Terrorism and the Need to Acknowledge Accountability

I have a mixture of feelings of relief, angst, and anger following yesterday’s dramatic end to the search Earth_Western_Hemisphere_transparent_backgroundfor the Charlie Hebdo attackers.

Relief, because two psychotic murderers no longer roam the streets of France.

Angst, because of the brutal backlash that has already started against Muslim communities in the West.

And anger, partly at my fellow Muslims for seemingly wanting to fully distance themselves from any accountability for the current state of the general Muslim mindset/culture. And partly at the general Western world for not wanting to take accountability for a whole context they have played a huge role in creating.

I was glued to the television set as I watched events unfold live yesterday in Dammartin-en-Goele and Porte de Vincennes. I was awash with relief to see them come to an end. But at the same time I was horrified that yet four more had died in the midst of it all. For some reason I need to know who those four people are. I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was to turn on the news, hoping more information had been released. It hasn’t. There is a connection I need to make with those remaining four.

Yesterday night, just as the events ended, I learned that a friend of mine had recently moved to France. “Today they put a pig’s head in front of the mosque,” he told me. “Several women had their hijab pulled off their heads and there is a horrifying incitement campaign [against Muslims]. People are directing their anger at Islam and not just the murderers,” he said.

Early this morning I woke up to a status from a Dutch Muslim friend reporting that within her own limited network two mosques were firebombed, two women were soaked in beer by a co-passenger on the train while being called “fucking terrorists”, the mother of a friend was pelted with coca cola bottles, a young woman was told at the supermarket register that she should feel ashamed to still wear “that rag on her head”, numerous friends of friends were cussed at, slapped, lectured on their obligation to apologize, violated, etc., while bystanders did nothing. All the victims she had heard of were veiled women, she said.

I fear for my friends’ lives and for their families’ safety.

What frustrates me the most, I think, is the constant blame game that ensues after these sort of horrific events. No one wants to take responsibility for the mess we’re all in.

There is no simple answer to the question: what makes a person become a terrorist. Terrorism is the result of a very large number of complex factors. What acutely annoys me is that most of us have a very good idea what they are.  (more…)

Twitter, Facebook, polygamy, Irshad Manji and Islamic reform

During the past couple of days, I’ve had a couple of conversations on Twitter and Facebook that were related to Islam in one way or another. I thought I’d share.

Polygamy in Islam

The first was a short Facebook conversation that started when a FB friend posted an article by Nadine El-Bedayr, a Saudi television presenter. Nadine had written a previous rather provocative article in Egypt’s independent daily Al-Masry Al-Yowm titled “Me and My Four Husbands“. The article basically addressed the logic behind polygamy by saying that if men are allowed to marry four wives women should be allowed to as well. The article – and Nadine – created havoc and lots of denunciations of the woman. Nadine went on to write a second article “What’s Wrong With You? Why All the Anger?”. This was the post my Facebook friend made.

What I’d like to share is my comment to this post. I’m a bit concerned that all I’ll get in return is pretty much the same reaction Nadine got. But I’m willing to try my hand at freedom of speech and thought. My comment:

“I think this is a very brave woman. She has raised a sensitive issue in a provocative way; the only way it can truly be raised to illicit truthful answers. She was brave enough to raise it fully knowing that we live in a judgmental society that shows no mercy. I salute this woman.

“I remember growing up as a child and later on as a young woman always questioning in my mind the logic behind allowing polygamy for men. I was told things like: it’s to protect women who cannot find husbands; it’s to protect men who have a high sexual urge that cannot be met by one woman; it’s to protect men who fall in love with a second woman; it’s to allow men who have married infertile wives to have children while not having to leave their first wife, and on and on. Then I would ask, sometimes out loud, well what about the woman? What if the woman marries a man who cannot have children? What if the woman falls in love with another man? What if the woman has sexual urges that cannot be satisfied by one man? I was mostly hush-hushed, of course, but TOLD that women are different than men (of course I am told this mainly by men who seem to know everything about women). Women’s sexual urges, I’m TOLD, are much different and less than the fire of a man’s urges. Women can only love one man but men have the ability to love more than one woman. Besides, I was told, it is absolutely disgusting the concept of a woman having the “thing” of more than one man in her thing. And besides, I was also told, we need to protect our lineages. We know the father when the man has sex with more than one woman. We do not know the father if the mother has sex with more than one man. But I always had these two questions: well, if it’s disgusting for a woman to have more than one man’s thing in her, why isn’t it just as disgusting for the man to put his thing in more than one woman? And we now live in a day and age where it is very easy to find out who the father of a child is by DNA testing.

“I am also absolutely convinced that men have convinced themselves for hundreds of years that their sexual urges are much larger than women’s. Well, I’m sorry to break their bubble, but they are wrong.

“So I have been needing for years to find someone brave enough to go out in public and question this logic we’ve been faced with all our lives.

“Because I’m telling ya, it makes absolutely no sense to me. And I know my God would want me to use my head to find truth and not just sit back and have someone dictate truth to me.

“Nadine, my hat goes off to you.”

Twitter, Irshad Manji and Islamic Reform

On Twitter, @pakinamamer, a friend of mine, had mentioned a name I had not heard of before, Irshad Manji. I quickly checked out her website. Here is the conversation we had on Twitter with a couple of other fellow tweeps (and friends):

NadiaE: @pakinamamer who is irshad manji? I think I’m under the same rock

pakinamamer: @NadiaE A Muslim feminist (and a lesbian I was just told) who’s fighting for a more “moderate” inclusive Islam:

NadiaE: @pakinamamer interesting…

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @nadiae I hate to break to u but Irshad Manji is a joke. No real arguments, plenty of daddy issues; “dad’s an ass=Muslims suck”

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer I dont know the woman and only quickly looked at her blog. But she’s clearly a Pakistani Muslim brought up abroad…

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer and there are countless Pakistani and Indian Muslim women in particular who have grown up abroad who have had it hard

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer theyr raised in 1 envt but expected to live the life of their ancestors. Theyr forced into marriages they dont want

NadiaE: @travellerw @pakinamer and a version of faith is forced on them; one they see no logic in. Not in defense of anyone particular,…

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer but there are REASONS some people have “daddy issues” and dad is an ass = Muslims are too

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer I can’t speak about all Pakistanis but I did read her book. And her conclusion is that if her father mistreated her,…

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer …. it’s because he’s a muslim. Hence, Islam sucks. That’s the summary of the book.

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer She seems harmless enough, but I put her in the same box as ayaan hirsi ali.

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer well, perhaps her father told her he treated her that way BECAUSE of Islam – his version of course

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer her website says she’s calling for Islamic reform. There are so many perverted versions of Islam out there now…

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Even if. If she’s a ‘muslim reformer’ or ‘thinker’ she should’ve realised her dad doesn’t represent 1.25 billion, no?

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer that at least I’m sure we can agree we do need reform

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer Oooh…I’ll bet he represents a large enough number nonetheless

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Sure. But there are many people I’m willing to argue reform with. Manji isn’t one of them. Might as well ask Wilders!

Zeinobia: @TravellerW @Pakinamamer @NadiaE I agree most of these ladies base their personal views on whole religion

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer again. I dont know the woman. But I can understand where women like her come from

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @NadiaE @Zeinobia I can see where @TravellerW comes from. tbh, West glorifies Muslim female (unveiled) whiners a bit too much…

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Then it’s her dad who needs to be reformed, not my faith. I reject her primary premise.

Zeinobia: @NadiaE @pakinamamer She is a well known lesbian so her views so called “moderate” are like what you see

NadiaE: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @Pakinamamer I’ve always been against generalising our views of any religion or culture based on personal experience

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @NadiaE that said, I agree with her (and w Nadia) on the urgent need for reform within Islam.

NadiaE: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @Pakinamamer still its important 2 give weight 2 personal experience: it represents partof thepicture if not the whole

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @NadiaE @TravellerW I’m still starting to read hr book But the fact that her argument/method is wrong, doesn’t mean her premise is

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @TravellerW @Zeinobia I agree personal pains and experiences reflect existent, sometimes widespread, problems.

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer @zeinobia Hey, I’m sorry her father was a jerk, I truly am. But don’t blame it on my religion!

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW oh yes. the “west” do glorify them. I’m not talking “the west” now though. We’re all egyptians talking

pakinamamer: @TravellerW @Zeinobia @NadiaE But then again, how you conceptualize these experiences is what makes all the difference.

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW and im pretty sure we’re all aware of the issues and the need for change

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @zeinobia @nadiae do check the book. the english version’s for sale, the arabic is free on pdf

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW 1 point i want to emphasize is many muslim women raised abroad have faced REAL problems with families

Zeinobia: @pakinamamer @NadiaE @TravellerW we need reform and better understanding for the religion

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @nadiae @zeinobia Mashy, but if we allow her to generalize from her dad to all muslim men, then we’re doing Rumsfeld’s bid!

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW and families have always defended themselves saying theyr protecting their daughters in name of islam

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @TravellerW @Zeinobia right But her reax to being glorified as such and used as a tool against Islam affects reception of hr views

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW short story: there’s a lot of CRAP happening and we need to understand where these women r coming from

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW I understand that. we do face similar problems too It’s how we react to it that matters, that’s all I’m saying

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW agree. I don’t like shunning ideas or ppl’s experiences. I’m all for reading her books and even debating w her

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW anything ive said is in the abstract. I might be as angry as u if i read the book

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW I’m just not sure if on her side she’s contributing to a healthy discourse or just rubbishing Islam. Different

NadiaE: pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW you could be very right. Contributing to the discourse rather than rubbishing is important

TravellerW: @NadiaE I respect the female-muslim-abroad exp.I dont like randm ppl extrapolating 2 demonize. I leave that 2 FoxNews @zeinobia @pakinamamer

TravellerW: @nadiae @zeinobia @pakinamamer Hey, I’m an expat brat myself. But muslim-in-europe thinkers, men and women, I have met, and she’s not one

NadiaE: @TravellerW @zeinobia @pakinamamer she very well might not be. Only just heard her name now

Microblogging through Twitter and Facebook have become such interesting ways of communicating. My friends and I discuss many sensitive issues through these means. And here I share with you a couple of those discussions. My only point is to provoke my own and your thinking. I might be very wrong in some of my statements. So might my friends. But I believe one can only reach truth by questioning and questioning and…further questioning.