“Art is a message from the soul, wrapped in a envelope of beauty.”
-Dr. Maher Hathout
Haram is an abstract drama that tells the tale of the universal struggle of love and war; the love of a couple, of a people, of an ideal world in the face of tyranny and oppression. The story is centered on the tragic parting of a couple, a Man and Woman deeply in love in troubled times. Should he leave to join the resistance and abandon his beloved? Is it possible their love not to be soured by the eroding world they live in? Whatever choice they make, inevitably, for one reason or another, they are left with Haram.
The story of the beloved is broken up by four abstract vignettes that showcase the poetry of Dr. Hathout with silent action on stage and projected imagery and music.
Watc the trailer below and support this inspiring endeavor!
As a teenager, I was never confident about my body. I was darker-skinned than was generally accepted; I had thicker eyebrows than other girls. I never believed any man would find me beautiful. Unlike some of my fair-skinned friends, who were pursued relentlessly, no one pursued me. There was this one classmate who gave me a little attention, and I really thought he would be the first and the last. How disappointed I was when I found out that giving attention to girls who “weren’t the most sought-after” was just his thing.
I wasn’t one of those calm and composed people. I never looked before I leaped. I was not good at masking my emotions. The term most used to describe me were: frank and photogenic. I hated being called frank. It meant I spoke my mind, and scared people away. I hated being called photogenic. It meant that photographs of me, tricked people into believing that I looked good in real life.
After I started working, I got myself a chic haircut. I believed this change in appearance would change my life. Things did start to look up a little, but only once I left my hometown. I was approached more often. But I was still honest. If I wasn’t interested in someone, I never led them on. If I liked a guy, I usually expressed it. Once I did so, the men who pursued me because they thought I was unachievable, lost interest or shifted their interest to someone less available. I was even referred to as “eye candy” but not girlfriend material. I always felt there was something awfully wrong with me.
Lots of things have been going down at LoveInshallah.com and within the Muslim blogosphere. The recent article on Muslim men returning “back home” to find wives generated diverse cyber chatter, with various responses supporting or criticizing different positions. On the heels of that debate, the Miptserz-coining, Somewhere in America, video featuring women in hijabs and cool turbans skateboarding to Jay-Z generated widespread media controversy. Again, Muslims drew well-argued lines on the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the video’s use of hijab and contemporary representations of Muslim female identity. In the middle of these developments, I had two appearances on NPR’s Tell Me More discussing issues around dating, race, and identity.
These events got me thinking about my own orientation to love and belonging. This would not be page worthy except that these thoughts nudge against how I define myself as a Muslim in conjunction with a desire for love and (re)marriage. I had some epiphanies: my current world is too small and too White, yet I probably will end up with a white, non-Muslim guy.
I gleaned from the dialogue on arranged marriage the Mipsterz video is that the space I inhabit as a Muslim woman — a writer and cultural creative, divorced, someone who has been in and out of the hijab (and one day, may wear it again) — is highly problematic. The American Muslim community isn’t quite ready for large-scale cultural juxtaposition, complexities, and emerging personal narratives. We swear that we are. We want to be. But let’s be real: we still like our world cozy and certain.
The “Mipsterz” video has been making waves in the American Muslim community. What are your thoughts about the video?
The range of commentary from the Muslim community seemed to range from “beautiful, cool, diverse and vibrant” to “what’s the point?” (what’s the point of any music video?) to some terrible shaming of the women involved in front of and behind the cameras.
Some commentary we appreciated.
“Somewhere in America?” by Professor Su’ad Abdul Khabeer; “Somewhere on the Internet, Muslim women are being shamed” by Rabia Chaudry; “Somewhere in America, Muslim women are ‘cool’” by Sana Saeed; and “Somewhere in America, Muslim women are freaking out & fitting in” by Nadia S. Mohammad.
AltMuslimah also interviewed the filmmakers.
I Will Be Satisfied I will never be satisfied Until you flood me like the Nile floods the plain Until your arms become Babylonian lions and devour me raw Until you scale me like the Temple of the Feathered Serpent And I will never be satisfied Until you cast yourself into the fire And its flames are cool and safe for you because of me Until you break the chains of impossibility And slay the beast of doubt like oxen sacrifice At the altar of the Holiest of Holies Until I see my face in all your writings Until my name enters all your words And you adorn and crown yourself with me Love me—love me—love me—love me— And I will be satisfied ~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.
Mohja Kahf is a Syrian-American poet and novelist. Her first collection of poetry, E-mails from Scheherazad, evokes the mixture of pride and shame involved in being an “other,” with characters balancing on the line between assimilating and maintaining the habits of a good Muslim. In addition to contemporary Muslim women, Mohja’s poetry also explores figures from Islamic history including Hagar, the wife of the prophet Abraham, Khadija and Aisha, wives of the Prophet Muhammad, and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. According to The New York Times, her writing on contemporary subjects “draws sharp, funny, earthy portraits of the fault line separating Muslim women from their Western counterparts.” Of the intersection of Islam and art, Mohja says: “One of the primary messages of the Qur’an is that people should recognize the beautiful and do what is beautiful. This is not simply a moral beauty but a visual and auditory beauty as well. Conduct should be beautiful, writing should be beautiful and speaking should be beautiful.”