May 27, 2007

Confessions on a Sunday...

I must be somewhat of a masochist.
Whenever I feel a kind of " blah" pervading me, I watch these "religious" TV stations, with the secret hope for a " pick me up" kind of feeling.
The "pick me up" has to do more with a few giggles rather than a "moment of Grace" even though I would not refuse the latter.

I have no particular preference. I zap from the depressing shia al-Forat channel to the equally depressing sunni Iqra channel and to the even more depressing "born again" Christian channels.

And each time I do that and watch what these guys (and most of them are guys) have to say, I feel like flagellating myself afterwards.

No, no, it is not due to some secret hidden desire to become a "sect martyr". It has more to do with a sense of guilt for having put my poor mind through so much torture.
What is torturing about it is the way I feel afterwards...

The subliminal message is almost always identical : " You are not good enough, you are sinful, repent..."

I am sure all religions are guilty of this and inflict that guilt on their followers.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Religion per se. As a matter of fact, I have spent considerable time studying comparative religions because this is a subject that greatly interests me. And I do not dismiss the concept of Transcendence either. In fact religion from latin (relegare) means to re-connect. And am all for re-connections...

And by the way, I do not discount the fact that evil and sin exist but somehow these T.V programs seem to misplace the evil/sin equation away from the real source.

For me the real source is Injustice. Injustice is the source of all evil and all sin.

"Al Haq" in Arabic, another attribute /name for the Divine, also means (the ultimate)Reality, Truth and Justice.

Injustice is a wide concept and we can debate for hours. Each one of us has her/his perception of what injustice means. But we can all agree that perfect Justice does not exist and that perfect Injustice does. In fact, it is a world made in our own image!

In my opinion, there are personal injustices and collective ones and both are interrelated.

So when writing about the Middle East, the personal is political and the collective is political and both are intertwined.

In fact when thinking and writing about the Middle East, everything becomes political, even religion.

Religion does not exist in the void. Religion exists in the minds of its people.
Religion or should I say the "transcendental" needs a receptacle.
Hence, in my opinion , since there are many receptacles, there cannot be only one understanding of any particular religion.
Hence I find blaming religion per se, or God or whatever you wish to call It, very naive and simplistic...
Injustices committed in the name of religion have to do more with the receptacles than the Divine Himself, Herself, Itself...

So getting back to my TV programs. Come to think about it , in fact what annoys me is not so much the religion per se, it is the receptacles.
It is the mind that thinks...
The tongue that utters...
The eye that judges...

I will leave Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, their own receptacles to deal with. Not that I don't care but they are simply not my priority right now. They are not my main concern.

My main concern was and remains the Middle East and I would thus like to address the minds of Muslim women and men and in particular Arab Muslim ones.

In all honesty, don't you people find something very "wrong" with some of the current "religious" discourses?

I mean don't you find it "strange" that at the height of "Occupation Freedom", sorry meant "Operation Freedom" (that was a genuine "lapsus"), when bombs were raining on Baghdad, covering it like Noah's flood, one hears a sermon diffused from some Arab Muslim capital talking about whether "women should or should not go to a male hair dresser".

Don't you also find it very "strange" that mullahs who give a Friday sermon about "Ahl Al Bayt" (the family of the prophet Mohammed), go into a frenzy, start hitting their heads and profusely cry (specially if there is a TV camera filming) whilst their followers torture and drill people?

Or don't you find it "strange" that Fatwas are debated for hours, arguing if it is ok for a woman to become a President or not and if she does, more debate - if it is ok for her to sit alone with another male head of state ?

And I have so many more examples of Fatwas and debates from all over the Middle East...and of course I have live examples from Iraq.

I personally find it very "strange" when women are forcibly clad from head to toe in black and forcibly look like walking tents. I mean, why black? Why not pink? Or purple or yellow or red? Where does it say in the Quran that women ought to look like in perpetual mourning? And this is only a tiny example.

I find it even stranger when auntie Sameera calls me and says :

- Layla, do you have any of those Afghani looking tunics ? You know those very long shirts one wears over trousers.

- No Auntie I don't. Why? Are you planning to emigrate to Tora Bora or something ?

- Layla! Am serious. I need one ..."

- What for? You already dress conservatively. I mean you wear a head veil/scarf. You wear loose clothes and ample shirts, ample enough for two to fit in...What do you need these tunics for?

- It seems it is not enough.

- What do you mean it is not enough? What is not enough ?

- The guys (guys again of course!) "in charge" of the neighborhood said that the shirt has to reach the knees if worn over trousers and blue jeans skirts are not allowed even if they are long enough to sweep the floors..."

Even boys and men are not spared. Auntie Sameera continues...

- You know Samya's son, he is not 11 years old yet. She was walking him to school when they pointed a gun to his head. Poor thing she got the scare of her life. They said his hair was too long and combed the wrong way. He had it spiked up...
Samya rushed back home and shaved the poor boy's hair off. Now he is completely bald.
Oh and not only him. Do you remember the driver Abu Tawfeek? Well, at the traffic lights someone pointed a gun to his head. Do you know why?

- Why? What did he do?

- He was wearing a short sleeve shirt. He had to drive back to his home through endless checkpoints and change shirts. Now he never leaves home without his long sleeves shirt. So Layla, where can I find those long tunics?

- Auntie, I think you may be better off seeking asylum in Tora Bora..."

Here is Baghdad, a once secular capital but not any less "pious", where women had their word to say, now turns into this bastardly melange of Saudi Arabia and Iran combined ? And run by Americans ?

I mean , don't you find all of that very "strange "?

Haram (prohibited) is everywhere. But :

Indiscriminately killing innocents is not Haram.
Raping, abducting, kidnaping people is not Haram.
Torturing, drilling and gouging eyes out is not Haram.
Starving people and seeing kids search garbage bins for food is not Haram.
Cholera and other diseases from overflowing sewage is not Haram.
Dehydration from lack of water and rising infant mortality is not Haram.
Girls as young as 14 selling their bodies to feed their families is not Haram.
Orphans sniffing glue in the streets is not Haram.
Patients undergoing surgery with no anesthetics is not Haram.

All of the above and much more is not Haram but a sleeveless shirt is ...
All of the above is not Haram but a female shirt that is not long enough to cover all of your butt and

I mean don't you really find all of that very "strange"?

Does that not move you when you bow down and prostrate 5 times a day?
Does that not touch you when you heed to your Friday prayers?
Or are you too engrossed discussing what kind of veil is best to cover your strands of hair and how to pin it, back or front and whether your sleeves should reach your wrists or not...And how long your beard should be and whether the water should reach your elbow or a little above or a little below during your ablutions...

Do you think that is "normal"?

Do you think that it is "normal" for so called "religious men" who grow beards and speak of God all the time to do such things or to allow them?

Do you think it is "normal" that the current religious discourses by these perverts has to include and refer to women's bodies all the time?

I mean, do you think this is natural? Do you think this is Islamic?

Do you really think that this is the kind of receptacle - mind, the Divine wants you to have?

Is there any chance at all that you will wake up from your own stupor? Is there any chance at all that you will stop tolerating Allah and Islam being insulted that way ?