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.