Campaigns for #MikeBrown #Ferguson

Please read, share and support as best you can.

Spaceship Dreaming

 
Here is a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police. I will try to update as much as possible.
 
Donations for Mike Brown’s Family:
 
Michael Brown Memorial Fund:
 
These funds will assist his family with costs that they will acquire as they seek justice on Michael’s behalf. All funds will be given to the Michael Brown family.
 
 
College 4 MikeBrown’s Siblings:
 
This effort will help support Mike Brown’s siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother go to college. It is run by Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW professor of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab ( http://www.wihopelab.com) and Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (Madison, WI) can vouch that all funds will go…

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Losing my Faith?

[Trigger warning: mention of suicide]

This post is gonna be one of those posts that is gonna be hard to write and leave me with a ‘vulnerability hangover’… I just know it, even before writing it.

So, we’ve just come out of Ramadan. I do enjoy Ramadan. It’s like a reboot of your religion. Of course it’s way more than that but it’s that particular aspect which I’m gonna focus on for this post. Check out my ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ which discusses more at length the purpose of Ramadan and of course, my personal goals.

With respect to my Ramadan goals this year, in all honesty, I didn’t do so well at all. The other night a friend and I were talking and she asked my didn’t do smaller individual prayers (aka dua’s). She’s Christian and I didn’t know how to translate this into English. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that it was at that moment I was faced with my internal feelings head on and I simply replied with ‘I don’t know’ because I didn’t have the heart to say what I was thinking at the time, what I’ve been thinking for a long time.

I feel like I’m loosing my connection with Allah (swt) and it not only bothers me but actually, it really scares me. I find this admission more frustrating because Ramadan has literally only just happened and really, of all the times in the year this shouldn’t be coming to the fore now. After having a discussion about this with my CRB (Christian Ramadan buddy) in the early hours of this morning after her pressing further I got to the root of this flailing connection. I am simply not working on this connection. Relationships, all relationships require work by way of commitment and dedication and I am not giving it. If I look at myself honestly, as honestly as if I’m looking at my naked reflection in a full-length mirror, I can see that my pursuit of Allah (swt) has been replaced with a pursuit of women. I know how it sounds, it sounds awful but it’s the truth.

They say the first step to dealing with something is admitting and so here is my rather ashamed first step. It seems the next step is coming from my CRB who suggested that we start praying together once a day like we did a few times during Ramadan. She made a particular point of saying even when I feel tired (I really need to stop letting that stop me as if it’s a legit excuse). I know she’s right when she says that that little time put aside each will be a great starting point in helping to reestablish this connection. My concern then turned to whether I’d be doing it because of her rather than because of Allah (swt) and that bothers me. Allaying these concerns she said that eventually I’ll be doing it to talk to Allah once I feel that connection again, alongside the fact that it’s better to do it than to not do it all which makes sense too.

I can’t help but feel like that I’m failing massively in my religion and it was nice to be reassured that this isn’t a thing unless I give up my religion. Instead, it’s just a whole bunch of struggling and that’s something that we are all tested on in some way or other. Even while feeling this I couldn’t help but be a moved when my friend said that she had been in my position for a number of years, and it was me being openly religious which inspired her that her faith shouldn’t be something she should be ashamed about. Can you imagine that? You’re going through your own struggle but people seeing you being you still gives them hope? It’s the whole silver-lining thing.

I haven’t even told her what I’m about to write… She said that some things which aren’t tangible are harder to focus on and people having the same/similar beliefs is tangible but it was something specific of her saying that people who share my faith do not necessarily share my beliefs and judge me on my differences. That bit struck a chord with me. It’s is one of the things which I had struggled with for years. It is one of the reasons that many years ago I had considered suicide. I’d never told her about the struggle with fellow worshippers and least of all my suicidal thoughts and here she was, hitting the nail right on the head.

There’s something fundamentally moving when people do not share the same faith but share the same basic beliefs. That’s where my CRB buddy and I are at. I may have failed miserably on one of my Ramadan goals of taking ‘a break from romantic encounters for the foreseeable future’ but actually, I’m so glad no, that’s not the right word to use – I’m thankful that someone has come into my life that has not only reminded me of what it means to be loved but has quite literally turned my world upside down and is helping me to rekindle my faith with Allah (swt). What makes this relationship that much more special is she needs Allah too and together, we’re gonna work on this inshallah.

Here goes my journey of discovering open relationships, a person who gets me and rekindling my love for Allah and my faith in Islam… Wish me luck?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reportedly asked:

‘Which of our companions are best?’

He replied: ‘One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.’

Ramadan Mubarak

I’m super tired while writing this so apologies in advance for this stream of consciousness…

I seem to be a bit late to the game but it’s still the first day of Ramadan and so posting this at any time during the day wouldn’t have been late really, would it? Anyway. 

I want to take a moment to wish Muslims all over the world a happy Ramadan. One which is full of contemplation, love, respect and understanding for those less fortunate than ourselves. After all, that’s one of the main reasons as to why we fast during the month of Ramadan. Compassion, charity and love. I feel like that sums it up pretty well, I think. I’ve missed out the whole praying and dedication to Allah but I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.

I’ve spent most of today in bed recuperating from a meeting I’ve been to in France over the last few days. I think subconsciously I also needed to prepare for the week-long conference next week in Italy as I will be fasting and looking at the weather forecast, it’s hot there! I was genuinely considering whether or not I should fast when I’m away.

Here were my reasons:

  • It’s gonna be hot… Hotter than what I’m used to living in the UK!
  • Conferences are long and tiring and require a certain amount of energy especially being around so many people
  • Above all though, I didn’t want to miss out on copious amounts of Italian food – that was genuinely one of my reasons… For real…

From this short list you can just see how selfish I was being. I mean, I was considering not fasting because I wanted food! Albeit lovely Italian food but still! Now that I’ve gotten a grip on my reality again I can proudly and confidently say I’m gonna be fasting Italy inshallah. If it get’s too much for me in terms of the heat and stuff, well, that’s something I’ll deal with if the time comes.

I look forward to Ramadan every year but this year, it’s very much needed and couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been going through some intense emotional relationship related stuff and to say it’s been difficult is an understatement. I’m increasingly realising that I need to work on myself.

Here are my goals for Ramadan this year:

  • Work on my strengthening my relationship with Allah and my faith.
  • Try and make as many taraweeh prayers as I can.
  • Make a solid effort to learn how to pray salah properly… As in the sequence. I know the basics, just not the variable sequence for each of the 5 daily prayers.
  • Re-start my effort in reading the Qur’an in English in its entirety for the first time.
  • Take a break from romantic encounters for the foreseeable future.
  • Really work on my self-care (I’m pretty rubbish at this but have been doing better recently thanks to the wonderful suggestions my friends gave me via Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Maryam.B.Din/posts/10154276801440252)
  • Do more around the house to take more of the caring responsibilities away from my beautiful mum.
  • Spend more time with my awesome sister even if that means playing boring computer games with her… 

So that’s my list so far. I feel like it’s probably something I’m gonna be updating as the month continues.

What are you goals for this month?

Q&A: What’s your opinion on strippers?

What’s your opinion on strippers?

I was a little nervous when I read this question. I’m still so conscious of how the dynamics of my religion and political beliefs play out. Most times they overlap greatly and my religion informs my political beliefs and vice versa.

So with a little hesitation let me begin.

Before I became politicised, before I identified as a feminist and before I even had a clue (good God, I feel so bad for even saying this and I haven’t even said it yet!), I used to judge strippers and those in similar professions – like really REALLY badly. I thought it was seedy and degrading and I really couldn’t understand why any self-respecting (see the judgement there?!) woman could even consider doing such a ‘job’. I couldn’t understand why taking your clothes off for a living was even considered a living.

Urgh and the menz sitting there perving and getting off on these women who are likely to be half their damn age and not even feel any guilt. Like what the fuck is that? Gross.

And now?

Well, I know the Islamic view on modesty and I really do get that but I’m stuck between believing and loving my faith while also having a completely pro-choice outlook on everything including stripping and sex work. I still feel like those two aspects of my belief are at odds with one another but it’s what I believe. I am a practicing Muslim and I am pro-choice from stripping, to sex work, to abortions.

I know I still have work to do when it comes to challenging my faith because I feel like the patriarchal and sexist version of it due to my upbringing is the one instilled in me and the one I am continually having to challenge because aspects of it still remain. Like I said earlier though, I am pro-choice and support women in all their endeavours even if it’s something that I may personally not want to do myself.

This is a small side note but I feel that more protection needs to be put in place for women who are a part of this industry. And none of this Nordic Model rubbish but actually laws which protect women’s choice and defend them from violence. Oh, and also, I can’t help but feel like choice doesn’t exist in a vacuum but I feel like that is a discussion for another blog.

In short, my views have changed a lot from looking down on strippers and sex workers, to understanding the sometimes women really do need to do it to make an ends meet i.e. financially hence my point about choice not existing in a vacuum but also understanding that actually, some women do enjoy it and that’s okay too.

I hope that answers your question.

If you’d like to ask me any questions then feel free to contact me:

5pillarsand6colours@gmail.com

Or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook if that’s easier.

 

Q&A: Do you think being a Muslim lesbian is an ‘anomaly’?

Hey Maryam,

I have a question for you. Even though you’re speaking at conferences and on radio shows, and just generally making yourself heard, do you still feel that being a Muslim lesbian is seen as an ‘anomaly’, if you see what I mean? Or do you think awareness is starting to take shape?

Before I start I just want to clarify that I actually identify as queer. I have a tendency to digress so here’s a definition: http://internationalspectrum.umich.edu/life/definitions

Your point of course still stands though but I feel like I need to broaden it out a little more. Do I think being Muslim and LGBTQIA is an ‘anomaly’? No I don’t. You wouldn’t think it but in the UK there are thousands of us. Literally thousands of us.

I know what will blow your mind a little more… There are 7 billion people in the world and 59% identify as religions (Wiki reference). That means that over 4 billion people in the world are religious. The stats are that 1 in 10 people are LGBTQIA, so that means there are over 413 million people in the world who are both religious and LGBT. To put that more contextually, there are 63 million people in the UK.

Now, you can do a similar calculation for Muslims in the world… There are 1.6 billion of us. Apply the 1 in 10 stats again and that’s 160 million Muslims in the world who are also LGBTQIA. Is your mind suitably blown yet? Mine certainly was when I first discovered this.

So you see I don’t consider myself to be an anomaly because there are quite literally millions of us however, I do think that visibility is an important issue. Let me ask you – how many LGBTQIA Muslims do you know? Or LGBTQIA religious people in general? Of course there’s the whole thing about not having to be out because heterosexual people don’t have to come out but there is more to it than that. We have to look at the intersections of people’s identities and from that the intersections of oppressions. Only then can we begin to understand why so few people who are part of the rainbow community and are people of colour, and are women, as an example, are pressured to stay closeted. I use the phrase ‘visibility saves lives’ a lot but you know what? closets to too.

Coming to your last point/question of whether I think is awareness is taking shape, well, I really think it is. Let me go back to the visibility saving lives part for a sec. For me, visibility is a lot of things (talking specifically about me):

  • Requires privilege
  • Requires courage
  • Saves lives
  • Challenges Islamophobia
  • Challenges racism
  • Challenges heteronormativity 
  • Challenges patriarchy
  • Challenges sexism

Let me unpack that list:

  • Privilege – speaks for itself really. You generally have to be in a privilege position to be visible in your identities particularly if they fall into oppressed categories, i.e: being a gay person of colour.
  • Courage – well you have to have some courage and bravery to come out in a world that is mainly heteronormative and patriarchal.
  • Saving lives – as humans one of our most basic needs is to be heard but importantly to be understood. The words ‘me too’ are one of the most powerful when you’re going through trying times.
  • Challenging Islamophobia – some people of the 9racist, fascist, generally all-round nasty kind) would have you believe that the 1.6 billion Muslims all think, act, dress the same like we’re some homogenous group.
  • Challenges heteronormativity – we’re not hetero… And we’re being visible with it too.
  • Challenges patriarchy – the world’s current system values and prioritises men and being into women and valuing relationships with women over men challenges male hegemony. 
  • Challennges sexism – the world doesn’t evolve around the menz…

Do I think that awareness is starting to take shape? My first thought was that the world wasn’t always this LGBTQIA-phobic and then I was gonna go into a discussion of Western imperialism, more specifically the British Empire – it still has a lot to answer for! Most of the countries which still have homophobic laws were directly imposed by the British Empire… Other European Empires didn’t impose such laws. That’s a discussion for another post though.

Let’s talk in more recent times. Do think that awareness is starting to take shape? Yes. Indeed I do. Visibility is one of the key components in that. The most recent example I have is from a few days ago… Even now I still feel really emotional about it. I’m moved every time this happens. Every now and then friends come out to me but this time was different. This time, a stranger messaged me on Facebook and we talked a little. They told me about their struggle with their faith and sexuality.

“I see my visibility as a duty for others who are not able to be visible for whatever reasons.”
I don’t know how many strangers have messaged you before like i did, probably lots, but now you have proof of it. You being “visible” gave me hope and courage and factored in me feeling less alone. So i will always appreciate that

I feel like there’s so much more I could talk about but when I scrolled up I saw how long this already was! Thanks so much for your question!

Q&A: What are you feelings about drag?

What are your feelings about drag?

I am somewhat conflicted by the various forms of drag in that:

1 – It is part of LGBT heritage but is it past its ‘sell by date’?

2 – Does it parody women negatively?

3 – Does it have a negative effect on Trans women?

4 – All these yet it can be used to challenge gender stereotypes. (Thinking Conchita Wurst and 1970’s Gay Liberation Front political drag)

5 – In non western cultures does drag, as westerners know it exist?

Great question! I don’t know where to start with this really.

When was the first time I even saw drag? Hmm, maybe at uni? I mean up close and personal it has to be uni at one of the local gay bars. Before and during my initial time at university I would consider myself to be drag-phobic. Is that even a word? It sure as heck is a thing though because, you know, I was. It made me very uncomfortable and not because of the whole men dressing/acting as stereotyped women and the gender-bending nature of it all but rather something which you alluded to in your question about it parodying women negatively. Quite often, I find drag queens can be really brash and brazen and really quite sexist towards women and that is a real problem for me. We get that every day of our lives in the first damn place because of patriarchy and sexism and we sure as heck don’t need it from men impersonating women too.

That paragraph seems to be a mix of what I used to believe and what I still think now so let me break it down properly.

Did you know it was a drag queen who started the Stonewall Riots? Marsha P. Johnson. She was the first person to throw a brick at the police starting a full scale riot as a defence because of the police’s increasing brutality against the LGBTQIA community in New York. Enough was enough and they fought back. Hard. She was one of the most well-known drag artists of her time and, wow, was she quite something! Her work in transgender rights activism during a time when it was a real danger being a person of colour (still is to be honest – racism, white supremacy) is nothing short of being admirable.

I consider drag to be a political protest. An act which says fuck gender stereotypes and fuck society’s heteronormativity and, you know what, fuck patriarchy too. I still have my previous reservation about some drag artists using gender binary stereotyping and especially sexism in their acts but this is not indicative of all drag performers. I mean, check Conchita Wurst – she smashed Eurovision and brought draw performing to a new heights in the existing LGBTQIA friendly or veering Eurovision and I have so much love and respect for her. I digress though. Moving away from her and her performance, the politics of it alone were incredible and her winning certainly has set the tone of the direction people in Europe want to take with equality and liberation even with the existence of oppressive governments. A small token of ‘the people have spoken’, you know?

In terms of other cultures and does drag exist in them? Drag isn’t a Western thing by any stretch of the imagination. My heritage is in Pakistan and there is a legal recognition of the third gender. While this isn’t drag it is a recognition, a legal recognition of alternative genders and a move away from heteronomativity and the recognition of other gender-based identities.

Talking about drag specifically in non-Western cultures, the first person I thought of was Asifa Lahore. She did an amazing crowd-funded political music video. The song Tum Hi Ho from the Bollywood movie Aashiqui 2 was one of the most popular songs of last year.

Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4GgQNCbbYA 

As a side note, I even watched it with my mum and while she didn’t get that Asif and Asifa were the same person in the video initially she understood what the music video was about and took the time to listen to it. I think she liked the fact that it was personal to her in terms of the South Asian aspect – specifically, Pakistani.

Here’s a background article from when Asifa was crowd-funding and raising awareness for her project: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/asifa-lahore-drag-queen_n_4302596.html

Thank you for your question! 🙂

If you’d like to ask a question then please do get in touch. As you know, I’m all over social media but if you’d like to send something more anon then email me: 5pillarsand6colours@gmail.com

Queer Social Anxiety

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve blogged… I would check the date of the last post but I may lose my train of thought and it’s not that important. I’ve been mulling over whether or not to write this post for a while and yesterday I was approached by an initiative asking me to write a blog for them. Now, this initiative is one I’ve been following since last year and it’s such an awesome idea. I can’t say what at the moment because I want to leave it a surprise and give it that momento for the right time of the year. That’s the only clue I’m going to give you. I know it’s not much but I’m useless at clues and end up giving too much away.

So this initiative is following my blog and have been interested in it for a while. People seem to be really digging the whole being open about my sexuality, religion and culture. There certainly is welcomed curiosity particularly from people of my own culture and religion and it’s great because it means we can have conversations that they may never have had before generally I am the first Muslim who’s part of the LGBTQI community they’ve ever met.

So this initiative, one of the suggestions they questions out because it will give away who the initiative is and what the blog series is gonna be around. My umming and ahhing of whether to write my long awaited post fits into this perfectly.

[If the initiative is reading this, don’t worry, I have an excellent part 2 blog post to follow up – or maybe something completely different!]

I feel like I’m having to brace myself to write this which is my intro is 3 paragraphs long… You know what? Let’s just do this.

*deeply inhales*

I have mental health. We all have a state of mental health, whether that’s good, bad or just there, we have it. For readers of my blog you may have read previous posts of my past struggles of reconciling my sexuality and religion. Recently, I’ve begun to realise just how much anxiety I have in certain spaces. Before I came out, in certain spaces I would have to judge each and every situation, event, groups of people to ascertain whether or not it would be safe to come out. When you’re doing this for years it quickly gets very tiring and you always feel like you’re en-garde all of the fricking time. Nowadays, I’ve dealt with my internalised racism and homophobia and I don’t do this as much as I used to. Whether I like to admit this or not I feel like there’s always gonna be a sense of heightened awareness for my own safety.

These thoughts have turned from ‘shit, do they know I’m gay?’ into ‘I wonder if the people in my life who claim to care for me and love me would still do so if they found out that I’m queer.’

I’m not really sure what triggered me into thinking this but yeah, there you go. I feel like it’s some messed up self-hate loathing type of thing. I mean, I know it’s not – I am proud of the things I have accomplished and the person who I am but I still can’t shake the feeling that this recent thinking fits into that self-loathing/self-hate cycle. The people whom I think this of, we have fairly close relationships and can have a laugh and a joke but I still find myself wondering. It’s almost as if I’m wondering in this sort of way – ‘would they still love me even though I’m doing this huge sin? Or rather, what they deem to be as sinful?’ That said, we’ve never had a conversation around religion and sexual orientation so I don’t really know how they feel. I’m making assumptions and this upsets me too.

I feel like my anxiety has shifted from worrying if people find out about my sexual orientation to wondering if they would still feel the same about m if they knew. What sucks more is that my therapist has gone on holiday for a couple of weeks. It’s interesting that I’ve turned to blogging though as my first port of call.

Any would-be therapists out there? Okay, joking aside, have you ever felt like this? Maybe not in terms of religion and sexuality but with something else? Wondering if people who are close to you would still love you if they knew the ‘real’ you? It’s not to say that displaying my sexuality with a tattoo on my forehead is the ‘real’ me but rather the whole me, if that makes sense?