Love in the Time of Islamophobia

Eds. Note: Big love to our Love InshAllah community for four wonderful years! Our site is going on hiatus but we hope to be back with more stories soon. In the meantime, keep telling yours.

Tanzila Ahmed

Tanzila Ahmed

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story – and a happy ending.

Ever enamored by the RomCom, I always pictured myself as the clumsy, awkward but affable protagonist of my own 90 minute, wittily narrated romance. In my story, taking fake boyfriends to Desi weddings, having a hot doctor that stars in telenovelas, and having a back-up baby-daddy for my geriatric uterus were a part of my off-color but meaningful RomCom story. It’s why I loved being a part of the book Love Inshallah, so much – for the first time I saw my narrative side-by-side with 24 other Muslimah’s love stories. It gave me hope that maybe there was a love story for me as well.

I always imagined that the end of the Radical Love column would come when I had fallen in love with the perfect man. In my mind, I thought that after two years of writing about the intersections of grief, love, faith and social justice that I would be able to make someone fall in love with me through my words alone and that closing out my column with a “happily ever after” ending story would make my readers (and myself) content. Finding love was never the point of writing this column – redefining love as a 30-something single Brown Muslimah-American with social justice values was. But I harbored this little romantic hope that with words love could manifest.
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Return of the Friend

images

Return of the Friend

I had not expected love but it surprised,
like the slip of arm around my waist 
I had expected chiding, but your eyes
spoke only kindness, like your face

Tulips by the road, the burst of red—
I drew my breath as your bus rounded the bend
Pink rose in lime green tissue, then your tread,
and the slip of arm around my waist

Years dissolve between us in this place,
and I exhale. I had expected questions,
quizzing, an exchange, a taxing gaze,
not acceptance freely given, your embrace
		I had not expected love

~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.

(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

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.”


Coming Out As A Geek Is Hard To Do

I spent most of my life hiding who I really was until a conversation with Nhu-An (now my fiancée) changed everything.

We’ve crossed the one-year anniversary of my blog, Brain Knows Better, and it’s pretty incredible to think how much my life has changed over this last year. It’s been a ton of fun to explore the psychology of sci-fi, but more than anything, this blog has helped me be honest about who I am – a big geek.

I didn’t like who I was in middle school and tried everything I could to blend in.I wasn’t always this open about being a geek. For most of my life, I tried to hide it. In middle school, I knew some kids who wore Starfleet uniforms to class. When they were bullied for it, I stood by silently. Back then, I probably watched as much Star Trek: The Next Generation after school as they did, but I wanted nothing to do with them. They weren’t cool and more than anything else, I wanted to fit in.

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Poetry

Original image posted at Deviant Art.

Original image posted at Deviant Art.

Poetry

When a woman loves a man,
when she opens
her self to him,
he can hurt her
even by silence,
caginess

She should keep
some defenses,
a piece of her shield
but it's mostly impossible
if love is love
She unfolds

If he is not noble
If he is not clean
of heart
If he has not learned
discernment—
she is done for

Poetry is like being in love
with the world

~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.

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(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

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.”


A Love Letter to Muslim Fathers

‘Love InshAllah‘ editor Ayesha Mattu writes a love letter to Muslim fathers on Father’s Day. Originally published by The Huffington Post.

For every stereotype about Muslim women, there are as many about Muslim men.

Muslim men are boxed in between the angry terrorist and rampaging, honor killing father with no space in between for nuance or celebration. And yet, there is a disconnect between these extreme depictions of Muslim men and what I — and most other American Muslim women I know — have experienced directly.

All of my life, Muslim men — from my father to my uncles, from my cousins to my friends — are the ones who have nurtured, supported and protected me. They’ve cheered every success, inspired me to push higher with my personal and professional ambitions, and believed in me even when — especially when — I did not believe in myself.

I’m married to an utterly irresistible Muslim man who makes me laugh, respects and cherishes me as an equal partner. I’m the mother of a Muslim son whom we are raising with the Islamic values that will make him a strong advocate of women’s rights, just like his father and the other Muslim men in my life.

So this Father’s Day, I’m writing a love letter to Muslim fathers.

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