Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Highlights, reflections...


This year has been incredible for me in so many ways. My Chacha is Gay has been an intense journey. I've learned a lot from it and hope to keep learning. From being read in schools, to being bashed on radio by angry parents who think children should not be taught about *all* kinds of diversity...it's been a roller-coaster.... the good and the bad have taught me something.



A wonderful Toronto elementary school teacher asked his class to write me letters!
Definitely one of the highlights of my year. 'Twas an envelope full of magic.
Thank you Mr. Nore! 



Then there was the letter to Ben Affleck, which was read by more people than I could have ever hoped for (over a million...seriously :O ). It also taught me a lot, I was cyber-attacked by hateful comments from both conservative and moderate muslims. It was important and eye opening to see that so many progressive, pro-LGBT muslims were not open to even gentle and polite critique. I was accused of assisting genocide, of being a racist...things I'd never expected to hear, being a person of colour myself...

(for the record though, there were a few muslims that did express their support and solidarity..It was so wonderful to see that too)

It was also a very interesting experience to speak with Tommy Robinson (the often misrepresented ex-leader and founder of the EDL) as well as the excellent blogger, podcaster, Godless Spellchecker on his super, super podcast. I was hesitant to share my voice with the world for safety reasons, but I'm glad I did! And thrilled that the GSpodcast hosted this discussion. For this again, accusations were hurled, but some very wonderful positive feedback happened too. I don't agree with everything Tommy says, nor his generalizations/methods of communication. But I do think he brings up some very important points that most are unwilling to touch. It's really worth it to listen to his concerns with an open mind. I do not support the EDL in any way, and I think all forms of extremism are awful. I think Tommy's own departure from the EDL speaks volumes about his actual willingness to tackle the problem rather than just 'spread hatred' - as he is so often accused of doing...
---


was featured in an article called 'the good muslim' for Elle magazine this year
- heh (irony), wasn't aware that this was going to be the title. Did speak
about being an atheist ex-muslim, but that did not make it into the piece.


Apart from all the hate, death threats, rape threats I received this year - I have  also met some *incredible* people on the internet. Whether it was via the letter, the book or the podcast..so many have reached out and sent me some really touching words of support. So many have offered to take me out for a meal/drink if I'm ever in their part of the world...so many have offered their homes for me to stay in if i visit...and so many were responsible for crowdfunding the publishing of My Chacha is Gay. I could never have done this without your support. Thank you. Sincerely. It means the world to me. Maybe some day I won't have to be anonymous, and we can actually meet!

I experienced something extra wonderful a few days ago, when someone in a far away land received their copy of My Chacha is Gay, and contacted me to tell me they loved it...but they were concerned that the shipping cost was probably too low to cover shipping all the way to their country. They were right. It costs a few bucks extra for me outside North America, I told them not to worry about it. But this person went out of their way to send me money to fully cover their shipping, and some on top to cover a few other orders outside of North America. *fuzzy feelz*

(The website template only allows me to enter one standard shipping rate [yes, i'm not super tech savvy, and can't build websites from scratch], so in order to not overcharge my fellow North Americans when they order, I have to keep the rate in the middle somewhere)

Blew me away. The thoughtfulness...I was so so touched, and kind of teary eyed... that someone across the globe cared about my work this much.

Thank you.

---

Signing off for this year, hope you all have a wonderful, diversity-loving year ahead.
Be back next year, with more hopefully entertaining blogposts and doodles. Have a lot planned.

-E




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HPV, Genital Warts, and being an 'unmarried' patient in Pakistan...


Hey Eiynah

Love the blog. Really refreshing reading about the possibility of brown people doing ze sexualzz. 

Khair, I know you've repeatedly said that you're not a doctor and you don't know the answers to STD questions and what not but, God ,I'm desperate. Any information you can give me will be appreciated.

So I contracted HPV, I think around a year or so back. I can't be sure of when and from whom I got it because I've had multiple sexual partners (I'm monogamous now) and I only knew I had it a year back when I saw the visible signs. Yeap. Genital warts. I know please don't hate me for being graphic and gross. I tried going to the gynaecologist. The first time I went she told me to wait because it had just broken out. But I never went to the doctor again because the moment you answer the question "are you married?" with a "no", they start judging you. I didn't get any sound medical advice apart from "abstinence until marriage".The problem is now the warts have increased and idk what to do. Like if I'm not mistaken, the body is supposed to fight off the infection itself but idk how long that would take and I'm kind of freaking out. Any advice would help. 

Love
B


Usually, if you come to me with a medical health question, I will tell you that I’m NOT a doctor and not qualified to help. And that you should go find a doctor ASAP. But the reasons B cited for not being able to consult a doctor, really hit home with me. I have personally experienced Doc-Judgyness in Pakistan and know its awful. Simply asking if your prescribed medication is compatible with booze is a no-no, so I can't even begin to imagine what this feels like.

When you're unable to have honesty with your doctor...it makes you feel very small, and helpless...I have been refused advice on caring for something as minor as an infected piercing because the doctor disapproved of the piercing in the first place. Sigh.

It is sad that our country cannot provide unbiased medical care to patients without imposing religion-based, subjective standards of ‘morality’ on them. For women this is a serious problem, because they are judged far more harshly than men. And this can sometimes lead to grave consequences.
I have heard from and spoken to countless women that have been stuck in this situation, where they have a serious issue but are fearful of the consequences of going to a doctor.

This should never be the case.

It’s unreal, and the risks this poses to our population are alarming. The spread of disease, risky abortions (it is a little known fact [rarely shared by doctors, even] that abortions are safely provided by organizations like Marie Stopes in Pakistan - you can call their 24/7 hotline if you need help regarding reproductive health 0800 22333) - all because most doctors function under religion before science. As I mentioned in my last post, this is incredibly harmful, and must be called out.

I wish I wrote for/about a country that valued what I did, and provided me with some sort of backing so I could help more people. But sadly I write about a country that is constantly trying to oppose, censor and block my work. 

Anyhow, B’s email hit hard. It highlighted an issue that I would like to talk more about. 

I searched for a *real* doctor in Pakistan, to get in touch with and consult. 

Luckily I was able to find one who could spare some time for an e-consultation with her. They exchanged questions back and forth through me (in order to maintain both people’s anonymity - what we might not realize is that doctors put themselves and their careers at great risk too if they treat and give advice to unmarried people [women especially] regarding sexual health). Luckily B was able to get some very helpful, thorough advice. But the doctor asked that she remain anonymous too. 

The extent of need for anonymity is indicative of the web of utter bullshit we have created for ourselves in Pakistan. There I was, being anonymous myself, in a situation where I am able to connect a patient with a qualified doctor - but had to be the go-between to protect each party's anonymity. 

It's fucked up, I tell ya. 


Pakistan-based General Physician, Specialized in Public Health and Research:

Hey Eiynah!

Thanks for getting in touch with me about this. I need some more details from the patient to help properly - a good patient history based on what details doctors think are relevant is vital for a proper diagnosis and management via a medium like the internet where I cannot use my senses to directly assess her condition. So if you could email her for me with these questions? That would really help. 

*Specific questions and responses have been edited out for privacy reasons*


A word of caution: HPV is a virus and once a person is infected with it, it will remain in their system for their entire life, and there are ways to manage the growths and outbreaks and such, but she cannot get rid of the HPV infection from her body now and it can manifest in symptoms sometimes, but she can manage these in different ways. However, the most important thing about having HPV infections and break outs is that she will have to keep going to gynaecologists for regular Pap smears (cervical smears) as there is evidence to show that certain strains of HPV (can be a co-infection) can lead to the (slow) development of cervical cancer and although that is a slow disease process (meaning it can be prevented and cured at many stages and monitored) and unlikely given the type of HPV she seems to have, but she might need to find a gynaecologist she trusts and who is good and just lie to her about being married (a necessary step, unfortunately), so she can keep going back for Pap smears to check how the cells of her cervix are doing if she is having very frequent breakouts of genital warts. Another option if you don't want to lie, is to say no but still insist on a Pap smear, if the doctor is perceptive enough, they'll take the hint, but most will assume (as marriage is a proxy for sex, unfortunately), that you've never had sex if you aren't married. Silly, but that's how much in denial doctors can be in Pakistan.


Further, HPV can pass on to others as well - not simply through sexual contact, kissing, body fluids, but also through towels and linen and touch of the infected parts (like either infected genitals to mouth, or vice versa)and from mother to her newborn. So she ought to be careful about spreading it to others - which is why the doctors said to abstain till marriage (awfully unhelpful advice, but it isn't without reason) although they should explain that abstinence will not stop or have any bearing on her own breakouts and course of infection, that advice is more so she doesn't spread the infection around to others, although it is incomplete advice too, as it is only one route of spread. More practical advice would be that a condom is helpful in preventing spread if it is worn even to prevent genital skin to skin contact.

The good news is that lots of creams/ointments and such are available to apply to reduce breakouts and manage warts from spreading, and for those warts that recur, removal of warts is possible - so there are lots of options - which she can explore and try out to manage what she has.

hope this helps. Please let me know how it goes, I am a bit swamped with stuff but knew I had to take out time for this because I can sense she is really very upset, scared, lonely and has no answers as it seems no one has even explained anything about what she has to her properly :( Doctors are such idiots.

****

After a thorough exchange of questions and answers the Doctor had this to say:

****

Okay, so that seems like good news from her answers so far. Glad the worst case scenarios are out the window.


Therefore, based on what her doctors have said, it is possible that her age is below 30 years and that is possibly why the doctors have not been too worried about the HPV, also because they have all been generally typical warts - no pain or such - mainly just uncomfortable to have and look at, yes? That being said, the most dangerous HPV infections don't manifest in warts, so I can't stress how much getting regular Pap smears after the age of 21 is vital every 4 years or so (for all women!)

So that means that you haven't had any pain or inflammation or bleeding, which is a very big relief and means the HPV you have is very likely a safer type and so you probably don't have to worry about cervical cancer from this strain of HPV.

Either way, go back to your doctor, regardless of whether you say you are married or not, and ask them to perform a pap smear on you, regardless of your marital status (they don't like doing pap smears on unmarried women - silly perception of theirs), so you will have to tell them to please do it either way. They should do one on all women above 21 years, every 4 years or so (even without any HPV!)

Then ask them if they can please prescribe you either a gel/ointment or cream for your external warts - they will say yes if your warts are not too big and easily breakable type. If they pressurize you too much about cryotherapy, tell them you can't afford it (usually it is very expensive) and ask them what other options you have. Also, if they say no to one treatment, always ask the reason why. As a patient it is your right to know why and no concept is too complicated for a doctor to explain simply.

Update me on her answer,

Take care and rest easy, it is something you have but not as worrying as it looks.
I hope this helps,

All my best,
Doc

*****

Again this is no substitute for an actual check-up. If you have or suspect an STD please go and consult a doctor. Not consulting one could result in serious harm to your health and other's health too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pakistan's New Sex Talk-Show is Shitty & Dangerous.

There has been a lot of talk about a new 'call-in sex/health show' in Pakistan....liberal Pakistanis are quick to praise it as a step forward because it is willing to field questions about taboo subjects, like sex. Hold your horses.....think about it for a second.

This is the exact opposite of the step forward you are looking for. It is a vehicle to further perpetuate the misogynistic and religion based BS that our culture is rife with. It is in fact, a more effective way to spread religiously biased medical misinformation. And that thought frightens me. Things couldn't get much worse in Pakistan, regarding sexual misinformation.

In a country where I am sometimes feuding with doctors, yes real doctors, who take exception to me promoting vile vessels of immorality/promiscuity, such as contraception...where some women approach me with pride, telling me they are not like the 'sluts' who enjoy sex, they are good, moral, religious women...who don't feel arousal. A nation where major condom companies prescribe who is 'allowed' to use their condoms (*Married* heteros of course!)


From: http://www.greenstar.org.pk/Condoms.html

... where teenage boys are constantly told that masturbation will sap their body of energy and they will become weak and unable to perform daily tasks...This is not a place that is ready to dispense unbiased medical advice. Giving sexuality a platform in Pakistani mass media sounds like a great thing in theory. However, in reality it won't quite work out like that. We are still governed by religion, doctors will look to religion before science when they have to answer such questions... and *that* is where the problem lies. When religion is misogynistic, homophobic, allows things like polygamy to happen... how can any sex advice be given? The possibilities are alarming as fuck (no pun intended).

For example, what happens when someone calls in and asks if their daughter who has just hit puberty at 12 is ready for marriage? I cringe at what this 'doctor' would have to say... and it's not entirely his fault either... if he said or did anything that was perceived as contradictory to Islamic advice, he would be killed himself.

Lets look at an example quoted by the BBC article on this show:


/"I have developed that habit," says a reluctant female caller. "I think I am gaining weight because of it. How can I stop it?" she asks.
Dr Nadeem Siddiqui, the consultant who hosts the show, usually has to ask callers multiple follow-up questions to pin down the problem.
In this instance, Dr Siddiqui stares blankly at the camera for a while and then asks the caller to explain her question.
"I have developed that sex habit, you know, with a finger. I want to stop. Is there a medicine for it?" she asks in a hushed tone.
Now, most of the time Dr Siddiqui gives sensible suggestions to his callers. But every now and then, he goes off track.
After an uncomfortable pause, and a disapproving sigh, the good doctor has this advice for the female caller: "You should pray five times a day, refrain from watching inappropriate content on internet and read religious literature. You will be alright."/
******
THIS IS NOT SOUND MEDICAL ADVICE... not at all. Prescribing religious literature and prayer should honestly have a doctor stripped of his medical license.... Religious literature is not a medical solution to anything...and lets not ignore the demonization of a natural human process like masturbation. FFS. And weight gain does not occur from masturbation. (unless you have given up moving, because you're masturbating that much...)
It's no secret that Pakistani medical professionals are usually influenced by their religious and cultural beliefs, they are judgemental and not easy to approach when discussing something that could be perceived as 'immoral' culturally/religiously...
This is why I get countless emails in my inbox that I am not qualified to deal with. Because people rarely come across anyone they can speak to for objective medical advice about sex. I am not a doctor, I will repeat, so unfortunately I cannot help you when it comes to bumps and STDs - but if the other option is this religiously inclined sex & health talk show....then I don't think its much better, to be honest.  Try to seek out some actual, professional medical advice. Which is a tall order, I know... :/ 
Here's another quote from the article, that gets to the crux of the issue:
/After the show, I asked the doctor about his controversial advice.
"I can't be seen to be doing anything against Islam, or it would cause trouble," he said.
And therein lies the problem. While the show is giving people a rare chance to speak up about their repressed health issues, the quality of advice they may be getting remains questionable.
"Most doctors in Pakistan are not competent to tackle sexual health issues," says Dr Javed Usman, a family physician at the Dr Ziauddin Medical Hospital in Karachi.
"Our medical curriculum doesn't really address the subject. So invariably, what you end up with are doctors applying value judgements based on their own cultural and religious beliefs, not medical knowledge."/
*****
'Questionable' is an understatement - dangerous is more like it. 
I remember coming across a Muslim American website that discusses love and sexuality. "Great." I thought to myself... "Muslims definitely need a forum for this." 
Then I saw that an 'unmarried' girl who talked about experiencing arousal, and not knowing what to do with such feelings...was told to find a spouse immediately. They basically just stopped short of telling her to marry the next guy she came across. 
Again, this is the worst advice ever. 
I feel great despair...I am always working in the opposite direction to such things. And such things are given wider platforms than I could ever dream of. Because I am the enemy, naturally (employed by Israel to single handedly destroy the moral fibre of our great land).
It seems like a losing battle... please, please...be wary of praising such efforts. In fact do your part in calling them out. Spreading incorrect information about sexual health in Pakistan only serves to further oppress women and children...it gambles with the heath, and therefore lives, of many. 
Health TV's Faizan Syed: If you'd like to have a chat about how you can possibly improve your problematic sex/health talk-show, give me a shout: nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom - I'm no doctor, but I can do better than prescribe prayer for masturbation. 
And sorry, Dr. Nadeem Siddiqui and Ziauddin Hospital - it is NOT ok to spread false and problematic information about sexual health. I understand your predicament, people could probably burn your studio down for accurate medical advice. But then, isn't it better to just leave these questions off air? Rather than endorse this bizarre religious way of thinking...are you a man of science or are you selling snake oil?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"We have been silenced whenever we attempted to criticize..."

Something amazing showed up in my inbox last night, and I wanted to share this bit of very honest, and wonderful correspondence with you. There are some Muslims that want change, that want to push for change - Muslims that are willing to acknowledge the issues....

*Some* of my anti-theist friends hold the view that all religion should be abolished, in an ideal world perhaps we would have no divide such as religion.  But its not very realistic to hope for billions of people to miraculously de-convert in our lifetime.... When I see people like 'M', who wrote to me last night....my heart is filled with hope. Some might see it as naive, ah well. 

But when people come together, despite some fundamental differences, like religion (or lack of)...then wonderful things happen. This is what an actual willingness for conversation looks like. Can we please hear from more people like her? 

****

Dear Eiynah, 

I recently came across your blog, though I heard about your book on buzzfeed (which I loved) a while ago. But anyway I came across your blog and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for speaking about sex, sexuality, sexism, etc. in Pakistani/(Muslim?) culture. 

I am often told I don't have the right to speak or critique Pakistani culture since I am American-born and raised, but I still feel the sexual repression that comes with Pakistani culture as I grew up in a Pakistani household. 

Hear hear! I cannot tell you how much I relate to this. As someone who was raised outside of Pakistan, I too am often disregarded as an invalid voice... my experiences and interpretations of the things I see in our culture are not taken seriously. So I get you. But the culture carries across the ocean, we in North America are plagued with the same issues, but perhaps in a less obvious manner. The strict gender roles, the segregation, the misogyny and homophobia, the lack of freedom of religion... these things are with us. Our experiences of these aspects might be different in some ways, but they are definitely real. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Shutting you down because you are 'not Pakistani enough' is just another tactic to avoid hearing critique. I'm sure no one would tell you you are not Pakistani enough if you were praising aspects of the culture. 

I will not deny that I have the better end of it all. I have been taught to be empowered, strong, intelligent, and sexually aware. My mother being a doctor taught me about menstruation at a young age (and told me there was nothing shameful about it, simply science), and taught me about birth control (though that came mostly from my high school). Our home is loving and accepting as could be, but still in our "progressive" social circles I have always felt the repression that you so boldly speak of in your blog. 

This is precisely what I want to draw attention to. People often assume my atheism is some sort of 'reactionary response' ...they assume I must have had very strict parents and an awful childhood. The truth is, my parents are perfectly lovely, progressive, liberal people. And yet, I can't avoid seeing certain issues. The inequality, the lack of freedom..it's everywhere. I did not need to be severely oppressed by religion in order to see that it wasn't for me. 

I suppose in an attempt to preserve our culture, my mother taught us to be proud of Pakistan and the culture. But in the process we have been silenced whenever we attempted to criticize or discuss any negative aspect of Pakistan. Being a feminist I try to discuss the misogyny in the country, and my sister being an atheist tries to argue against Islam, But we are always silenced. If a progressive family like ourselves cannot discuss then what change will ever come? I don't know.

Exactly! Even my wonderfully supportive, open-minded parents refuse to listen to critique about the religion. They just politely ask that I refrain from it because it upsets them. But I have had a lot of questions, especially when I was younger...ones they couldn't answer, because even discussing the topic was too 'offensive'. If not in our 'progressive' homes... then where? 

Reading your blog made me realize how much I would like to discuss but how I am always silenced from doing so. The accusation against it? "Tum log bus gorey hojao" (why don't you kids just become white) or "It's always anti-Pakistan" or "America is not perfect either". 

I never understand the defensive finger-pointing...yes - no place is perfect, but our Muslim countries have serious issues with tolerance...issues that don't exist anywhere else in this century. To try to avoid acknowledging those by pointing things out in other places just seems juvenile and Reza-like dishonest. 

Since reading your blog I have picked up more and more on little moments within our modern, progressive muslim/Pakistani social circles that irk me. The sexism is rampant, there is so little talk about sex, we are at a young age segregated by sex, taught how to be "good muslim girls" etc. Before reading your blog I just laughed it off, but now I pick up on it, and it makes me... angry. Why do we feel we are above the criticism? Why are we so afraid to discuss topics like sex, sexuality, and equal rights even in progressive circles? 

I am so glad. Thank you. It really makes it worthwhile for me when I hear someone say that my writing/drawing has made them notice something and take the issues more seriously. I am glad you are more aware, but sorry you will continue to be irked by those instances now. Its hard to unsee that kind of stuff. But if we can get enough people to be a powerful collective voice... imagine the possibilities. And if people from within the culture don't want to discuss it, then there is no harm in appealing to the rest of the world to hold us to the same moral standards. 

Again I say that my family and situation is at the better end of it all, so perhaps I don't have the right to complain. I have it good compared to the sad sad stories I read on your blog. And yet the sexism and the repression is still there. I can't pinpoint it, but it is. 

I suppose we are the "progressive" muslims who have failed you by silencing discourse in one of the few places it could happen. 

So again, thank you for pointing all of this out. I love it. I love that someone is talking about it. You are doing amazing things. More people need to read your blog :) I hope to write a blog as well one day, just waiting for the right time. 

I love that you are talking about it! 

Your blog has been circulating among our feminist friends. Hopefully it'll be Thanksgiving dinner table conversation! Now I'm excited. 

I certainly hope so too! Keep challenging! 

I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Keep writing!!

-M

Feeling so much love for this girl right now. Where are the others? Rise up, speak up! I hope for nothing more than for you, the progressive Muslims to prove me wrong when I say there isn't an actual call for reform... that no one is willing to admit to major flaws within the doctrine. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Response to the Responses to my Letter to Ben Affleck :P


On this Halloween, I am sorry to have to share the scary news that it seems even most progressive muslims are not ready to start a conversation about certain issues within the faith.

My letter to Ben Affleck has stirred up quite a reaction. Most importantly though, sadly, it has given reason for people within my community to send hateful messages, attack me as a 'race-betrayer' and as a self-loathing 'racist'. I have been tagged in several conversations where people expect me to listen quietly to such abuse, engage and/or apologize for writing so openly about what I consider to be issues within the religion I was raised in.

In several thousand interactions on the internet over the past week (most of them very kind, supportive and encouraging), I have heard from about 3 practising muslims, tops (and they are the people I have my hopes riding on). Who have acknowledged that my experience is real and my concerns are valid. To others, I am a liar, an exaggerator and publicity seeker.

I am sorry that the threats I receive about drawing get in the way of your denying that there are any issues. I apologize that I'm not silently enduring this stuff for the purposes of face-saving. But who are we kidding here, intolerance in Islam is not a very well hidden secret at all.

You can tell me over and over again that women and men are 100% equal in Islam, or that there is no punishment for blasphemy or apostasy, but you are not convincing me - or anyone else with a rational mind. We can go back and forth for hours, I can quote you stuff from the texts, you can come up with your usual excuses... this is never going anywhere.

I wrote what I thought was a very gentle letter, a very soft critique. But if even such a small nudge towards discussion leads to online bullying, hateful attacks by so-called 'progressives', then you my dear muslim brothers and sisters are only helping to prove my point.

You may not agree with my perspective, and that is fine. But to deny that my experience is real? To tell *me* who actually receives threats and is called an enemy of god...that this doesn't happen in Islam?

I have a term for that,  #Musplained .

To those upset that I am speaking to 'white men' - I have tried speaking to you, plenty of times my dearest muslim brother and sisters. I have received nothing but hatred and threats in return. You are shutting me down by telling me my experiences aren't real and that I am a racist. How then, can I speak to you? I have tried for years. I am still open to it, lets start by you acknowledging that my experience is real?

My apologies that you now have to hear critique.
Some fundamental flaws can be seen from outer space,
u do not need to know the hadith and Quran in order to identify them.
And you don't need to be of a certain race to see these flaws, FYI

I am so very sorry that my "oppressed voice" has inconvenienced you. I really am.
 I will try to be less oppressed from now on so that you don't have to hear any inconvenient truths.
I heard from one Muslimah who said it was unfair of me to say that there are no muslims outraged about apostasy punishments in Islam. She said *she* was outraged.

Wonderful, I thought. And then I asked her something along the lines of "Would you take a public stand by tweeting with the hashtag #Muslims4Apostates" (I have since deleted that conversation because I don't want people hate-tweeting her)

Suddenly she remembered she was really busy and had to go.

So yeah. This is the level of 'outrage'.

Progressive Muslims, you have surprised and saddened me the most. I didn't expect hateful messages to come from you. But I guess we are in this deeper than I imagined. If you were open to seeing some very real flaws, we could have been on the same side of this and navigated towards a more modern Islam. But without accepting the problem, we won't be able to move forward.

Crazies and actual muslim haters, I am not on your side. So please stop hijacking my words and posting them as if we have the same stance.

Also, my letter was not meant to be taken so literally - for the record, I do leave the house without my brother/father/husband. ;)

Much love to everyone,
-Eiynah






Friday, October 24, 2014

Dear Ben Affleck: Words from a Woman raised in Islam (unedited)


A bit of a preamble before the unedited letter: 

To all you wonderful folk who have taken the time to read and help spread my message, my letter to Ben - I am truly honoured, humbled and grateful. Thank you so much. Your kind words and encouragement have meant a lot to me. Forgive me if I have been unable to thank everyone individually. 

There have been some interesting conversations surrounding this letter. Some have called me, predictably, an 'Islamophobe'. Some have called me, rather confusingly, an 'Islamist'/apologist. I certainly can't be both. I was told by someone that I was aiding genocide through such a 'hateful' piece, that's a bit of a stretch - come on now! And from the side that called me an apologist, I was apparently unrealistic and disillusioned to think any Muslims at all could be peaceful. *sigh*

Some have asked me why, if I have the courage to speak out, I have not left the faith? 

If you have followed me for some time - you will know that I am indeed an atheist - and a vocal one at that. I refer to myself as a 'woman born and raised in Islam' and loosely group myself in with other muslims when i say 'we' (because even as an ex-muslim I do consider myself as part of the community) in the article. I do not however refer to myself as a 'Muslim woman'. The difference is subtle, I know. The piece was for a Pakistani publication, and so had to be worded this way. Even publishing this was an act of courage on their part. I am especially grateful to them for giving me a Pakistani platform to speak from. That kind of openness on their part is truly game-changing. 

You might see some articles about this letter, with sensationalist headlines such as 'Muslim woman speaks out against Islam', etc. That is a misrepresentation, because I am not a practising Muslim. 

I'd also just like to take a moment to talk about journalism etiquette. I have been hearing from several journalists who want to reprint the piece - and that is excellent. Please, by all means reprint and help spread the message. If you get in touch with me, I will most likely welcome the opportunity to have my words heard by a larger audience. Maybe we'll even get a response/reaction from Ben? (Nah, that's a long shot) 

There have been some instances however, where journalists have felt it is ok to copy and paste my ENTIRE piece as a 'quote'. My artwork was also used without even asking or informing me. Even though *eventually* properly attributed to me, one would expect that it is a basic courtesy to ask the person who's work you are using to funnel traffic to your website. Even if the piece in question is titled 'open letter', and is intended for public reading, one assumes that common courtesy will still prevail. 

Its not just one publication, several large name publications have used my work without sourcing properly in the past. I have always found this unfair, but am really unable to control it, as a not-so-important blogger. When I call this behaviour out, I am told to show 'gratitude' for the extra publicity. :/ 

I was actually even told by someone that I had 'delusions of grandeur' for expecting that publications would ask before lifting my piece. 

I'm wondering though, if these publications would be ok with me taking their articles and publishing on my blog (as a quote) and attributing to the first name of the author? 

So there is a writer called Joe who has some stuff to say:

"Joe's words, Joe's words"

he also says:

"Joe's words, Joe's words, Joe's entire piece." 

Yeah, something about that would rub them the wrong way, I'm sure. I dare not try it. I'm also not a journalist, so what would I know? 

Anyhow, individual use is also different from public use. If you want to post it up as your Facebook status, go for it. Share it in any way you like. But if you are a reputable publication - I will at least expect you to ask before. Just ask... that's all. :) If you don't ask, there is not much I can do, my work is up on the internet....I cannot control what you do with it. But it would be nice if you asked before using it to get hits on your site. Cheers. 

And now below, I will share with you my original unedited letter to Ben. Which for obvious reasons could not be printed as is. 

*********

Dear Ben, 

I am writing to you today, as a woman who was born and raised in Islam. I saw your discussion with Bill Maher and Sam Harris - And I must say, you did me a great disservice that day. Your heart was in the right place, of course, and it was lovely of you to step up and defend ‘my people’. 

What you really did though, perhaps inadvertently, was silence a conversation that never gets started. Two people attempted to begin a dialogue and you wouldn’t even listen. Why should any set of ideas be above criticism, Ben? 

Why are Muslims being ‘preserved’ in some time-capsule of centuries gone by? Why is it ok that we continue to live in a world where our women are compared to candy -- waiting to be consumed? Why is it ok for women of the rest of the world to fight for freedom and equality, while we are told to cover our shameful bodies? Can't you see that we are being held back from joining this elite club known as the 21st century? 

image from mahavalous.com
Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great -- but who stands in my corner, and for the others who have been oppressed by the 'religion of peace'? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone Ben - except for those afraid of words and drawings. I want the freedom to express myself, without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?

When I wrote a children’s book that carried a message of diversity and inclusivity for everyone, my life changed. My book, ‘My Chacha (uncle) is Gay' has the innocent anti-homophobia message, ‘Love belongs to Everyone’. This was not palatable to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters. 



Since that project I have been declared an ‘enemy of god’ and deemed worthy of death. All because I want to help create a world where South Asian children too can have their stories told, so they too can know that love comes in all forms, and that that’s ok. My muslim brothers and sisters were hit hard by this work because it addresses the issue of homophobia within our own community. It is not something they can pass off as ‘Western' immorality. Just like they deny that any issues exist within the doctrine of Islam, many deny that homosexuality exists amongst good, ‘moral’ muslims. 

Just like that, millions of people’s existence is rejected. Please do not defend people who think this way, and let me tell you Ben, many ‘good’ muslims do think this way.  

What you did by screaming ‘racist!’, was shut down a conversation that many of us have been waiting to have. You helped those who wish to deny there are issues, deny them. You became an instant hero, a defender of Islam. It’s kind, it really is. I understand, because I too am plagued and affected by the issues brought about by actual Islamophobia. I have a muslim name and brown skin, my peaceful relatives have been pushed in the subway and called ‘terrorist’ for no reason. 

I get that. 

We must distinguish critiquing an ideology from being hateful towards a group of people. And for this reason I think that tackling the issues within Islam should be two-pronged. They must be brought up, but simultaneously we should stress that blame for these issues cannot be placed on individuals. 

I am Pakistan’s only sex blogger, I am also a woman. I am by default a lesser being within Islam. The fact that I talk about sex makes me even more worthy of disgust. Sex is not something easily discussed amongst muslims. And in the efforts of preserving our religious purity, we let some very immoral acts slide. Things that can often be justified by religious scripture. I speak to women every day who suffer under the religion of peace because they are not held as equals. There are things you can use to justify marital rape within the texts, and things you can use to justify pedophilia, there are things you can use to justify beheading infidels and apostates - just as ISIS does. That is not to say that ALL muslims are pedophiles, rapists or violent beheaders, or that Islam promotes these things. But if you are a person looking to justify such acts, you may find what you are looking for within the texts. Countless numbers of people suffer because of this, Ben. 

Who will stand up for those people? In the interest of being politically correct and ‘liberal’ we silence the voices of millions. I am turning to you because you were instrumental in starting this conversation. Those of us who want reform are muted by extremists, as well as the liberals who betray us in the name of multiculturalism. 

ISIS paints a horrific picture, so I understand the knee-jerk reaction to deny any link. Most muslims choose to interpret scripture in a peaceful way, but that doesn’t mean the raw material isn’t there for those who choose the path of violence. That material must be addressed.  

Can we talk about the blatant double standards and violation of human rights, for a second? Mosques are built throughout Western countries, usually without much issue. But in the hub of Islam, the heart of Islam - in Saudi Arabia no one but muslims are allowed to officially practise their faith. There are no churches, temples or synagogues - because Saudi Arabia will not permit any non-muslim place of worship to exist. Who will hold them accountable for such injustice if we hush everyone who speaks out against Islam? 

What is so wrong with wanting to step into the current century? Why is there shame in accepting a book that is over a thousand years old just doesn’t hold up anymore? There should be no shame. There is no denying that violence, misogyny and homophobia exist in all religious texts, but Islam is the only religion that is adhered to so literally, to this day.

In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies", like the Westboro Baptist Church for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law. The lack of acceptance for any alternate sexuality, the punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, these things are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day?” Where are the Muslim protestors against Blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam Ben, and therein lies our problem.  

Maybe the points Maher and Harris were trying to make are more easily digested when coming from within the community, I can appreciate that. That is why I am writing to you, as someone who has personally been hurt by the lack of acknowledgement of these issues. 

If Muslims do not critique the atrocities that the religion *can* justify, then people on the outside will - and their message will not be listened to simply because of who they are. Its a vicious cycle, one that can only break if indeed, like Harris said, true reformers are empowered. 

I ask you and anyone reading this, to make an effort to seek out reformers from within our community, and support them in any way you can. 

If I were allowed to meet a man that is not my father, brother or husband unchaperoned - I would have loved to discuss this over drinks (which I am also not allowed to have) with you. So you see, things must change.
Sincerely, 

Eiynah

Monday, October 6, 2014

This October, Have yourself a Happy Hallow-Eid!


Since this *special* year, Eid was in October, I felt it was my moral duty to make some spooky Eid observations.

I think it was a pagan conspiracy to have it fall within the heathen month.

Seriously though, can we lighten up a little? One of my biggest issues with our culture is that we are too uptight. Muslims as a whole are uptight as hell.

Back to October Eid, Hallow-Eid? Omfg I would love a hybrid celebration... an Eid where you dress up in costumes, have brain shaped mithai maybe? Black glittery crescents and stars, throw in a few bats and we're good.

We could make labels for RoohAfza bottles, "Infidel Blood" ? T'would be good!



Something I've always joked about with my family is "Zomb-Eid" I would love to make a comic, or at least a proper poster some day... a bunch of Zombies sitting at their Eid celebration dinner, eating braaaaaaains...... in Pakistan that isn't even far fetched, people do have animal brain all the time.

The zombies would be perfectly halal because since we aren't allowed to draw living things (that could lead to idolatry, obvs, I ALWAYS worship EVERYTHING I draw..) - we could draw undead things perhaps? And sometimes it is recommended in certain interpretations of the religion that lines be drawn across the neck, to show that only god can create true living things with their heads firmly attached.... with zombies, you can make a cut-up, stitched-up neck no problem...it won't even look out of place.

If its the animal sacrifice Eid, that's a bonus. I mean how many cultures can say they still do ritual animal sacrifices? Scary points for us! Use the severed goat heads as decor. Win-win. String them up on a garland or put one on your front door! Heck, you could just hollow out the animal heads you come across this season, stick a candle inside, and boom, you've got a jack'o'lantern!

I'm sure you'll find a creative way to decorate this Hallow-Eid/Zomb-Eid, I hear the streets in Pakistan are already filled with streams of blood, its just ambiance baby... what better time for sacrifice-Eid to fall than in October?

Got innards and guts leftover in your backyard from this afternoon's animal beheading?...more ambiance...

Does your butcher/slaughterer have nothing to wear to the Hallow-Eid party? Well, fuck....he's in costume already... the more blood splatter the better. Tell him to bring along his meat cleaver for effect though.



Best of all, the zombies could be a metaphor for whatever you like. Whichever way you sway.... for the brainlessly religious or the even worse, brainlessly non-religious.

I was feeling so inspired while visiting my family this Eid, I drew up a couple of five minute sketches, not everyone was as amused as me.... but like i said earlier, lighten up!



Happy Hallow-Eid!







Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"I have never refused my husband sex, ever. Its not an option."


image from www.huffingtonpost.com

Please note: This post contains explicit content on sexual abuse.

"When my second child was arriving, I went into labour...and knowing that, my husband went to a friends party. I was alone in the hospital for a while, and terrified, till my mother arrived.

Thankfully, he decided to show up…. eventually, about an hour before the delivery.

He’s an intimidating man, I normally don’t speak up in front of him. In fact, I was so scared of him I couldn’t even ask him to come to the hospital with me instead of going to the party. So I just went alone. 

Immediately after the birth of my child he spoke to the hospital staff, stating that our first born 
was still a toddler, and that I was needed at home because of that. I was discharged within 6 hours. I guess in Pakistan they don’t give enough importance to rest and recovery for a post-birth mother. Or at least they didn’t when I was having my children.  

I had a normal vaginal delivery, but had an episiotomy (a surgical cut to the perineum with scissors or a scalpel to make the baby's birth easier and prevent severe tears that can be difficult to repair) so I was in excruciating pain and had a lot of stitches. 

As soon as I got home, I was expected to care for all my in laws, cook and clean for them as well as look after my two children. An impossible feat when one can barely stand. The first days after child-birth, you need pampering, as any new mother will tell you. You need to be looked after and you need to recover. You need all the help you can get. And to have two children under four, is extremely exhausting. To be expected to cook and clean and wait on people as soon as you enter the house, borders on some sort of abuse. It is abuse actually, now that I look back on it. I don’t know how I managed. But somehow I did, because I had no choice. I was expected to take over the house work, because I was the ‘daughter-in-law’ and that was my role. If I refused the consequences could have been worse. I got through it somehow, but I would never wish it upon anyone. 

On the third day after my delivery my husband tried to initiate intercourse and I told him (hesitantly) that I had stitches, and that the doctor had told us to refrain for 40 days as well. Then he got mad (as he often did) and I was terrified of him going elsewhere to satisfy his sexual needs so I decided to just let him do what he wanted. He said he 'needed' it, and that nothing would happen. 

He said that I shouldn’t refuse him sex because then he would have to go elsewhere for it. He could tell that I was in pain and he continued anyway, my body had tensed up, I told him that I was worried my stitches would tear, and he told me it would be ok, because he would be careful. 

After that experience I was bleeding excessively and had to continue doing the housework for the whole household including waiting on my in-laws. At my next doctors visit, I told my doctor that we had had sex on the third day and she was very shocked and upset. She told me that we had to refrain. But even after that we continued having sex every four or five days (not my choice). I have never refused my husband sex, ever. Its just not an option. I was raised to keep the peace and please my husband. 

Generally my husband has a very high sex drive – he wanted sex every day. Sometimes, but rarely, there would be a one-day gap.

Many years later, we obviously don’t have a great relationship. But I continue to do what I need to, to keep my marriage going. 


I am sharing my story, so that other women may speak up if this is happening to them." 

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

Honestly, I am far too shocked and disturbed after hearing your story to really know what to say. 

I'm sorry.... I'm so so so sorry....I can't believe this happened to you. 

In my opinion, what you experienced right after an episiotomy was marital rape. Extremely brutal, manipulative, selfish marital rape. The man who did this to you...I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the fact that you continue to be with him, and try to 'keep your marriage going'. This story is the stuff nightmares are made of. You survived... you are an incredible, wonderful, strong human being. My advice to you would be to get the fuck away from this man. 

But that being said, I know its not easy for anyone to get out of an abusive relationship. From the outside it seems easy enough, get away from the person sucking your soul and abusing you... but its not that simple is it? I can find resources for you if you need...I can find people for you to talk to...if anyone knows any organizations in Pakistan that specialize in these situations, please do leave a link below in the comments. 

Generally though, we have to understand that divorce is not 'acceptable', still....especially for a woman in Pakistan. She is immediately regarded as someone who has lost value. A 'used product'. It's a disgusting mentality, that further objectifies a group of people that are already objectified beyond belief. It is dehumanizing, but it is real. :(

In many cases people do not receive support from their own families. They are told to 'make it work' - which is what we see above. Who knows how many years of psychological and physical abuse this person has endured. And who knows what kinds of severe impact it's had on her life, her children's life...

Divorce is something we need to start talking about as a culture more often. Add that to the fucking mile-long list. 

Marital rape is something we need to start talking about too.... It is happening all around us, especially when there is no awareness that there can be rape within marriage too. 

There is this sense of obligation to a man. To satisfy his 'needs' - because, well.... he's a man. What else are women here for? 

This is bullshit. If you don't feel like sex EVER...don't do it. Please know that you don't owe it to anyone. And any loving partner will understand that.  If they don't understand, they are the problem. This case in particular is especially horrific, considering he didn't care that she was stitched up and in pain. He had 'needs' and he wanted to satisfy them.. didn't give a fuck that she would continue to bleed, and not heal. He could have caused all kinds of complications...its inhumane, and there is no way this kind of thing can be justified. 

Oh, turns out it can...

some hadith I came across on islam.com (NOT an anti muslim site, but one run by muslims, for muslims. ) The following was what was quoted to a husband stating that he is sexually frustrated because him and his wife are not getting along and she refuses physical intimacy:

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.460

Narrated by Abu Huraira (R.A)
The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, "If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning."
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.122

Narrated by Abu Huraira (R.A)
The Prophet (saws) said, "If a woman spends the night deserting her husband's bed (does not sleep with him), then the angels send their curses on her till she comes back (to her husband)."
--------------
(Not sure exactly...what the curse of an 'angel' involves...)
I'm assuming that most people, most muslims, and most muslim men are humane enough to realise that shoving your penis inside an already injured, sliced open and stitched up vagina is extreme cruelty. But if you were wondering where this mentality comes from, its this. This is how it's justifiable. This is the "culture" that is passed down. 
Instead of making excuses for this, lets be honest with ourselves and admit that this is beyond fucked up, medieval and barbaric. 
If you want a reformed Islam we have to rid ourselves of things like this. That justify and endorse marital rape. 
I know, I know, some of you are thinking 'this is out of context' or conveniently cherry-picking the hadith that you wish to believe in and ones that you don't. But face the facts, it's there... its free to interpret however one wishes... whatever the context... this is fucked up. 
To be fair, on the website, the guy who quoted these verses, did try to tell the guy that he needs to reflect on why his sex life isn't great, and what fault of his might have resulted in a lack of intimacy. So that was good to see....nevertheless, he did provide him with ammunition of the religious kind, to coerce his wife into bed, whilst also telling him he shouldn't coerce his wife into bed. 
"Brother, Sorry to say but you looked me biased. Are you really sure that there was not a single fault of yours own? However I am quoting you couple of Hadith (S.A.W) that you can tell your wife, But remember if you tried to force your wife or taunt her regularly or used the sayings of Holy Prophet (S.A.W) or quotations from Holy Qur'an for your advantage and you denied all her rights and you only talk about your rights then INSHALLAH you will be destroyed."
*sigh*

(And yes, I am aware that this happens outside of Islam, in other cultures as well...it is not solely the fault of this religion, any religion. But the religion does provide divine justification, a great excuse to continue to behave in this way. That is not ok by me.)
I am really defeated by this story. It hurts so much to hear a first-hand account of things like this. 
Please know that this is never ok, and that I am here to talk and help if you need it. 
Much love, 
E

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Monday, September 22, 2014

"Can't forget my Attraction towards my Sister"

Most of the emails I receive are from Pakistan, but every once in a while, I get an email from India too. The concerns, issues and way of thinking is always strikingly similar. Recently, the Indian media has been showing an interest in my work. Which is great, some articles are more professionally written than others...but anyhow, that has led to a larger Indian readership for Nice Mangos, welcome, and I hope you'll stick around and interact! 

Here is an email I received from India last week (obviously shared with consent of the sender), and before you start finger-pointing one way or another, this is an issue I hear time and time again from my fellow Pakistanis too. The googlesearch tool in blogger, tells me what search words were entered for people to end up here...and I can't tell you how MANY people are looking for stuff on incest in India and Pakistan...what is up with that? Honestly, what do you think causes this fascination in our region for people from within our immediate family? I would love to hear thoughts and comments below.. 

Anyhoo, here goes;

Hi Eiynah... I have a thought which is disturbing since my child hood...badly expecting ur view/suggestion on it. I cant disclose this to anyone else. Now am 24yrs old , i have developed a strange feeling towards my sister, since last 8 years.. It all started,While I was 16,my sister was 18,we both used to share same bed for years. But one day in the middle of night,I got disturbed and my mind was out of control and wanted to feel my sister body.I tried to touch with lot of fear and it gave some sensation to my body. I just touched slightly on her breasts and withdrew quickly.she is in deep sleep and didnt feel my touch. next day morning i felt guilty and ashamed to face my sister.I didnt spoke with her on that day and decided i shld not repeat this sin again. But next night i cant control myself and wanted to feel her breast again, Over the days i did this often and become a habit. later i took advantage of her deep sleep and started feeling her breasts and butt. by pressing with my hands. In the morning i felt really ashamed and not speaking with my sister and wanted to kill myself. it continued for few months/yrs, later i think she felt that am doing something bad and started sleeping in separate bed.. But then also i couldnt stop, i was staring at her face and body in night. over the next few months i started strange feeling towards her and want to be kind with her and do whatever she need as a escuse of whatevr i did earlier. still i used to see her slips and stare at her. I dono how bad I am. I am not sure what this feeling towards my own sister. Is it a SIn? hope am not the worst person in the world to do this sin to my sister.
I regret a lot ,but still cant forget my love/attraction towards my sister. what should i do? am the only one? how bad this is?

Now she is married, but still i cant stop thinking about her, her prescence makes me so happy..

but sometimes in nights getting bad thoughts again and thinking about her. sometimes masturbating on thinkin her

badly want to stop and come out of this...

what to do?

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

As for the 'sin' part, yes, I do believe 'incest' a sin in most major religions (though incest is defined differently by different groups), but so is stuff like masturbation, eating shellfish, eating a cheeseburger, showing your hair...sooo yeah, the largest issue is: you were taking advantage of her while she was sleeping...there is NO consent involved. And that is sexual abuse. 

Even though I personally find incest icky, creepy and all sorts of nasty, if you and your sister *wanted* to have a consensual relationship, that would be a different issue. You would be consenting adults, and though most countries might have laws against it, no one could actually prevent what goes on behind closed doors. Society would judge you, and judge you harshly...it certainly wouldn't be an easy life. But throughout history there have been people who have had such relationships. I am trying not to let my personal biases against incest take over the tone of this post. Bear with me. 

That being said, there are obvious benefits of widening the gene pool, and obvious issues with not doing so. Inbreeding and its effects on offspring is probably the number one reason that people site to support their distaste for incest. 

So in short, no, you are not the only person to have this type of feeling. But taking advantage of anyone without consent is unethical and abusive. 

The fact that she has been asleep through all of this and has no clue what you've been doing to her body, breasts, butt....is incredibly violating, and plain wrong. She could press charges against you for that, and rightfully so. 

As for you having 'bad thoughts' enter your mind about her, and masturbating to those thoughts. I mean, there is no way of anyone policing what you're masturbating to....you could be thinking anything... and no one will know. You could tell me you've stopped and still continue, so it's tricky to discuss the thoughts in your head, because there is no way for anyone to control or know those. You feel guilt, and shame, and you want to get out of the habit...so that's a start. I don't think it's healthy at all for anyone to be sexually obsessed with their sibling, especially in a one-sided thing, even if there were no elements of non-consensual touching...

She is married, as you said. She has a life of her own, with someone else, and obviously does not share your feelings. You feelings won't lead to anything but disappointment and frustration for you. But the fact that you recognize this and want to stop is a good sign. So I suggest you try dating, find someone else... far far outside your family... see what else there is out there....perhaps you have never given anyone else a chance because your mind has been preoccupied with one person. 

Definitely do not sleep in the same room as her, if she does come home for a sleepover or something. 

I'm hoping that if you meet someone else, you can get over this. Plus the fact that she doesn't live with you anymore will probably help.

As for masturbating, find something else to wank to. The internet is full of stroke material. Try to not think about your sister.

Thanks for reaching out. Hope you can get over this and enjoy a healthy mutual attraction with someone.