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Dear Theresa May et al.:

As a Canadian Muslim woman, here is how I feel about your political rhetoric. 


On Saturday evening, I saw a tweet from the Associated Press that there had been an attack in London. After every breaking story about an attack on a European city my first thought was “God, please don’t let it be a Muslim.”

My reaction is not rooted in a disregard for victims or their families, but instead in the inevitable divisive hateful rhetoric from politicians, pundits, and everyday people- under the guise of free speech and counter terrorism- which follows these horrific incidents. As a young Muslim woman who wears Hijab, I am afraid to interact with people in the wake of a terrorist attack. I am afraid to go outside, to walk to the bus, to go about my daily life. I live in fear people that people will think my religion, so openly flaunted on my head, endorses such atrocities.

At the same time, immediately after the attacks, I do not want to explain geopolitics or pretend to be the model Muslim minority who condemns attacks or proves her unwavering alignment with Western Values. You might think it’s all in my head. But when I listen to Theresa May’s address on Sunday morning after the London Bridge attack or when I read the Statistic Canada report about the 61% jump in hate crimes against Muslims in the last few years; I know it’s a reality.

May’s lionization of British values, in the same vain as Kelly Leitch’s cry for “Canadian values,” is a deliberate political move to define an in-group and an out-group, the latter in which un-hip Muslims belong. Do you like raspberry jam with your scones, Margret Atwood’s short stories’, and generally Western things like freedom? Come on over- you’re welcome in the West. But don’t be fooled you have to continually prove you are in fact Muslim lite enough to live here. 

These statements from politicians reverberate globally and trickle down to the average citizen. In other words, the power of their words does not end when the press conferences do. The words of politicians like May make an impact on the lives of everyday Muslims across the world. I am one of those Muslims. Here is an example:

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was taking a stroll downtown; I came across a hostile anti-Islam protest on Parliament Hill. Violent and angry people stood shouting anti-Muslim and anti-migrant slogans on the soil of our democracy. Such demonstrations were granted permits to gather on the Hill. Demonstrations such as the Women’s March in January following President Trump’s election were denied a permit to peacefully rally on Parliament Hill. To grant a permit to hateful and ignorant messages is implicitly an endorsement of such hateful messages. These demonstrations successfully terrifies visitors, both Canadian and International, and in the cradle of our very democracy.

I stood there, with my mother, in terrified silence.

How many people in my life thought I did not belong in Canada or in the West? How many people believe Islam is inherently violent? How many attacks on everyday Muslims and their places of worship until we realize the words of politicians and pundits are fuelling vigilante anti-Muslim behaviours?

I find it ironic that the very same countries that pride themselves in diversity and metropolitanism divide the communities within them in a call for counter-terrorism. Do not get it wrong, May's words like “Islamist-inspired terrorism” might seem nuanced and watered down, but ultimately the general public hears “Islam.” At this point, we don’t even speak about the true definition of terrorism anymore because we’ve all sort of accepted it implies a Muslim attacker. After the Quebec mosque shooting in January, the fact Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident a terrorist attack made headlines. That is how much we, along with the media’s complacency, equate the word terrorist to “Muslim.”

But at the end of the day, after the shock, the tweets, and the academic analyses, the hateful political rhetoric of May and more obviously so, Donald Trump, gives license to those with racist views to speak and act against everyday Muslims, most of which are just trying to eat their scones with clotted cream in peace.

My Response To Anti-Islamic Sentiment Is Not To Be Nice

Let’s be clear, anti-Islamic sentiment in Canada did not spontaneously begin as backlash from Trump’s not-a-Muslim-ban Muslim Ban; it did not start because of the Quebec shooting; it did not start when MP Iqra Khalid tabled an “anti-Islamophobia” motion.

Anti-Islamic sentiment, in Canada and elsewhere, began when many powerful countries and their leaders, with the media’s complacency, began to use fear of Islam and Muslims to assert their political agendas. It began when terms like “creeping Sharia” were created to shut down dialogue about religious protections and the word terrorist became synonymous to Muslim. It began with identity politics and fear mongering.  

Let us not forget when former Prime Minster of Canada, Stephen Harper, used the word “Islamicism” and called that the biggest threat to Canada and it catalyzed anti-Muslim behaviour across Canada. (Please note that he literally made up a word and perpetuated a objectively and empirically untrue statement.)

And for a very long time, the Muslim community, and at times, myself included, remained defensive and passive. We showed off all our community involvement initiatives and opened the door to our mosques and told people how much we love Canada.

I think all those things are important and valid.  

But I do not think they are enough.

Right now, in an environment where minority groups, especially Muslims, are under relentless verbal attack, I do not think the only answer is to be nicer to people so they think we aren’t terrorists who want to ban bacon poutine.

Because loving our country means making sure it shows us that it loves us back.

The fabric of our democracy relies on our voices and if we use them to ask for our constitutionally protected rights, it does not mean that we are hiding something; it does not mean we hate Canada; it does not mean that we want Sharia.

Speaking out against anti-Muslim ideologies and behaviours is how we walk the walk about Canada’s diversity. It is how we exercise our democratic rights and it is how we begin to combat environments conducive to hatred of a constructed “Other.”

 

Why I have to believe words matter

Sometimes I wonder if words matter. It's no doubt I love to speak them. And write them. But do they matter?

Will there be change if we make posters and send letters and sign petitions?

Will my opinion matter? Will public opinion matter?

These questions plague me because I'm consistently on the cusp of surrender, dare I say, retreat and defeat. I am constantly fighting between reckless optimism and pragmatism. I worry deeply and endlessly about what seems to be boundless injustice in our very own backyards.

In these moments, in the moments that my mind drifts into darkness and my sense of resiliency wanes. I remember that I have to believe in words and posters and letters and petitions. Because those things freed my father. Those seemingly mundane things meant that justice was served.

I have to believe in these things because they are the tools of our democracy. I have to believe in those things because they are the only things we have in the face of injustice. I have to believe in those things because my mom did and my grandmother did and everyone who stood alongside us during that ordeal did. I have to believe in those seemingly little actions because it is in that very belief, that those things have power to make a difference.

So my brothers and sisters, my fellow human beings: I humbly ask of you, to use your words and to use your art, to speak your truth and to demand justice. My brothers and sisters, it is our role, dare I say, it is our duty, in the darkest of moments, in the days plagued with miscarriages of justice, to speak loudly and audaciously to those who threaten our right to dignity, life, and liberty. 

On Gender in the House of God

I spent the last two weeks in Turkey. I went from mosque to mosque to mosque. I took photos of the ineffable beauty these structures hold. I was consistently, without a doubt, in awe. Every mosque seemed to be more beautiful than the last. To sit or stand in the midst of such history, spirituality, and deep contemplation of God, for me, was a visceral, but also, a transcendental experience.

Yet every mosque we visited, I, along with the other women I was with, were banished to the very back of the mosque. We were given two to three meters of space, enough for no more than a few dozen women. Usually, the space was cold and there was no direct connection to the Imam or the rest of the congregation.

These experiences culminated at one mosque we visited in Edirne. In an essentially empty mosque, we sat to pray in the communal middle area. This area was already separated from the “men’s area.”  Still, the security guard aggressively told us we must go to the back (the women’s area) and stay there. This “women’s section” he directed us to, was behind the shoe section, where people leave their shoes when they pray. It was even behind the visitor’s section. Let me give a brief explanation here. In Islam, like other religions, there is the concept of ritual purity. There are some circumstances in which people, Muslim or non-Muslim, would be considered ritually impure and would not be able to enter certain sacred spaces. Before Muslims pray, they are required to perform ablution, so they may be ritually pure and ready for prayer. A visitor’s section is allotted in order to allow people to visit a sacred space without having said ritual purity. Therefore, the message I receive when I am told I am unwelcome in this space is that I, as a woman, and because of that fact, am unwelcome in a sacred space because of my gender. That inherently, my womanhood is ritually impure. The message it sent to me, and to many of the women I was with, is that our existence in the house of God, in so far we are women, is a perceived as a burden and, as a matter of fact, an impurity. 

For me the idea that the house of God is a gendered space is unacceptable. In the moment of creation, the soul, or the “nafs” as it is understood in Islam, is created un-gendered. This is because it is transcendental and beyond any notions of space and time. The constructs of gender are necessarily contingent on temporality and spatially, which human beings impose. A transcendental notion of the soul makes it so that there is moral and intellectual equality within all human beings.

Therefore, being in a place that is so beautiful, so connected the something that is beyond, and being told to remain confined to certain space, because of my space, frustrates me because it is simply arbitrary.

Today, I have one directed grievance, and it is to the men of our community. Insofar we are Muslim, and insofar, we are human beings, we believe in fair and equal treatment of one another, and the elimination of injustice. Many Muslim men I know, especially those on the trip with me to Turkey, speak endlessly of the Ummah- the united Muslim community. Yet time and time again, I do not see them standing up to unequal treatment of half the Ummah. I do not see Muslim men defending gender equality to other Muslim men; I do not see them standing with us when we report our grievances to men in power. 

Perhaps, you disagree with my standpoints, and that is your prerogative. Maybe you think I am too much of a radical feminist- a heathen- even. So be it. This is my testimonial, not my first not my last, of what I see: the ever growing ostracization of women, because they are women, in the house of God. 

Why Muslim Rap is just as Offensive to me

I do not find anything particularly Islamic about “Muslim” rap. My use of this term is really because of a lack thereof. As a matter of fact, I think the same principles of sexism we see playing out in certain kinds of pop music, are being translated into a Muslim cultural references and then labelled “Muslim Rap.”

In my eyes there is no difference between repeatedly referring to a woman as Habibti or Shawty; different language but the same implications. More specifically perhaps, “Muslim Queen” being a play off “trap queen” is like people using the word “fudge” to mean the f-word.

We all know what is actually meant.

Instead of side chicks, these songs speak about four wives.

Instead of one-night stands, there are wedding night references.

In my opinion, this kind of content, simply replaces of mainstream terminology with “Islamic” terminology. In doing so, this subculture profanitizes the sacred. I find this deeply problematic.

            At least Flo-Rida is not trying to claim he is creating religious acceptably content.

Now let’s talk about the fact that in this genre, there is constantly the implication that Muslim men can’t manage to respect a woman unless they liken her to their sister or mom.

God forbid a man manages to respect a woman because she is a human being and not because he must liken her to a female member of his family. Even Freud was triggered.

There is the same objectifying approach to women that mainstream music contains. However, it is Islam-washed and packaged as something permissible or appropriate, when in my opinion it is neither.

It glorifies men and creates the same dynamic of conquest that literally every other pop culture source contains. In the music, men are victimized as never getting what they want (marriage usually) even though they are so nice (examples include: dowry is too high, father is too mean.)

The same over sexualized rhetoric coming out of the mainstream is stemming from this genre. I feel just less demeaned and disrespected by this music. 

Why I Can Never Wear Hijab and Be Sexy

I realized a few weeks ago, that I can’t wear hijab and be sexy.  

First let me begin by qualifying this statement. I mean that insofar I am simultaneously wearing Hijab and existing in the public sphere, I think I cannot be perceived as sexy in the same way a conventionally sexually attractive woman on the cover of Sport Illustrated is, or at least, can be. 

Everyday, I make the conscious decision to privatize my sexuality by wearing the Hijab.

And everyday, it gives me the power to know that this act is one of resistance against a status quo that sexualises and objectifies women in many respects; it is the same status quo that deeply ingrains these values in us that we begin to equate women’s power solely to their public displays of sexuality.

However, there are moments in which I feel that I cannot be a certain kind of powerful, or receive a certain kind of glorified attention, that other women, who do not wear Hijab, can get.

In a society in which women are glorified for being a certain sexy, in a society that gives power to sexualized women, I began, like I am sure many others, to believe that a women's sexiness is synonymous to power. Because I make the decision to privatize my sexuality in public, this sometimes makes me feel like I cannot have the same type of power as a woman who does not wear Hijab. 

Intellectually, I believe in the power that wearing the Hijab gives me. In my opinion, it helps deconstructs a dominant macro-narrative of women being only valuable for their sexuality in the public sphere. 

But irrationally, emotionally, sometimes, this is hard to accept. There is a deeply ingrained desire to be sexually appealing. This is something I am not ashamed of; the desire to be desired is so natural to us.

In the wake of Noor Tagouri’s choice to pose for playboy, these are questions that filled me head.

As a Muslim woman who wears Hijab, what would I have done in her position?

Would I have taken the opportunity to re-shape the Muslim identity?

Or maybe I would have done it for the more selfish, and natural, desire to feel wanted, and sexy, and a more mainstream kind of attractive?

I do not have answers. I do not know how to resolve these tensions within me. I do not even know if they can be reconciled. 

Or maybe it's all in my head. I don't know. 

Where I'm REALLY From

This summer, I've worked a job that requires I interact with the general public for about 7 hours a day. The most common (personal) question I get is "where are you from?"

When I reply "Ottawa," people are left unsatisfied.

Some people ask again, "where are you really from?" 

So, today, with this blog post, I am going to clarify it all. 

When you ask me where I am from, what you actually mean is: 

why do you look different?

Why do you wear extra fabric on your head?

Why do you wear pants and a long sleeve when it's a sweltering 40 degrees outside? 

When you ask me where I am from, you do not want a run down of my family tree, or a description of where I, or my parents were born. 

What you actually want to know is why I do not fit your idea of normal. Of status quo. What you want to know is what implications or stereotypes you can associate with this creature before you.

So here is my answer. 

I am a person who happened to be born in Montreal, Canada to parents who were not born in Canada.

One of my parents was born in Syria and the other in Tunisia. 

In Canada, I am foreigner.

In Tunisia, I am a foreigner.

In Syria-- well, I haven't been there.

From a young age, with bi-cultural parents, I knew I didn't fit any boxes. I am African, but I am fair-skinned. So naturally, this does not make sense to most people. 

I am Berber but don't speak Amazigh. So I am suddenly a traitor to the indigenous people of North Africa. 

I am Syrian but do not speak the dialect, which to some people makes me somehow "un-Syrian."

My English accent gives me away. My French accent gives me away. My Arabic accent gives me away. 

So when you ask where I am from, and what you really want to know is what box I check in government forms, the answer is: Other.

Let's Talk About Sex.

Last Saturday during a youth program I co-lead, I asked some high school-aged girls if they want to talk about (the) sex. And periods. And boys.

I know- I’m every high school girl’s dream of a human resource.

I’m also every traditional parent’s nightmare.

For Muslim youths (as you can tell I am very‘hip’) there is a canyon-esque divide between hyper-sexualized ‘Western’ pop culture versus the close-minded and stigmatized approach, or lack thereof, to sex education by their parents.

However, we need to create open and safe spaces for young Muslim people to discuss sexual attitudes, habits, and expectations.

Without cultural baggage. Without telling them they’re going to hell if they have a crush.

Dear muslim parents- hate to be the one to break it to you- but the reality is too many young people receive their sex education uniquely from porn (or HBO which is basically soft porn, I mean, have you seen game of thrones?!?!)

and it is never your kid. until it is.

More importantly, these messages are not alone. They are accompanied with physical and emotional expectations, which are not necessarily positive or healthy. 

And teaching young people about sex in a respectful and educational way, is not 'indoctrination of Western values’, or 'encouragement of illicit relationships'. It is about making sure they have the information they need And deserve to make safe choices whenever the time comes.

Just because we are second or third generation immigrants, or Muslims, does not mean we are immune from sexual desires or behaviours.

We need to talk about periods, and tampons, and condoms. And IUDs. And STIs. (So. Many. Acronyms.)

We need to have a well-informed and non-shameful discussion about what virginity actually means.


We need to dispel cultural double standards, which paint women as evil seductresses and men as unable to control their poor selves.

We need to talk about consent- more so- informed consent. How to say ‘no.’ That they can say no.

And I think it begins with mothers, and older sisters, and fathers, and older brothers.

And lastly, both young women and men need to learn about this 'stuff'. And not from the beauty industry. Or Nicholas Spark movies. Or online forums.

But from us. 

On National Security and Tim Horton’s

I just got home from a hockey game. My friend and I were almost definitely the only visible minorities there.

From the moment we walk in, I am uncomfortable: there are security checks.

Calm down. I’m not hiding anything underneath my Hijab. Voldemort is not at the back of my head so stop asking. It just means I need to put on my I-Promise-I’m-Not-A-Threat-To-National-Security-Smile.

Then comes anthem time. I feel like I need to sing ‘O Canada’ extra patriotically to prove I know all the words.

Don’t get me started on the American anthem.

If I sing it, I hate everything Canada stands for (polar bears, Celine Dion, and universal health care). 


If I don’t, I want death to America.

I almost feel the only way to be accepted is if I’m double fisting Double Doubles while shovelling snow with one foot and skating on the other. While also, somehow, tapping trees for maple syrup.

If you think Canadians apologize too much, try a second-generation immigrant Canadian. Apologizing is my baseline.   

Being young, a woman, a Muslim, and someone who wears Hijab means that I fill a lot of quotas.

It also means I have this weird feeling that I always need to prove myself just to be accepted as a decent human being.

So I overcompensate. I’ve held doors for people that were unreasonably far behind me so they don't think my faith teaches closing doors in peoples’ faces.

(I play the situation out in my mind, ‘Ohmygod that Mozlim didn’t hold the door open for me. Terrorist.’)

I’m not saying that I wish that I had the right to be a not so courteous person. I’m just saying that I feel that the benefit of the doubt allotted to visible minorities is Marginally to significantly less.

Essentially, it is the fear that any of my shortcomings will be attributed to either the fact that I am a woman or Muslim instead of to the fact that I am a flawed human being independent of which boxes I tick off on a government form. 

 


 

 

 

I Will Never Be A Good Muslim Woman

I am too loud and too outspoken. I just have too many opinions. I am conservative. But also too liberal. I travel alone sometimes. I drive a car. I talk too openly about my feelings, and sex, and other topics good Muslim women shouldn’t talk about. I perform poetry in front of mixed audience (blasphemy) Sometimes, I work with men on creative projects. I am too overtly smart- it’ll scare away the suitors.

I’ve gotten harassed for not being covered enough. And for being too covered.

 

At the end of the day, I will never be enough. Not for the random old women at the mosque, or the privileged man conducting the job interview. And yes, on bad days, it sucks (a lot).

 

Once, at a women’s gathering, I argued that there should be no physical segregation in a mosque (like a wall or barrier) between men and women, and one of the Muslim women told me if I believe that than I am not a Muslim.

 

When I dress like a J. Crew model (aka a white person) I get through airport security seamlessly. The people next to me on the plane will feel less uneasy. That same outfit however, gets deemed “too white” "too western" by some Muslim people.

 

To a majority of Muslims, I should be studying engineering, accounting, or medicine, and I quote, “doing something useful for the community.” When I tell non-Muslims people I study humanities, all their presuppositions of my oppression suddenly dissolve.

 

I am constantly torn between two overarching ideals, and I can never I can quite fulfil both of them.

 

Even if I believe that I can reconcile my faith with a western lifestyle, the majority on both sides of the equation, I think, don’t believe so. So for a good portion of the time, I do not feel like I belong neither her nor there.

 

I was once told that “Well behaved women seldom make history.” I laugh at that, because misbehaved for me means shaking hands with men or performing a poem about love.

 

You see, I am constantly trying to meet standards that are on varying points on the spectrum. And they are contradictory. If I wear slim dress pants: I look smart to some and too liberal to others. If I wear a Jilbab: I am modest to some and an oppressed terrorist housewife to the rest.

 

I think I have come to terms with knowing I will never be good enough, that I will never meet the people’s standards of openness, or piety, or religiosity. And maybe this is all in my mind, but on days I have to fight with a strange man who tells me “leave this mosque, may God guide you,” I remember it also a reality.

 

** I wrote this after visiting The Great Mosque of Kairaoun where on three separate occasions random men told me I was not allowed to be there, dress the way I was, or take photos (none of which are actual rules).** 

Why Hijab is Hard for Me

To be honest, one of the most difficult parts is finding a scarf style that works with my face shape and glasses, which is basically already setting myself up for failure. But after I get through the aesthetic challenges, I grapple with the symbolism (or lack thereof) attached to it. 

 

First of all, I am a firm believer that the aesthetic ideal is almost always a political ideal. That was true in ancient Greece (see: Augustus of Primaporta) and it’s true now (see: Victoria Secret Models). So I do believe Hijab is a political statement (or at least can be) much like makeup and any garment of clothing- and whether we like it or not- especially for women.

 

As such, and like every other symbol, it is only as valuable as the meaning. A symbol carries a personal value, yes, but more powerfully, it carries a more universal message, which is mostly always in the power of the beholder. Therefore, the personal beliefs are often dissolved in the projection of others.

 

By which I mean, if Hijab means “oppression” and not “a sign of faith,” per se, either I spend the entire time attempting to swim upstream (fighting off the mainstream) or by accepting this definition.

 

Here, is the hardest part for me.

 

I feel I need to constantly redefine and justify my choices, especially one that is so obvious. This leads to forced introspection: I need to answer question I am not ready to ask myself.  

 

So everyday, is an attempt for me to justify, to understand why I do what I do. It gets very emotionally exhaustive. I end up in this cycle; I consistently feel that I am too ‘liberal’ for the ‘religious’ people and too ‘religious’ for the ‘liberal’ people.

 

And right now, in the kind of (metaphorical) climate we’re living in, I refuse to let fear dictate who I am and what I do. I know, if anything, I know taking my scarf off, to me would mean that I’ve left someone else’s definition of liberation win. I have let someone else, or another group (whoever it is) define what it means to be me.  And my stubbornness won’t let that happen.

Muslim Love Life: A Lexicon

As a serially single person, who else would be more qualified to compile a list of definitions related to Muslim relationships. I want to define some things for myself, my fellow Muslim people, and for the curious non-Muslims.

Let me just preface it by saying we’re all confused; we mix “back home” cultures, Islamic traditions, and Western wedding events and it becomes one big mess of cultural appropriation and marshmallow dresses.  Here goes nothing.

“We’re talking.”: He’s mildly interesting and she’s like cool and stuff and we met in the library (on that one floor no one ever studies on) or during some MSA (Muslim Student Association event) thing and we went from talking to Khalid Ibn Walid to how many kids we want to have. Redefinition of 0 to 100 real quick.

At this point don’t go telling YOUR MOM what you saw or else my mom is getting a phone call and I’m getting interrogated about his academic background.

“Our parents know [we’re talking.]” We’ve legitimatized our relationship by telling the people that birthed us. It might not be that serious. But I started a wedding Pintrest board and he started growing out his beard so…

His mother: death. [AKA the reason I privated Facebook photos from highschool.]

Her father: see above. [AKA the reason I (the guy) am beard-deep in job applications] 

Engagement:  Sometimes a family affair, sometimes close friends are present. We exchanged rings and maybe ate cake.

Engagement 2.0 or Beta: We made it official with God. We exchanged rings (or switched them over to the other hand.) WE CAN HOLD HANDS NOW OMG.

The most confusing part about this is we’re actually married but to confuse everyone we’ll say we’re engaged until the wedding. Words are just words am I right?

‘Nikkah’ or ‘Ketb Ktaab’: we like to confuse people by using a plethora of vocabulary words. This just means we signed a religious marriage contract.

‘Walima’: (much less used) supposedly the reception or dinner feast part of the aforementioned. I mean why wouldn’t you want to have dinner feast? (May or may not include sheep slaughter.)

Engagement Party: After either of the two types of engagement we had a party, usually gender split, so that the girls can literally let their hair down.

Bridal Shower: the calmest of the wedding events most likely because in laws will be present.

Henna or Mendi: literally, this means dried up vegetation made into a paste and plastered on hands. In this context, a small female party, henna may or may not be applied, people dress up, things only get mildly rowdy.

Bachelorette: Self Explanatory? But usually a little more PG 14 for Muslim people.

Wedding: We either had a mixed wedding in which we invited most of our friends and there were speeches and there was food and other common wedding festivities.

Or we had a gender split wedding. Man’s side: we ate some food and slapped each other on the back.

Women’s side: there may or may not have been mothers dancing on tables. No way this ended before the early morning hours.

“We got married.”: It happened. Finally.

My Moderately Damp Sock

Last night, I went to dinner with two good friends. One of my friends was limping from the moment I saw her. I inquired about her situation and she said her nail was falling off after prolonged stiletto wear at a wedding we’d both attended two months prior.

I know what you’re thinking: two sentences in and I’ve already spoken about foot issues. I’m getting old; get over it.

She had a bandage over it but because of the pain it was causing her, she’d removed it once we sat down. Big mistake. Her toe was now rubbing against her shoes and causing even more pain.

As we got off the train (we were on a train while all this was happening), her pain had reached a peak point and my other friend offered his sock; she rejected. That’s when I offered her my sock. She rejected a second time.

“Take my sock!” I screamed multiple times in succession and then proceeded to take my sock off. Balancing on one foot, I unzipped my boots and started to take my sock off. As I handed her my sock, I said, “oh, its damp.”

I know: I’m awful. You’re all squirming. I am too don’t worry.

My friend tried to put my sock on but the friction was too painful so she just endured the pain while I tried to balance (once again) and put my sock back on.

I tell this story not to make you squeamish about damp socks (it’s funny how fast your mood can change when you hear those words) but about the extent we all go for those we love.

I would not characterize myself as a nice person. But sometimes, you are with the right people, you’ve just had a burrito and Tim Tams*, and you are living your best life: you do the weirdest things in good faith.

You got to do what you got to do. Because that’s sort of what friendship is. We do things for those we love, even if it means offering them a moderately damp sock.

 

* Delicious Australian cookies you should go purchase and put in your mouth. 

Open Letter to Islamic Conferences

Last week, a popular Canadian Islamic conference released their poster, which included a set list of speakers for this year.

Unsurprisingly, it was halo of male speakers with a sprinkling of women.

I’ll be the first to admit, attending these conferences is a weekend getaway with a bunch of people who make you feel good. I call this religious entertainment; instead of distractions like the Kardashian’s and Justin Trudeau’s abs, we’re pumped full of Hadith’s and verses to reminds us the world is indeed a beautiful place.

Behind this utopia there is a serious problem: the blatant male domination of the speaker list.

[The few token female speakers are often placed in early morning time slots; their headshots sometimes don’t make it on promotional materials.]

Why? Well frankly, I think it’s the subconscious belief that religion from a male simply sells better. And, in a way, is better.

However, and interestingly enough, the audience is often full of young women; the orators and the listener have nothing in common.

Piety should not be a male dominated field, nor should it be portrayed as such. Middle-aged men should not be placing a monopoly on spirituality. And perhaps the most dangerous part of this conundrum, is that it indirectly enforces the idea in many young people, notably women, that religiosity, or its expression, is a somehow a strictly male thing.

Upon voicing my concerns (which if you know me, is very a frequent occurence), the common excuse is there are little to no female speakers. That’s just about as good as an excuse as telling your doctor you can’t locate the produce part of the supermarket when they tell you to start eating better.

You’re either bad at looking or you’re not in the right store. And either way: you’re doing something wrong.

These conferences can be, and have been, a fountain of knowledge and an array of marriage prospects. I do not want to dissolve them. I’m just asking for equal gender representation in the list of invited speakers. Reflect the demographic of your audience; dare to find the produce aisle.

Sincerely,

B.