Friday, April 28, 2006
  Trial by a Jury of One's Peers
The framers of the American constitution felt it was vital to ensure that every person was given a fair trial, and so they devised the trial by a jury of one's peers. This, it was believed, would guarantee justice and a fair trial.

African Americans, of course, have long known that it does no such thing given a society in which bigotry and racism makes a jury assume people of certain races are more likely to be criminally active than people of other races, or where prejudice leads people to judge people of one race more harshly than they would people of another race, and have more sympathy for people of their own race than they would people of a different race.

No doubt, Latinos also face the same difficulty. And now we have evidence that Muslims, too, are facing discrimination by juries that calls into question whether an American Muslim can receive justice and fairness at the hands of a jury by their peers. Of course, many American Muslims have felt since 9-11 that it was impossible for a Muslim man, particularly a Muslim Arab or Pakistani man, to get a fair trial because of Islamophobic juries. With reports of almost 46% of the population saying they have a negative opinion of Islam, these fears do not seem faretched. The proceedings at the trial of a Lodi, CA man accused, and convicted, of providing material support to terrorits have gone a step further, proving that such fear were indeed justified.

The trial took a disturbing turn today as one of the jurors filed an affadavit that she was coerced into going along with a verdict she did not agree with, and defense attorneys are asking for a retrial.

The juror, Arcelia Lopez, cited several issues with the trial:

All of these add up to a pretty clear indication that Hayat did not get a fair trial.

Given the fact that some of the evidence provided is questionable -- the main witness was paid to collect evidence against Hayat and to testify against him; at least some of the material support was in the form of wire transfers between said witness, Hayat and his uncle, suggesting perhaps entrapment; the confessions of Hayat and his father, neither of whom speak good English were videotaped while neither had access to a lawyer, some of their "statements" were, according to their lawyer, simply echoing a question they didn't understand -- it makes you wonder -- was Hayat lead into a situation and then unable to get a fair trial by his jury?

I don't know if Hayat is guilty or not, but whether he is or not, he deserves a fair trial. But, I have to admit, just writing down this analysis is scary. I know some people will read these musings and think I'm soft on terrorism, that I'm hoping for criminals to get free. Of course, neither is true, but there is the niggling worry -- if you stand up for someone who has been accused, will you be seen as guilty by association? Will you be seen as sympathetic to terrorists?

It is truly sad that American Muslims -- or African Americans or Latinos --have to live under such shadows of fear.

Thursday, April 27, 2006
  Shirin Ebadi
I have mentioned Muslim women leaders on several occasions. Here's one every one should know...

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is known for defending women accused of such "crimes" as being raped, as well victims of state violence. In a country where the government acknowledges that it has at times assassinated its opponents, that means a whole lot more than it does in some countries.

Shirin's autobiography -- Iran awakening -- has just been published and I'm currently deep in the middle of the book. It is lyrical, intelligent, and brutally honest. Brutal in the sense that Ebadi does not hesitate to reveal her own faults, her own naivete, and her mistakes in judgement. Nor she does not hesitate to call a spade a spade when it comes to the Islamic Revolution and its lawlessness.

The book is also a fascinating look into the heart of the Iranian opposition. Ebadi is literate and her voice speaks to Americans with a fluency and ease that surprised me. (Excellent translation helps, I am sure, but even the best translator cannot turn dreck into poetry.) It is a voice that many feminists will relate to, with it's concern for women's empowerment.

And it tells a story that many of us have never heard -- the story of those who had misgivings about the Islamic revolution from day one, who have struggled to reel in Iranian theocracy, and bring reform to the government.

I highly recommend this book. 1) because Shirin is a woman you should know. 2) because the story she tells is fascinating 3) because this version of the Iranian Revolution is rarely told in American society and 4) because, with tensions between Iran and the US at an all time high, anything that humanizes Iranians, and reminds us that Iran is not a monolith of religious fanatics, is a thing that works towards peace and away from confrontation and war.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
  At long last!
Tonight I was promoted to second degree brown belt!

This has been a long time coming, a very long time. Since I got my third degree brown belt (brown belts count down, like the launch of a spacecraft), my old dojo split off from their old style, and started a new teaching system; the branch where my family attended closed; they tried a variety of other places for us to have class, that didn't work and they closed our branch altogether; we hemmed and hawed for a while, then joined another dojo from the style we originally had been learning; that sensei started out by having us go through all the material from white belt on, and getting re-promoted as we went through the material, but that was kind of embarassing because he let us keep our old ranks; so he just had us check off the material as we went but it was still a long process as there are small differences in the material that each dojo taught and small differences are sometimes harder to get into your head than large ones... Between all the other things going on in my life, the other demands on my time, I figure it's been a least four years since I last promoted, maybe longer. (I really can't remember; I've probably got the certificate in the attic, but I'm not going to go look for it!)

Anyway, needless to say, I am in a very happy mood tonight!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
  Stapleton Hall
My story, Stapleton Hall, is now online at It was published as The Priesthood (not my choice of name) in Citizen Culture Magazine about a year ago, but now it's free for any who'd like to read it. It's a near future, twilight zonish piece.
This weekend (between chasing clues) I went to a Focolare meeting. I was assigned the story by NUVO because 1) it was an interfaith event, and I am sort of their religion beat reporter, and 2) because Warith Deen Muhammad was coming and, obviously, as a Muslim, I would be excited to meet him.

I had never heard of Focolare, and in fact at first thought it had something to do with Folktales and story telling (Folkolore) or singing (Vocolary). As it turns out Focolare (which means hearth in Italian) is a Catholic organization, started by an Italian woman named Chiara Lubich. During WWII, Chiara began thinking about war and peace during the bombing of Italy and she became very convinced that we must start living Biblical commands to unity, both among Christians and between Chrisitans and peoples of other faiths. Focolare, then is dedicated to bringing people together. The methodology, though, is a bit different than other interfaith groups which discuss theology; this one focuses on a "dialogue of living" -- sharing stories, food, song, experiences, and spending time together to get to know one another as people, not just as spokespersons. In way, I was right about the folklore and the singing -- there were a lot of tales shared, and music was woven throughout the day.

The people attending were just lovely people, all around. Lots of Italian Catholics and black Muslims. One of my favorite parts was when an imam from Milwaukee talked about how this gathering showed people who could not get past nationalism how people from different countries could come together in peace and love, showed people who couldn't get past skin color or gender, how men and women, blacks and whites could come together in peace and love, and showed people who couldn't get past beliefs how people of different faiths could come together in peace and love.

Sad to say, there were very few Muslims who weren't black there. I may have been the only one for all that goes. And, oddly enough, though they announced the event at my home masjid, they didn't mention that Warith Deen Muhammad was coming. Not that that should make a difference, whether or not he came the event was very much worth attending, but any other major American Muslim figure and they would have let people know. Odd, odd.

Anyway, I'm glad I got assigned to the story. I'm planning on keeping in touch with the Focolare people. I was very impressed with the loving-kindnesss that permeated the room.

And, yes, I did get to meet Warith Deen Muhammad and interview him. Now that's cool!
Sunday, April 23, 2006
  And thickens...
The murder weapon discovered -- a bloody bo. Too bad all the suspects are martial artists. Weapons of every sort abound at the Hotel Tokyo! All the suspects deny the bo belongs to them, of course.

A threatening note to Taz, and another to our intrepid detectives -- don't tell what you know, and drop the case now, or else! Was it Joanna, desperate to keep her secrets hidden, or Chen hoping to keep her plans in the dark? Or perhaps Taz herself, throwing out red herrings.

A murder attempt, trying to send Taz the way of her classmate. Chen knocking off off the competition? Or Joanna, ensuring that her secrets stay secret? Or perhaps Taz has taken her charade to a higher level? But how could she knock herself in the back of the head? One suspect eliminated? Looks that way...
Friday, April 21, 2006
  The Plot Thickens....
We are deep in the throes of a murder mystery here in my household... Late this afternoon, Paula Taylor, twin sister to international karate champion, called the offices of SAVE -- Saara, Ameera, and Vicki Enterprises -- when things go wrong, they SAVE the day -- to solicit their help in solving the mystery of who killed her sister.

The scenario: It is the weekend of the International Grand Champion Karate Tournament, which are being held in Tokyo. Pamela swept the women's competition taking the gold medal in all three events -- kata, sparring, and weapons. Late that night, her body, bloody and with a fractured skull was discovered by her roommate, teammate, fellow student at the Plainfield dojo, and second place winner, Tasneem Khalid.

The suspects:

Tasneem was last years grand champion, and she is not happy to have been unseated by her teammate. She says she and Pamela are best friends... when Taz wins; when she loses they are, well, not as close. She sent Pamela a coded note demanding a rematch the night of the finals. Did she want to avenge her honor by sparring.... or did she plan to make sure she would be able to reclaim her title next year without such stiff competition...

Chen Huang is the coach and sensei of the Chinese team. She is angry at the judges, claiming that they are biased against Chinese people because of historical bad blood between the Chinese and Japanese. That is why, she says, her team members came in third and fourth. Chen has written a letter to husband saying she knows how to make sure the Chinese win, but her solution is written in Chinese characters. Hidden in her room, our intrepid detectives found a mysterious scroll with book secreted within. Could the scroll hold the key to Chen's plans for her team to succed? Or does she intend to get rid of all the competition? If so, Taz could be next...

Joanna Flick is another competitor, but one that hasn't enjoyed the success Pamela and Taz did, nor even that of the Chinese team. Last year, in fact, she came in last place. Joanna has been taking lessons from Pamela on the sly, without her sensei's permission. He'd be sure to kick her out of the dojo if he found out about the arrangement. And to make matters worse, she's fallen behind in her lesson payments, and owes Pamela money. A lot of money. Pamela has written her many times, asking for payment, and our dectives have discovered a file with a letter saying she was going to go to Joanna's sensei, to the tournament judges and the police if Joanna didn't pay up... now! How badly did Joanna want to keep her secret, and did she want to avoid paying up enough to kill for it?

All the suspects have weapons -- tonfa, nunchacku, bos -- in their hotel rooms. And they are all karate experts -- it could have been anyone!

The clues:

Pamela has a file with all her past invoices, and increasingly strident messages to Joanna. It looks like she was putting a lot of pressure on Joanna, threatening to go to her sensei, the tournament judges and even the police if necessary. But, she also seemed to have no intent of quitting the lessons -- she had a book in her hotel room about teaching karate and notes about which would be good for Joanna. And Joanna had several books Pamela had given her to read.

Also in Pamela's room was a coded message from Taz demanding a private rematch, at 10 the night of the finals. At first Taz denied writing the note, but later she said she was just going to meet her teammate for a friendly match, when she found her dead. Taz has lots of weapons, but her tonfa seem to be missing...

Finally, in Taz and Pamela's hotel room there was a note from Chen requesting a meeting at 8 the evening Pamela died.

In Chen's room was the note to her husband, promising that the Americans wouldn't be able to find anyone to beat the Chinese next year. Her solution was written in chinese characters that our detectives learned mean, The Eighteen Hands of the Monks. Is this a reference to the ancient scroll SAVE found in the room? Is it a ancient, lost system that Chen hopes will prove unbeatable? Or some special technique she used on Pamela, and may use on Taz? Chen is in Osaka at the moment, meditating in the shrines, and when she returns tomorrow, SAVE will have plenty of questions for her.

In Joanna's room were several books Pamela had given her -- she seems to have been a dedicated teacher. There was also a crumpled note from Pamela asking Joanna to meet her in the competition ring at 9 pm... the deadline for Joanna to pay up before Pamela went to the authorities. Joanna is at the competition award banquet, as is Taz. When they return, SAVE plans to ask her all about her lessons, and just how desperate she was to keep them secret, and how broke she really was.
  A sheikh I could take a shine to
I discovered this quote while doing some research for an essay I'm working on...

"The word As-shams (the sun, in Arabic) is feminine, and Qamar(the moon) is masculine.

The sun burns itself to give light and life to everything around, and the moon is Muneer, meaning it reflects the light; it radiates the brilliance of the sun.

So when we shine as men, the implication is that we are reflecting the glorious light of our women."

-Shaykh Abdullah Adhami

I know, if you wanted to, you could construe this in a "behind every great man is a great woman" kind of manner, but I don't think it was meant that way at all --but rather to acknowledge the beautiful nature of women. It's certainly a nice break from the active/radiant male with the passive/reflective woman mode we get in Western depictions of the sun and moon.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
And here I thought I lived in Indianapolis... you'd never know! These photos are all from my yard. And yes, we do live in a neighborhood with lots of houses, we just happen to have a pretty secluded lot, with a camp behind us, a stream separating us from neighbors on the one side, the garage next to the neighbors on the other side, and the neighbors across the street with a wide lot, and their house on the far edge of it. Of course, close-ups and care with the angles helps too!

From top left, spiraling in... apple blossoms (granny smith!); crabapple (outside our front window); children's haven -- log cabin playhouse nestled in the trees; violets; a row of peas; more violets; yarrow; our stream framed by a willow; weeds (I don't know what type they are, but I like 'em!); cherry blossoms (sour cherries -- perfect for pie!); hyacinth

Our raspberries aren't flowering yet, and the lilacs are still tight buds; the redbud, which you can barely see behind the playhouse was just too far away for my little digital camera to capture well; and I totally forgot about the sweetgum (which is full of yellow-green flowers right now); and the wild strawberries won't be out for another few weeks... You can probably tell that I love the woods, wildflowers and fruit trees. Our neighbors no doubt drive by shaking their heads -- those crazy Muslims, don't know how to take care of a yard -- when it should be -- those crazy tree-huggers letting everything go wild!

I just wish I knew how to record the birds that are singing outside my window and add them to this page.

Every time I drive through our neighborhood, it makes me sad to see all the carefully manicured lawns -- chemically green and dandelion free. How can anyone justify poisoning the soil, the ground water, the animals that live in and around our homes -- just to have a "pristine" yard? And how ironic -- since a pristine yard would actually look an awful lot like mine, while all the "perfect" lawns are heavily adulterated.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
  Last Chance
The Islamic Writers Alliance Anthology, One Faith, Many Voices, is going to be moving into a new phase... we are going to be discontinuing the hardback edition as there have been some issues with the publishing house we chose. If you'd like a hardcover copy of it, May 5th is the last day to order one. (You can order them at any bookstore, but I wouldn't wait until the last second just in case they don't place their orders immediately.)

We will still have inventory of the softback edition available for a while, and we will be selling it as an ebook from our website, God willing. If sales continue, then we may reissue it later, or we may not, if sales don't warrant it. We'll see how it goes. As always, the proceeds of the book go to support the IWA's operating expenses and to fund charitable donations of novels and children's books to Islamic schools.

On a slightly different, but related matter, if you have ordered a hard copy of this anthology in the past year, or do order one in the next couple weeks, I would love to know it, since we are having difficultlies getting sales reports and royalities from the publisher. Please email me at Any concrete information we can gather will only help us in getting what is due to the IWA.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
As if the joy of lilacs and birds singing outside my window, the beautiful crisp spring air and the sweet, green, pea plants pushing their way up through the soil of my garden weren't enough to make me dance, there is the news of Hasan at-Turabi officially saying female imams are ok.

At-Turabi, for those who are not familiar with him, has a large following and is very well respected in much of the Muslim world. He is somewhat a contradiction in terms -- he was/is the voice of hardline Islamists in Sudan and was instrumental in bringing shari'ah law to Sudan, yet he is also known for championing women's rights. He supported a coup in 1989 that overthrew the democratic government, and brought in a defacto dictator, and yet, he was removed from his position in the government and jailed for advocating democratic reforms and the power of elected officials to remove the "president" from his office. He is accused of having be insturmental in Sudan's sheltering Bin Laden from 1990-1996, though many Muslims think that is just the US trying to frame a popular Islamic scholar. Liberal muslims are fond of his positions on women, and generally take an ostrich approach to some of his problematical political stances.

At-Turabi is at best a mixed bag and at worst a supporter of terrorism... but that does not diminish the importance of his coming out in support of woman imams. He has already been denounced by people like the Grand Mufti of Mecca, but the impact of his views cannot help but be widespread, especially given his Islamist credentials. He has the ear of conservative groups, the ones most likely to condemn female imams and declare the mere mention of such a possibility sheer blasphemy. Between him and Tahar Mahdi major inroads are being made into the conservative camp!!

How wonderful that such developments come in the spring -- such lovely symbolism -- rebirth, renewal, growth and revitalization -- dancing is definately called for!

It has given me a new appreciation for Easter and the joy it must bring to Christians that Easter comes in spring. I'd never thought of Easter in those terms (we had traditional egg hunts when I was a kid, and while Easter was about the only time I went to church, it was only because my dad was always being asked to play trumpet at Easter services, so my experiences of Easter were very much of a cultural nature). The whole idea of the renewal and rebirth of the human spirit, the mercy and love of God, which is so amply evident in the springtime, and the loveliness of the season, of reawakened animal and plant life, of voilets and birdsong -- what a lovely convergence!

As a Muslim, of course, I believe that renewal and rebirth is accomplished directly, between the individual and God, without the intervention of Jesus. Nonetheless -- I celebrate with my Christian friends God's mercy and love, His kindness and forgivingness of falliable humans -- in both our faiths these are the central characteristics of God, the ones that dominate our lives.
Monday, April 17, 2006
  Writer mom
My kids from time to time complain about having a writer mom. Especially when I'm working under deadline and have to get an article done NOW! so I can't play with them. Or worse, when I'm hot into a scene and don't even hear what they are saying to me. And then, when they finally break through into my consciousness, I get cranky because they've broken my concentration. Yeah, it can definately not be fun having a writer mom sometimes.

Carol Emshwiller tells the best story about how she set up her "office" in a corner of the family room and walled herself off from her kids with a playpen that she took apart and reassembled into a mini-fence. She was there if something dire happened but it gave her enough space to work. Ursula Le Guin mentioned once that her kids were very sheltered when they were young, and didn't realize until much later that not every kid went to bed so early (7 pm) so their mom would have time to write.

When my kids grow up, they are going to talk about how mom would sometimes go to a local hotel just to get away for a day and a half for a writer's retreat. (Thank God for cheap hotels on priceline!) They're going to talk about when mom was writing you had to pinch her to make sure she was listening to you, that or climb on her head (the computer was in her lap). They will also talk about how they helped mom with this story idea or that poem. How they brought her tea when she was too rapt with her words to go to the kitchen. How she was the best friend of every coffee shop proprietor within 15 miles of the house.

Some of the best times we've shared have been trying to make rhymes for song, or coming up with plot details that aren't corny or hyperdramatic. Reading aloud to each other, or listening to tapes of favorite books when we go on driving vacations. Going to cons together -- Tasneem came to WisCon with me and a couple friends one year; this year she and my two daughters and my mom are coming; Saara and I went to a gaming convention and had a blast.

They other thing they will remember are the books I wrote just for them. Stories that were about them, or things that our family does. Noora's Special Eid, written for my oldest, even though my youngest is named Noora, and which I illustrated myself (quite a feat since my drawing skills are not much better than Noora's...). The Attack of the Kiss-Monster Mama, written for Noora, who complained only that it wasn't long enough. The murder mystery that I'm writing for the twins' birthday party (Saara and Ameera and their friend Vicki get to be the detectives; I get to be the victim -- a champion karate competitor -- and her twin sister who's called in a private detective team -- SAVE (Saara, Ameera and Vicki Enterprises)-- to solve the mystery of who killed my sister; and Tasneem and her friends will be the suspects -- Tasneem, the jealous competitor; Chen, coach of a rival team; Joanna, who has been taking private lessons on the sly and owed Pamela lots of money.)

There are days when the kids are tired of having people come up to me and say, I really enjoy reading your column in the Star, and days when they wish I devoted more attention to them, days when they wish I was "just a mom," but those are balanced by days of pure joy and the delight. It's my hope that in their memories the good times will outweigh the bad times, and that as they get older and get jobs, they'll realize that having a "job" as a free-lance and fiction writer gives me a lot more flexibility to be mom, while still letting me use the talents and skills I've been blessed with to (hopefully) make the world a better place for more people than just my family.

Good thing this post is wrapping itself up... I have a lunch date with Noora. Ciao!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
I'm not usually one to get peeved at spam. After all, my mailbox out on the curb comes loaded with junk mail that I toss into the trash without opening it, so too my email inbox. Unfortunately the spam filters aren't perfect, and so I scan my junk mail everyday (give or take.) It takes about the same amount of time as sorting my hard mail, and I've found lots of notes from editors (unknown, strange address) in my junk mail, so I don't dare stop now.

Recently I've been getting a lot of spam with fwd:, (no topic), or (none) listed as the topic. Usually this is from a person who I've never heard of. Naturally, it goes right into the trash bin. But sometimes I wonder -- maybe I'm getting tons of fan mail, and throwing it without even realizing what I'm missing.

After all, what kind of spammer sends mail with no topic, hoping that people will click on it? In this day of virus and email worms, and spam like mountains of spaghetti -- never ending! I guess people who send out spam aren't the brightest stars in the sky, otherwise they'd realize not very many people open junk email, and even fewer buy stuff via junk email, so maybe it's not so perplexing that they don't realize that leaving off a topic for their email sinks their chances of success even further.

The messages I really don't understand are the ones that have gobbledy gook, or look like an exerpt from a story or a news item, but have no explanation, no rhyme nor reason, not selling anything, no viruses attached. What is the purpose of these mails? So they have some spyware imbedded so now they know your email has a real person behind it?

I guess I shouldn't complain, at least they aren't going door to door trying to sell me a Kirby or windows. Nothing worse than live spam...
Friday, April 14, 2006
  The Twins are Twelve
Doesn't that sound like the title of one of those old fashioned, sweet-natured books for kids? I was shopping for my kids birthday (which is tomorrow) and found that most of the books being marketed to teens have romance as the main theme. (Not something I particularly want to encourage.) Or they are nitty, gritty exposes of how horrible high schools are. If you want something clean, fun, perhaps a bit educational or at least thought provoking, the pickings are pretty slim.

Used to be murder, swearing, heavy petting (snogging if you're a Harry Potter fan), kids being mean and nasty and getting away with it, were taboo. With two preteens whose reading taste is near to adult, I wish those days were still with us! I mean, The Chocolate War may reflect reality in Catholic boys schools (and I hope to God it doesn't!), but that doesn't mean I want to read it as fiction. Similarly, I don't want to introduce my kids to books where the main point to life seems to be make-up and dating. Nor do I want them growing up thinking that the way Ron snogs Parvati (I think that's who he hooks up with) just to make Hermione jealous is a good way to handle one's relationships!

Fortunately, we still have access to the classics. So my kids are getting the complete works of Shakespeare, and a selection of the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. Of course, murder abounds in Shakespeare, but the snogging, for the most part, takes place off-stage, and while romance abounts, it is decidedly aimed towards marriage in all but the most scoundrelous of individuals. And, all the while the moral of the story is crystal clear. Not to mention that the language is delicious! Last year they got the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, and it's still one of their favorites.

They're also getting a Jane Yolan fantasy book. Sci-fi (and to a lesser extent fantasy) is one place where kids books still seem to be kids books -- fun, adventure, growing up and learning about yourself and the universe, without too much nastiness. Or at least, not too much nastiness describe in explicit and excrutiating detail.

Speaking of sci-fi books for kids... they so enjoyed Sing the Light, Sing the Warmth, and Receive the Gift by Louise Marley... and I just so happened to find these flat bath confetti soaps in the shapes of flowers, that will be perfect for the make-believe play they like to do based on books-- our bathtub will soon be transformed into a ubanyix with floating flower petals ala Lamdon. (If you have no clue what I am talking about... read the books!)
Thursday, April 13, 2006
  Another domino falls
More good news on the movement for women-led mixed-gender prayers! Tahar Mahdi, a France based Muslim scholar and permanent member of the European Council on Fatwa and Research (led by the (in)famous Yusuf al-Qardawi) has come out on his website supporting the theological reasoning behind and the permisibility of women leading mixed prayers. The dominoes continue to fall!!

If you can read French, or if you are brave enough to wade through the interesting translation provided by places like Bablefish, the link to the article is:
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
  WisCon programming
I just got my session details from the WisCon programming committee. If you haven't heard of WisCon -- it's about the coolest conference out there -- dedicated to feminist science fiction and feminism in general. It's held every Memorial Day in Madison, WI and attracts a lot of the coolest people!

Anyway, I'm on three panels, and the reading group I'm part of was accepted! Yay!

I'm really excited about the panels:

On Friday evening:

Pick one! Both/And in an Either/Or world
Bisexual, transgender, intersexed, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national: those of us betwixt and between society's many great divides are often told to pick a side. What if we don't, won't, can't? And where does this connect to feminism and SF? Me, along with Victor Raymond, of Carl Brandon society fame, Aaron Lichtov, Lou Hoffman, and Ursula LeGuin. (!!)

Needless to say it's a bit daunting to think of sitting on a panel with someone like LeGuin, but it should mean a big audience, and as an American Muslim feminist science fiction writer, well, I think I have something meaningful to contribute to the panel.

Sunday afternoon:

Coming out
In what ways have you come out? SF reader, feminist, pagan, christian, jewish, muslim, agnostic, devout, democrat, republican, independant, green, hetero, homo, bi, monogamous, polyamorous, celibate, kinky, vanilla, writer, space babe memoribilia collector? Who have you come out to and how did it go? Who have you not come out to and why? What does it mean to be out? What does it mean to be in the closet? How do you bring up the subject? When do you bring up the subject? Are you an activist or do you wait for safe spaces? Speakers: me, Aaron Lichtov (once again), Vylar Kaftan, Lisa Cohen, and K Tempest Bradford.

I think this is a fascinating topic and am really looking forward to this particular panel. It was very difficult for me to come to an event like WisCon -- I was sure I would meet hostility from diehard feminists because of my headscarf (in actuality I encountered almost none, or I'm just perpetually oblivious...), and I dreaded people coming up to me and asking, "What character are you dressed up as." Myself? Or should I choose one of the Muslim characters from my own writing? But it's been great connecting to this community -- which gives ample food for thought.

Additionally, there are certain places where I'm not "out" as a woman imam because that would create problems. Of course, that in and of itself creates problems. Both personally, as I have always made it my policy to have complete transparency, and in terms of having to refrain from mentioning certain articles I've published, etc. Again, plenty here for food for thought.

Monday afternoon:
Was Margaret Mead full of s***?
Mead is famously quoted as saying "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Does this sentiment have any basis in reality? Many intelligent and well-informed people, including some of the luminaries who have attended WisCon in previous years, would have us believe that Mead's philosophy was the purest fantasy, and that no single voter or group of activists can bring about any kind of meaningful change. Let's invite a panelist or panelists who can debate and discuss this topic from the perspective of their own experience in the realm of public service, as well as one or more private citizens who believe that Mead was full of poppycock. Speakers: me, Pamela Sargent, Karen H. Moore, Suzanne Alles Blom

Again, I think I have a lot to say about this subject -- I'm one who firmly believes in the power of small groups. Just look at what a handful of women imams have achieved! It hasn't rippled yet to the wider Muslim world, but it's only a matter of time. I predict in twenty, thirty years, women imams will be as common as women rabbis.

Finally, I'm slated to do a reading with some excellent folks... Theresa Carter, Nora Jemison, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Nisi Shawl.

Our theme is Scarabs and Sandstorms: Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Middle East and Africa. If that isn't the coolest title, I don't know what is! I haven't figured out yet when the reading will be, but I'm really looking forward to hearing from the other writers. Now I just have to figure out what would be the best selection for me to read. Choices, choices!

May seems a long way away, but I know the time will fly!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
  when it rains it pours...
Broken furnace, stolen purse, and now... root canal. Yes, at my dentist appointment this morning they said that most likely I need a root canal on one of my molars. Yuck! No fun! Not to mention an expense we didn't really need at the moment. (Like, does anyone ever need to part with a couple thousand bucks.) So tomorrow I'm off to get, most likely, a root canal.

At least I can thank my lucky stars I'm not living in a warzone.

And remind myself of one of my favorite verses... Inna ma'a usri yusra -- surely with difficulty, comes ease.

Ok, God, I'm about ready for the ease part...

Several interesting things that I found out through the grapevine:

I'm quoted in a Writer's Digest article about spiritual fiction. (After all, how many people are "experts" about Islamic Fiction?)(Heck, I wouldn't exactly call myself an expert on Islamic Fiction, but I do at least have a nice title -- Director, Islamic Writers Alliance -- and some clips, and some basic knowledge of the industry.) It's the May issue, if that sort of thing interests you.

The odd thing... I had totally forgotten about giving the interview until a friend mentioned that she had seen the article and liked the quotes I gave.

I also just found out I'm on the program for the Tikkun's Conference of Spiritual Progressives May conference. (May 18-20 in DC). Rabbi Lerner and I had corresponded a couple times, but I'd gotten no confirmation. Until, that is, a friend mentioned getting a newletter about the conference and it mentioned me as one of the speakers. (!!) Needless to say, I'm very excited about the prospect. PMU would really like to work with other left leaning religious and humanist groups, but it's an uphill row to hoe getting attached.

Maybe this the fulfillment of the "ease" portion of the above cited verse -- look how information is falling at my feet, without my having to look for it, or even being aware of it!

Of course, that's two items... with any luck, I'll have one more great thing waiting for me around the corner. :D

I could use that about now. Maybe a big tax refund. Yeah. That would be nice.

Which reminds me... why do tax preparation businesses hire someone to dress up like Uncle Sam? Seems kind of counter productive... like, come here for your tax preparation, we'll give all your money to Uncle Sam. Seems like they should be able to come up with a better mascot. Of course, I don't have any idea what it might be. Yet another reason not to go into the tax preparation business. (the primary one's being that you have to look at what other people are making (probably a lot more than you are) and that it's got to be tedious as all get out, filling out forms day and night, and you've got to learn new excemptions, retired exemptions, etc each year.)
Monday, April 10, 2006
  Spatial Orientation and Visual Memory
I had an interesting conversation with my husband this morning. It went something like this:

"Did you use the green credit card or the blue one at the grocery store yesterday?"

Frozen silence.

"Um.... I used the one in front. I think that's... umm... blue. No wait, green No, no, it's blue."

Now to understand this conversation you have to know how I have my purse organized: I have a planner case with about ten card holder sleeves inside. My driver's license and frequently used credit cards are in the first sleeves. The next ones are groups in bunches -- my library card goes with my barnes and noble card, several grocery cards go together, as do several pharmacy cards. My coffee cards fill in the back, and so on.

The credit card for gas, groceries and pharmacies is in the first sleeve, center slot; the card for dining out and miscellaneous purchases is in the second sleeve, right slot.

It struck me as interesting (and typical) that my husband and I use very different systems to remember which card is for which purpose. Mine requires always putting the card back in its spot. His depends on associating a color with a purpose. Even more interesting -- my desk is usually a mess, but I can lay hands on what I want, because I remember in which stack I placed the desired paper, on which corner of the desk and so on. On several occassions someone has very, very nicely attempted to straighten out my desk, much to my dismay, cause I can't find anything once it's been moved. My husband wonders how I can find anything, period. *grin*

I think it relates to those infuriating iq tests where you have to rotate a block in space, mentally, or where you are supposed to identify the next in a baffling series of shapes or lines and dots. I can never figure them out logically, yet I score consistently in the top 2-5% on them. Like I've got some visual-spatial gestalt ability going on.

Anyway, the conversation made me think about how that would be an interesting cultural clash for an alien species/human species story (or for a story with different human characteristics.) Something more subtle than some of the "idiosyncracies" a lot of writers of contemporary fic come up with. So much of contemporary fiction seems to have characters that are just so bizarre that I can't relate to them, but something subtle like the difference in the way you order your life, that seems like an interesting way to add depth to a set of characters without having to make them have bizarre hobbies or wacko personality traits.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
  Best news of the Week...

The worst news... in the week were gone, a cold front swept through Indianapolis and my furnaceless home (remember it broke the day before we left) is now about 45 degrees at least in the dowstairs area where I sleep. BRRRR! I may be on the couch tonight.

Then next best news.... Hamas is renouncing suicide bombing! YAY!

Full story here:,,1750028,00.html

I hope this is a serious promise, not just lipservice. There has been way too much lipservice in the MiddleEast over the past 60-70 years.
Friday, April 07, 2006
For a while now I've been wanting to get into jewelry making. It's kind of odd as I don't wear a lot of jewelry, though I do have some pieces I really love, and do wear for just the right occassion...Some of them were given to me by special people, but others I bought for myself. Just after my first fiction sale, someone on one of my writers groups mentioned meeting an author and commenting about her lovely jewlery, and the woman replied that it was in commemoration of one of her stories. Apparently she had decided to purchase a pice of jewlery with a portion of the profits from each of her sales. I thought that was a lovely idea, and have followed suit, so I have some pieces that are not only stunning (according to my tastes) but also very meaningful as well.

It seems to me that making jewelry could have the same sort of satisfaction -- something you've crafted with your own hands, something beautiful, that brings beauty into other people's lives. That is part of what I try to do with my fiction (aside from the polemics that almost always color my work.)

This week I had the opportunity to make three very simple pieces of jewelry for my daughters (two bracelets and a necklace). Even though they were with simple glass beads, it has given me the confidence to try making some more grown up samples (once I get the supplies). I've never thought of myself as being very good with color -- when I try to paint, my pictures are always ruined by symmetry. Of course, jewlery is often symetrical, although the sort I want to make wouldn't be. It will at least be an adventure!
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
  Two Roller Coasters

I took my two middle girls snorkeling yesterday. The waves were quite rough and it felt like being on one of those shake-you-up rides at the state fair. It was worth it though -- we saw schools of fish nibbling away at underwater plants, valleys filled with orb-leafed sea plants, and ridges of barnacle covered rocks. Little, yellow striped fish and round ones with a spot on the tail. The girls were enthralled. Naturally. The appreciation of beauty is an awe-inspiring thing. I don't mean appreciating something beautiful inspires me, rather the mere fact that humans can appreciate beauty, that we can look at trees and fish and waves, at clouds in the blue sky or lightning in a cloudy one, and see them as beautiful, and feel the connection to them. It sends shivers down my back and convinces me that the Creator loves beauty. In fact, the appreciation of beauty seems to me to be one of the best arguments for a Creator at all. Of course, there's a mundane explanation -- the endorphin high we feel in the presence of overwhelming beauty no doubt has survival benefit, but still, I like to think of humans and God as similar in that we both appreciate the loveliness of creation.

The other roller coaster... well, it wasn't so pleasant. While we were out snorkeling, someone broke the window of our rental car and stole my purse, including the usual credit cards, checkbook and driver's licence, but also the kids passports and mine, an antique pocket watch, Raheel Raza's book with her treasured inscription, my new cell phone (which is very expensive, but which I got at a really great price and simply could not afford to replace...). At first I thought I had also lost two rings, but it turned out they were in another bag, not my purse. Then, while we were at a local zoo (Lion Country Safari) we got a call from a local police station. Someone had turned in my purse. The credit cards were gone, and my driver's license, the watch and the book (somehow I can't imagine thieves reading Their Jihad... Not My Jihad, but if they do, all the power to them) but the passports and my cell phone were there. Whew! I'm sad to lose the watch, and about the inscribed book (I'm sure I can get a new one from Raheel), but I'm glad to get back my phone and all my coffee cards, gas station cards, library card, etc.

Noora, my baby who isn't really a baby any more, was quite upset at the incident. And it struck me how the somewhat blase attitudes of us adult -- cest la vie -- shows how far evil impinges upon our daily life. Petty theft is a violation of our space, our possessions, and by extension our selves. And yet we shrugged it off. Noora was, justifiably, unhappy and mystified. Why did they do this? All I could offer was that they were people who didn't understand right and wrong properly. In retrospect, I could have told her that maybe they didn't have enough to eat or couldn't get a job. That I didn't think of that at the moment certainly says something about how we are socialized to think about crime and criminals -- they are bad people, rather than they are desperate people.
Monday, April 03, 2006
  Ah vacation... or not...
So my schedule today -- up early to get writing on a column due this afternoon. Finished that up fairly quicky, and set to work on updates for the Islamic Writers Alliance webpages announcing the IWA 2006 poetry contest (more below), posting the March edition of the IWA news, and preparing a logo for the IWA bi-annual bulletin, Islamic Ink. Then rewrites of the column to meet my editor's critique, fix lunch for the kids, mpre website work, rush off to the post office to mail forms that had to be postmarked today, and now to update my blog.

Did I say I was on vacation??? Except for the fact that I don't have to take any kids to karate or music lessons, seems like a pretty average day. Maybe that explains why I usually come back from vacations feeling worn out. That and the extra work of packing and unpacking, catching up on backlogged emails and stacks of snail mail at home...

Sometimes I long for a truly relaxing vacation. There's a women's writer's retreat on an island outside of Seattle that has been calling me. Three weeks, a month with no phone, no internet, just nature, fellowship with other writers, and a laptop that only has Word on it. In my dreams, my writer friends will be at this retreat with me -- Jamilah, Nochipa, Louise, Leila, -- and we sit on the veranda or walk in teh woods talking writing and life and everything! Wow! Man do I have good imagination! Of course, it'll be another ten years or so till I can take advantage of that, but as I age, ten years doesn't seem so long to wait.

Tomorrow, I plan to really vacation, like I did yesterday -- running in the waves with my kids, perhaps strolling through an outdoor mall, putting my feet up and reading.

And, to close up, as promised -- the announcement about the Islamic Writers Alliance 2006 poetry contest. Just in time for National Poetry Month. This year's theme is The Prophet Muhammad, and I encourage everyone to submit! Muslim or non-Muslim! Poems due April 30th, to For more info, check the link above.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
We had an uneventful journey to Florida, and spent this afternoon at the ocean. It always amazes me how calming the ocean is, how it spawns in us feelings of peace and tranquility, when by rights it ought to fill us with the same awe, the same feeling of insignificance in the face of grandeur, that the heavens do. They are both so much greater than we, seemingly infinite, remote, untouched by our fears, hopes, dreams.

One thing I have always wanted was to have a home on the ocean -- the lonely grey New England Atlantic to be exact, although I have come to love the turquoise Florida Atlantic with it's beautiful, beautiful breakers and its abundance of orange and white shells. In my dreams, it's a home where I wake early with the sun, drink fresh orange juice, and write for hours sitting on the beach, facing the waves. Today, walking on sand pounded almost as hard as pavement by the breakers, the wind tugging at my skirt, I had another thought about this dream... fortunately I was able to hold it in my mind until I returned home this evening...

Umbilical Cord
By Pamela K. Taylor

I thought to sit by the ocean today
Pen and paper in hand
To let the wind blow through my mind
The waves roar poems in my ears
And I, ever the faithful scribe,
To write their verses as my own

But before I could rise
From the darkened alcove
Of Erato’s laptop shrine
I saw before my eyes
Paper splotched with salty spray
With patches dissolved completely away
Sheets flustered by sea breezes
Turning their corners up at their heels
Or carried away in flamenco whirls
By lusty, gusty ocean troubadours

Then I remembered my old roller ball
Many a year he has pined
For my fingers’ secure embrace
Supplanted by keys and buttons
Patiently he waits for their return
But master keyboard is a jealous lover
My hand crabbed
My muscles cramped
At the thought of clenched exertions
And hours of scribbled longhand

Take the laptop then
Beneath the umbrella’s shade
A beach towel for a table
With care to keep the sand at bay

For what
I asked
An hour or two
Until the batteries run low
Right in the middle no doubt
Of the surf’s most intimate whisper

A cabana I needed
With screened veranda
Opening upon the shore
A table
A chair
A stool for my feet
And my precious electric umbilical cord

My Photo
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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