“Personal” and “professional” blogging

At one point in time, I decided that this blog was going to morph into an academic, public blog that could be perused by colleagues (and – shudder – students) without giving my entire personal profile away.

Since then, every time the desire to blog seizes me, I have decisions to make. This topic is too emotional; that one is too “maternal” and “unprofessional.” This is too “personal” to be public.

My own research and writing focuses on the reality that is hybridity: how we are, e.g. Muslim and American and academic and religious and music-lovers and Pakistanis and pasta-lovers, all at the same time. To produce this performance for the public eye, however, I feel like I cast upon my own thoughts an Othering gaze, judging my own thoughts by masculinist criteria.  

We immigrants learn to privatize our thoughts and feelings, responding to “how are you” with a jolly “Great!” soon after we cross the Atlantic. Especially in the public space of the virtual world, which has many crossover spaces occupied by colleagues, we cannot afford to perform “personal” lives – the messy lives involving parenting, marriage, family, finances, etc. unless they square with some academic “purpose” – cultural critique/ analysis or theory.

Still, in the dangerous world of blogging, there is much peace of mind involved in not blogging about sadness, frustration, untidiness, confrontations, and other markedly unprofessional things. You are rewarded with peace of mind by your closing down shop as a person. Unfortunately it closes down a community too – one that is a rewarding exercise for all participants. The community has to be a secret trusted one, because the public gaze cannot be trusted to be benign in intent at all times.

Pakistan zindabad!

14 August 1947.

As Pakistanis wonder where the superpower’s military adventures will take it next, they take time to celebrate their 60th anniversary of independence. Here are a few photos from the motherland to celebrate. Excuse the quality and the poor skill level: they’re all my personal digital photos from my trip this summer.

1. Lahore’s busy roads as the sun sets over a mosque minaret:


2. A sticker on a car proclaims “We are protected in the blood of Jesus!” – please read Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan.


3. Policemen, half-smiling at the photographer (me), seeking refuge from the afternoon June sun in the shade of a lovely, fragrant, and not very manly champa tree (frangipani?).


A new book on domestic violence in Muslim communities

Below is the description of this new book (description provided by the authors/publisher). Anyone who has read it or will read it is invited to comment on it here.

It appears from the ToC that the authors have dispensed with the old idealistic, otherw-worldly “Islam is good and that’s the end of the story” approach, and have chosen to actually engage with the realities of domestic violence. This is particularly evident from the fact that they include survivors’ stories.

It’s the narrative of the woman who emerges from this struggle that serves as the perfect corrective to attempts at idealizing religious communities and romanticizing patriarchy (in another context, think the recent Bollywood movie “Baghban”). The voice of the woman who engages with the brute reality of violence (whether physical, financial, emotional or psychological) in effect *silences* hyper-theoretical approaches to gender. Victims of abuse rip the easy-pamphlet-“Status of Women” issue approach to pieces and force us to confront the messy, complex, grey truth that is domestic violence. Women’s voices are living proof that gender is the Achilles’ heel of almost all communities of thought and practice today. 

I would hope that, to complement “The Quranic Model” chapter, the book also complexifies the issue of “The Quranic Model” – because it is clear as day that Muslims are not a homogeneous group with a single Quranic model in their minds – er, especially on gender. And then depending on the writer’s perspective, this may be a moment to problematize particular models that are putatively Quran-derived, but clash head-on with the most fundamental principles and goals of the religion. One would hope that those  [shudder] reformists are not left alone to address this task.

Though some will treat this book as a laundering of dirty laundry in public, the stark and public reality of domestic violence has long ago demolished nostalgic platitudes and theories about religion as a panacea for the human condition . Religion is religion. It is neither a cure-all nor (per Christopher Hutchins’ latest book) responsible for  evil.

There is no cure for the human condition, though human beings have no choice but to keep doing their best – with all the power of spirit, soul, ethics and reason at their disposal – to do good by humanity. There is no triumphant Dora the Explorer “We did it! We did it! We did it! Hooray!” conclusion to this struggle. This, in my humble view, is the reality and the tragedy of the human condition: It is a process, and not a slogan ready-made for any groups’ triumphalist ideology. We are trying. We must keep trying. And it *might* get somewhat better. This is why we must try alongside allies, instead of trying to beat them and proving how much worse THEY are in, say, the sphere of domestic violence.

Which is a good segue to abandon bombast, get to the point and introduce the book:

CHANGE FROM WITHIN: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities edited by Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri. Published by the Peaceful Families Project. 259 pages. 2007. Visit www.peacefulfamilies.org to purchase ($39.95).
OVERVIEW [by publisher]
To date, domestic violence in Muslim communities has received little attention. This book is one of the first edited volumes to focus on domestic violence in Muslim families. Bringing the experiences of diverse domestic violence advocates to the table, voices in this text include religious leaders, service providers, and researchers from multiple disciplines. Four survivors also share their stories, illustrating some of the challenges they faced, as well as their paths to healing. This volume illuminates unique domestic violence issues
that Muslims face, and emphasizes Islam’s intolerance to abuse.


Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri

Part I: The Islamic Paradigm
The Qur’anic Model for Harmony in Family Relations – Zainab Alwani
Part II: The Reality of Domestic Violence
A Peaceful Ideal, Violent Realities: A Study on Muslim Female Domestic
Violence Survivors – Keilani Abdullah

Domestic Violence Among Muslims Seeking Mental Health Counseling- Salma Elkadi Abugideiri

Freedom is Only Won from the Inside: Domestic Violence in Post-Conflict Afghanistan
– Lina Abirafeh

Domestic Violence in the Sudan: Opening Pandora’s Box – Awad Mohamed Ahmed
Part III: Survivor Stories

My Story- Siraha Kalam

Toasted Cheese Sandwiches – Suzan Williams

Broken Wings No More – Merjanne Hope

A Survivor’s Story – Jennifer Mohamed
Part IV: Solutions and Strategies

Affecting Change as an Imam – Imam Mohamed Magid

A Legal Guide to Marriage and Divorce for the American Muslim Woman – Marwa Zeini

Development Communications Strategies and Domestic Violence in
Afghanistan – Sarah Kamal

A Preliminary Model for Providing a Domestic Violence Program in the Muslim Community – Maryam Funches
Appendix: Resources