Eds. Note: This post deals with heterosexual abuse focusing on violence against women in online dating.
He started off aggressively. I got the sense that he felt threatened for some reason. It was only the first date and he asked many questions, only to dismiss my answers and making a point to tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about. He was also the fourth guy within a span of five months who had told me – during a first date – that women often lie about rape and abuse.
Scary isn’t it?
When I tell this story, people ask me if the guy in question was either Muslim or “brown,” because you know, this is a “Muslim/brown man’s problem” (*eye roll*). However, these experiences demonstrate that this issue transcends race, culture, religion and citizenship status.
This Ramadan has been hard, so far. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early morning suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough or how come the piety isn’t feeling more.
It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.
This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.
Eds. Note: In last month’s column, Zahra thought she was going home to Iran to an extended family she hadn’t seen in 20 years. At the last minute, she had to cancel her trip there and rerouted to Dubai instead.
At 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity, it’s a cool night in Dubai. I’ve stopped wondering about the male gaze that rules the city, because I can’t stop staring at everyone and everything around me. So far today my infidel husband and I have been skiing, kissed a penguin, and bobsledded down a snowy mountain at the downtown mall’s negative-five-degrees, indoor ski resort. Yesterday, outside the Burj Khalifa, my husband, mom, dad and I listened to the adhan fade away as the jet streams of the Dancing Fountain burst into the air, choreographed to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
I have no idea who to be or how to behave in Dubai. Every moment feels like a collection of contradictions. Am I an American tourist, a Feminist taking careful notes, a horrified human rights activist, or will I come to discover an entirely new persona to add to the plethora of identities I’m already trying to integrate?
I was an avid reader growing up. I read everything, even books that weren’t meant for children. Mama by Terry Mcmillan was one of my first novels. I recall reading a novel entitled Hand-me-down Heartache by Tajuana TJ Butler. It was about a woman named Nina who is in a relationship with an attractive, unfaithful basketball player and her unwillingness to leave the relationship. Having witnessed her father’s unfaithfulness to her mother growing up, she has come to accept his behavior, though it’s painful.
There’s a scene where Nina stakes out in front of her boyfriend’s home, bangs on his door, distraught and angry, while he’s inside with another woman. As a young girl, I read this with fresh eyes for the denial and hysteria that Nina was experiencing. The scene was vivid, and so keenly observed that I felt Nina’s embarrassment, especially when he emerges from his home and tells her to leave him alone. I wanted to scream through the page to Nina, and tell her to forget him, but something in me felt for her. I entered the scene fully, imagining the quick beat of Nina’s heart, her wet, mascara-streaked eyes, and the neighbors outside watching as she fell apart.
How do we get there? From young women, reading about love and feeling it in our imaginations, to fighting for it, and refusing to accept that it was never there?
In Love, Inshallah, Aisha Saeed eloquently introduced readers to her traditional, Pakistani match-made love story. When she met her future husband, Aisha already knew that she wanted to write about a story different than her own – a fictional account of Naila, a young Pakistani-American girl, who is forced into marriage.
Aisha fully explores Naila’s journey in her first young-adult novel, Written in the Stars, released in March 2015 from Penguin Nancy Paulsen books. Publishers Weekly says the book “…movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila’s parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death.”
Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Aisha about how she met her husband, the initial trepidation dealing with an often cliched subject matter, and her involvement with We Need Diverse Books. Listen to the interview after the jump!
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My wardrobe is not properly equipped for hot weather, but what is the proper attire for desert adventures and camel-back riding? I booked my ticket to Dubai last week on an impulse and everyone who knows me is busy LOLOLOLing because I can barely handle an English summer … what will I do in Dubai?? I don’t want to imagine the struggle.
But after the year I’ve had I felt as though I deserved a break, and after my Aunt made a week-long surprise visit home last week I needed very little persuasion to join her there in June. My cousin will be joining me – we’re both nervous fliers and don’t do well in confined spaces, nor can we sleep whilst travelling. Our 8-hour flight will be interesting.
My plans for the next few months can be summarised as follows: Dubai! Ramadan! Summer vacation! New career!!!!!!!!! The blogging goes without saying, of course. And the excessive use of exclamation marks entirely appropriate.
Ramadan Kareem to our dear readers – may this month be filled with joy, beauty, blessings, laughter & love for you all!