Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Alt-Right's dangerous Pseudo-Rationalism


The following is a guest post by Jason Liggi: 

Those who identify as liberals and rationalists...have traditionally thought of far-right religionists as their primary enemy. Until 9/11, that mostly took the form of Christianity, and now it’s mainly Islamism and all it’s instantiations - particularly the violent Salafi-Jihadist kinds.

More recently, since the infamous Ben Affleck / Real Time with Bill Maher incident, there’s been increasing concern about the so-called “regressive left”.

This grouping of apologists for religion, intellectually dishonest journalists, religious conservatives and overly sensitive college kids has become the focus of a large proportion of the time and effort of a considerable number of people in the atheist community. Their slurring of Muslim reformers and their allies, their apology for theocracy and their propensity to take offence at anything and everything has drawn significant ire.

Recently though, a more invidious enemy has appeared. A slick con-man that has schmoozed and bamboozled it’s way to gaining traction with a significant percentage of the atheist community.


While the general public sees the alt-right, thanks to the media’s coverage, as a collection of backwards, stupid, racist, Trump-supporting hicks who like trolling people and posting cartoon frogs, the truth is actually much worse: the important members of the alt-right, and the most dangerous subscribers to it’s ideology, are usually smart and well-educated people, well versed in philosophy, history and politics.
The alt-right purport to be the 'true rationalists'. The ones who will stand up for what’s true, in spite of 'political correctness', in spite of 'the social justice warriors trying to police our speech', in spite of 'the corrupt elites in Washington who want to defend the status quo'. 
To the untrained ear, they may even seem rational.

They appear to value evidence. They appear to care about truth and justice. But these appearances are a thin smokescreen, a co-opting of the nomenclature of rationalism to give a veneer of trustworthiness - allowing them to stand smugly above others and pretend they are unique in basing their positions on evidence, free of ideological dogma.

But dig even slightly and you’ll find that conspiratorial thinking is at the heart of their ideology.

Everything is a conspiracy.

Hold a conversation with these people and you’ll soon find yourself being offered explanations with little to no evidence. It might sound like they have evidence...just from their sheer confidence, but scratch the surface and you won’t find any.

Anti-trans, anti-diversity, extremely nationalistic, nostalgic for the 'good old days', progress to them is anathema. We already reached the peak of civilisation, and now we’re just in decline. It’s all just corrupt elites and politically correct “cucks” trying to lead us blindly off a cliff (or into WW3 with Russia). Feminism is done, gay rights is over and done with, racism is a thing of the past. Anyone concerned about these issues is a “cuck”.


***
Plenty on the left are dangerous too, no doubt, but they don’t claim to ground their thinking in enlightenment values. They don’t claim to be the rational, measured ones. They care about offence and hurt feelings, they care about creating “safe spaces” and valuing “lived experience” and they openly admit this. 

Of course, “lived experience” is not an empty concept, although it is one that is sometimes misused by the left. Ex-Muslim perspectives are valued partially because of their lived experience, as are people who face racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. The misuse comes in when it becomes a tool to silence dissent and criticism of a particular view or ideology: ie. hijabis claiming their lived experience of choosing to wear a hijab invalidates critics of forced hijab.


I honestly see the alt-right as some sort of horrifying, mutant offspring of the rationalist liberalism movement. It's taken all of the things that rationalists ostensibly stand for like freedom of speech, the value of evidence, honest discourse, a disdain for overblown political correctness, and basically plopped that all on top of a pre-built ideology. 

So they call everyone irrational, and act like they are the true rational ones, but when you look closely there's just...nothing. There's just bluster and bombast, and people saying "actually this is the case", "the evidence says this”, “this has been debunked” with absolutely nothing to back it up, save for questionable sources and hastily Googled articles that appear to agree (usually only on first glance) with what they believe.

***
Some examples of questionable “evidence-based claims” from Milo Yiannopoulos, poster boy of the alt-right:

Milo on JRE #702: “They all end up killing themselves anyway, by most metrics there’s no improvement in suicide rates.”

Milo on Rubin Report: “There’s no hatefulness, and racism and sexism and homophobia left in this country really.” 



Milo on Rubin Report: “No reputable economist takes the wage gap seriously” 

(A quick Google shows this isn’t true, but here’s economist Alan Manning from the London School of Economics talking about it: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/CP200.pdf)

***
The alt-right is the John Carpenter’s ”The Thing" of ideas. Currently, it's wearing the skin of rationalism but if you pay a little attention it just bursts out in blood and guts and spews shit everywhere.


If you value evidence, please, actually look for it. If you value rational discourse, don’t let it be silenced with cries of “SJW” and “cuck”. If you value compassion, try your best to understand the arguments of those that you oppose (and yes, that includes those on the alt-right). And don’t think someone convincing because they speak with confidence and charisma, namedrop philosophers and fabricate statistics.

-----------------------------


Thanks to Jason Liggi for this excellent guest post! 

Thanks to my wonderful Patrons 
for their generosity and kindness. Hunter, Rollin, Jason, Ellie, Charlie, Aaron, Chris, Brent, San, Lucas, Andy, Heena, Rayoz, Ellie, Larissa, Zeeshan, Martin, Robert, Pierre, Melvyn, Fred, Charlie, Zachary, Peter, Sean, Ruthless, Kristine, Joel, Danielle, Charles, David, Kyle, Yasmien, Steve, Alberto, Chris, Chris, Anthony, Hector, Tobias, Matthew, Avraham, Jesus and Mo, I love dogs, Steven, Allan, Dave, iamcuriousblue, Stephen, Eyal, John, Matthew, Devin, Nourhan, Jakob, Dude, Richard, George, Joel, Derek, Ben, Cory, Pier, Pastafarian woman, Dan, Dugald, Matt, Ravindranath, Thomas, Alisa, Jason, Tero, Leila

- Eiynah xx
---------------

Please consider supporting my work here
Help me amplify more voices and tell more stories. With your help I can do much more. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Sisterhood: Support the plight of Women who aren't given a choice regarding Hijab

The following is a guest post by Yasmine:


Yasmine (@ConfessionsExMu) is an Arab-Canadian university educator who has recently written a memoir entitled ‘Some of my Best Friends are Jewish, and other confessions of an ExMuslim’. In it she describes how, even though she was born and raised in North America, she endured the same traumas that are familiar to Muslims across the planet. As a child, she was beaten for not memorizing the Quran. As a teenager, she was forced into a marriage to a member of Al Qaeda (after he was bailed out of prison by Osama bin Laden himself). And as an adult, she wore a niqab, and lived in a home/prison with paper covering all the windows. Yet, somehow, with nothing but a high school diploma and a baby in tow, she got out. Despite the dark themes, Yasmine’s message is one of hope to her fellow ExMuslims. Find Yasmine on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr.

Earlier this year Yasmine was also a guest on the Polite Conversations Podcast. You can listen to our chat here: 



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At a conference for Women in Secularism recently, I was honoured and privileged to spend three days with some kick ass feminists from around the world.  Maryam NamazieBonya Ahmed, and Sarah Haider were there (amongst many others) to represent those of us with Muslim backgrounds. 
A commonly repeated frustration during the panel discussions and questions, most notably by an anonymous Saudi male, was this notion that we need Western feminists to reach out and support our sisters in MENA (Middle East North Africa).
Maryam Namazie outlined the absolutely heart-wrenching situation for women in Iran—a situation that gets zero traction from the same media outlets that flooded our news feeds with condemnation of the Burkini Ban.  Why are we so outraged when women are told what to wear in France, but we ignore the same situation in Saudi, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc? Why are the women in France more valuable than the women in MENA? Where is the outrage? Where are our allies?
Source: Getty Images
We will fight for your freedom to wear what you want…but not if you’re in the Muslim world

As if the universe had heard our pleas, a few days later we met Nazi Paikidze. She is the US Chess Grandmaster who refused to wear the hijab when competing in Iran. A Western feminist was finally standing up for the forgotten and ignored women in the Muslim world. She exhibited, what Asra Nomani calls, ‘moral courage’, pushing back in the face of an oppressive system and saying NO. She certainly didn’t need to. She could have easily thrown on a scarf, whatever… she could just throw it off a few days later.  But she chose to support the plight of women who cannot just throw it off. 
And what did she get for it? Condemnation. She was smeared as an anti-Muslim bigot, told to mind her own business, told to respect other people’s culture…the ludicrous onslaught of criticism continued.

Even prominent feminists in the Muslim world, like Mona Eltahawy, would prefer that non-Muslim women ‘shut up’ about the issue.


Really? 

Did white people in America shut up about Civil Rights? How about the ending of apartheid in South Africa? Did that happen because non-Black, non-South Africans decided to ‘shut up’? How about feminism in the West? Was that achieved because the men all agreed to shut up? 

Asking your allies, who are in a position to help support your cause, to 'shut up' has to be the most nonsensical, counterproductive assertion ever.

 

Not all of us are this divisive though, many women see us all as sisters, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Western feminist allies, please, do not be bullied into 'shutting up' because of a few narrow-minded comments. Identity Politics will only divide us, and divided we fall. 

Let us all unite: men, women, western, eastern, I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care what your skin colour is or what your ethnicity is. If we agree on the same humanist values of equality, fairness, justice, respect, and rights for *all* women across the planet, then take my hand. Join me and the millions like me who are thankful for your support. 

In the triage of Women’s issues: being assaulted, fined, and imprisoned for not adhering to a dress code mandated by your government is paramount. Tweet your support of #MyStealthyFreedom, #NoHijabDay, and #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen. 

As Maryam Namazie said in the conference: Women’s Rights are universal.

If you do not agree with that statement, that’s your prerogative. Don’t support us. But, please just get out of our way. Do not hinder our progress by silencing us or by bullying our allies into retreating from supporting us.



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Thanks to my wonderful Patrons for their generosity and kindness. Hunter, Rollin, Jason, Ellie, Charlie, Aaron, Chris, Brent, San, Lucas, Andy, Heena, Rayoz, Ellie, Larissa, Zeeshan, Martin, Robert, Pierre, Melvyn, Fred, Charlie, Zachary, Peter, Sean, Ruthless, Kristine, Joel, Danielle, Charles, David, Kyle, Yasmien, Steve, Alberto, Chris, Chris, Anthony, Hector, Tobias, Matthew, Avraham, Jesus and Mo, I love dogs, Steven, Allan, Dave, iamcuriousblue, Stephen, Eyal, John, Matthew, Devin, Nourhan, Jakob, Dude, Richard, George, Joel, Derek, Ben, Cory, Pier, Pastafarian woman, Dan, Dugald, Matt, Ravindranath, Thomas, Alisa, Jason 

- Eiynah xx
---------------
Please consider supporting my work here
Help me amplify more voices and tell more stories. With your help I can do much more. 


Friday, August 19, 2016

Sharia Booze Collection


"Why do you have to bring religion into everything, Eiynah?" is something I often hear in reference to my blog.

The answer is simple. I started writing about *sexuality* in Pakistan and soon discovered that it was impossible to speak about the limitations and sex-related oppression without pointing to the ways in which religion is used to stifle sexuality and oppress women. Yes, this is a blog about sexuality - but it has to encompass so much more to speak of a bigger picture.

So....this post will be about booze and religion. Our lovely booze-less, humourless religion to be specific.

****

I've been working on this for a long time now, since around christmas. I started it before the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, but I must admit... I slowed down right around then...contemplating whether I should go forward with it or not. I decided to go ahead, because I thought it was time to start injecting more humour into our culture. I thought I should do my part at least.

What inspired me to do this post was the number of religious-themed craft beers I've been seeing around. Usually christian, but I long for references to my culture...to laugh at the familiarity and the cheekiness of it. It doesn't exist, because people are afraid to joke about one faith in particular. I mean no offence by this post to anyone, so unbunch your undies or stop reading...I long for the day where we too can demonstrate that we can take a joke.

Here are some examples of other religiously themed beer (there's an entire article about it here), and while it may cause offence to some, they can simply choose not to support the product. No need for fatwas, for beheadings, lashings or shootings:





In these divided times, what could bring people together better than booze, eh? 

I present to you my Shariah Booze collection..complete with complete with accessories, beer flights and our very own pub. Enjoy!

(please note: I am not a beer writer by profession, so please forgive any technical inaccuracies in the beer styles/descriptions)


Blank beer bottle image from 10and5.com
Beer labels designed by Eiynah
Haraam Lite

A light premium lager - This IPA has lower calories AND lower sin-levels too! For those who aren’t a fan of strong flavours or aromas...as well as those who are too timid to sin boldly... this is your stepping stone. 

Start slow with Haraam Lite and work your way up to beverages that’ll make your face feel warm, as if you are experiencing the fires of jahannum (hell) firsthand!


Blasphemer’s Brew

This French Saison, is spicy, bold and strong. Bound to light a fire inside your heart and make you want to push boundaries. Not for the faint of heart of course. It is not the nectar of gods, but the nectar of those who mock gods!  Some advice for those who find the strong taste ‘offensive’ - just don’t drink it! Yes, it IS that easy. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. 

For others who wish to honour our fallen soldiers, questioners and thinkers - this is for you...raise a glass of Blasphemer’s Brew today!




Blonde in a Burqa

Inside the dark veil of this bottle, is a rich crisp Belgian blonde ale. The brewing process has in no way oppressed the character of this beer, It has chosen this vessel for itself. It was a miracle, the beer flowed towards the darker tinted bottles for modesty reasons. Brewed in a strictly halal (permissible) way, it is ok to put your lips to this blonde. Characterized by its restrained fruity flavour and upfront sweetness like any good Belgian ale, Blonde in a Burqa has a creamy overall mouthfeel and will finish dry. Halal on the outside, fun on the inside.






Midnight Minaret

This luxurious, velvety dark chocolate porter is the stuff of dreams. Its elegance is entwined with a strong chocolatey aroma - it will take you back to the feeling of sinking your teeth into a chocolate bar ...or gazing upon a the tall silhouette of a beautiful minaret against a midnight sky. You will be unable to resist the temptation, we guarantee total submission to its silkiness at first sip. 





Ramadan HOP-ocrisy

A mixture of both hoppy and malty or sinful and pious, this bittersweet brew is a seasonal blend. Brewed during that special time of year where hypocrisy comes out to play! This Ramadan special has a subtle date flavour as a nod to the holy month. Lets not forget, this is the time where people pull out the big guns, everyone is religious all of a sudden...*Magic*

It’s a beautiful sight, false piety. If you’re dusting off your headscarf for that special time of year, this beverage is for you! Are you a booze-guzzler all year round, but act like alcohol is a big sin during the holy month?  What better way to make an honest statement while breaking your fast, than with a bottle of Ramadan HOP-ocrisy … 





My Four Wives

Variety is the spice of life. Sometimes a beer needs more than one flavour like a man needs more than one wife - to keep things fresh. We were granted divine permission to infuse four different flavours into this special brew. Our combination creates plural marriage perfection. In one taste you will experience hints of peach, apple, melon and lime. Why would you want taste-bud monogamy when you can experience so much more simultaneously?

72 Brew

A taste of heaven on earth. Believe it or not, we hire 72 virgins for the brewing process of this beer. Their dainty fair-skinned hands are responsible for the entirety of this creation. The result is a full-bodied, voluptuous honey beer with ethereal, unearthly qualities. A drink of this is oft described as ’sitting on a cloud'. Close your eyes and listen, some say you can even hear our virgins giggle as they bathe naked in tubs of honey beer. 


Arabian Flight

Can’t make up your mind about which of our lovely craft beers you’d like to try? We don’t blame you. Luckily we offer a special 'Arabian Flight’ - so your tastebuds can traverse our entire selection. Who doesn’t love a good beer flight? 




Beer Beheader

For those pesky moments when your beer pour is less than perfect. No one likes too much head on their pint. We now offer a simple, shariah-compliant solution to your problems. Why... chop the head off of course!…The Beer Beheader makes this tedious task simpler, with one swift strike, you can have the perfect headless beer. Slice that foam off!  Order today at 1-800-BHEADBEER



Blank Tequila bottle image from www.esquire.com
Label designed by Eiynah
Shakila’s Takila

Shakila got bored of the poor selection of local Pakistani spirits and decided to get creative. She got down to business with some green chills for extra spice. BAM - Shakila’s Takila was born... in the basement of her father’s achaar (pickle) shop. This aged, desi take on Takila (Tequila) is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. This stuff is the SHIT....the S-H-I-T ... a bit rough around the edges, but sit back and relax…let Shakila seduce you. 



Djinn & Tonic

The perfect spirit, or ‘Djinn' as we like to call it in the Muslim world, to go with your lime and tonic. Flavourful, light-bodied and clean. Certified halal, any intoxication might be a result of the supernatural - definitely not the result of alcohol. 



background picture taken from Pig & Whistle pub

Kafir’s Keg

Imagine if there was a (real) "safe space", a sacred spot where blasphemers could convene, without being threatened for their life. Where jokes and cartoons wouldn’t result in death, where words, whether spoken or written, wouldn’t result in lashings. A place where it was ok to have a sense of humour, where Muslims treated others with compassion and tolerance…a place where archaic law based on unprovable ancient texts was not considered valid….a place where rationality and reason prevailed, where debate was encouraged…Just one spot... in one corner of the earth, where the non-religious received the same respect as the religious…. this place would serve all my Shariah booze of course, without fear - this place would be known as the Kafir’s Keg. There would be no bans on pig imagery, there would be no taboos associated with ex-muslims. We could exist freely and in the open... imagine that. 

The Kafir’s Keg is a dream of mine, a place where every infidel knows your name.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reclaiming the Left : The Space Between Terror & Trump

Dear Readers, 

some of you have asked for a transcript to my speech at the Non Conference this past weekend. So here it is. Thank you to those who came out (even though I was only there via skype) , and thank you to those who listened via Soundcloud. It is your support that motivates me to keep speaking up, in the face of so much hatred from all sides. 


Much Love,
Eiynah


(here is a link to the audio. The sound is a bit rough during the first minute, my apologies...but then the event 'noise' is no more after that) 

****

Hello doubters, skeptics, heathens, reformers and apostates. Thank you for coming out today, its an honour to be speaking to you.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an ex-Muslim…a Pakistani-Canadian blogger illustrator and children’s book author…

My name is Eiynah, well its not my real name…and there’s a reason for that

…and also a reason for why you don’t see me standing up there in front of you today. I would’ve loved to have been there, lots of people I wanted to meet. And this is one of the *many* opportunities I’ve had to miss out on, because of safety concerns….

Unfortunately, in a world where leaving Islam is met with almost no allyship , where instead it goes without saying, that it will be met with death threats…and rape threats too... if you’re a woman...

In a world where being tainted with the word "islamophobe" can have serious effects on your career, social life… unfortunately....a world like that just doesn’t make me feel safe enough to publicly come out of the ‘apostate closet’ as it were. 

Perhaps someday my circumstances will be different, but for now…you’ll have to hear me from behind a screen….it was either that, or I show up in a burqa… I opted for the non burqa option. 

So screen it is... 

----

Something that really colours my views on religion is having grown up in an Islamic theocracy… Saudi Arabia. 

I grew up there as a Pakistani expat, and lived in a compound for foreigners, a reverse amish compound if u will…where within the safety of the compound walls, there was some sense of normalcy… no morality police, no need to dress modestly...

Life was great as a kid in the artificial bubble of a western compound …till you had to leave for some reason, to get groceries, or go to the mall, etc. That was when we’d encounter the "muttawas", who were tasked with enforcing shariah and policing morality…literally - all part of our friendly neighbourhood Committee for The Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice

Orwellian... 

...I know

They walked around hitting women’s ankles with a cane if their headscarves slipped….there was always a lingering fear when you entered the public sphere as a woman….anything could happen. It did to my mom when I was little - I witnessed a muttawa whip his cane at her ankle as she passed by. I was terrified. We scurried past him as quickly as we could, and my mom fixed her headscarf… but the fear and disgust at enforced religious modesty never quite left me. 

Imagine my surprise as an immigrant, moving to a secular country from an Islamic theocracy, relieved to be leaving extreme religiosity behind… Imagine my surprise in Canada...when face veils are trotted out as some sort of symbol of liberal tolerance - the women who choose to veil, and who fight for the right to veil are our trump equivalents ... they are our extreme bigots (I’m not referring to the women who have no choice of course)….

***

In a bizarre twist of fate -here in the west- conservative muslims are tight with the liberals. The term 'strange bedfellows' doesn’t even begin to cover it. 

When western liberals betray liberals from muslim backgrounds...those of us who fight to break free from the orthodox interpretations of our birth religion are left abandoned. 

Our every effort is thwarted by those in the west who share our values but fail to be allies… who fail to stand with us, support us in our extremely difficult task of walking against the tide of our strict community. There are those who will cheer and laugh when Christianity is being mocked on late night TV, but will try to silence those of us with muslim background who only want the same privilege…of poking fun at the absurdities, intolerance and inconsistencies we have grown up with. 

In this time of trump and terrorism, I ...as a liberal ex-muslim find myself walking a narrow tightrope... every day… because the conversation is constantly being volleyed between two shrieky extremes… the 'ban all muslims' crew, and the 'everything is Islamophobia' crew. Both of which are problematic, feed off one another, and not at all accurate in their assessments of the issues we face today, nor in how they think we should deal with such issues. 

One of the biggest problems, nowadays,  is Islamic extremism and radicalization. 
A close second is the reactionary anti-muslim sentiment which solves nothing…
Another is the denial of any problems within Islam…

It is the spaces *between* these concerns, these inaccuracies we must occupy and grow… we need to foster and cultivate a liberal critique of Islam which deals with the problems we’re facing as a global community, in unison...not in divided tribalism or bigotry. 

Being an *ex* muslim in this time is interesting, It’s a time where people are scrambling to defend Islamists or Trumpists, where people are looking for an easy solution.

It puts us apostates in a unique position, where the mainstream left don’t want to have anything to do with us, lest they be labeled Islamophobes…and parts of the right are constantly trying to co opt our words, our struggle to make xenophobic, anti-muslim points.

Its a hard position to be in…because either you go it basically alone, or you accept unwanted support. 

***

I have a problem with the word Islamophobia, because it conflates people and ideology, which is something i spend majority of my time highlighting the difference between. Terms like Islamophobia make it easy for muslim conservatives to accuse critics of bigotry. 

As an apostate, my death is commanded in many interpretations of the religion, simply for turning my back on the faith….why would I not be terrified of such an ideology? 

At the same time, some of the people I love most in the world are muslims, my parents who raised me, who were great secular role models….who didn’t force religion on us….*this* is the difference between Islam and Muslims. 

I love and treasure many muslims…it is islam i don’t love. 

I am a critic of the religion, but also of anti muslim bigotry… this is a statement that many people find confusing,  contradictory even… because the separation of ideas and people is not as clear yet, as it needs to be. 



Apologists cannot make this distinction…for them any criticism of the faith is a direct attack on them… and also anti muslim bigots are unable to separate people from ideas….for them each and every muslim embodies, lives by and endorses every single verse in scripture. For them, much like apologists... Muslims *are* Islam…

This is simply untrue... easily disproved by the many different ways and degrees to which people practice. 

..And this...is the difference I work so hard to make clearer. 

We won’t get anywhere in this discussion if we can’t unwed people from ideas. It is of utmost importance to demonstrate that our critique comes from a genuine place…and not one of malice...

It is the left I and others like me hope to reclaim, we must once again stand up for liberal ideas and humanity in this battle of extremes…we must be careful not to glorify purity culture, slut shaming, religious orthodoxy, when it comes to minorities….we’re in this together…pushing back against Trump by denying problems in Islam just isn’t helping, we need to face the problems head on. 

I once wrote an anti homophobia children’s book set in Pakistan, the first of its kind... My Chacha is Gay, (which means my uncle is gay) - and for this innocent book about love, I was deemed "worthy of death", an "enemy of god"…people even wished death and venereal diseases on my fictional character Chacha…



But despite that...

It was wonderfully embraced by schools in the Toronto area - at first… till religious (mostly muslim) parents complained, and even threatened to sue the school board. Islamic websites wrote panicked articles about it. They claimed the book was a misrepresentation of their culture… that it was insensitive…  instead of continuing to use this resource to reach a demographic that clearly, evidently needed it, schools quickly backed off from using it in any official capacity again. 

And even though the updated Ontario Sex Ed curriculum includes teaching children about LGBT families, and homophobic bullying….this was not a resource they could touch. Perhaps because its author is a known Islamophobe…*gasp*  

...and in that struggle it is the LGBT muslim and Pakistani children that suffer the most, that are abandoned, that are pushed back into the closet because their parents deem it unnatural and unholy… these kids should not see normalization or support in school because that, is insensitive apparently. Insensitive to the archaic, misogynistic, homophobic over-a-thousand year old value system we seem inclined to want to defend over minorities within minorities….

Girls forced into hijabs by their families, will not see support from liberal western society, from liberal western feminists…. they will not see the dismantling of such backwards ideas… because people use their tolerance of intolerance as a yardstick for how progressive and 'anti Trump' they are. 

We must fight this silence, we must pry open that space between the two ends…we must reclaim the left or leave it open for the bigots & denialists to hijack the conversation. 

Don’t be silent on this, don’t make trump a hero…don’t make conservative islam, illiberal at its core, a symbol for liberalism in the west. 

And when you speak up, remember just who you're standing in solidarity with:

  • The girl who wrote to me, terrified during the month of Ramadan, that someone would find out about her disbelief, because she secretly ate a snack in the bathroom…exhausted from pretending to fast…from starving herself against her will….exhausted from keeping up a religious facade.. because the alternative was too risky. 
  • The woman who never refused her husband sex, because she believed it was her religious duty to satisfy him any time he asked…even if it was right after childbirth and she was held together with stitches…
  • The man who emailed me terrified of coming out as a non believer to his devout wife
  • The many young impressionable LGBT kids who are turned away by their communities, shunned by their religion, because only hetero married relationships are halal..
  • The countless others trapped in their faith-shaped cages


Each time you refuse to be silent, its all these shackles you help take apart…

****


Thank you to my wonderful Patrons, it is because of your support I am able to grow and keep myself motivated to speak out in the face of so much hate, from all sides.  Much love xx

****

If you'd like to support my work you can do so via Patreon, here


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tinder dates & finding a place to shag in Pakistan

I recently heard from a student who returned home to Pakistan (from the US) to find out that, hey... you can use Tinder to find a date in Karachi... but... what happens when you do find one..and you have no place to fuck? #PakistaniProblems 

****

I got to Karachi last week and out of I curiosity I decided to check out Tinder.  There weren't a lot of women on there but I got a match and a date eventually.  

So it does work over here.  

Now for the complicated bit: 

I'm here visiting family so I don't have a place of my own.  She lives with her parents so her place is out of the equation also.  There are no cheap motels you can go to.  She wants to shag and I wanna shag but we don't have a place.  

It's extremely frustrating.  

Frustrating to the point where I wanna just cut my trip short and go back home.  

That's not the only complication though.  I could probably shell out the money needed to get a room in one of the nicer hotels.  However, her folks don't exactly know about her 'extra curricular activities'. We looked at her schedule and it doesn't seem like she has any days where she'd be off work and have a convincing alibi.  At least, not until I've already left. 

The good thing about it is that she's an agnostic also.  I had never known an agnostic when I lived here in Karachi.  It was refreshing talking to her about her journey towards godlessness and telling her about mine.  

I hear you, meeting someone even remotely questioning religion in Pakistan is truly a breath of fresh air... there's so much more value to it because almost everyone you meet is spouting religious nonsense...I was lucky to have a few godless friends during my brief stay in Pakistan, mostly it felt like i was drowning in religion, till i got to hang out with them on the weekends, where we could all feel a bond over the absurdities that surrounded us on a daily basis. Those were the times I came up for air...took a deep breath and held it in till the next time we met. 


It was so easy connecting with her with our shared culture and life experiences.  However, we didn't agree on everything.  She's a lot more progressive when it comes to her sexuality than I am with mine.  I asked about her relationship goals for the future and what she though about monogamy.  Let's just say her perspective was a lot more realistic than mine.  I believe I'd be okay staying with one woman (the right one of course) for the rest of my life.  Would the woman be okay with it though?  She was okay with the idea of there being affairs in her marriage on both sides or even opening up the relationship.  It was interesting to hear that from someone first hand. 

I'm glad you guys were open to discussing these things....no two people will think exactly alike, but having these conversations is so important. Usually our culture/tradition dictates how things will be, end of story. Questioning, moulding it into your own, is what will move us forward. And for some that will look like traditional monogamous relationships....there's nothing wrong with that either... but at least some thought was put into arriving at that conclusion. 

And I somehow confessed to having hooked up with guys and she was pretty cool about it.  That was refreshing as well.  

That's great. I'm glad she was cool about it.

The ironic part is that I've never been with a woman before.  If this goes through, she'd be the first woman I ever slept with.  Why have I never been with a woman before?  Am I gay?  You'd assume with me having been with several guys.  I don't think so though.  

Sorry for Sexualitysplaining here (but u did ask): Sexuality is complex, it's often not as black and white as the world makes it out to be. You could be bi with more of an attraction to women, or you could simply be more comfortable around men than around women because of being raised in a culture that provides little opportunity for intermingling with the opposite sex. I've spoken to several Pakistani men who claim not to enjoy sex with men as much, but just do it because it's easier or because that's whats available. I hate to make this comparison, but its kind of like in prison people will have sex with who's available, its situational, not necessarily related to orientation. But on the other hand i've also spoken to some Pakistani men who are uncomfortable admitting they are attracted to men, and will more easily admit to sleeping with them for convenience. Which it is, only you can know...

After moving to the US I lived with a parent who places a lot of restrictions on what I could and couldn't do.  He basically planned my life for me almost on a daily basis.  Why didn't this grown ass man move out?  I'm somewhat of a schemer.  I like to think long term and staying with him made sense long term.  I did not consider the emotional cost of the arrangement though.  My social life suffered to the point where I have made just one or two friends in my 4 years in the States.  Stayed in the same city all those years.  I didn't date, out of the question.  It was work, home, laundry, grocery store, repeat.  I didn't have a car and public transportation sucks where I live.

That sounds truly awful :( If you can move out, I'd recommend moving out...because enough of this.. you need to get out there and live life! I'm sorry it had to be like this.. but its quite common with more conservative desi parents.


Finding guys willing to provide sexual favours was so easy that I decided to give it a go for the sake of some human contact.  That journey is a story for another time. 

Yeah, I thought as much. As for finding a place to shag, well...there are no safe, cheap, clean motels in Pakistan that I know of... you would be best shelling out a few extra Rupees for a room in one of the big hotels. Depends on how much you want this to happen. Be safe and discrete (cuz ppl can get into serious trouble for trying to have sex outside of wedlock in Pakistan), also...use condoms. 

But yes her finding a way to be out of work and away from home long enough for this to happen may prove difficult, as we all know how closely unmarried girls are monitored by their families.

I can't help you there, I'm afraid.. but if there are any Pakistanis reading this who have gone through a similar situation, if you have any tips please do leave them below in the comments.

I used to have a larger Pakistani audience once, but since I became more open about my distaste for religion and it's effects on sexuality.... they've mostly stopped being interested in what I have to say. I have a larger international audience now, but I don't think many people would be able to provide helpful tips on specific situations in Pakistan. Still putting this out there. 

Hope you sort it out, good luck! 

-E

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Broke my fast Today. Secretly in the Bathroom...

Salaam,

I broke my fast today. Secretly in the bathroom by eating candy. I don't even know why I am fasting when I am faking my prayers and don't even really  believe in Islam anymore. I am at the phase where I am questioning Islam watching videos of ex muslims and discovered  a side of islam that is not taught to us and found cherry picked about 'religion of peace' and mercy to mankind but I feel free when I am not caging my own mind.

I thought shaitaan was leading me astray by making me doubt Muhammad 's character etc.. so I tried to resist and it was/is taking a toll on my mental health. I am reading the quran randomly and in one line Allah is cursing a non believer and the next say he is the most merciful — and this is just random, not an active search for contradiction. 

My mind and "heart" still rebel when I dislike or question something. I tell myself a scholar can explain this... and people who criticise  islam (idea) are bigots etc  (more like, people make u feel that u are evil for not seeing  the "beauty & eloquence" of the quran and tell you that doubts are from satan). 

I was reading ur article on menstruation /quran and my mind knew it didn’t make sense but I couldn't  accept the whole of it and my mind was like "there is probably a good explanation and allah is wise and menstruation is dirty" because we have been indoctrinated  since birth (I am a Pashtun Pakistani American by the way ) and I realize how toxic this way of thinking is. I think of myself, ME as dirty and I just am tired of defending statements  like "Islam empowers women"  and much more like wife beating (*sorry light beating* sarcasm). 

My question is how do you start unlearning how to see the world without the lens of islam? I know this email was long but I want someone  to talk to and everyone around me is a Muslim who supports 'death for apostasy' (but in a true Islamic  state of course they are make sure to point out and I am just sitting  there like "what?") And if they found I am no longer a "true beliver" idk what will happen so I want to give you sincere thnx for having this and the comfort of knowing that they are a people who left and I can someday too *Inshallah (*wrote it out of habit so I decided to keep it) 


So a sincere Thank You from a closeted questioning muslimah  

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Dear Questioning Muslimah,

My heart goes out to you. What a struggle you must be facing this Ramadan. Its an especially hard time of year for questioning or ex-muslims. Please know that you are not alone. There are many others in your position, only now investigating things that have been deeply ingrained since childhood. It's not easy, but it is possible - and you're definitely on track for it to happen. The first thing to do is ask questions, look for answers... and don't settle for unsatisfactory ones.

I am honoured that one of my blogposts could help that questioning process along, even a little. Yes, its hard and your instinct will be to shut down critical thinking, because you've been told it's wrong and the work of 'shaitaan' since the beginning. Power through that feeling, keep looking for answers, and watch all that unlearning come naturally. It's a gradual process, but the more you read up, and scrutinize - the more layers you'll shed, the more free you'll feel.

Read, watch and listen to alternative perspectives. I'm glad you're looking into ex-muslim views. Because they have been where you are now. With the internet, we have so much information available to us, it's harder for people to teach us cherry picked versions of Islam. Just be careful, if your family is the type that would look up your search history.

I don't quite know how liberal or illiberal your family is, on the wide spectrum of what being 'muslim' means, but if they support death for apostasy that is worrying. I'd make sure to keep my views to myself at least till it's time to move away, for work, uni - something?

Be patient with yourself, don't worry if you still feel like saying a dua before eating or sleeping...small steps. Just let it unfold organically...don't pressure yourself...the occasional inshallah, alhamdulillah will come out..no big deal. I still say those words...more facetiously now than anything... but i do enjoy retaining parts of the culture that I grew up with. I love arabic calligraphy (even religious)  - i think it's breathtakingly beautiful... I don't fast but occasionally i'll enjoy iftar with my family, I celebrate Eid...so one can retain parts of their old identity and even reconcile them with being an ex or questioning muslim. Some traditions, sights, sounds, words.... are lovely to hold on to if you take the religious conviction out from behind them. Then they are just remnants of our past, that hold no power over us....they are part of our story.

Good luck to you!


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