Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Representing Muslims

As salaam alaikum,

So, if you're reading this, I encourage you to go back and read my last two entry series, especially Single Invisible Muslimah, but Paradigm is also cool, too. It's all about recognizing that I'm more myself than I have ever been and how to love the stage that I'm in. For the longest, the latter especially was easier said than done, but I always felt like there was an answer, and if not an answer, a more correct way of seeing things. No one seemed to have the answer. No one can arrive at the answer but you, however, especially if no one else can quite understand where you're coming from but you.

I've been under and incredible amount of peace this entire week after I had these two realizations...epiphanies, if you will. It's not that there haven't been times when I've been lonely or been surrounded by married people. I just go back as frequently as I need to what I wrote and it reminds me of how I've reshaped my paradigm and come to accept (and am growing to love) my time as a single Muslimah.

In other news, there's been big uproar in the virtual Muslim community about TLC's "All-American Muslim." A lot of Muslims feel shortchanged, that they are not represented...from levels of practice to ethnic groups. I can't say I'm surprised at how Muslims are represented on that show (shhh...I haven't watched narry an episode!). First of all, if they're sticking to Dearborn, MI, yes, most Muslims in Dearborn are in fact Arab-American. The most prevalent ethnicity in Dearborn is Arab. Does it problematic to represent Muslims who are "not practicing?" It may feel polemic, but it's fair. Practicing Muslims need to recognize that, for as much as one tries to represent the "ideal" face of Islam, there are others who are presenting a face that is more in-line with the secular ideal of nominal religiousness. They've got as much of a right to identify as Muslim as practicing Muslims do.

I believe that, starting with college MSAs and going on up, the MSAs are often only open for the most practicing and learned of Muslims. Like, when I joined the MSA, I was having to relearn the Arabic for salat. I didn't know what tajweed was. I hadn't read through the entire Qur'an in English yet. I felt out of place because they were sprinkling their speech with Arabic words I didn't know and explaining what the words meant as if everyone who didn't understand what the words meant were not Muslim.

We're all in different stages. A Muslim does not become relevant only after he or she attains a certain number of completed prayers, a certain number of Ramadans, a certain amount of understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah. No. But some of our strongest Muslim organizations do not allow space for such Muslims, unless the Muslim transforms to this face of what they expect Muslims to be.

And at the end of our lives, we may not all be in the same stage, but that doesn't mean we were not Muslim, one who submits to God, because by nature of us being human beings, we will never be those who perfectly submit to God. God is the one who will judge us on that in which we differ.

And my thing is now, you don't see yourself represented on television or movies? Represent yourself! My hero in this is Qasim Basir, who is the writer and director of MOOZ-lum, an ambitious, semi-autobiographical film about a young black Muslim man who struggles with the demons of his past -- an authoritarian father and a religious school where one of the headmasters physically abused him -- while being introduced to the secular world of teenage revelry at college. It represented black Muslims seemlessly, not ever making an issue of them being black and therefore the minority, while alluding to their black nationalist history. There was a lot going on in the film that could have been compartmentalized, but I liked it because it reminded me of RMD.

If brother Basir can represent himself in his films, I can represent myself. I can't speak for other black Muslims, but my voice will be out there.

I think I'm going to give it some time, and then I'll rewrite RMD. A lot of stuff is kind of stylized and abstract that I think I'm going to make more concrete...I'm no longer afraid of doing so. We'll see.

And then there's the anthology...

We can be represented! We can represent ourselves! Will it be as mainstream as a TLC show? Maybe not, but the more the voice is out there, the more people will pick up on it.

I am very happy with who I know and who I am. I am very happy that I have access to both Muslim and non-Muslim circles, because I know for sure that I have introduced more non-Muslims to Islamic principles than they otherwise would have known, because either their other Muslim friends are nominal or they are so religious that they avoid hanging out with non-Muslims. My experience as a Muslim, because of my associations, will be different than others, but it is rich, it is my own, and as the book I'm reading states, I Speak for Myself.

Non-Muslims, Muslims are not all the same. Muslims, Muslims are not all the same. And especially to the that you recognize the levels of practice there is within the actual Muslim community, which extends beyond the imagined ummah, what are you going to do? Are you going to ignore these Muslims, say they don't represent "true" Muslims, reach out to these Muslims, try to be more inclusive and invest in social programs that would help these Muslims find a firmer footing in their religion?

Now that we've met each other, what are we going to do?


Now that we've found love, what are we gonna do...with it?

I realize this was an O'Jays song, but the sample is hot. RIP Heavy D.

Muslims!We diverge! We're different! We're progressive, we're conservative, we're everything in between. Let's speak for ourselves, represent who we are, show how wonderfully diverse we are in our preferences, our likes, our dislikes, our practice, while most of us are in line with the unity of God. You want to see yourself represented? Be the one to do it!

And then you'll represent so many more of your other brothers and sisters!

1 comment:

  1. OMG, I leave for a week and you have sooo many entries for me to plow through! .... Good to know you are feeling good.

    You are so right about the "represent yourself" motto. Relying on things like the TLC show don't always work so well because they are about the outside community portraying your community, however good intentioned that may be it's not necessarily as authentic. I will try to check out the show though.

    lol... I was smiling when I read your comments on U of M's MSA. Although I came as grad student, it definitely felt like you needed to fit a certain mold to fit in... then again I was coming from a women's college where we ruled the world to a mixed-gender setting... it's sort of a no-brainer but religious orgs tend to attract the religious types. But sometimes, it's not really an exclusive club, it's just that people in the org don't realize that they might be doing things that keep people at bay.

    last but not least, I had no idea that heavy D died. I just watched an episode of Law and Order where he guest-starred. May he rest in peace indeed.