IWA Poetry contest winners
Ok, so moms are allowed to brag from time to time. My youngest daughter won the poetry contest at her school, and now one of my twins won the Islamic Writers Alliance youth poetry contest. Naturally, she wouldn't let me read the poem before she sent it off. (Ah the joys of raising teenage girls!) It's quite nicely done. You can read it at: http://www.islamicwritersalliance.net/projects/contestwinners/youth2009.html
I'm needless to say, very proud of her. From my experience with organizing and judging the poetry contest in years past, the competition is usually quite stiff. I don't know how many entries they had this year, but I imagine it was quite a few, given that the concurrent short story contest (which I administered) had a great response, including the youth groups.
Results for the short story contest should be posted soon.
Jimmy Carter on Male Readings of Sacred Text
My thoughts on the issue are up on On Faith
. The title isn't a very good reflection of the piece, but it'll have to do.
It's terribly complex to talk about equality. I wish there had been space on the On Faith post to dissect what equality might look like. As far as I'm concerned, equality does not mean that the lives of men and women become identical (at least not necessarily) but rather than men and women have the same ability to make choices about how to live their lives. That includes seemingly small daily choices about what to wear (and though we might like to minimize it, the practical reality is that our choices in what to wear affect how people see us, from looking at us as hyper-religious and consertive, to thinking of us as business partners, to reacting to our sexulity, or judging us as hippies, yuppies, and everything in between). And it includes major choices that affect the course of our lives - choices about who and whether we will marry, about when and whether and how many children we want to bear and/or raise, about what career to pursue, or whether to devote several years to raising children.
This is the equality I seek. An equality of opportunity and agency within our own lives. No doubt, many women would make choices that I would not make, and that might be perceived by me as anti-feminist, but it should be THEIR choice to make, not mine, not their fathers or their brothers or their husbands or their governments. Obviously, in some places men also do not have such personal freedom. That too, is a goal to work for.
Time for Change
I've often written about how tired I am -- and many in the Muslim community are -- of feeling constantly on the defensive. We are tired of the continual calls to condemn acts of violence by Muslim militants, tired of having to explain the misogyny is not inherent to Islam, despite Iran, the Taliban and Saudi style oppression of women, of having to refute claims that Islam calls for the slaughter or conversion of all non-Muslims, that it is backward and hidebound, that our Prophet was either hedonistic or puritanical, bloodthirsty, malevolent, and an all around despicable character.
All too often we retreat into that defensiveness. We talk about Islamophobia (a real problem, as we can see by the recent murder of a hijab-wearing woman in a German courthouse, and a similar situation in the US where a Muslim woman and her child were threatened by a knife wielding man at her doctor's office.) We engage in interfaith activities to help others understand the beautiful aspects of Islam and the true character of our Prophet.
But we need to go a step further. We need to advocate for real change in the Muslim community, cause there are real problems in our community, both in America and globally. We need to return to the fundamental values of mercy and compassion that are so prevalent in the Qur'an, to turn away from extremism and militarism. We need to embrace the liberating and affirming aspects of the Qur'an that leave no place for racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia, and religous bigotry. This is one of the goals of MPV and other progressive Muslim organizations -- to pull the Muslim community in more humane directions.
I just hope more Muslims jump on the bandwagon and do the hard work of countering negative trends within our community. I hope more people work on changing our community for the better than on changing perceptions of our community for the better. By doing the former, the latter will naturally occur, and the world will be a better place. Doing the latter, only opinions, not facts on the ground, will change.
The Human Face of Gaza
We so rarely see the human side of overseas conflicts. We hear about "clashes" between "defense forces" and "militants" in Gaza. We hear about "operations" and "surgical strikes," about "extremists," "terrorists," "radicals," "troops," "collateral damage," "casualties" in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and other zones of conflict, and somewhere in all the jargon we lose mother, father, daughter, son, person.
presents the people of Gaza. It's well worth reading, and looking at the faces.