Dance

Doomed to dance the same routine

Like a marionette in an empty theatre

Trapped

Ghostly applause

Echoing

At my bleeding feet

Uncomfortable

I make people uncomfortable.

I don’t know why or how I do it.

I just do.

See.

I’m brown.

I’m a woman.

I’m educated.

And clever.

I’m Arab.

And Muslim.

I also have a big Afro.

Did I mention I was African too?

A female, brown skinned, Muslim, afro sporting, Arab-African.

I just put so many different kinds of people on edge …it would be funny if it wasn’t a little tragic.

Why do people feel so affronted by what or who I am?

I find myself constantly explaining myself:

I am Kenyan. Yes. But I am Kenyan Arab. Yes, I am Arab by ethnicity. Originally my family were from the middle east.

I am not poor.

Even though I am African.

I am not oppressed. Even though I am a Muslim woman wearing Hijab.

I am not married. And I do not have 10 kids. *Grits teeth* Even though I am a Muslim woman wearing Hijab.

I will not straighten my hair. It grows out of my head this way.

Yes, I know I speak good English.

Yes, we have Muslims in Kenya.

Yes, *groan* my parents paid lots of money for my university education. Sorry to disappoint you I’m not poor. Even though I am African.

I spend my day deflecting these kind of questions.

Sometimes, I feel, wouldn’t it be easy, to try out being white and blonde for one day?

Just so that I can be the current post card version of what the world seems to deem ‘ideal’.

And then I remember its kind of fun being me.

It just so happens that I am many labels all at once.

And people have a field day trying to choose which label to ascribe to me each day.

Am I Muslim?

Or am I Muslim and Black?

Or am I Muslim and Arab?

Or am I an Educated Muslim Woman?

Or maybe today I am a poor African?

Maybe I should use that to my advantage 😉

xx

The Quilted Dream

‘Allahu Akbar Allah Akbar’
The call to prayer reverberates in the air.
Shimmering through the sunlight.
Gliding past lace curtains, through windows and open doors.
To rest lightly on the ears and hearts of the beloved faithful.

Asha leans her head back against the turquoise window sill
The fluttering lace curtain tickles her face.
A humid breeze languidly strokes her cheek.
The call to prayer is her favourite song.
With a stirring deep in her heart,she answers back the call softly:
‘La haula wa laa quwwata illa billah’

A heavy sigh escapes her lips.
And as her eyes flit over the landscape of rooftops from her vantage point, she feels her heart twang in symphony with the call.

Almost like it’s calling out to her personally.

‘Come out here Asha.’
‘Come pray.’
‘Come live.’
‘Come and be.’

Shaking her head to disperse the pointless musings of her restless heart, Asha goes to make ‘Wudh’u’: ablutions for her noon prayer.

 There is no time for silly thoughts.There are prayers to be made. Cooking to be done. And she has to get back to the office soon.

As she walks out she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Full lips. Almond shaped twinkiling brown eyes. Curly wisps of hair have escaped from the confines of her professional hair bun and fall prettily accross her shoulders. ‘I have a beautiful face’ she muses. And as she turns to walk out of the room, ‘And a generous behind too! That is after all, my African heritage!’

Asha is half black. Half Arab.

She is a black Arab. Or an Arab African.

Caught between two worlds.

…..To Be Continued….

Coming Home

 

Nairobi cityscape

Image via Wikipedia

I just read an article about Africans coming home. (In Msafri magazine while on the plane coming errr..home. So it was very appropriate really. Lol. )

It was about young, professional, skilled Africans living the dream – in Africa.

Gone are the days of queuing at the US or UK embassies, hoping that the un-smiling visa officer would bestow on you the magic ticket that would allow you access to the ‘American Dream’, a land of riches and success.

A lot of people are realising, that they can have their cake and eat it, right here at home.

You don’t have to be in a tiny apartment in a foreign land, far from home and everyone you love, to eke out a living in the world of success and money.

With the right job and mindset, a beautiful life can be had in Africa. A fact known for a long time now, by many expatriates who came to Kenya and refused to leave!

Beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches, lovely atmosphere, cosmopolitan, diverse, family, friends….That is what Nairobi means to me.

Who wouldn’t want to live here?

The power cuts, and the rising cost of living, the politics and the car jackings – those are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things. (I may think differently after my 100th power cut)

Nonetheless, I am seriously considering coming home to roost.

The sooner the better.

Karibu Kenya 🙂

The Extremely Moderate Muslim

Hadith Oliyankara Juma Masjid

As Muslims, our religion and self-image have been dragged through the gutters since 9-11.

We are terrorists. We are evil. We are Arab men with gutteral accents and big beards with even bigger guns. We are inhumane. We kill innocent women and children. In fact we hate women. We are basically the Armageddon and the Devil and the Axis of Evil, all rolled into one.

That is what is being shoved down our throats on a daily basis.

Movies.

Media.

Newspapers.

Airports.

Profiling.

Basically everywhere you turn, we are being stoned, boo-d, and heckled for being Muslim.

Now, Muslims have responded to this atrocious assault at our faith in different ways.

Some have become more devoted. Learnt all the passages in the Quran and Hadith relevant to making astute counter arguments when having to defend Islam against any nay-sayers.

Some have learnt to live with it. Just developed thick skin and learnt to turn the other cheek.

Others have chosen to bury their heads under the sand. Denial City. If I cannot see all the hate and the insults and affronts to my religious beliefs, maybe they will….go away?

And finally, some have decided to go down the ‘Moderate Path’

Idiot: (To generic brown man) ‘Hey you! Osama! ‘ *Cackles*

Brown man: ‘Who? Me? Nah mein! My name is A-dawg!’ (It’s actually Ahmed)

Idiot: ‘You are..are..a terrorist! (Best insult he can think of) Go back to where you came from!’

Brown man: ‘ No, no. I’m one of the ‘good’ Muslims. I don’t do any of that crazy shit. I’m cool. Look! *Downs a beer* See? Look, look! *Grabs a girl’s ass* Don’t you see??? I am totally for gays. And for lesbians too. Even though I don’t swing that way. I also love women’s rights! I don’t mind if a woman is a stripper, or wants to wear underwear as outerwear! I am one of you!’

Okay, so I am exaggerating a little.

But lately, I have noticed that we go to great lengths to make non-Muslims more comfortable in our presence.

And if that means saying: ‘I’m okay with gays!’

Or: ‘I don’t mind if you drink beer while I just sit here and watch and get bored’

We are basically trying so hard to say: ‘I am not a terrorist. I am not like them. I am a moderate, normal Muslim.’

Moderation is recommended in Islam. In fact it is lauded. By Hadith and Sunnah.

The problem is when people take moderation too far.

In trying so hard to blend in , and be LESS OBTRUSIVELY MUSLIM, we forget who are.

We become pseudo Muslim.

Be wary the path you choose to walk down.

You may make your co-workers less uncomfortable.

You may feel better about yourself because that brain-washing from T.V has started to make you question if you are actually as evil as they claim.

You may even make more friends and have more fun this way. (After all, GayBestFriends look like soooo much fun on T.V)

But do it with self-awareness.

Accept that you are now a fraud.

A shell of what you once were.

An ‘Extremely Moderate Muslim’

Blood, Sweat And Tears

Barbie Doll Museum at Bloomingdale's

We are born with a clean slate.

But within minutes, our families lay heaps and heaps of societal responsibility on our heads.

I am an angry Muslim girl.

Not because I am angry at God.

But because I am angry at society.

From the day a mum buys her daughter a Barbie doll.

Or the day a little girl’s brother laughs at her for trying to play football with his friends…

Messages are being downloaded direct into her hardware.

Like a little ticking virus bomb.

Waiting for the right time to explode.

Infecting the system. Drive by drive.

‘You are a girl. You must behave a certain way.’

We mostly don’t realize this.

How controlled we are.

How bloody brainwashed we are.

How caged we are.

………….Or maybe its just me……..

Society ingrains in us that we have to follow a specific mould.

Any deviation from that and we are relegated pariahs. Outcasts. Treated badly to set an example…so that none of the others follow your deviant, devilish ways.

It’s human nature. The ‘Pack mentality’.

Blending in keeps you alive. Sticking out, well it singles you out to predators, and you endanger the whole community.

Except we do not live in a jungle any more.

Doesn’t matter which society you think about..each has its own unwritten rules and regulations. A code of conduct written in blood, sweat and tears.

How many of us follow these rules without even thinking twice………..?

……………I know I am being a bit vague, forgive me.

I am trying to decide what path my life will take.

And I feel bound by the shackles of what society expects me to do.

What’s worse, is that these shackles are not even real.

I can break them any time I want.

I can go off to Rio, and become a dancer if I want. (For example)

But the little seeds of propaganda planted in my brain from day 1…keep holding me back.

Nobody is TELLING me I can’t do what I want.

But my own conscience is holding me back.

What will society think?

What will my family think?

What will they all saaaay?

Brave are the souls who decide to take the path less travelled.

They throw caution to the wind. And watch it burn.

These, these are the founders of tomorrow.

Rule breakers.

Trend setters.

Labelled crazy, loco!

But eventually, lauded as the inventors, trend setters, and physicists of tomorrow!

I do not aspire to be the next Einstein or Van Gogh.

Only to live my dreams to the fullest.

Without being encumbered by the collective gasp of societal disapproval.

I CHOOSE to travel.

I CHOOSE to not be married (right now)

I CHOOSE to work.

I CHOOSE to be educated.

I CHOOSE to be different.

I CHOOSE a partner you do not expect me to.

I CHOOSE to be an Independent Muslim Woman.

I CHOOSE to throw caution to the wind.

Because it is my prerogative.

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Less Travelled, by Robert Frost

Microaggression

OMG OMG OMG

I just had a Eureka! moment.

I am not alone.

What I have been experiencing all day, every day, has a NAME!

It’s not all in my head.

I’m allowed to feel hurt and upset and offended.

It’s ‘Microagression!’

Wiki defined it as: ‘brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial or sexist slights and insults’

These messages may be sent verbally or nonverbally (e.g clutching one’s purse more tightly )

Examples of microagression:

1. ‘You speak really good English’

2. ‘I’m not racist, I have many black friends.’

3.  ‘I don’t think of you as Black. You are just a normal person to me.’

4. ‘You’re Muslim? Really? Its good to know there are nice Muslim people out there.’

The most common implied messages are:

“You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and “You are all the same.”

There are many more real-life examples here.

Oh em gee! I finally have a name for this phenomenon!

Usually when someone makes a subtle, random, thoughtless comment in reference to my race or gender, I ignore it.

I FEEL  hurt. And upset. And ashamed. And angry.

Very angry.

Also terribly confused.

I feel like my emotions are not legitimate. Maybe I am being over-sensitive.

Moreover, because the slight is so subtle, it is easy to make yourself ignore it. Easy to pretend it didn’t happen rather than confront it.

Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD says that: ‘While the person may feel insulted, she is not sure exactly why, and the perpetrator doesn’t acknowledge that anything has happened because he is not aware he has been offensive.’

A 2007 paper published in American Psychologist (Vol. 2, No. 4) has outlined some definitions:

Microinsults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Microinvalidations: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.

Lately at work, I have been getting comments in reference to my age. And my gender. A. Lot.

‘Young lady, you have done reeeeeeeeeeeeally well!’

Emphasis on the ‘young’. Emphasis on ‘really’

If you heard the tone with which that ‘compliment’ was delivered you would realize it wasn’t one.

What was implied was: You are young, and a junior and a woman. Learn your place. You are doing well. But don’t get ahead of yourself.

Grrr.

It’s annoying that people get away with their prejudices so lightly.

We let people walk all over us, and we don’t even realize they are doing it!

This is an example posted by someone on Microagression.tumblr.com

“But you’d know about that, wouldn’t you? Asian parents and overachievement and their focus on studies?” Professor to me, one of two Asian students in my psychology class in Australia in 2010. Made me feel angry. I am not the Appointed Spokesperson.

Ummm, sadly, I have been guilty of that one.

I have always assumed that Asians have a better work ethic when it comes to school work. And usually achieve really good grades. Granted, this is from my experience as a teacher at a primary school in China (I volunteered for two months) BUT, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a generalization, and may make others feel ‘boxed’

Another example that really gets me is:

I am a doctor and was helping my white colleague apply a bandage to a patient’s face when the tape caught on my glove for a moment.  ”Look at that,” she joked to the patient, “I almost taped you to Dr. —-.  You would’ve been running around with a small Asian woman stuck to you.”  Not only did she undermine my dignity in the patient’s eyes, but I was shocked that she felt the need to figure my race into this – not to mention that I’m 5’6” in work shoes and of proportionate weight.

Okay, I must admit I chekad (laughed) a bit initially after reading that last one. BUT in a professional environment, how mean and hurtful and belittling is that comment?!

Usually, people who make such statements, are oblivious to the fact that they have offended you!

Calling them up on the perceived insult, usually results in embarrassment on both sides.

Le sigh.

Responses are usually along the lines of:

‘Stop being so sensitive.’

‘Chill out, you know we love you.’

‘You have no sense of humour, it was a joke!’

Grrrrr!

It was not a joke. It was offensive. Stop doing it!

On a similar vein, there is a really old clinical biochemist/professor at work who used the ‘N’ word at a meeting.

He said ‘Negro’ rather than ‘Nigger’

But I still find the word ‘Negro’ offensive.

He was using it in a scientific/academic way though. So the whole room full of multi-racial medical professionals, let it slide.

Is it okay to use the word ‘Negro’? I don’t know. In America, I know for sure it would be frowned upon. But over the pond in the U.K, people seem to use it freely.

Any thoughts?

Maybe we are all just being over-sensitive.

But maybe, racism is alive and kicking.

Camouflaged behind sickly-sweet smiles, and sugar-coated insults.

I am Muslim.

I am brown-skinned.

I am a woman.

Kindly take your aggression. Micro or otherwise elsewhere.

That is all.

Peace.

He lives in a pineapple under the sea!!

SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS!!!

Absorbent and porous and yellow is he.

SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS!!!

Umm…yea.

Now that that’s outta the way…

What I wanted to say was…

I am a sponge. A ‘literary’ Sponge Bob.

I am an emotional sponge. An intellectual sponge. A mojo sponge. A mood sponge. A blogging sponge.

The blogs, books, magazines etcetera that I read influence how I write.

If I was a superhero, I would be the one whose power was to absorb other peoples’ power.

SMDH.

Now, its an okay-ish power. If you absorb nice moods, good feelings and good mojo.

But when you absorb negativity (the sponge doesn’t discriminate, yo) it can result in some weird and wonderful situations.

After watching an Indian flick, I get all ….head bobby, and romantic, and emotional. LOL.

After reading a really intense philosophical book…yeah you guessed it….I get all Freudian on everyone.

And after spending time with my very blonde friends, I realize that I have deep fried my last remaining brain cell.

Why am I telling you this?

Well.

Its because I want to apologize.

I feel my writes sometimes lack any form of coherence. One minute I’m a touchy feely blogger. The next I have decided I am strongly political. One minute I am a feminist and an activist. And the next, I am a proud Muslim Blogger.

Well.

To be fair, this blog is a reflection of the writer. A mirror image of QQ. And I can be any one of the above types of blogger, or ALL of them. Maybe all in one day.

However, I should set a specific TONE for this blog.

A feel.

A focus.

You know?

Like, if u read my writes anywhere  else; On another blog, or site, or paper, or magazine (who knows?! I think big!) , you will automatically know that it’s me! You would smile and nod. And even wave! ‘Hi QQ. We see you!’

🙂

I want a distinctive taste.

A unique scent.

A personalized stamp to my work. Like a genomic blueprint.

Inshallah.

I shall get there.

But, to be a master, one must first study the greats.

So in my path to being a better writer, I shall experiment with different writing styles.

Dear reader.

Bear with me, as I take a journey through the Shakespears and the Chinua Achebes. The Quraan, and the Emily Brontes. The blogs and the magazines.

My ‘sponge-like style’ is where we are at.

Where we are going? Who knows…

Let’s take a journey.

🙂

xx

QQ

Life, Oh Life…

New Year's Resolution - Day 1

Image by Cath in Dorset via Flickr

Introspection is a fast track route to insanity.

Yet, a life unexamined…..

In the act of recording  an introspective journey into my mind here, I hope to lay in stone my resolutions for the future.

Not New Year’s resolutions, as, it is evident it is now February.

But my Life’s Resolutions.

My dreams and goals.

To be edited, amended, added to, and thrown to the wind, as the situation deems fit.

Not at the come and go of a capricious new year.

Anyhowzawatsit.

Here we go.

My Faults:

1. I am selfish

Earth-shatteringly so. I live for myself. I work for myself. I act for myself. Myself. Myself. Myself.

Plan: I will undertake un-selfish acts. At the very least, ONE a day.

2. I am lazy

Again. Earth-shatteringly so. I LOOOVE to veg out in front of a the T.V screen.

Plan: Join the gym

3. I am shy

Painfully shy. I prefer my company to others. Not only because I’m witty, and funny, and kind….LOL. Mainly because I’m a bit of a loner.

Plan: Smile a little more…to everyone (baby steps)

4. I have lapsed in my faith

Understandably. When faced with trials, one either becomes increasingly devout, leaning on God for strength and love. OR. One shuns the light. And walks (or falls) head first into the darkness. I have had a trying year.

Plan: Prayer (Even though insincere at first, the act in itself shall hopefully bring me closer)

5. I let others walk all over me

This ties in with number 3.

Plan: Humility begets kindness. This is a battle I choose to let God fight for me.

With every bad, I am sure there are 10 good elements within ourselves.

And on that note, I hope to match every negative comment about myself, with two good ones. For the purpose of introspection is self-improvement. And not a spiral into self-loathing.

As a consequence of No. 1 (scroll up) I shall not record those 10 positive attributes here. But I have written them down. And if you are so inclined, I urge you to do the same.

If only to make you smile. And possibly to make you realize, your time on earth hasn’t been such a waste of oxygen after all.

Take a moment.

Take a journey.

Your mind can be a treacherous place.

I recommend body armour.

🙂

Salaams.

I can feel it coming

Sometimes I feel sad for no apparent reason

I feel so... meh

I’m afraid of what’s coming.

It’s not the apocalypse. Or the End Of Days.

It’s not even an alien invasion.

Nope.

Nothing fancy or dramatic.

Just ….

*Drum Rolls*

………….The………..

………………………..Big……………………..

…………………………………………………….Depression…………………….

*Ominous Music*

I try to make light of the matter.

But really. I’m terrified.

Some say humour is used to mask extreme emotion; A coping mechanism.

I say: Ermm…Why did the chicken cross the road?

🙂

Ok, seriously.

I have spoken about my melancholic tendencies before. I come in and out of these….’blues’. Sometimes it’s not so bad. However sometimes, the blue becomes a deep, black.

The Deep Black, it’s not a very pretty place. It’s the place I’m most afraid of.

So, my breath catches.

Frozen in my throat.

My chest tightens.

Am I going to croak?

Will my blues ever stay away forever?

Will these days turn into grays?

Sigh. I gotta keep it together…

God willing, I will have smooth sailing through this stormy weather. I shall come out the other side, a little battle weary, but triumphant. Having successfully banished my demons to the recesses of my mind…once again.

🙂

See you on the other side.

xo

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