The gaze and Muslim women

I found my way to this page – the project produced in a Skidmore class – via the page on Western Representations of Muslim women and The Veil and Veiling. Take a look.


A candidate, not a ‘ho

I’m not going to express a conclusive comparative opinion on presidential candidates, but I find this fascinating.

I understand people of colour identifying with a man of colour, certainly. Obama has much to recommend him and I personally do not find that Clinton appeals to me very much beyond her womanhood. But there is no reason Hilary Clinton should automatically be described as a “hoe” by anyone but cavemen.
I have found this t-shirt, sadly, touted by women. And I cannot understand women’s a) total lack of awareness of gendered stereotyping or b) total buying into masculinized gendered stereotyping.

The sacrifice of selfhood

Time after time, I see a harried-looking mother of a young child enter the cafe with a stroller.

She’s in incredibly casual clothes, and her hair is pulled back simply. She buys food and gets a drink, quickly arranges food (breaks up the scone) before the kid, and stuffs a few crumbs into her mouth. Then, as the child attacks the food, she sits down and stares blankly into the distance for a minute. The child remains interested in her food for only so long, before the mother has to return to duty and make bright and interesting conversation, and keep most of the scone from being ground into the carpet.

Before motherhood, I’d never realized how poignant those moments were. The moments of potential rest that occasionally punctuate a go-go-go struggle to meet a young child’s needs, while your own needs pile up, layer upon layer, underneath his need for food, drink, play, talk, different food, sleep, and so on.

And you try to snatch at those moments. -Maybe a drive in the car while the kid HAS to sit by herself in the carseat, that’s when you can actually just be, just breathe, without needing to rush to grab the kid before he reaches the china, or the corner of the table, and so on. Or you volunteer to go grocery shopping so you can put the kid in the cart and walk as an individual for a little while. Or you go for a walk, so the kid can be strapped into the stroller. Or you reach thirstily for the playpen as long as you can, or the baby DVD. And then the experts snarl at you in judgment and tell you how bad you are for not “engaging” with your child (what mother would take a shower/meal) while s/he is in his/her stroller, or watching a 20-minute cartoon, or happily playing in an exersaucer.

So whose breathers are you going to arrange today? Are you going to be able to go grab a coffee, just so you can sit in an environment which is different from the kitchen? Or are you going to think, in the evening, the child needs to go out and play, and you’d better be ready?

Somehow mothers’ empathy for their children exceeds everyone else’s. They “know” when s/he is cold, hungry, thirsty, bored. They need desperately to bring comfort, blankets, teddy bears, food, milk, to him/her, and they are engaged in an endless quest to do so. They don’t wait for the child to wail for help: they watch/listen constantly. It’s exhausting, but they have to do it. Their antennae wilt from being constantly in reception mode.

I’ve heard men tell men knowingly that this is about “women’s instincts.” Maybe there are some women who “need” to do it nonstop to feel wanted. But I know more women who don’t “need” it for a sense of selfhood: they do it because they’re IT. But they’d better do a good job of it because this creature needs them.

I’ve no idea how single mothers do it: fathers are not mothers, to be sure, but what would you do if you had to be on watch constantly, endlessly changing diapers, endlessly playing with the little creature for whom you are the universe? Mothers who have helpful sisters, mothers, in-laws, friends nearby – rejoice, for yours is the kingdom of relative peace.

The Shaikh of Bahawalpur

My blog has yielded to me a treasure of connections with souls that I would not have encountered otherwise.
Through one of the comments left at the first post here, I discovered the website of an Italian natural perfume-seller. This person, who writes most engagingly, visited Pakistan to help build easy-to-build homes for the (forgotten) homeless after the earthquake. He also visited Bahawalpur, and as it turned out, knew my shaikh, Hazrat Wahid Baksh Sial Rabbani (RA).

At his website here, our Italian perfume-maker wrote some words – precious to me – about my shaikh and about his mazar in the town of Allahabad in Bahawalpur. I also enjoyed his travelogue about his journey through Kashmir and Pakistan.

Health, fake nails, and high heels

Today I’ll play grumpy old lady and talk about the bad health effects of certain fashion trends. High heels and long nails.

Tuesday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution says that British hospitals are banning doctors’ neckties, long sleeves, jewelry and – horror of horrors – the long white coats, because they only help the spread of deadly hospital-borne infections. A nice concept – deadly hospital-borne infections. I thought the only main fatalities in hospital visits were the loss of time, perpetual inconvenience, heedless staff, and deadly bills afterwards. It turns out that neckties, which are rarely actually WASHED, “have been shown to be colonized by pathogens.”Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA or “superbug”) is responsible for over 40% in-hospital blood infections in Britain.

Since it’s resistant to nearly every antibiotic, they’re trying to control its spread. The necktie is easy to get rid of. I’d rather have my doctor without her white coat than with a superbug.

Another reason for men to ditch the tie. Or start washing their ties–which isn’t about to happen–so just ditch the tie.

Fake nails, jewelry and watches are also some of the main culprits. The first-mentioned is one of my pet peeves. I can’t count the number of times I’ve cringed as nurses with long, painted fake nails have administered medical care to, say, my newborn infant. It feels wrong, but somehow it continues. When I couldn’t wear a simple, unassuming nose-stud and get a job, surely long fake nails should be a no-no for healthcare worker. Definitely a nurse without the fake nails and without MRSA.

Also in the AJC, Dr Brent Tabor. a podiatrist, blames pointy toes and stiletto heels for creating serious foot problems such as hammertoe, Morton’s neuroma (a painful nerve disorder) and bunions. If you must have high heels, he recommends wedges. But if you have very narrow feet, you may be in luck.

Unfortunately it’s too long ago that I used to wear even 3″ heels, but at least I can crow about my low heels and show up those fashionable women, tall in their fancy high heels. And show them up with my short nails too.

Baby school

When Lear said “O sharper than a serpent’s tooth,” I believe he was referring to a toddler, who was trying out her 7 new teeth on her parent, resting from a sinus headache and a day of work.

Some of the things Raihana does do not hurt so very much though. For instance, the other day, she popped inside my room, pulled the door to, and started chanting “ALLAH! ALLAH! ALLAH!” obviously imitating my private devotions.

I’m always struck by how much she seems to know and understand. I can refer by name/description to a book, and she picks it up. I assume she hasn’t absorbed that much, but she has. I guess I’d better watch my language now.

Irfani (Sufi) Quranic exegesis!

I’m terribly excited on having found Sufi exegesis online. Check out my find.

I’m excited because I’m tired of unsatisfying exoteric/Islamist translation+exegesis, funded by Wahhabi money, that makes its way to every mosque in every country. If you REALLY want to make it big, they’ll hand you Ibn Kathir. Me, I was raised on Maudoodi’s Tafheemul Quran: it gave me some good FAQ-type knowledge but also provided me with a profoundly deep thirst for what REALLY this was all about. Surely it couldn’t be JUST this. And yet for many, it worked. Plus, much or most of Irfani commentary remains untranslated.

For those who will not be content, check this out. If I find anything else, I’ll let you know. If you find anything, tell me.

But please: no more dry, factual attempts at fitting the entirety of Reality into the small box of your five senses and your concrete world. I’ve had it with all that.

Update: Via Yunus and Shams I found Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal’s tafseer of the last two ajza available here.

Dead meat

The other day we shelled out a bunch of somewhat non-existent money to buy halaal meat at the only remaining desi shop in Athens. It was meant as preparation for a well-stocked kitchen in Ramadan.

Sadly, on our return, the person who is supposed to unload the car forgot a bag full of chicken and goat meat.  The other person, who generally points out omissions, (cough) was too preoccupied with academic work to notice. (One moral of the story: academic-types, don’t marry *within* the community).
A day and a half later, when I was taking Raihana to school, I was overpowered by a nasty stench in the car. I looked for baby-discarded food in the seats and found none. “Is there some way a lizard or mouse could have CLIMBED inside the car and died there?” I asked Svend. He shook his head uncertainly. Eventually when I did a thorough search, I unearthed a rotting bag full of dreadful stinking meat under the stroller in my nice car.

The garbage can outdoors smells for yards and yards. I have sneakily begged Svend to dump the bag elsewhere, and he refuses to take it anywhere in his car. As for my car, thoroughly cleaned out – fortunately the meat had sat and bled out only on a leathery surface that could be removed and thoroughly hosed down – still smells like a corpse. It’s enough to turn us all vegetarians if we were not devout carnivores.