Spotlight: Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed, writer, community organizer and Love InshAllah contributor!Posted: January 24, 2012
Taz Ahmed is a political organizer, cultural writer and an activist who enjoys dancing in a moshpit every now and then. You can find some of her writing on the South Asian American blog www.sepiamutiny.com
An excerpt from Taz’s piece, “Punk-Drunk Love”:
“We had rendezvoused in New York City only four weeks earlier, at midnight on my thirtieth birthday. It had been a one-night make-out thing, with nothing defined the next morning. Though we’d never met in person before, we had felt as if we had known each other for years. I had interviewed Yusuf for an article on his band three years earlier, and we had struck up a deep online friendship that consisted of sharing lyrics and MP3s and having GChat conversations about life. For years, he had told me stories of his latest conquests over late-night IM sessions. I knew he wasn’t relationship material. He went through girls like candy, and I had no plans to be the flavor of the month.”
To read the rest of Taz’s story, order Love InshAllah today!
Why were you drawn to this project?
As a South Asian girl in America, I was inundated with images of white people beauty and white people love stories on the big screen. At home, I was raised in a strict Bangladeshi Muslim household where the message was no dating, and when I got married it would be arranged to a Bangladeshi Muslim man. At school, while my friends went to school dances with dates, I was the perpetual wallflower who was never asked out. My perspectives on lust and love were in turn shaped by racialized concepts of beauty and orthodox familial pressures. I didn’t see examples of passionate love stories with Muslim, brown-skinned women nor did I think it was even possible. The best example I had was Jasmine from the movie Aladdin, and that princess was hardly an example to live up to.
It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I fell in love (multiple times) and found faith in my own way. I was drawn to sharing my story in Love Inshallah because I wanted girls to realize that Muslim women are strong, beautiful, and passionate. That Muslim women can love, lust, wreak beautiful havoc and struggle to find their deen all in the same breath. I hope that this book can be that beacon of inspiration and dreams for some other girl out there.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Love is a scary thing to write about publically for a political activist and community organizer. Our words are our tools to create change, to advocate on issues and to create a community counter-narrative. Our words are coyly messaged to pull an audience into signing a petition, win sympathy on an issue or to reframe a dialogue. Writing about love – well, that’s a woman at her most vulnerable. People who play politics, and especially women who are fighting for a place at the table, are not allowed to be vulnerable, right?
Then you add the intersection of being Muslim. Currently there is a campaign against Lowe’s for pulling ad space from supporting the reality show “All-American Muslim.” The characters are boring and normal – folding clothes, playing football, getting married. And there are all kinds of Muslims – hijabed, tattooed, club owners and coaches. Yet, by virtue of the characters sharing their lives, it has turned into a political statement. Being a Muslim in America is a political statement. One doesn’t even have to do anything. Just stand there, and you are making a statement.
That’s the scary part of sharing this story – that even though it is a story about my life (and 24 other amazing lives) – it is a story about being in love and being vulnerable. And it’s being shared for everyone to read. How that will be perceived, I have no control over. And that is challenging.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
Everyone deserves to feel what feeling in love is like, at least once in their life. I hope people will take away from reading my story that it’s worth the risk of letting down your guard. The chance at love is worth it.