday she would be beating down full force. The seasons teased each other by the weather switching between it being chilly some days and warm on others.

An oversized oak tree sat in the front yard. Her trunk thick and branches hovering over the house as though she were protecting it. On nice days I would sit on the steps and smoke a spliff underneath her. I never quite understood why people chopped trees down. Maybe people considered them overbearing and intimidating after they grew to a certain point. For some, trees served as a reminder that there were indeed things greater and more amazing than the creation of man himself. I’d puff and inhale deeply filling my lungs with smoke and exhale slowly allowing the smell to engulf and surround me. Lost in the smoke and deep in my thoughts I’d conclude with the thought that the ego of man was an awful thing.

As I approached the end of the narrow driveway I was abruptly greeted by my neighbor, Mrs. Jean. Mrs. Jean lived in the apartment beneath me. She always wore the same purple sweatshirt that zipped halfway up. Her stature was small and her moves slow and calculated. At eighty-six years old she was still very mobile. From a distance I noticed her sweatshirt was beginning to fade into a lilac.

Mrs. Jean looked up and smiled bright as I approached her. I paced towards her and smiled back. As I got closer my smile quickly faded as I realized she was elbow deep in the garbage can. Tuesday was garbage day. She had to stand on the tips of her toes to fully reach in the can. One gust of wind would probably throw her head in first. She was going through the whole buildings garbage separating the items that could be recycled and breaking down large items such as boxes and milk cartons. This involved her opening bags and literally going through items piece by piece. I noticed she began to reach for my bag and in a desperate attempt I closed the lid of the can. I missed her fingers nearly by an inch.

The force of the lid slamming down sent a rotten smell in my direction.

“Mmmm—Mrs. Jean, its ok. I can go through it myself.” I stammered while trying not to appear agitated. I took a quick glance at my watch. I was going to be late.

I really could not believe what I was witnessing. Never would I think I’d be in the position to stop someone from going through my garbage. I was almost to the point of begging. My disbelief was on the brink of anger. My privacy was being invaded and to be quite frank I didn’t like how that felt. I was convinced Mrs. Jean didn’t care about sustaining the environment. She was being nosy. She wanted to see what the building was up to.

Even if I was throwing it away it was still mine. All mine. This was my garbage.

“Honey, look you have work. You’re all dressed. I can do this. Just get on your way.” She gestured to me like a grandmother telling her grandchildren to get out the way. I slowly walked away and looked back. She waved and smiled.

I opened my car door and threw my lunch and purse onto the passenger side seat. As I drove away I looked in my rear view mirror until Mrs. Jean turned into a purple dot. She was still digging through the garbage. While I was at work all I could think of was what was in my garbage bag. I began to recollect what I had eaten throughout the week and all the personal waste I had accumulated. I had images of her going through candy bar wrappers, pantyliners and ripped up mail. The thought of it mortified me.

I sat at a desk charting on one of my patients. I took a deep breath in and realized I was ego tripping.

Then other thoughts began to creep in my mind. What would make a person decide to go through another persons trash? I mean, it was California but Mrs. Jean didn’t seem like that staunch of an environmentalist. I suspected something else. I had to investigate so the decision was made to pay her a visit later that week.

Later that week I woke up early. I pulled on a pair of old jeans and threw a t-shirt on. I slipped my feet into a pair of gym shoes and walked down the flight of stairs. I baked some banana bread the evening before and put a couple slices aside. I knocked on the door and stood there for a couple of seconds before I heard the shuffle of moving feet headed towards the door. Mrs. Jean opened the door wearing her infamous purple sweatshirt. I saw a look of surprise on her face and a smiled followed.

“I baked some extra cake last night and thought you’d like some.” I said while handing her the warm plate.

She gestured for me to come in. I took my shoes off at the door and walked into her living room. Her house was decorated with dark wood paneling and oversized sofas. I sat on the love seat and sank deep into it. She asked if I wanted a cup of tea. As she went to the kitchen I rested my head back and surveyed the room. Pictures of smiling people hung on the wall. Some photos looked relatively new while others were beginning to fade into hues of brown and yellow.

She shuffled back into the living room handing me a cup of hot tea. It smelled like chamomile. I took a couple sniffs of the tea before resting the cup on my lips. The pleasant taste of honey aroused my taste buds. I nestled into the sofa as Mrs. Jean began to talk.

This was the visit where I found out that Mrs. Jean was a lonely woman, a very lonely woman. She drifted in that dark apartment between memories of the past and a rapidly changing world that greeted her at the brink of her doorsteps. To make matters worse the West didn’t treat its elderly with kindness and patience. As a nurse I could think of countless times I had witnessed this working with older patients. There was no joy or celebration in becoming old rather it was always viewed with a sense of contempt and regret. The first appearance of fine wrinkles and gray hairs sent some women into botox frenzies. The idea of prolonging youth was often encouraged and anyone who embraced the idea of getting old was side eyed.

My visits became more frequent. I’d often sit through the same stories over and over again. Each time acting as though it was the first time I heard them. I knew it brought her a sense of comfort having someone to talk to even if that meant listening to her stories that I would repeat verbatim in my head.

People will do strange things in order to feel a sense of connection and purpose. Right now my purpose was clear and concise. It was very difficult to imagine myself being an old woman without anything to do. At thirty years old I was moving with life and the feeling of being stuck in time was foreign to me.

I slowly realized it was so much more than the garbage and I was indeed ego tripping. It had absolutely nothing to do with me and my feelings. This was about an old woman who had nothing else to do except go through the buildings garbage. We all have the possibility of becoming a “Mrs. Jean.”

Be kind and patient with the elderly.

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personal, stories, Uncategorized

Rat Tail Comb

I sat in between her knees Indian style. I could feel my right foot going to sleep. I didn’t care because I was too focused on the tugging and pulling of my hair. I squirmed. I made ugly faces. My eyes squinted with each yank. Sometimes I would cry or scream. She would hit my head with the rat tail comb. “Chiiiilllllldddddd, if these braids come out crooked!”

This was a ritual. A black girl ritual. Getting my hair done by my grandmother was a process and I was what Black folks called “tender headed”, meaning that my scalp was extra sensitive. My hair long, thick and curly. She was very proud of my hair. Her hands worked furiously in my scalp weaving and creating a masterpiece in my curls and kinks. With each brisk move of her arm I could smell the hair grease which was her mixture of castor and coconut oil with a hint of orange. Sometimes if she used too much I could feel it drip down the nape of my neck and down my back. It tickled and felt warm.

I would smell like oranges for the rest of the day.

The end result of her work would be rows of calculated braids, each one decorated with a colorful barrett at the end. When I would move my head from side to side I could hear them clank against each other. Red, purple, pink, blue and yellow. My head looking like a rainbow after a harsh summer rain. Everyone coming out to see it. Pointing, smiling and happy faced.

I would hold my head upward to the sky and with my eyes I would say; yes it’s me and like the rainbow I too am beautiful…

My grandmother a Baptist woman with wide hips and a husky laugh was from Mississippi. Her hair long and straight with sparks of silver strands throughout. Her skin light and eyes deep brown. Her looks being a constant reminder that her father was the result of his Black mother being raped by a White man. His white father never denying his son would constantly refer to my great granddad as “his nigga.” The other White men taking note not to mess with him because that was Neil’s boy.

Grandma Vivian.
Often times I would hug her and bury my face deep in her bosom. She would grab me in her big arms and squeeze. The air would leave my lungs and then she would give me permission to breathe then seconds later squeeze me again. At nine years old love smelled like gardenia and talcum powder. Her hands wrinkled but soft like fresh leather. Her fingernails always painted a soft hue of pink.

As a child I loved to make her laugh because it came from deep inside her stomach. The air pushing it up from her insides. I’d purposely do things just trying to get her laugh out. I knew it was real, not the fake type of laugh to appease a child. She would close her eyes, hold her stomach, bend over and I would wait to hear it make its way out of her mouth. Sometimes it felt like eternity waiting for her mouth to make that sound. My ears waiting in anticipation. A sense of accomplishment was felt once I heard her laugh. I had done something big and I would laugh with her.

 

One day she was laying on her sofa and told me to get the comb and hair grease. Her paisley night-gown draped on her body and her hair sitting in rollers. Her house slippers dangling off her feet. I stopped in my tracks. Looked dead at her. “Now you know I don’t have all day girl!” I knew what was coming. I sulked and slowly walked down the hallway to the linen closet dragging my feet behind me with every move praying to the Lord that she would forget. Finally, I made my way back to her with my arms over flowing with hair items. She had not forgotten. My eyes began to tear up and my scalp tingled. She sat up on the sofa and I sat on the wood floor between her knees. Our cat Maggie brushed up against me and with my right foot I kicked her away unleashing all my frustrations on the helpless animal. Maggie whimpered as she limped away and I felt bad for a moment until I felt the first tug and busted out in a cry.

As an adult and after an ex who used to be Rastafarian I would dreadlock my hair. One summer I came home to visit my grandmother and took my scarf off. With my locks draped down my back I shook my head to let my mane breath. Each dread as black as the night.Grandma Vivian’s eyes welled up and she held her chest stumbling towards me in disbelief. “Baby, how could you be so lazy to let your hair mat up like that?” I said nothing.

_____

I still make ugly faces when I get my hair done. When I smell oranges I often think of Grandma Vivian and sometimes when I weave braids into my baby sisters scalp I see a glimpse of her hands.

But,

I don’t cry anymore though, at least not in public.

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love, personal, stories, Uncategorized, womanhood

Lessons on love

I saw them walk around the edge of the water holding hands. Her chubby fingers laced into his. They both appeared to be in their mid to late 30’s. I could tell their love was new based on how his hands traced her body. Whether or not he realized it he was reading and studying her. His fingers did the work and his mind soaked it all in.

I could tell he was enjoying it. I thought how I missed having my body studied by a man.

As I watched them slowly walk by I imagined him being a very passionate and attentive lover. Words didn’t have to be spoken because he would read her body like a book of poetry. Her body was his poetry, in all of its sacredness. He would write haikus about the curve of her wide hips. He would write soliloquies about the softness of her heavy breasts. Every pause, every comma and every period would be considered. He would never rush. Every time his fingers grazed her body she would allow him to turn yet another page revealing more of herself to him. Sometimes he would even go back a page, only to slowly read it again fearing that perhaps he may have missed something. Her deep sighs would mean she was ready. He would want to take all of her in. He savored the ending but he wouldn’t finish until she gave him permission to close her book. Everyone knew you had to take your time reading poetry.

Once they reached a hill the woman stopped and looked out at the water. Her curly hair was moving in sync with the wind. Some ducks were splashing nearby and the sun sat perfectly in the clear blue sky. He walked up behind her and gently placed his arms around her waist. I could see he was whispering in her ear. I imagined what he might be saying. Her face eased into a smile. She closed her eyes as he brushed his lips against her cheek. She leaned back and shifted her weight onto him fully assured that he was able to handle it. They walked in slow motion while taking gentle steps. Both of them were oblivious to the runners, bikers and strollers that zoomed around them. There was an air of impatience to the people who passed them up. I just watched them both and thought to myself what it truly means to be in love and oblivious to the rest of the world.

I came up with one answer, absolutely wonderful.

_

I have been in love twice. I’m speaking about being madly, deeply, i-cant-think-about-nothin’-else type of love. The feeling of being warm and fuzzy inside when you see the person. Oh, and I can’t forget the “butterflies”. You haven’t truly been in love until you’ve experienced that. For real.

But, I digress.

I am a Black, Afrikan, Muslim woman.

I am a strong woman.

I am also…

A woman who loves to love. I am a woman who loves to be loved. There is nothing weak about admitting that. I actually view it as a strength. Love is one of the only things that can make you both vulnerable and powerful at the same damn time. This is the effect that love can have on a person.

I am close to turning thirty, God willing. For some women, thirty is a stepping stone and almost a dreaded right of passage. Many feel that there are certain things that a woman should have by the time she hits thirty. One of those things is a stable relationship. The powerful women who raised me made it clear that my identity and self worth was wrapped up in so much more that a societal dictation regarding female aging.

Lately, I have been reflecting and thinking about my experiences with love so far.

For me, both times were wonderful and I learned lessons about myself in each of those relationships. One thing I have definitely come to understand is that inexperience brings a sweetness to love. I was nineteen the first time I fell in love. I gave him a very sweet and innocent type of love and with the right person it could have been a beautiful thing. At that age it was so easy to follow the inclinations of my heart without hesitation. Part of being young is thinking that you can overcome anything. Life has a way of working itself out though. Allah knows what we do not.

As you get older you become realistic and begin to fully understand life. The second time happened ten years later and I was at a very different phase in my life. I still fell hard and enjoyed every minute of it. I was in deep, but unlike most, I was not in denial. I savored every minute of daydreaming, random texts and lingering conversations on the phone. I knew that being that much in love with a person carried its risks. I was ready to accept all of that. Our love was pleasantly unexpected and intense. I appreciated it for the experience and the lessons I learnt.

Remember, many people have never loved, been loved or fallen in love. Consider your experiences a blessing even if they end before you would like. There is a place for everything in your life, including love. What is meant for you now may not be meant for you tomorrow.

Give thanks for life.

Give thanks for love.

Give thanks to Allah.

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Second Chances

She rubbed her stomach in a slow circular motion. Her fingers grazed her belly button with each stroke. She watched her hand rub, rub and rub some more. She rubbed with such an intensity as if the touching of her protruding stomach would somehow help ease her thoughts. It was like her hand had a mind of its own. She was tired and could barely get out of bed that morning. She threw on a pair of jeans and tossed a hijab on top of her uncombed hair.

Her eyes shifted to the door.

She stopped the mindless rubbing.

The nurse called some name and the girl next to her sighed with an undertone of impatience. The office looked like you stepped back into the 80’s. It smelled of moth balls and disinfectant. A plant that needed watering sat in the corner. The leaves were starting to turn brown and curl inward. She almost felt like getting a cup of water from the fountain nearby and pouring it into the soil, if only it was as easy to nourish the pain in her heart. Her soul needed watering. Everything around her was moving in slow motion, except for her thoughts. Her mind was racing at a mile a minute.

She had two options.

It was plain and clear.

Keep it or don’t keep it.

She knew what it meant to keep the baby. She would probably never get married. Her family would be shamed from here to eternity and her life would essentially be over. A form of suicide but the worse part about that was she wouldn’t actually be dead. She would still be living and going through the motions of life.

She would rather be dead.

Again, plain and clear.

Getting rid of the baby meant that she could go on as if nothing happened. This would be a hard secret to keep. She didn’t feel like her heart could bear to hold it. She had never been a liar and the thought of murdering her baby made all the blood rush to her head. She felt faint. Her eyes closed as her head fell back and rested on the wall behind her. She whispered “Allah” under her breath. This was a call for clarity mixed with a yearning for forgiveness. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Babies were never a mistake.

This baby was a manifestation of their passion. She loved him. He loved her. She knew exactly when she got pregnant but she was still in denial when she missed her period two months in a row. Your mind will convince you to believe anything. Afterwards, he rolled over and wrapped his big arms around her. She kissed him. He always liked to whisper in her ear after they made love. He would tell her how beautiful she was and thank her for giving him a piece of her love. She could always tell if he was being honest by the look in his eyes. The room was dark and strips of moonlight crept through the blinds. She looked at him and he didn’t blink. He knew she was looking for sincere eyes. Even as dark as the room was she could still look into them. His eyes were deep brown and bright as ever. His warmth radiated around her. She was nestled in him and at that moment in time she didn’t want to be anywhere else. Her eyes closed and she could hear him falling asleep. His breathing pattern slowed down. She rubbed her fingers through his beard. He still held her tightly as he fell asleep. This was love but you couldn’t convince their families though. She never understood why old people acted like they had never been young and in love. She swore up and down she would never become like them. They both pleaded with their parents to allow them to get married. By that point he had approached her father three times and each time it ended with a rejection and a culturally appropriate request not to return. She knew this hurt his pride but he was a man and would never admit it. They were going to be together regardless but like everything in life she knew there would be consequences.

She knew this was a possibility. Every time you lay up with a man you risk the chance of getting pregnant. This was basic knowledge but she got caught up with him. It started off innocent and sweet. She held onto her virginity the way good Muslim girls are taught. By the time she reached twenty-five it was getting harder to maintain herself. They would meet up at events, then that lead to dinners and eventually he began inviting her over to his place. In the beginning he even gave her his bed as he crashed on the sofa. At the thought of this she laughed under her breath at its stupidity. Shaytan did his work and had them both thinking they were in control. The first time they had sex there was a sense of remorse and guilt. Afterwards they immediately turned away from each other as though nothing had happened. The shame of sin had kicked in. She rolled out from under the covers and quickly put her clothes on. She couldn’t believe it had happened. As she left his house she could still smell him on her. She had held onto her virginity for all those years and to lose it that quickly almost seemed unfair. She had never felt so dirty but he ignited a flame inside her body that could only be cooled by him. It felt natural. She would try to ward off the flames of desire and sometimes she would succeed but when they became uncontrollable she needed him. Every time they vowed to never to repeat this sin but one thing led to the next and before she knew it she’d be wrapped up in his bed sheets once again. This is what had led her to this point.

Marriage was what she wanted. It was what they both wanted from the beginning. She blamed her parents, her community and cultural bullshit. Islam was easy but Muslims made it hard. She was being pushed away but she needed her community. She needed to be reminded of where she came from. Hindsight is always 20/20, no doubt. She understood the consequences of her actions. Actually, they both understood the consequences of their actions but she was the one who carried the tangible manifestation of what they had done.

No one had explained these things to her though. Everything she learned about sex was from her peers and TV. No one actually sat her down and explained sex and its implications. Sex was always seen as a shame. As a woman you were not allowed to admit that you had the desire to be desired, even if you were within the confines of a marriage. It was often discussed with brides the night before their wedding in hushed voices behind closed doors. Some people said this was related to Islam but she had been educated enough to know that this was a cultural understanding. In Islam, women were sexually liberated and their needs were always acknowledged.

The door opened and the plump nurse walked out with a clipboard in her hand. She lifted her glasses and looked at it puzzlingly. She uttered something with exaggerated syllables that didn’t sound even remotely close to her name. She didn’t care and didn’t even bother correcting the nurse. She made eye contact and acknowledged her presence without words. Worried that the shame she was carrying deep inside her womb would surface she quickly averted her eyes to the floor.

Her mind had been made up.

______________

I remember when a friend of mine disappeared. I remember the pain and worry I felt when I couldn’t find her. Her number changed, her Facebook page vanished and I lost contact with her for nearly three years. I had heard that she got caught up with a brother and decided to take some time to recover from a failed attempt at getting married. Years later, I bumped into her and to my surprise she had a toddler strapped on her hip. I remember she looked happy and I was overjoyed to see her after years of not being in contact. I found out that in those years she had a son and had finally decided to come out and be part of the Muslim community once again. She said she did this for the sake of her child. She couldn’t raise him on her own and needed to be around other Muslims.

At the time, I had a mix of emotions. I was upset and hurt. I didn’t understand why she had to go into hiding but I began to understand the hard decision she had to make. She was all alone. My mind shifted to the feeling of loneliness she probably felt and the fact that she had very few people to confide in. I wanted to be there for her because as a young Muslim woman I understood the struggle of being single and alone. The reality remains that it is easy to get caught up and you have to be diligent and mindful of Shaytan and his tricks. I admired her courage for coming back but I admired her even more for keeping her child under cultural and religious pressures.

Muslim women who get pregnant out of wedlock need to be encouraged to keep their seeds but there is no way this can happen without collective community support. As women, we have to give each other a break and understand that it is very easy to judge a person when you haven’t been put in the same predicament. Each one of us navigate a different road in life. Life is full of challenges and we all face circumstances different from the next. I have witnessed Muslim men bring their pregnant girlfriends to the mosque. Absolutely no shame in their game and they aren’t reprimanded.

Let a sista repeat…

I’ve actually witnessed Imams encourage these men to bring their girlfriends to the mosque in hope that these women will convert to Islam. Yet, when a Muslim woman gets pregnant she goes into hiding or gets an abortion. Sometimes she leaves Islam all together. What about the child? What about her spiritual wellbeing?

The double standards are for real and I refuse to accept them.

The dehumanizing associated with Islam needs to stop. Muslims are people and fall into sin just like any other group. When did religiosity and infallibility become so closely intertwined? As sincere Muslims, we all hope to stay on the path of truth and righteousness but in reality sometimes we take a detour or some of us just take a break and get off the path all together. We would rather trample over each other and judge a person when they are having a difficult time getting back up. So rather than offering a helping hand we kick them down even further when they make sincere efforts to get back into our communities. What happens when Allah has allowed a person to come back? What happens when He has ignited their hearts once again? Lending a helping hand to a person who has fallen victim to life doesn’t mean you agree with their actions it simply means you are empathizing.

Marriage is not difficult but Muslims make these things more complicated than they ought to be. If two young people express interest in each other why aren’t we allowing them to get married? Then we wanna get mad and judgmental when folks get caught up in certain situations. The older I get I hear of far too many people getting caught up simply based on the fact that their community or parents didn’t allow the marriage to progress. This is a huge problem in many Muslim communities. It usually falls into these two categories, either the brother isn’t financially ready (so the family rejects) or the family doesn’t agree with interracial/intercultural marriages.

In addition, we need to teach our young people about sex. In an ideal world and according to Islam abstinence is taught but in reality folks are getting it in. Young Muslims need to properly understand sex and its implications. Contraception, STD’s/STI’s and pregnancies need to be discussed with a culturally sensitive approach. There needs to be no shame associated with this. If we aren’t teaching the youngins’ then they are learning elsewhere. Expecting people to navigate the roads of life without proper guidance is absolutely unrealistic. Our communities need to take some responsibility.

You will never know the inner struggles of a person. Kindness and empathy always overpower.

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Confessions of a fat Muslimah part 1

It was a comfortably chilly Friday evening when I was leaving the hospital. The air felt good brushing against my skin as I exited the hospital revolving door. The sun was about to set and maghrib was rushing in. I looked to the West and could see shades of deep orange, yellow and traces of blue etched in the sky. I thought to myself how no sunset was ever the same and how everyday brought the opportunity to start anew. The sun had a set and known pattern, and even in all her glory, she was given the opportunity to shine and set differently each day. We were only stuck if we allowed ourselves to be. If the sun could do her thang as she saw fit—so could I.

The weather in Northern California was consistent, unlike the unexpected weather of my hometown Chicago. I liked knowing what to expect. I found my car, unlocked it and plopped in the seat. I couldn’t wait to get out of these contaminated scrubs. I had just done a 14 hours shift at the hospital, and needless to say, a sista needed her feet rubbed. I was aching from running up and down hospital corridors all day. Between the man who wanted fresh ice every hour, and the elderly woman whose heart rate kept spiking, I didn’t get a moment rest that shift. The body is interesting. The aching would only peak if I sat down but as long as I was up moving around I felt perfectly fine.

I thought about how I was in need of a halal bae and as I began to partake in a round of self-pity I realized that a slice of my favorite cake would suffice just as much.

A slice of strawberry chiffon cake to be exact.

I pulled up to my favorite grocery store and parked my car. I was on a mission and as I approached the cake section I saw my slice prepackaged and patiently waiting for me. I saw they had a peach flavored slice as well. I tried my best not to get sidetracked. As I grabbed my halal bae for the night I began to head to the checkout lane. This was around the time I noticed a beautiful chocolate skin brotha walking my way. He seemed to have workout clothes on. He was carrying a handheld basket overflowing with groceries so every muscle in that arm was sculpted and protruding.

Now in what seemed to be slow motion…

He looked at my cake. I looked at him looking at my cake. He looked at me. We both looked at my cake.

He walked away.

So I stood in the bread section with pulsating feet and contaminated scrubs staring at the gluten free tortillas. Any other shopper probably would have thought I was comparing the prices not knowing that I was silently having a fat- girl- freakout moment.

Hell, I NEEDED the cake. It was either cake or a haraam foot rub! Which would have he preferred? He would never understand! Then I thought…

Wait, he probably didn’t even care…
Maybe he could give me a good foot rub, I thought. His hands did look kinda strong.

I reminded myself to stay focused and not think about his hands or arms. Right now it was about cake and nothing else. It was me and this cake trying to survive this dunya (this life) and make it over to the akhirah (afterlife) in one piece…or maybe two (if we wanted seconds).

I was doing this for the sake of Islam and my deen. Allah swt being the Most Merciful wanted me to have this cake. He (swt) wants all his servants to be happy…right?

So I awkwardly checked out and mentally compiled myself.

I felt ashamed but then I didn’t feel ashamed. Girls have this thing where we hate for guys to watch us eat, know what we eat or comment on what we have already eaten. Maybe we’re worried about being judged, I am not quite sure. In one of my previous posts, Beautiful or Bootyful, y’all already know I’ve always been what would be labeled a “big” girl. Chubby, BBW (Big Beautiful Woman), thick, fluffy…it’s all the same thing. I’ve never been ashamed to eat in public, but for that one moment in the bread section in the middle of Whole Freakin’ Foods, I knew what it felt like. I knew what it felt like to have your insecurities surface. I knew what it felt like and it didn’t feel good. It didn’t have anything to do with the chocolate brotha man, it had everything to do with me and how I perceived myself for that one moment in time.

So I have compiled a list of pointers for my fellow sista queens. When you have those moments of self-doubt remember this list. These are things I have already accepted, semi- accepted and currently working on:
1. A man who loves you will enjoy every piece of you. Whether you think you’re fat, actually fat or wish you had more jiggle in that wiggle, it’s important to understand that you are truly more than what you look like. It took me a while to fully understand this, and even sometimes I have my moments of regression, but this is the truth. If a man solely judges you off of what you look like then that is a huge indicator of where your relationship is headed. Even if you fit the societal standards of beauty to a “t”, your looks are still going to eventually fade.
2. “Let them eat cake!” If you are in public with a brotha and he is paying for food don’t be silly and order a salad (I mean if that’s what you want, go for it!). So much of how women navigate the world is based on men. Be authentic to yourself. Accept your cake and eat it like you mean it!
3. Negative influences. When your negative inner voice starts to get loud, shut it down right away. Maybe you’ve scrolled through too many IG selfies or perhaps you’re comparing yourself to that one chic who always looks flawless. If this is the case take a break. We live in a day and age where images are thrown at us left and right. Sometimes you just gotta take a moment and chill. Your mental sanity will thank you later.
4. Never say “sorry”. Never apologize for who YOU are. I have to thank my friend Nick for reminding me of this. Women have been socially conditioned to always be “nice” and to always say “sorry”. If someone insults you don’t just sit around and take it and most importantly you don’t owe anyone an apology for being you. Religiosity does not equate into being someone else’s doormat or self esteem booster. Remember Umar (RA) was baaaadddd as they come, he did not play with folks! Also, Aisha (RA) would have to tell chicks off if they got out their lane.
5. If it aint one thing it’s another. If you don’t remember one thing, remember this point. If it’s not one thing you don’t like about yourself it will be another. Some people are poor others are considered “ugly”. There will always be something, best believe. Just live for right now in the moment and be open to new experiences. Enjoy yourself and enjoy those who love you just the way you are.

Moral of the story is: have your cake and (if he doesn’t want it) eat his too!

Oh yeah, don’t forget to say Bismillah.

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Uncategorized

ISNA & #blacklivesDONTmatter

As a Muslim woman of Afrikan descent I have had my fair amount of frustrations being raised within a predominately Arab Muslim community. Like many other Black Muslims, I have to deal with many instances of subtle prejudices to sheer racism from first and second generation Muslims who hail from Asian and Arab backgrounds. This is my response to a recent press release that was distributed by Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in the wake of the Baltimore uprising. ISNA needs a point of reference, from a fresh minded Black Muslim woman, which I am here to offer. This press release only touched the tip of the iceberg in reference to the problems that exist within the Black and immigrant Muslim community in America. This letter is directed to ISNA and President Mr. Azhar Azeez.

On April 28th, ISNA issued a biased and politically infused press release that condemned protesters and “rioters” in Baltimore for resorting to violence after the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody on April 19th. The umbrella organization, which claims to “foster the development of the Muslim community”, was heavily “disturbed by the escalation of violence in Baltimore”. Previously, ISNA had yet to mention anything about the incident in Baltimore or the consequential result of policing practices in marginalized Black neighborhoods. As a person who aims to acknowledge the truth, I don’t believe one Black person was consulted during the formulation of this misinformed press release. I firmly believe that if a diverse spectrum of Muslims was consulted before the distribution of this release there would not have been such an enormous backlash. Since then, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) issued a stance and an independent online petition has been circulating attempting to hold ISNA accountable for their actions of negating Black life. ISNA, you lacked sensitivity and tactfulness with this deliverance. Whoever wrote the press release and assisted in editing it not only needs cultural sensitivity training but a dose on the reality of what Black folks have been enduring in America for centuries.

Maybe you aren’t aware but Black folks in America are under siege on a daily basis and being a Black Muslim adds another interesting element to the plot. Not only do I have to constantly assert and explain my Blackness to the outside world but I am finding myself in similar situations within the wider Muslim community. Black Americans live in a society where we are mentally and physically under attack and our religiously based institutions are supposed to serve as safe havens. People turn to faith and religious spaces for a sense of belonging, solace and understanding. These spaces are supposed to serve as safe havens for Muslims but in reality they are far from that. Black Muslim Americans must function in communities where we are consistently having to educate and redirect non-Black Muslims from biased and prejudice notions against Black people. It’s exhausting and draining having to educate you. Simply put, the Muslim community is absurdly prejudice but employ Islam and the concept of brotherhood as a guise for personal and institutional advancement. Behind closed doors, many Muslims and Islamic organizations promote the same ideas and attitudes concerning Black people that the general American population fosters. When those same institutions grasp onto biases and political interests then they have virtually lost their purpose. ISNA purports to represent Muslims from a wide array of cultures and ethnicities. From that, one-third of those represented identify as Black. With that being said, the recent statements produced by ISNA prove further than there is very little concern, for Black lives, which of course include Black Muslim lives which in turn is my life as a Black Muslim woman.

For many years, the immigrant Muslim community has tried its best to disconnect itself from the struggle of Black people. When you look at me as a Black person you do not see your own struggle as a person of color in a country that has neither of our interests in mind. You emigrate to this country in the hopes of assimilating into the White masses. You seek white approval and at the same time look at your brothers and sisters in the struggle with noses turned up. There has been an intentional negation of the Black fight for freedom and instead of learning and building with us you run away and condemn our actions. ISNA, unfortunately you are no exception and rather than attempting to learn from our Black brothers and sisters on the quest for justice you have burned the bridges of solidarity. Promoting sermons concerning racial justice and the mentioning of the Prophets companion Bilal will not suffice with me any longer. On that note, Bilal (peace and blessings be upon him) has to be the most exploited companion of the Prophet. I am not going to be complacent as my life and those of my fellow Black brethren get lost between your hypocritical words of equality.

In conclusion, distributing this press release and then attempting to apologize or as you stated “clarify”, not only brought to light ISNA’s main motivation of seeking political approval from the white majority, but in fact how many institutions view the Black community in general. ISNA, and Mr. Azeem, you do not understand the community who you claim to serve and you do not get a pass on this ridiculous and callous press release. You had time to clean yourself up but opted not to properly apologize. ISNA has been around for decades and should know how to master the art of racial affairs. Your organizations are not located in Black communities, you do not attempt to come to our neighborhoods and quite often we are not welcomed into your mosques and institutions. Black bodies are only of benefit to the immigrant Muslim community if there is monetary gain involved, such as fried food shacks, liquor stores, gas stations or increasing the attendance to your annual convention. In those instances, I am sure Black lives matter to you since we are financially contributing to your sense of comfort. Perhaps that is why you were so “disturbed by the escalation of violence” because we were in fact burning down your businesses in the hood that have exploited the Black community for years.

We are not profit, or a personal tool you can use to advance yourself. Black folks are people and many of us happen to have Islam deeply rooted in our families.

If you didn’t listen before, today is the day you learn.

Your sister in Islam and the struggle,

Ihssan Tahir

Please email ISNA’s Communication Director Edgar Hopida at ehopida@isna.net 317.679.6350 or 317.839.1820 to hold them accountable for their callous and racist remarks regarding Black folks and the Baltimore Uprising. 

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