Late Comment on Hijaab

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I just came from a community cinema event in Philadelphia for an independent film called “Arusi Persian Wedding” directed by Marjan Tehrani. It’s a really beautiful film that follows an Iranian-American and his American wife who travel to Iran and have a traditional Persian wedding. I was not only in awe of how incredibly beautiful Iran is, but also at how I found myself relating to it. The Iranian-American expresses his pride for his Iranian roots, but also feels a distance because of his inability to fully understand the culture and language. It reminded me about how I sometimes struggle with finding my ethnic identity, no matter how much I’m proud of it.

After the screening, there was a guest panel that led an interesting discussion about the film and then took questions from the audience. My friend got a chance to chime in with a great question, while I decided to sit back and listen. I didn’t feel like I had much to contribute to the conversation since the event seemed to aim at breaking stereotypes about Iran, its people, and its culture. Although one of the panelists spoke very highly of her experience as a White woman in Iran, she admitted that “initially, I was frightened, as a feminist, when I learned I had to wear the veil…”

When I got home tonight, her words replayed in my mind over and over again. I really should have gotten up and said something, even though I just wanted to make a small comment. I think I’ll e-mail her after I write this, but what I wanted to point out is that it’s very important for us to not make an association between oppression and the hijaab, or veil. Her comment seemed to implicate that someone who wears the hijaab could not also be a feminist (I would have asked her to correct me if I was wrong). I’m sure this is not what she meant, but I believe it would have been important for one of the panelists to mention that forcing someone to dress a certain way is very different from someone choosing to dress a certain way. There are plenty of Muslim women in other parts of the world, especially in the West, who wear hijaab by choice; therefore it would be very inaccurate to say that Muslim women who wear hijaab cannot be feminists. I’m glad one of the Iranian panelists said that Iranian women still drive, work, and go to school, contrary to the stereotypes and misconceptions that they’re “so oppressed.”

The other thing I should have commented on was on their usage of the word “Islam” whenever discussing the “Islamic Revolution” in 1979 and the current “Islamic Laws.” The Qur’an clearly states that religion cannot be imposed on people. Doesn’t Allah teach us to use our logic and reasoning? What is so logical about forcing someone to believe a certain way? The true spiritual essence and beauty gets lost when someone is being forced to practice a religion. Spirituality and Faith is personal; it must be felt within. Reciting the Shahada (Islamic declaration of Faith) is simple, while believing in it is something deeper and entirely different altogether.

Later, someone asked a question about whether or not these were the dress codes for Muslim women in all Islamic countries, and one of two Iranian panelists said, “I’m not sure, but I would say ‘yes,’ they are universal.” A friend and I spoke about this later after the discussion and both agreed that we felt a strong anti-Islam vibe from her. I was glad that the other Iranian panelist jumped in and explained that these are not universal dress codes in Islamic countries since most Muslim countries don’t force women to wear hijaab or the burqah.

Anyway, my main point is that the hijaab should not be associated with oppression, and Muslim women who wear it shouldn’t be so quickly judged. Just because some feminists are not familiar with certain manners of dress doesn’t mean that it’s not compatible with feminism. I think it’s important for feminists to understand that feminist thought is very diverse rather than being limited to one group of people, one culture, and one skin color.

Peace

~Broken Mystic~

(Photo credit: davidChief via creative commons)

Wonder Woman Crosses the Fascistic Line

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I know “Kingdom Come” is quite old (published in 1996 by DC comics), but I admit that I haven’t read it until recently.  A friend of mine lent me the trade paperback and the first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork by Alex Ross.  As you can probably tell from the image above, the entire comic book is painted in gouache, so the word “amazing” doesn’t do his work justice; it’s a masterpiece!

“Kingdom Come” takes place in DC’s Elseworlds where new superheroes of the future known as metahumans have replaced the old superheroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).  These rogue metahumans show no regard for human life, however, and one of them ends up splitting Captain Atom in half, causing his nuclear energies to release and kill millions of people.  The entire world is thrown into alarm and we learn through the narrator of the book, Norman McCay, that Armageddon is approaching.  In such desperate moments, Wonder Woman finds an exiled and bearded Superman who shows no interest in helping the humans again.  Eventually, Wonder Woman convinces Superman that the world desperately needs a leader who will reestablish truth and justice.

Overall, I’m relatively pleased with Alex Ross’ visual depictions of Wonder Woman.  She’s not drawn out of proportion and isn’t showing off sexy poses as if she’s in a men’s magazine.  There were only one or two unnecessary images where her skirt gets lifted to show her underwear, but it’s not as explicit and noticeable.  I really got the sense that the writer and artist wanted readers to focus more on her character rather than how she looked, and while we can appreciate that, her character’s personality and role in this particular book really bothered me.

What ticked me off was how Superman would constantly hover over her as if she was a reckless child who needed parental guardianship.  He learns that Wonder Woman was exiled from “Paradise Island” (a matriarchal society), because the Amazons believed she failed in her mission to bring peace to the outside world (i.e. the “man’s world”).  Aside from fighting for truth and justice, Wonder Woman struggles with an internal conflict because she is now forced to live in a world that is not even her own.  Let us be reminded that Superman, or Kal-El (his Kryptonian name), is also an outsider, but Earth (i.e. the “man’s world”) never cast him out; instead Superman abandoned his life as a superhero and went into exile.  Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is disposed of by her own people, the Amazons:  women.  She was forced into exile.  It seems that the matriarchal society is harsher than patriarchy.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the book is how Wonder Woman becomes a fascist.  Superman tries to appeal to the metahumans and encourages them to behave as real heroes instead of heartless monsters, but only a few of them join him.  Unsure about how to deal with these rogue metahumans, Superman turns to Wonder Woman who suggests imprisoning those who don’t join!  Superman says to Diana (Wonder Woman), “I’m not used to forcing others to follow my lead.  Now I’m supposed to jail those who won’t?  To act as judge and jury against our own kind?  That’s a fascistic line, Diana!”  Wonder Woman responds, “Then get ready to cross it.  We are at war, Kal… And we will take prisoners.  We will have to.  They’re not our kind.  We’re protectors of humanity.  They are barely human.”  Superman continues to express his concern for her, saying things like,  “you’ve changed” or “this is not the real you speaking,” and yet remarkably, Superman is the same and stable character that we all know him as.  It’s as if the deaths of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Perry White (murdered by the Joker) didn’t throw his personality off balance.  As mentioned before, he went into self-exile and all it took was Wonder Woman to mend him back into action.  But the same does not apply to Wonder Woman, who is so extremely afflicted by her forced exile that she behaves in contradiction to the moral compass that her character represents.

What starts off as imprisonment turns into Wonder Woman’s call for justice “by any means necessary.”  When she is warrior-clad with her hair tied back, Superman comments like an over-possessive boyfriend, “yet another side of you that I’m not comfortable with.”  She snaps back, “Get used to this one.”  Wonder Woman shows her sword to Superman, who asks if she expects to use it.  “I expect to be a soldier” she says with a stern and deadly look on her face.  When Wonder Woman becomes no better than the rogue metahumans who show no regard for life, Superman shouts, “Why do you undermine my authority!”  Wonder Woman shouts back, “We’re going to confront the prisoners and give them an ultimatum.  They must surrender,” and if they refuse, “then it’s war!”

It’s important to point out that Wonder Woman is the only female protagonist in the book (there are other female characters that we see, but they hardly have any speaking parts), and she’s also the only character of DC’s three iconic heroes (the others being Superman and Batman) who turns reckless and ends up killing a metahuman character named Von Bach.  Yes, Batman doesn’t join Superman earlier in the book and actually teams up with Lex Luthor instead, but he later  undermines Luthor’s plot in mind-controlling Captain Marvel.  In other words, Batman  eventually joins Superman for the climatic battle (it was pretty predictable).  But these three characters — Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — have always epitomized moral judgment and the ethical principles of truth and justice.  To see one of them detract from what a traditional superhero stands for may be interesting to some, but when it’s a character like Wonder Woman who hardly suffers as much as Superman did in this particular storyline, it just doesn’t make any sense.  After she kills Von Bach, Batman tries to talk some sense into her and says she won’t earn her royal position back by killing.  Wonder Woman shoots Batman a death glare and flies into a rage, shouting “You aristocratic bastard!  How dare you condemn me!”

As the both of them do battle in the sky, Batman (on his flight-enhanced suit)  remains on the defensive and tries to reason with Wonder Woman (sort of like how Luke Skywalker tries to reason with Darth Vader at the end of “Return of the Jedi”).  Wonder Woman finally returns to her senses when she sees stealth bombers perparing to drop nukes on the superheros and metahumans.  While this is happening, Superman brings the brain-washed Captain Marvel back to his senses so that he can stop the nuclear bomb.  Notice how Captain Marvel is violent because of mind-control, while Wonder Woman is full of rage because of her personal struggles and ego.  It’s as if the male superheroes can’t lose themselves in face of their own challenges.

At the end of the book, Wonder Woman goes back to normal and enjoys a nice lunch with Superman and Batman.  We also learn that she ends up pregnant with Superman’s baby, but the focus rests on Superman and Batman who have a nice embrace of friendship, as if they were violently fighting each other throughout the book.  If anything, the real moment of forgiveness should have been between Wonder Woman and Superman and Batman.  I don’t like either ending, to be honest, because they reduce Wonder Woman to an inferior.  She was unable to keep her head on straight amidst the turbulent and changing times, while her male counterparts held their composure.  The fact that the ending hardly focused on Wonder Woman, aside from her being pregnant,  shows how much of an insignificant character she was.  If anything, she was an obstacle to Superman and Batman.  It wasn’t Superman or Batman who wound up killing, it was Wonder Woman who did.  She turned to the “dark side” and made the situation worse.

As I closed the book, I reflected on how I would have enjoyed it more if Wonder Woman was portrayed better.  Then I thought about how many comic book readers may overlook the sexism and praise it for being an amazing story with beautiful artwork.  Beautiful artwork, indeed, but an amazing story?  I think male readers are more privileged to say that.

~Broken Mystic~

“Broken Mystic” Nominated for a Brass Crescent Award!

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I was surprised this morning when I found out that my blog was nominated for a Brass Crescent Award. Visit the link and you will see that I am nominated in the “Best Post or Series” category.  The voting process has begun, so please show your support and vote for my blog!

The blog posts that I’m nominated for are my posts on Muslim women in comic books.  I’m sure my regular readers remember them, as they were also posted on Muslimah Media Watch, (nominated for Best Group Blog) Racialicious, and Fantasy Magazine.

For those who haven’t read them, follow the links below to read my two-part essay titled “Female, Muslim, and Mutant:  A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books.”

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Thank you everyone for your support!  It doesn’t matter if I win or not, the nomination was enough motivation for me to keep writing.  I really appreciate all those who read my posts and share their thoughts.

Salaam/Peace

~Broken Mystic~

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is for the Fans!

SPOILER ALERT! Do not read this entry if you haven’t seen the film yet. If you don’t plan on seeing the movie for some odd reason (haha) then feel free to read on!

As the title of this entry says, the new computer-animated “Star Wars” film is definitely for the fans, but I want to share my thoughts in a way that other people can learn to appreciate it as well. After 2005′s “Revenge of the Sith,” George Lucas said there would be no more “Star Wars” films, and only up until recently, he announced that he realized he had more stories to tell. He had to add, however, that there would be no more live-action “Star Wars” films, but there would be a computer animated television show. From what I understand, there will also be a live-action television show (What I would give to direct an episode!) In any case, if it’s “Star Wars,” you can always count on me being there!

“The Clone Wars” takes place between “Attack of the Clones” (Episodes 2) and “Revenge of the Sith” (Episode 3), and explores Anakin Skywalker’s prime years with his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jabba the Hutt’s son is kidnapped by Count Dooku and the separatist forces, and in order to gain the support of the Hutts in the Clone Wars, the Republic needs to rescue Jabba’s son. But while the Jedi are sent on the rescue mission, Count Dooku and the separatists seek to frame the Jedi of kidnapping Jabba’s son. This only results in Jabba becoming very hostile towards the Republic and the Jedi.

The film is a real treat to fans because in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” we hear Anakin and Obi-Wan talking about their other adventures and missions together, and while we see nice moments of them bonding and fighting side-by-side, we can’t help but wonder about those other stories. It’s obvious that Lucas was intending to fill in those gaps through the “Star Wars” Expanded Universe, i.e. novels, comic books, video games, television shows, and now, in a computer-animated film. Two films about Obi-Wan and Anakin doesn’t give us nearly enough time to cover their Master and Apprentice roles, respectively. “Attack of the Clones,” for example, needed to develop Anakin and Padme’s romantic relationship, while “Revenge of the Sith” needed to show his shift to the dark side and transformation into Darth Vader. The new computer-animated feature shows us more of Anakin’s Jedi side, or lighter side, which is very essential to the Star Wars chronology.

“The Clone Wars” is a family-friendly film that not only shows us more of Anakin, but it also introduces us to new characters, particularly a new female Jedi character named Ahsoka Tano (pictured above on left). She is assigned to be trained by Anakin Skywalker, and at first, Anakin doesn’t sit very well with it, but then he realizes that Ahsoka is a mirror to his own experiences as an apprentice. In the films, we have seen Anakin express his frustration under the wing of Obi-Wan, so a character like Ahsoka deepens his character and shows how he can relate to her. After a spectacular battle scene at the Battle at Christophsis, Anakin says to Ahsoka: “You’re reckeless, little one. You never would have made it as Obi-Wan’s Padawan, but you might make it as mine.” This is an encouraging moment for both of them because Anakin has been labeled “reckless” many times by other Jedi Masters, so he knows what it feels like.

“Star Wars” fans will also see how Anakin Skywalker is truly the “best star pilot in the galaxy” as Obi-Wan says in Episode Four. I also liked how Ahsoka battled her way through enemies, especially at the end. As I wrote in my entries on Muslim women in comic books, it’s better for characters to solve things on their own rather than being rescued or dues ex machina. I personally see the character of Ahsoka as a way to invite more young females to the “Star Wars” universe. No doubt, there are a lot of female “Star Wars” fans, thanks to strong and three-dimensional female characters like Mara Jade, Princess Leia, Queen Padme Amidala (who has a nice cameo in “The Clone Wars”), and Jaina Solo (pictured right), but “Star Wars” mostly gets associated with male teenagers. The beauty of the “Star Wars” universe is that it’s so diverse and there are literally thousands of different stories to tell. I think if more well-represented female characters took center stage in the upcoming live-action television show, it will appeal more to the female audience. I emphasize on “well-represented” because simply having female characters doesn’t mean you will attract a female fan base. The characters have to be realistic and three-dimensional. It would be amazing to finally see Mara Jade in a television show because according to many Star Wars polls, she is the most popular character in the “Star Wars” universe who does not appear in the films. And in my opinion, Mara Jade and Jaina Solo, are some of the best examples of non-exploited fictional female characters, right up there with “X-Men’s” Jubilee and Trinity from “The Matrix”.

And if we see more of Ahsoka Tano, she will quickly become one of my favorites because what’s interesting about her is that she is not just female, but she is also of the Togruta species. There was part in “The Clone Wars” that I really liked when one of the characters looked at Ahsoka and called her a “slave dancer” since Jabba the Hutt has slave dancers who are Twi’leks, a similar-looking species to Togrutas. Ahsoka gets offended by this slur in the movie, and it’s interesting because Togrutas and Twi’leks are not the same, and not all Twi’leks are slave dancers. This is an aspect of “Star Wars” that I have always appreciated: Diversity. One of the most memorable scenes in the history of film was in the very first “Star Wars” film (“A New Hope”) in 1977, where Luke Skywalker enters a cantina filled with a large variety of creatures, and they were all enjoying drinks, eating, conversing, and playing music. In one of the “Star Wars” novels, the Jedi Code states that the Jedi must respect all forms of life. When I was a teenager, and being a minority myself, that really meant a lot to me when I read that. It allowed me to apply those teachings to the real world and learn how to accept everyone for who they are, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, and religious background. It also introduced me to showing respect and Love to animals and flowers and insects. Even today, I don’t like killing insects and just let them out of the house or classroom whenever I see them. Anyway, when Ahsoka is misjudged because of her appearance, I couldn’t help but think how ignorant people group Arabs, Iranians, South Asians, and Muslims all one category. Like Twi’leks and Togratus, Arabs and South Asians are not the same!

Speaking of the Middle-East, I must say that “The Clone Wars” has a very Middle-Eastern quality to it, especially in the music which features some nice ethnic female vocals! After all, much of the film takes place on the desert planet of Tatooine (the birthplace of Anakin Skywalker). I caught some interesting political and anti-war messages, including one comical moment with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lucas emphasizes a lot on negotiations and diplomacy (as he did in “Revenge of the Sith” which has some very obvious anti-Bush messages), and it makes me only anticipate his upcoming art films even more (Lucas has announced that he wants to make more personal and arthouse films like his brilliant first film “THX 1138″).

Watching a new “Star Wars” film was a really special moment for me (even if it’s “just a computer-animated” film). I went with my friends, who all dressed up in “Star Wars” costumes with me during the opening nights of Episode 1 (1999), Episode 2 (2002), and Episode 3 (2005), and it felt like I was going back in time. The fact that this film takes place between Episode 2 and 3 meant that it took my friends and I back to the year 2002. I remember that was a very important and special year for me. I was not only hyped about the new “Star Wars” movie coming out, but I was also going through my own spiritual development. I was learning more about Islam and Sufism, and I started to look at the world much differently than before, and for the better. And by the time Episode 2 was released, I didn’t see “Star Wars” as just a spectacle of visual effects and amazing characters, I also saw it as a deeply spiritual and mystical story. Anyone who knows me knows that 2002 was a turning point in my life. A year that I will never forget. So when I saw “The Clone Wars” it reminded me of those moments. It reminded me that “Star Wars” has a special place in my heart too, and always will.

One quick final note on critics: I cannot believe Roger Ebert gave this film a star and a half. He lists “Star Wars” in his “Great Films” list and has written positive reviews for all the films, except for “Attack of the Clones” and now “The Clone Wars.” What critics don’t understand is that Lucas is all about visual storytelling, and many of them don’t appreciate the vast universe he has created with his gifted imagination. “The Clone Wars,” just like all the other “Star Wars” films, is essential to the “Star Wars” saga. It’s all part of a bigger picture, and so, to judge the film on it’s own is to misunderstand what the “Star Wars” universe is all about. Episodes 1 to 6 are ultimately about the tragedy and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, a character who is incredibly gifted with the Force, but then gets tempted by the Dark Side when he is tormented by nightmares of his wife, Padme, dying. A Sith Lord tells him that the only way to save his wife is through using the Dark Side of the Force, but Anakin gets consumed by it and falls too deep. He transforms into an entirely different being and becomes the most destructive force in the galaxy. We don’t believe there is any good left in him until his son, Luke, comes along. It’s really a beautiful story with so many important messages, especially for young people, and it’s a shame that critics don’t see how “The Clone Wars” fills in gaps of Anakin’s prime years. We need to see more of Anakin as a Jedi, otherwise the epic saga of “Star Wars” cannot be complete.

Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!

~ Broken Mystic ~

Sister

She was dragged out into the street
An angry mob shouting words they didn’t understand
Tearing her clothes off shamelessly
Spitting in her face and beating her with brutal hands

She was seventeen – beautiful and innocent
A radiant smile that became trembling lips
What was my crime, she cannot even ask
What have I done to deserve this torment?

A distant Lover, a young man from a different part of town
Just an innocent pair of Lovers
They pull her hair and call her a disgrace
“Infidel!” “Slut!” “Whore!”

Tears streaming down her face – I’m sorry, she whimpers
Heavy rocks and stones slamming against her body
Blood dripping, bones crushing, such fragile beings we are
Why hurt so much beauty?

You stand in the crowd
Surrounded by a chaotic storm of violence
Unable to hold back your tears
Wanting to bring an end to this madness

I know, me too…

With each violent strike
You watch her life bleed away
Her broken fingers reaching for help, just someone to hold
Just someone to tell her it’s going to be okay

You’re haunted by her helpless eastern eyes
Watching the brutality ensue
One rock thrown at a time like some demonic game
While police officers just stand as spectators
Unyielding to her desperate and painful cries

You want to charge through the crowd
And take the rocks like bullets
You want to bleed and lessen her pain
You want to scream into the sky
And punch the earth until your hand breaks

I know, me too…

Sister, what we would do to help you
If we weren’t so afraid
I’m standing here, bleeding from the inside
Suffocating and blind from all this hatred

Sister, I cannot live like this
Or laugh or sing or dance or smile
I cannot breathe like this
Or talk or eat or walk or sleep

Thinking of all the pain you endured
Of all those years you missed
Those precious days stolen from you
In the early bloom of your being

You want to believe in the Unseen Beauty
Heaven’s Chariot charging through the fields
Divine Light resurrecting her lifeless body
And a warm hand healing her wounds

Fear nothing, says a gentle voice
For Beautiful Muhammad has come
To lead you out of darkness and into Light
To bring you out of sorrow and into rejoice

Ali and Fatima wait at the Gate
Come, Sister
To the Eternal Sky
To the Garden of Souls
To the Love that belongs to you

You want to believe this is how it ended

I know, me too…

~ Broken Mystic ~

Personal Attacks on Muslim Feminists and Islam

Something that I probably can’t stand the most is when people make judgments about another person simply based on his/her skin color, ethnicity, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, etc. When we are young, we are taught to never judge someone based on these things, and yet all you need to do is turn on the news to see grown adults making ridiculous generalizations about an entire group of people. But it’s not just in the media, it’s in our workplaces, our class rooms, our communities, and especially here on the blogosphere. It hurts me even more when my friends are on the receiving end of personal attacks from people who behave as if they know all the facts on things such as feminism and religion.

I have been reading many personal attacks on Muslim feminists lately — certain people are saying that one cannot be Muslim and feminist because Islam is such an “oppressive” and “misogynistic” religion. First, it’s ridiculous how they project their hateful and negative sentiments about Islam onto the author(s) and make personal attacks against her/him, as if they have some authority on declaring who can be a feminist or not. Second, it’s absurd how they speak of Islam in this manner without considering that there are millions of Muslims all over the world who follow it devoutly. Thirdly, it’s insulting how their extremely childish and immature behavior makes them believe they’re making scholarly and educated statements when in actuality, all they’re doing is promoting ignorance and intolerance. It’s as if they want to exclude the views of Muslim feminists and not even bother reading what they wrote. In their mind, it seems like there is only one set kind of feminism, and the notion of a Muslim feminist is completely incompatible with their definition. Rather than having intelligent discussions, they’ll make pathetic personal attacks, very similar to how a high school bully picks on someone different than him/her just to boost his/her low self esteem. If someone doesn’t make any personal attacks against you, then why in the world would you make personal attacks and insults against them on your blog? They’re not wishing death upon people or calling for violent rebellions or anything, so why are you making personal attacks when you don’t even know them? It is really unfair for those individuals who are getting misjudged and attacked.  What disgusts me even more are the two-faced bloggers out there who will post nice comments on an article written by a Muslim feminist, but then go to another blog and talk smack about her/him. On one blog, they say it feels like their favorite feminist magazine got “hijacked” just because it defended the hijaab as a choice and then they call a Muslim feminist blog “ignorant” and unqualified for being “feminism.” Yet, when these Muslim feminists post their articles, these same bloggers will behave all “nice” and “respectful” to them.  I remember an Iranian Muslim feminist who once said about the Iraq war: “If a man rapes me, I don’t want his help later.” If you think you have the absolute and unalterable definition of feminism and that Muslim feminists do not fit in that little box of yours, then why do you persist with fake “polite” comments? Are people really not ashamed of themselves when they behave in this manner? I’ve seen this kind of behavior in high school, I wouldn’t expect it from self-proclaimed feminists.

Some of these critics devote all their time to “exposing Islam” as a “violent” and “oppressive” religion. Whenever you try to explain to them that Islam is a peaceful religion, some of them will respond with links and reports of atrocious and violent acts committed by Muslim in Muslim countries, while others will respond more antagonistically and even curse you out: “stop telling me Islam is peaceful. We don’t buy it!” One person even told me that I’m insulting them every day in my prayers because I’m denying the “sonship and divinity” of Jesus, peace be upon him! That’s my cue for stopping the conversation immediately because it’s just a serious waste of time. It’s sad at how some of these people build a wall against you — they don’t want to look at you as an individual, they are looking at your label. Even if you speak about how Islam has changed and impacted your life for the better, they will still pull out those links and point fingers at what other Muslims are doing. Some will even sub-categorize you and say, “oh well you’re one of those ‘good’ and ‘liberal-minded’ Muslims” which pretty much says that you represent the “minority” in their mind, therefore your words aren’t really worth anything. In actuality however, the majority of Muslims are peaceful and friendly human beings.

For me, I would never insult another religion or an entire group of people and I just find it really disturbing how they are people out there who actually don’t see anything wrong with doing that. If you hate the religion of Islam and you meet a Muslim in public, are you going to speak to him/her as an individual or are you going to speak to the stereotype? In social psychology, we use the term “ambivalent racism” for people who will show respect and affection to those outside of their group affiliation, but deep down, they will still carry those prejudices and perceptions that the person is a “heretic” or “deviant” or even “inferior.” I’m sick of people saying they hate Islam, but don’t hate Muslims because their “argument” is that good Muslims aren’t truly practicing Islam, since of course Islam is “inherently violent.” Again, these are faulty generalizations and false assumptions about people. It’s also insulting because it suggests that Muslims are brainwashed and oblivious to how their religion “truly” is. When they make these kind of remarks, it makes me want to ask: How do you know that the person you’re criticizing doesn’t know everything about Islam? Or let me frame it this way: How do you know that you know everything about Islam? Sure, there are apostates, where most Islamophobes like to get their “information” from, but just because someone is an apostate doesn’t mean they are experts on Islam. Wanting to “learn” about Islam from them is just pretty much saying that you want a negative (sometimes severely negative) lesson on Islam. If I wanted to learn more about Judaism, I will speak to someone who truly practices it and follows that path, not from someone who is an ex-Jew. You cannot deny the experiences that a person has with his/her religion just because you don’t believe in it. The majority of Muslims find peace and beauty in Islam — it is a source of strength, Love, and wisdom for them. I have friends who have left Islam, and they are living their lives peacefully and happily, they even still have Muslim friends. They don’t devote their time spreading hatred about it, but unfortunately there are those who think they need to do that. But I ask, as a human being, how is marginalizing and vilifying an entire religion going to help make a better society?

I truly believe every religion essentially teaches us to be good human beings. The violence and oppression committed in the name of religion is a very complex issue and it cannot be simplified the way that many Islamophobes simplify it. Without understanding factors such as culture, tradition, politics, history, theology, etc., it’s very difficult to not generalize about people. I’ve explained what cultural responses are in my entry, “Jerusalem Cries for Peace,” and how violence and radicalism only escalates after foreign invaders bomb another country. It’s not about forgiving, it’s about understanding. And understanding is something we do very little of. We as human beings need to make this world a better place, we need to promote more understanding, communication, and dialogue. Saying that one group of people or one religion is the problem is not going to solve anything. It will only crumble your relations with other human beings.

The Truth is there is no need for separation. The differences we see between one another is, like any other form of division, merely an illusion of the outward reality. Some of us are too stuck in our belief systems that we forget the purely spiritual foundation of our faiths. Whether you speak of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha (peace upon them all), their experience with the Divine is what unites their Souls. These enlightened human beings shared something in common, they were all revolutionists and fought in the battle against the selfish, material world, in order to bring people to the World of the Unseen. Just because we have different beliefs doesn’t mean we cannot get along. It doesn’t mean we have to resort to personal insults and false accusations. It doesn’t mean we can vilify an entire religion and group of people. What is wrong with accepting people for who they are? Isn’t that what Love is? Accepting people for who they are, not for who we want them to be?

Those guided well on their paths should not point fingers and criticize another person simply because he/she is following a different religion. Hatred and over-generalizations towards an entire group of people reflects insecurity within one’s self. The flaws we see within others are merely flaws you see within ourselves. The journey of a human being is one of Expansiveness, of Growing, of Compassion, and Self-Discovery. When we achieve this, we become Loving towards those around us, we become tolerant and accepting. Open-mindedness is not being exclusive to one group of people or one way of thinking, but rather it is learning the ability to open your heart and become a Compassionate, Expansive, and Loving human being. When you understand this, you will discover a portion within yourself that you may have never known existed. There will be no conflict between your beliefs and other people’s beliefs anymore.

Let people ~Be~ Happiness and peace never hurt anyone.

~ Broken Mystic ~

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