Tag Archives: islam

Is this not discrimination?!

8 Mar

I read in an article that Hema, a shop in Genk, Belgium, fired one of its staff members today. The sole reason for this decision? The woman in question wears a headscarf. The management of the shop received a number of complaints from (narrow-minded) customers about her headscarf, and decided to get rid of her.

The woman is Belgian, and when she first started to work there, she didn’t wear a headscarf yet. Then she decided to wear it (i.e nobody obliged her). She did ask the management of the shop first if she would be allowed to work there with a headscarf, and they gave their permission. But apparently some narrow-minded people took offence and complained. The management changed their mind and asked her to take it off. She refused. Then they fired her.

I read the comments on the article, and they were almost all in favor of the decision that the shop made. What kind of society are we living in? Is this not paternalistic and discriminating? Is this not other people deciding what a woman can and cannot wear? And all this happened on international woman’s day! Or is this day only to promote respect for Western, non-Muslim women?

Since she’s Belgian, it’s not a case of “racism”, and no organisation is really bothered by it. But wait until a woman gets fired because she wears a mini-skirt, then the public will scream and protest that we are living in the 21st century and that a woman can now decide for herself what she wants to wear.
It’s not because you don’t understand why a woman would want to wear a headscarf, that it’s impossible that she does it out of her own free will. It seems that Belgian, or should I say Flemish society is moving away from being tolerant and open-minded, to a place where it’s perfectly acceptable to fire a person based on his/her religion. It scares me, and on the other hand, it makes me more determined than ever to wear headscarf myself and to fight for my rights as a Belgian citizen and human being!

 

Beautiful Call to Prayer

3 Mar

 

الله أكبر
God is the most great
أشهد أن لا اله إلا الله
I testify that there is no god except God
أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله
I testify that Mohammed is the messenger of God
حي على الصلاة
Come to prayer
حي على الفلاح
Come to success
الله أكبر
God is the most great
لا إله إلا الله
There is no god except God


We have a voice!

2 Mar

I watched “The King’s Speech” yesterday, and felt inspired by it. I’m sure most of you know the story. It’s about King George VI of Britain, who has a stammering problem. He feels very unsure about speaking in public, and about finding his voice really. Luckily he meets a man, Lionel Logue, who can help him with his problem and who becomes a true friend.

Maybe the same can be said about us Muslim women. Some of us are still stammering too, as in that we feel unsure about speaking up. So many decisions are made over our head. So many people claim to know what’s best for us. Enforcing the veil, banning the veil, locking us up in the house, trying to westernise us and making us appear half-naked on the street,…
But we are not dumb creatures who can’t look after ourselves. We have a voice and we can look after ourselves! No need to restrict us or to pity us.
We know exactly what Islam is about, and it’s not about being a prisoner or being oppressed! So stop trying to tell us what to do, and let us make our own decisions. Most of us WANT to wear the veil, because we believe it guards our modesty and dignity, and we are NOT forced.  Some of us are treated unfairly, but that’s despite of Islam and not because of it. We feel the injustice of that as much as you do, and we want a change!
And do you think the West is so much better? My friend who’s a convert got a lot of job offers, until they discovered she wore headscarf, then all of a sudden they weren’t interested anymore. Is that not discrimination or unfair? They say they want to liberate us, but instead they force us to stay at home or to take on lesser jobs just as much! In most schools in my country, the veil is now forbidden, while miniskirts are all over the place. Why can’t we wear what we want? We don’t have a bomb hidden underneath our veil. Who do we hurt with wearing a veil, except the narrow-minded racists?
We have a voice, and we will use it more and more. We know how the Prophet (p.b.u.h) instructed Muslim men to treat their women, and we will not accept anything less! Not from our fellow Muslims, and not from the West! You don’t have to agree with us, and we are not here to force you to become Muslim too. All we want is respect and freedom to let us be who we want to be, and to let us develop ourselves in the best way possible.
Maybe we are still stammering now, but like King George VI, we will find our voice and we will resist all the hostile forces surrounding us.

The Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, said, “Women are the twin halves of men”

Once a woman came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, with a complaint against her husband. He told her: “There is no woman who removes something to replace it in its proper place, with a view to tidying her husband’s house, but that God sets it down as a virtue for her. Nor is there a man who walks with his wife hand-in-hand, but that God sets it down as a virtue for him; and if he puts his arm round her shoulder in love, his virtue is increased tenfold.”

Converting to Islam: What to Look Out For

24 Feb

Prior to my conversion last summer, I spent a couple of years trying to find my bearings in this divers and often confusing world of Muslims and Islam. There are a few mistakes I made, and a few lessons I learned the hard way. It’s not always easy to see through all the trees of the forest to what Islam is really about. That’s why I would like to share my experience in finding my way.
So, what are the things you should keep in mind while navigating through so many opinions and you must’s?

1. Watch out for extreme opinions

In my experience, there are a lot of forums trying to lure you in with the message “everyone is welcome, come here to learn about Islam, it doesn’t matter if you are Muslim or not!”
They seem so friendly and welcoming, so why not go ahead and become a member?
But when you have a look at the content of their forums, you notice that the message rapidly changes from “everyone is welcome” to “only the people with my views are welcome, the rest will go to hell”. Often you find yourself ignored or told off when you dare to challenge their beliefs and opinions.
I used to be a member of such a forum years back, and it really put me off. “Is this Islam?” I thought, “So intolerant? So women-unfriendly?”
Such forums/views often promote that women stay at home, accept polygamy very submissively and without question and are covered from top to bottom. Anything else is not acceptable. They also frequently use the word “kafir” for a non-Muslim, which basically means a person who is ungrateful to God, a disbeliever. They constantly stress that a good Muslim follows all the details of their interpretation of Islam. They turn what’s allowed (halal) in what’s forbidden (haram), and that’s a very bad thing!
Then I discovered luckily, that what I read was only one opinion about Islam, no matter how much those people want to make it seem otherwise.
The lesson to be learned from this all is that you shouldn’t base your knowledge of Islam on what some people tell you. It’s just their opinion. If you get a bad feeling from what they are saying, by all means, turn your back and follow your own heart! You are still finding your way, no one has the right to put pressure on you.

2. Do your own research

Go back to the original sources of Islam: Quran and sunna. When you learn about Islam only from the lips of a Muslim, it’s possible that he/she will mix the teachings of Islam with his/her own culture and beliefs. Don’t be satisfied with what someone tells you, ask questions and do your own reading and research. Don’t be afraid to explore alternative interpretations of Quran verses and hadiths (traditions). Especially as a woman, know what your Islamic rights are in marriage and divorce. They say knowledge is power, and this is very true. Never be satisfied, always look to broaden your knowledge, to read, to ask questions.

3. Take your time

Don’t rush into things, whether it’s converting, wearing headscarf full-time or other important and life-changing decisions. Think about your motives. Is this what you want or what someone else wants? If you take too many decisions too fast, it will backfire. I know a lot of converts who started to wear headscarf right away, only to take it back off later. I’m not saying you can’t be ready from the start, but do take your time to make sure that everything you do comes from within, and not from what others say you should do.

4. Learn Arabic

Arabic is the language of Islam, there is no doubt about that. Make it your goal to be able to recite and read the Quran in Arabic. This will also enable you to read and study the original sources of Islam, without a translator’s view on things. Also, there are a lot of Arabic works about Islam which aren’t translated in any other language, and it would be a shame to let that chance for knowledge pass you by.

5. Know your rights

I know I mentioned this before, but I really want to stress its importance. It’s not because someone else tells you you can’t do something, that it’s actually based on Islam.
As a Muslim woman, you have the right to claim your rights when you get married. This is done by means of a marriage contract. Don’t let this chance pass you by, because you never know what life’s going to bring.
For more information on which rights you can claim in a marriage contract, I suggest you read this article: http://www.islamfortoday.com/prenuptial.htm

6. When you’re lost, go back to the essence of Islam

Everyone of us goes through ups and downs when it comes to faith. We are only human. Sometimes we feel we just can’t do it anymore, to follow a belief that’s so different from the culture in which we were raised, and the people around us. We can’t be strong every day.
My advice is to not get caught up in details. If you are having problems with the idea of wearing headscarf for example, don’t let that get in the way of your faith. Concentrate on the five pillars of Islam:

1. Shahada: There is no other god than Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet
2. Salaat: praying 5 times a day
3. Zakaat: giving money to the poor and needy
4. Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan
5.Hadj: pilgrimage to Mecca

These are the basics. Although modesty is also very important in Islam, it’s not a pillar, and if you feel you are not ready to cover or wear headscarf, or whatever someone is telling you to do, that’s ok. Concentrate on the essence, so you get a feel of what Islam is really about. Also, while you are doing these things, your love for God and Islam will grow, your faith will strengthen,  and you will feel ready for things you didn’t feel ready to do before. Just give it time, and trust that God will guide you. Don’t feel inadequate or put down because you’re not ready for something. It’s your intention that counts. If you strife to be better, God will surely help you, for He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

If You Wish For Light…

22 Feb

If you wish for light, be ready to receive light.
Nourish your ego and be deprived of light.
If you wish to find a way out of this prison,
do not turn away;
bow down in worship and draw near.

– Rumi

If you want light, be ready for it. That’s what the great poet Rumi is trying to tell us. If we only think about ourselves, our life, our career, our needs and greed, we will not receive light, because as the Buddhists say, our cup is full!
We can’t see anything beside ourselves, and our thoughts are firmly grounded in daily life. We are all guilty of it, myself included. Life can be so hectic, and sometimes difficult, that I don’t have much energy left to think about “higher” things. I mean, hello, I have a paper to finish!

Still, Rumi warns us, do not turn away, bent down in worship and draw near.
How easy it is to forget our blessings, and to focus on what’s going wrong in our lives! If I only had more money, I would be able to buy this and this, and then I would be happy! If I only had a partner who’s here to take care of me, and to love me, my life would be great! If I only had more friends, I would feel so much better about myself! And the list goes on…

The truth is that peace, fulfillment and happiness, are not somewhere out there in the world, waiting to be triumphantly snatched by us. They are attitudes, a way of living. They come from within. If we are focused on always wanting more, we will never be satisfied, no matter what. If we are grateful with what we have, we will always find things to be happy about.  I’m sure you heard this many times before, but we forget so easily… Our culture is based on buying happiness, just look at all the ads on TV or in the magazines.
Me too, I’d buy a new cellphone, computer or eyeliner, thinking it would add something fundamental to my life. But the more we “nourish our ego”, the further we are from our goal, i.e. to find peace and fulfillment.

That’s were (for me) religion kicks in. No matter how busy I am during the day, I’m a Muslim, and it’s expected of me to bend in worship 5 times a day. This obligation is a mercy from God, to be sure. It helps to keep my focus on the important things in life, on what really matters. It helps me to grow a feeling of gratitude, as I thank God for my blessings. Gratitude leads to a feeling of contentment, and therefore peace. If we just take a moment to think about all the things we have in life: our family, our friends, a roof above our heads, education, food when we are hungry,… we realise we are very blessed indeed! If we forget to show gratitude, we can get caught up in a spiral of moodiness, feeling inadequate, and even depression, because the days can seem so dark! But all it takes is a shift in perception. There is always something to feel grateful about, even if we feel we are lacking so much. When we bow down in prayer, our perception changes, and we are finally ready to receive the light. And then, there is nothing that can’t be done.

Anger & Frustration

6 Feb

I’m doing research on the rights of Saudi women for my Bachelor Paper, and the whole thing left me feeling enraged and wanting to throw things.
I read about a girl who was abused by her father, and tried to get away from him, but was placed right back under his custody by the Saudi authorities.
I read about a man being stabbed by a member of the religious police for “daring” to defend his wife (who was told by the religious police guy to cover her eyes, the only part of her body that was still visible), and instead of the religious police guy being punished, the stabbed man got imprisoned and sentenced to 30 lashes.  These are just two examples of the many things I read that upset me.
I’m left to wonder: do Saudi authorities hate women? It seems to me that for some twisted reason they think a guardian has the right to abuse the women under his custody. Why else aren’t there any laws protecting women from such abuse? Why else is it so hard to remove custody from a guardian, even if it’s proven time and time again that he abuses his power? Why else are women forced to live with an abusive guardian, or else risk facing charges for disobedience and running away? A women was shot 2 times by her husband and ended up in hospital. The hospital wanted to help her, but apparently as a woman you can’t file a complaint without the permission of your guardian (her husband). She had to go back to him. She was shot a third time and died from her wounds. I feel enraged by this. I’m trying hard to control my anger, but why is this happening??????!!!!!! This is not Islam!!!!!!!! It’s a disgrace that Saudi Arabia calls itself an Islamic country!
If the Prophet (p.b.u.h) would see how women are treated nowadays in his country, I think he would weep. He tried to fight these tribal and cultural practices in his day by preaching the message of Islam, but it seems that the Saudi’s have gone right back to pre-Islamic behavior. God will judge each and every one of us, and I wonder, do all these men who abuse women, who put them down and oppress them really think God will reward them? Do they really think they will enter Paradise when the Prophet (p.b.u.h) himself said “The best Muslims are those who are best to their wives”? Or do they think their gender will give them the same free passage there as they had received in Saudi? We are all equal in God’s eyes, and men are not better or free from judgement!!!
I have a feeling this anger that I’m feeling will surface again and again as long as I’m working on my paper. I just don’t see any solutions or improvements happening! Sure, the Saudi government makes promises, like that the ban on women driving will be lifted, but as is often the case with men, one must look at their actions, and not at their empty words!

Why I am a vegetarian

13 Jan

“I am a very strict vegetarian…I just really really love animals, and I act on my values. I am really against cruelty to animals.”

-Natalie Portman

“If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat.”

-Sir Paul McCartney

I’ve always felt a tremendous fondness for animals,whether it’s a cat, a cow or a horse. They are so innocent. They are not affected by human’s greed and evil. They don’t judge you based on how pretty you are (which happens a lot in human society), but based on the kindness and warmth you carry on the inside. A lot of times, they are a better judge of character than we are! I believe they have a lot of wisdom and things to teach us, if we would only look past our belief of being superior to them.

Some people still consider animals as soulless and without feelings. I cannot imagine a statement more wrong and ignorant than that.

There have been times in my life when I loved animals more than humans. Humans disappointed me with their cruelty and selfishness, and I found comfort in the sensitivity, gentleness and kindness animals were capable of.
I respect the earth and the creatures living on it. I even find it hard to kill a fly, and I try to avoid killing anything as much as possible.

I’m against the way a lot of animals are only treated as  meat. They are born in a small cage, force-fed, and then slaughtered without perhaps even ever having seen daylight.  How anyone can do this to a living being is beyond my imagination. Do people realise what they eat? Do people realise that the animal they are eating might have been treated in a cruel way?
You might say that animals in the wild are eaten too, by other animals. That’s true, of course, but at least they were born in the wild, and not in cages, and they had a chance to escape. A lion will only kill when he’s hungry, while mankind kills for profit. Not only for food, but also for clothes, bags, luxuries,… Just from the indifference people show towards animals and how they mistreat them, you can tell that there is something very wrong with the world.

When I was in Turkey last summer, we were on a guided trip, and apparently it’s a policy of the Turkish government that tourists on guided trips have to visit two Turkish companies. One of the companies we visited was a leather and fur company. The man who did the introduction was proudly telling us how the fur they produced was only from real animals like cats, foxes, rabbits etc.  Oh, how I hated that guy and wanted to reduce him to dust with my gaze. They even did a bloody fashion show after that! Really, tell me, am I the only one who is enraged by the fact that animals are killed (and sometimes skinned alive) for a stupid coat?

Some of my muslim friends told me that I can’t be a vegetarian and a Muslim at the same time, and even tried to hush me when I criticised the slaughter of animals.  I strongly disagree with them. Since when is eating meat obliged in Islam? It’s not. And although Islam allows humans to eat meat, the killing of animals should be done with the utmost consideration to their well-being.  Islam teaches us to be kind and merciful towards all creatures on earth. Islam does not tell us to mistreat and abuse animals, on the contrary! Don’t believe me? Let’s just look at the following hadiths and Quran verses:

“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked by his companions if kindness to animals was rewarded in the life hereafter. He replied: “Yes, there is a meritorious reward for kindness to every living creature.” (Bukhari)

“There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings-but they are communities like you.” (The Quran, 6:38)

“The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) admonished: ‘Avoid the seven abominations (sins), and for one of the sins he recited the following verse of the Quran: “And kill not a living creature, which Allah has made sacrosant, except for a justifiable reason’.” (Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Nasai);(The Quran, 6:151 and 17:33)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘One who kills even a sparrow or anything smaller, without a justifiable reason, will be answerable to Allah.’ When asked what would be a justifiable reason, he replied: ‘to slaughter it for food-not to kill and discard it’.” (Ahmad an al-Nasai)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) told of a prostitute who, on a hot summer day, saw a thirsty dog hovering around a well, lolling his tongue. She lowered her socks down the well and watered the dog. Allah forgave all her sins (for this one act of kindness).” (Muslim)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) narrated a vision in which he saw a woman being chastised after death because she had confined a cat during her life on earth without feeding and watering it, or even letting it free so it could feet itself.” (Muslim)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade the beating, or the branding of animals. Once he saw a donkey branded on its face and said: ‘may Allah condemn the one who branded it’.” (Muslim)

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “it is a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power’.”(Muslim)

Ibn ‘Umar reported the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as having condemned those who mutilate any part of an animal’s body while it is alive. (Ahmad and other authorities)

On religious sacrifice of animals: “Their flesh will never reach Allah, nor their blood-but your devotion and piety will reach Him.” (The Quran, 22:37)

And here are two sites that deal with being vegetarian ànd Muslim:

www.islamicconcerns.com

http://vegetarianmuslim.org/

And here is the link to the Peta vegetarian recipe database! 🙂

http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/recipes/default.aspx