Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chacha’s aunt: When will you get married to Faheem?

Below is our first ever #ChachaFanFic :D - honoured to have received an ‘interview with Chacha’ from journalist Ahmed Yusuf (@ASYusuf), who works with Pakistan’s leading English daily, Dawn.

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Check out full Urdu translation here


Ahmed and his Chacha share many secrets.


Like the time when Ahmed ate all the chocolate that Uncle Faheem had gotten from Dubai. Ammi was livid, but Chacha came to the rescue. Then there was the time when Ahmed cut his elbow playing cricket and Chacha quickly put a plaster and let him play some more. Then there was the extra tub of chocolate ice-cream that Chacha smuggled into Ahmed's room after he had a tooth removed. There is a chamber of secrets between Ahmed and Chacha, but there is one thing there is no lying about: Chacha is gay.


“It is a strange world we live in; people ask questions about who you love and why you love them. Love is love yaar, that's what I want to teach Ahmed,” says Chacha.


Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here


Like all young paternal uncles, Chacha is part Ahmed's best friend and part his guardian. I met him at their Karachi residence over tea one evening. Chacha, Ahmed and Uncle Faheem are global celebrities now. They are the stars of the children's book, My Chacha is Gay, and their story is being 
told in many languages by people all over the world. Except in Pakistan, where publishers are reluctant to place the book on the pretext of the country “not being ready” for such a book. Not that Chacha or Ahmed care about such things; they believe that the real bravado is in living an honest life. 

“Who are Ahmed's role models? His father, mother, and then family around him. Why should we lie to him or make excuses about who we are? Doing that will teach him to lie to those he loves and makes friends with,” says Chacha.

Ahmed's parents complain that Chacha spoils him too much. “You only get to be a kid once,” Chacha says in his defence. “I want to ensure that Ahmed and my niece Saima, who is too young to even speak yet, have an incredible childhood.”


Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here

Chacha's desire to help his nephew and niece cherish their childhood stems from his own experiences while growing up. Much of Chacha’s childhood was spent in turmoil, trying to fit various moulds, and trying to hide who he was. He wants Ahmed and Saima to know that they will be loved no matter what, and that they should be proud of who they are and to stand up for themselves.

“I was bullied a lot in school. Over time, I learnt the most valuable lesson of my life: being any kind of different is okay.”

Today, life for Chacha is the same as it is for everyone else. He wakes up in the morning, occasionally drops Ahmed to school, goes to work, and returns home every evening. He enjoyed the serial Mera Sultan, but also loved the Masterchef Pakistan's debut season. Ahmed wants Chacha to compete in Masterchef Pakistan one day; Chacha’s Chicken Makhni (Butter Chicken) is divine, apparently. 

Photo from riotandfrolic.typepad.com

And it was on one of the Chicken Makhni feasts that Chacha’s maternal aunt first popped the question, “Faheem is such a nice boy, when are you two getting married?”

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here


Chacha was immediately taken aback, he recalls, while Faheem started laughing. “I tried explaining it to Khala that we can’t get married in Pakistan, that it's just not allowed, sadly. She still insists on a private ceremony.”

I ask Chacha what's stopped them from getting married abroad, where local imams perform nikah ceremonies for gay and queer Muslims?

“What's the point of getting married anywhere other than Pakistan? This is our home, this is where our friends and family are.” retorts an exasperated Chacha. “Can you have a Karachi Mehndi in London? No. Can you invite friends? No, not as many as we would like. Yes, we might be signing nikah papers in a mosque, with an imam saheb, but why do it without loved ones, who mostly live in Pakistan?”

For a gay man in Pakistan, Chacha is unusually confident - homosexuality is legally punishable in Pakistan, although social evidence point to other realities. He attributes this confidence to his belief in always speaking the truth.

“Look, if there was a creator and he had to hate me, he wouldn't have created me,” he asserts. 

The mood threatens to turn sombre, before Chacha blurts: “Yes I am gay, I am Pakistani, and I am a Muslim. Nobody can take that away from me. And yes, I love my nephew and niece, and I'd give my life for them in a flash.”

Point noted. I steer the conversation to how he met Faheem.

“We used to play cricket every weekend near the Mister Burger outlet on Tariq Road. One time, Faheem was there too. Long story short: we bonded on Pakola (ice cream soda), and the rest is history.”

What makes their relationship tick?

“Honesty, I think... Faheem, as you know, is a pilot and really isn't in Pakistan most of the year. Whenever he is, I tell him he has arrived on a 'trip' to Pakistan,” cheers Chacha.

“We decided to treat our relationship as a long-distance one. I think that has allowed us to manage our expectations with each other. But when Faheem is back, we go to a bunch of places together. Lots of restaurants and cafes around Karachi to experiment with. Faheem loves karahi from Super Highway; he won't go to Do Darya but to the original outlets to eat that. We end up at movies together. Basically everything that a regular, healthy couple does.”

Since Chacha lives as part of Ahmed's family, I ask whether it was ever awkward to talk about homosexuality with his nephew.

Taken from Pakistani Children's book 'My Chacha is Gay' - see original post here


“Oho yaar, it’s all about honesty and respect,” Chacha says. “Treat the child as a young adult and talk to them. I could lie to Ahmed about Faheem, but I have to teach him about my reality. I want to be honest with him.”

But how do you expect a child to accept something when most of society seems to be against you, simply because of your sexual orientation? Isn't that too great a burden?

“Pyaar is pyaar, yaar - that's what you teach a child. Else they can become beasts,” asserts Chacha.“We are a cruel people, sometimes. At work, one of my senior colleagues is gay but he hides it. People make fun of him, they bully him. He retreats into a shell. Then I think of some of my uncles and aunts. They had boyfriends and girlfriends, but never wanted to get married. I feel for them, maybe if they lived in better times, they could have been with or married those who they loved. But they couldn't. They suffered in silence. I want Ahmed to learn to be humane to all people, not be an insensitive and uninformed brat.”

Is he ever scared of being openly and unapologetically gay in Pakistan?

“Sometimes. I’m afraid of the persecution you know,” Chacha says, with a knowing nod directed at me. I nod back.

And what does his mother say? Does she approve of Faheem?

“My mom loves Faheem. She didn't always, but now that she has warmed up to the idea, she is thrilled that he brings such happiness to me. Before Faheem, she would complain that I was becoming a little distant from her. But finding love has brought me out of my shell. Her acceptance, whenever it came, meant a lot too,” he says pensively.

Chacha's mother now admires Faheem to the extent that she laments their dining out whenever Faheem is in town. “She says to us, ghar ka khana (home cooking) is also good for health. But sometimes, couples need their space. I would always want to go crabbing with Faheem and eat the aloo crab cutlets they make on the boat.”

The one thing that Chacha loves most about Karachi is that he can walk around holding hands with Faheem in public and no one bats an eyelid. As he puts it, two men holding hands is not an uncommon sight, but two men asking for the right to be in love is what upsets people.

“Even today, many of my colleagues who have known me for long are okay with homosexuality, but many are not comfortable talking about it. Things always get a bit awkward when I mention Faheem in a large group setting. I really wish that could change... I want to be able to speak about the people in my life just as anyone would,” Chacha says matter-of-factly.

“Till then, I am just happy that Faheem and I can take a walk down Seaview or even to our local street food vendor and hold hands without drawing attention to ourselves. It’s pyaar (love), yaar.”

Taken from Chacha & Faheem's Valentine's Day Post




***This is a piece of creative writing. All characters have been developed in consultation with the writer of the book, My Chacha is Gay***


Feel free to submit your own #ChachaFanFic, photo or fan art to me at nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom - just remember that Chacha is a children's book character so it can't be sexual, political, religious. Meet those requirements, make it kick ass, and I'll share it on the blog! :D 

If you wish to support the project, you can do so by ordering your own copy of My Chacha is Gay at www.mychachaisgay.com

-E xx 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Chacha is Gay : It's been a whole YEAR!!


My Chacha is Gay from Eiynah NM on Vimeo.


Wow. I cannot believe how quickly this past year with Chacha has flown by. Mostly because my life has been a whirlwind of interviews, articles and discussions. A lot of them focused on Chacha and LGBT issues in South Asian communities.

This time last year I put up what I thought to be an unpublishable children's book, because simply, one does not mix anything but married heterosexuality and Pakistan. The response I received from the world was overwhelming and hugely supportive. I began my journey to crowdfund  the publishing. It was a success! With the largest contributions coming from Pakistan. I thank you all for supporting the project and making it such a success.

***

We often write places like Pakistan off, and say they simply are not ready to accept things outside of the religious norm. But if this past year has proven anything, it's the fact that Pakistanis are just as ready as anywhere else to accept things like the modern notion of 'family'.... With a few roadblocks of course. But it is up to us to push the boundaries set in centuries past.

Below is an infographic I put together, documenting Chacha's eventful year!




And here are a few of the photos I received from lovely people all over the world, that purchased the book! 

Photo courtesy of Ali Sajid Imami

Photo courtesy of Louella Harley

Photo courtesy of Karina Schoene

Photo courtesy of Munr Saadt

So that's been our journey this past year! Hopefully there are more exciting things to come. 

I am also excited to announce that I have received my first ever Chacha Fan Fiction! Which I will be putting up shortly in the next day or two!

Feel free to submit your own #ChachaFanFic, photo or fan art to me at nicemangosDOTblogATgmailDOTcom - just remember that Chacha is a children's book character so it can't be sexual, political, religious. Meet those requirements, make it kick ass, and I'll share it on the blog! :D 

Anyhoo, thank you once again for all your love and support! It has meant a lot. 

-E xx 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Canadian Niqab Ban: An Ex-Muslim Immigrant's Perspective




Face veils....Niqabs.... *sigh*

While everyone else discusses the Oscars, this is the stuff that keeps me awake at night. 

There has been so much talk about niqabs in Canada recently. Especially since in December 2011, former immigration minister Jason Kenney brought in the ban during a specific time - only while taking the citizenship oath. And also since Zunera Ishaq, a religious Muslim from Pakistan, has contested this ban by stating that she wants to wear a full face veil while she swears the oath of citizenship.

In Toronto, the liberals are outraged, the conservative Muslims are outraged, the liberal publications (which seem to have lost the plot in today's Islamist political climate) are outraged and printing nonsense, the right-wing publications have almost always been printing nonsense. There is very little left for readers like me who don't align with the right and are increasingly disappointed with the left.

The issue of the niqab and burqa is being volleyed between anti-Muslim bigots, Islamofascists and their ever-loyal, naive, liberal Western apologists - who in the fogginess of their collective 'white guilt' often trample on basic liberal principles such as gender equality and in fact endorse disgusting levels of misogyny. 

Their knowledge of Islam is limited and shallow, yet these are the 'experts' called upon by Canadian large-name liberal publications to discuss the topic. It's almost always 'white' (non-muslim) experts attempting to explain the nuances and loopholes in freedom of speech to the rest of us, where we are almost coerced to think that niqabs are ok, because they are a 'choice'. And here in the liberal, secular West - we value freedom of choice. 

As expat Pakistanis from Saudi Arabia, myself and my family hoped to escape this abhorrent visual reminder of the subjugation and mistreatment of women when we immigrated to a secular country like Canada for a better life. Yet, I am reminded that Islamofascism transcends geographical boundaries, it travels across oceans and nestles in every secular corner of the earth. It attempts to rear its ugly head by using secular principles to its advantage. Uninformed Western liberals allow this to happen under their perception of supporting equality. Equality for minorities in this instance. 

One does not have to scratch the surface too much to realise that niqabs represent the opposite of equality. Let's look at the the core principle behind the burqa and niqab. What is this about? It is about telling women that their bodies are shameful, that their face may provoke lust in men. So they should be the ones to cover and hide, exist in discomfort and be ashamed of their bodies, their faces. It's about victim blaming AND not telling men instead that they should keep their lust in check like all humans should, which should render such extreme covering useless in civilized society. 

This is about a visual representation of what male privilege looks like (and privilege in this case is an understatement). 

If Toronto publications wanted to hear an honest view about what the burqa means, they would not be asking people of non-muslim backgrounds to write on these topics. They would be putting their investigative skills to use and finding people that have suffered under burqa-regimes - asking for their opinions. They would be asking women born into Muslim families that have had the courage to stand up to this subjugation to balance their perspective. If they wish to publish niqab-supportive articles, one can only expect that the flip-side be discussed too and in an authentic voice. 

As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I witnessed my mother's ankles being 'lightly' caned by morality police, despite her wearing the burqa/a'abaya. I was terrified that people had such control to dictate what women looked like. I experience a flashback of that childhood terror and my heart sinks when I see a woman being treated this way and put into a niqab. Surely women did not invent this rule of invisibility, men did.  

The ban on niqab during the small slice of time that is the citizenship oath and the pushback surrounding it is telling. One, Islamists don't like to budge even on reasonable things, but they will expect Westerners to abide by their rules while in their countries constantly. Below are pictures from an official Qatari campaign aimed at Westerners, in hopes of teaching them about Qatari "culture and values". Please note that 'any gesture', 'reciting songs', or 'uttering indecent phrases' can get you imprisoned and fined. And two, liberals are basically scared to disagree because of the whole 'minority' issue. Can you imagine the outrage if Western countries had similar signs up in their malls, banning hijabs and burqas? We wouldn't, because we're better than that and we do value freedom and diversity. All that is being asked here is to see your face while you declare yourself a Canadian. That is the least one can do. 

it seems person #3's lovehandles are not permissible either? Whut?


The one article that really got under my skin was Saturday's Globe and Mail piece on the topic. Wente's opening paragraph's basically set the tone for the well-meaning, damaging naiveté that follows (might I add that I am not a huge fan of Harper, and usually don't agree with him):

"I loathe the niqab. I agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that niqabs are “not how we do things here.” A cloth that covers the face is a symbolic rebuke to Western values – especially when the covered woman is walking three steps behind her jeans-and-sneakers-clad husband.
But I also think a woman has the right to choose – even when her choice is offensive to a lot of people. I believe that religious freedom is a cornerstone of Western values. People should have wide latitude to exercise that freedom as they wish, and we shouldn’t constrain them without very good reasons."
This whole 'not how we do things here' business reeks of othering a group of people. Which is what's happening. It needs to be rephrased. No one should do things like this anywhere and that should be the expectation we speak from. Treating women like this is not ok, it is not ok if someone claims its a part of their culture, or if someone claims its a part of their religion. The same standards of humanity should apply across the board. Do not infantilize and expect lower levels of morality from Muslims. That is offensive. It is. Treat our communities how you would treat other groups. 
If you think a woman has the right to choose to cover her Identity in a government space, while taking the citizenship oath to Canada, will this 'choice' extend to other women/people? Can we choose to wear balaclavas/clown masks/satan masks at the citizenship oath? I'm a citizen, but I would like to ask potential future citizens taking the oath to put this to a test. If we're really claiming freedom of belief here...then it should extend to all. Will my devout pastafarian friends be allowed to take the oath with a colander on their head and an FSM mask on their face? If so perhaps we can at least claim consistency and 'equality' for all. But somehow I doubt this would be allowed. We see major religions being given special privileges in our secular country time and time again, excluding those who do not follow mainstream organized religion from receiving such benefits. 
If Wente thinks people have a wide latitude to exercise freedom and shouldn't be constrained without very good reasons (which I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree with) would the following arguments against niqab be 'good' enough reasons? 
- countless crimes and robberies (including a 500K jewelry heist in our very own city, Toronto) achieved via the burqa and niqab's convenient concealment of identity.
- Grenade attacks on Christian minorities in my motherland, Pakistan, carried out by niqab and burqa-clad anonymous people, on Christmas day.
- The multitudes of accounts of forced veiling, that women go through. The shunning and isolation they face if they don't abide. The fear of hellfire that they are threatened with if they don't make the right 'choice' for 'themselves'. 
- The systemic, legalized oppression women face regarding 'modest clothing' and veiling, by various Muslim governments.
- The fact that many Muslim countries have banned the hijab/niqab in government spaces themselves: 
(for the record, I have no issues with hijab - the head covering, as that is definitely not something that impacts people's safety or well-being, sometimes that is just a cultural identity thing, the niqab, face-covering is a clear human rights violation a symbol of subjugation and a security hazard because it provides people with constant, unquestioned on-the-go anonymity) 
  1. MalaysiaAlthough headscarves are permitted in government institutions, public servants are prohibited from wearing the full-facial veil or niqab. A judgment from the then–Supreme Court of Malaysia cites that the niqab, or purdah, "has nothing to do with (a woman's) constitutional right to profess and practise her Muslim religion", because Islam does not make it obligatory to cover the face.
  2. MoroccoThe headscarf is strongly and implicitly forbidden in Morocco's military and the police.
  3. SyriaBefore it fell to the hands of Islamists Ghiyath Barakat, Syria's minister of higher education, announced that the government would ban women from wearing full face veils at universities.
  4. EgyptThere have been some restrictions of wearing the hijab by the government as it views hijab as a political symbol, in 2002, two presenters were excluded from a state run TV station for deciding to wear hijab on national television.
  5. Abu Dhabi - In Abu Dhabi, the niqab was banned in all public offices to fight unrestricted absenteeism.

(info sourced from here and various linked articles)

- Also, how about the fact that even in the Muslim world the niqab is increasingly seen as a political statement, a symbol of Islamism rather than Islam. There are official fatwas against the niqab, by muslim scholars themselves. As an article points out,
"Last October, Shaykh Tantawi, the head of Al-Azhar university, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni world, ordered a school girl to remove her niqab during a visit to an Al-Azhar school, saying he would seek an official ban for the face-veil in schools as “the niqab is a tradition and has nothing to do with Islam.” "
"This decision was reaffirmed in a fatwa issued by the Iraqi Shaykh, Ahmad al-Qubaisi, who stated: “People have the right to know the identity of the person they are in front of in order not to feel deceived. The obligation of niqab was only for the Prophet’s wives as they were the mothers of all believers. Women who do not agree only have to look for another job in which they are not requested to show their faces”."

- And finally how about this for a reason (full article here), 

"In Kuwait, women wearing the niqab have been banned from driving for security reasons, as the only hole in the veil allows no 180-degree perspective. Moreover, it would be impossible to recognize the driver in case of driving infraction." 

In short, there are multitudes of valid, reasonable reasons for secular societies to ask that people do the bare minimum and at least show who they are *at least in government buildings*, ok no? How about for the few minutes where you are swearing your personhood and loyalty in the form of citizenship to the secular country of Canada. Can you please just show us who you are while you do that? You can wear whatever you like, as long as we can see your face...It'll only be for a few minutes? Please? Is that reasonable?

And all this is aside from the very obvious, you know, don't put women in black bags where their face can't be touched by the warmth of the sun. Where they don't have the privilege to breathe/see comfortably and simply exist like other people. I mean we have enough problems getting vitamin D in Canada as is. Mother Nature imposes some level of shariah-compliant modesty on us for much of the year... but our faces, those are one of the few parts that get to live and breathe and see freely. Do not endorse ideologies that take that away from women. Some may shout about how it's their choice to live so inhumanely. But that's what any person suffering from Stockholm syndrome would do.  If they want that 'choice', they do have it outside of the specific situations people are asked to show their face for security, government reasons. 

You will also hear from some manipulative Muslims who use the feminist (feminism means equality for men and women btw) argument of bodily autonomy. Of how other people should not decide what women wear, their body, their decision. I am in complete agreement with that, but as a society we do have some rules and mores, when things cross a certain line. We do forbid public nudity. And in the same vein, we should not be endorsing misogyny and the othering of women. We should not be allowing unchecked anonymity in certain situations. And that's that. No one is trying to dictate what you wear, they just want to be able to identify who you are. The functionality of knowing who you are, trumps that faux-feminist card you will play. 

Also Toronto publications, please stop with your non-muslim 'experts' on Islam. Hear from us, those of us who were born into the religion. Those of us who have dared to stand up in the face of this treatment. 

Please Canada, don't listen to the anti-muslim bigots, and don't listen to those who wish to oppress women in the name of Islam. Don't listen to Western apologists for such things either. Listen to US who have lived under and stood up to Islamist fascism. How hard is that really? 

Kind of hard. I get it. I do understand that ours is a view that is rather inconvenient at times. It endorses none of the pre-existing 'template narratives' the mainstream media has set up for everyone. 

***

As the child who saw her mom's ankles getting caned by morality police, for not having enough hair or skin covered...I speak with a deep concern for my culture, and I want us to be included like the rest of the world, at the adult table. I want us not to be viewed as the loonies who can't help but treat women unjustly. Don't talk down to us, don't look down on us, treat us as your equal and expect us to evolve like other people do. We are not the barbarians you think we are, we may require a nudge, and the rest of the world to tell us when we are in the wrong. 

I repeat, it is not ok to treat women like this. Tolerance and diversity does not mean or include tolerance of intolerance.... tolerance for misogyny. Fellow liberals please speak up for liberal values. 

If you are a Canadian concerned about this issue, I request that you share this piece. Because many do not want you to hear from people like me, obviously. 

***

A huge thanks to my patrons: Lisa Fontaine, Ali Sajid Imami, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

You too can support here ! 

If you feel my voice needs to be heard - and you can add a dollar or two to help this project continue, I would greatly appreciate it!
Cheers! 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Spicy Nihari & Fingerbanging. Not a good Mix.


Dear Eiynah, 

My wife and I enjoy your blog and we are glad that a Pakistani had the courage to tackle the messy, tangled, taboo web that is Pakistani Sexuality. Thank you for that, before your blog we really had no place to read about the sexcapades of fellow Pakistanis, its good to know that so many out there are human enough to have sex urges like the rest of us. Living amongst the "pious" and "pure" people of our country, one can easily begin to think that our people simply have no feeling left. Numbed by violence, tragedy and intolerance as well as a desire to repress sexuality, it isn't a stretch to think that all feeling is lost. But your blog reassures me that Pakistanis still have some left. 

So anyway, I come to you today with a rather um, awkward problem. I am a man in my thirties, happily married to a wonderful woman. We have a fantastic sex life, except a couple of times we've had an encounter with a specifically desi (South Asian) problem. Oh damn, I can't even believe I'm writing to you about this, but I bet this is something that has happened to more desis out there. I would love to hear that we are not alone. 

So basically the issue is this: after a large, delicious, spicy meal, typically something involving using your hands, like nihari, the smell and spice sort of lingers on your fingers. 




Even hours later, after multiple handwashings. Sometimes after nihari, later in the evening myself and the Mrs. get a little 'active' in the bedroom. My fingers travel down south and I am interrupted by a screech. Completely forgetting what we've had for lunch that day, I ask my wife whats wrong and she screams that my fingers have caused her genitals to burn and sting. I think back to what I ate, and fuck it's almost always nihari or some really spicy saalan (stew/curry). Completely ruins the mood, and she has to go run cold water over herself to ease the burning. And I'm left with my dick in my hand, cursing myself and my spicy lunch. 

I've actually remembered before when I've had spicy food to specifically scrub my hands before I get into bed and finger my wife. No luck. Same shit man. She still screams and complains that it burns. 

I don't know what to do - now this isn't with all desi meals, just with the extra gravyish and spicy ones. Do I have to choose between eating nihari and fingering my wife? Because goddamn it I love both those things so much. But the damn spiciness doesn't leave my fingers for hours. What do I do? 

****

BaHAHahhahahahhahahahhahaHA

Oh dear. I am so sorry for laughing. But talk about 'desi problems' eh?

[Paraphrased] "I ate too much spicy food with my hands today, so I can't fingerbang my wife."

Shit dude, this is a real issue. I mean I don't know what to tell you? Scrub harder before fingering your wife. If that doesn't work, remember to go straight to oral the days you've had nihari type food? Don't skip on the foreplay and just stick it in, because that's just shitty sex. If your fingers are unusable for some reason, use the others 'parts' you have at your disposal.

You could also get a vibrator so you don't have to use your hands, I hear they have bootleggers for sex toys in Pakistan now (though how much I'd trust a sex toy bought from a shady guy in an alley, I don't know...see if he has customer references at least? Even then be wary.)

Eating certain foods with our hands, is just the way its done in Pakistani culture. Being the  traditional, cultural woman that I am, I wouldn't dream of asking you to give that up or give up nihari in general (that would be sinful, that stuff is *so* good). So yeah, try alternative ways, get creative. Plan nihari on unsexy nights? Haha I dunno, I don't have a magical antidote for your problem. It is rather unique.

But hopefully this post can get you thinking on the track of alternative courses of action. Maybe you can invest in a box of disposable rubber gloves and role play doctor once in a while?

If anyone else has come across this issue, and has a fix for it - please do leave a comment!

Boy, you really add a new dimension to "spicing things up in the bedroom".  Tingly, burny genitals do not sound fun. :/

But nihari is goood...so goooooood. It's a pity it had to cross paths with genitals. Definitely not genital friendly.

Mmm...I want to dip my nan in that right now. 
----------
Edit: I am being informed that some people have had this issue with oral too.... so proceed with caution - make sure several hours have passed. Mouthwash, rinse. Keep us posted ;) 

***

A huge thanks to my patrons: Lisa Fontaine, Ali Sajid Imami, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

You too can support here ! 

If you feel my voice needs to be heard - and you can add a dollar or two to help this project continue, I would greatly appreciate it!
Cheers! 


Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day from Chacha & Faheem!

I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day myself... but I sure do love seeing Chacha and Faheem being in love! I received a letter and a photo from him today, that he wanted me to pass on to all the wonderful folks who have supported the immense struggle it is to be Pakistani and not fit the very narrow mould set out for us.

Yes you can be Pakistani and different, yes you can be Muslim and not fit the 'norm'. Love who you are and don't let this nasty world get you down! xx



***

Chacha and Faheem are characters from Pakistan's first anti-homophobia children's book which you can view here

You can support the project and buy a copy of the book here

All copies purchased on Valentine's day will be signed with a 'Happy Valentine's Day' note from the author! 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Tragedy of Chapel Hill: Muslims, Mermaids & Atheism

In this world of ours, it is becoming increasingly hard to carve a path of reason for myself as an ex-Muslim. I find that I constantly have to walk a tightrope over the opposing waters of religious fascism and anti-muslim bigotry. Both of which I am personally affected by on a daily basis. 

I used to only have to worry about death threats from angered Muslim extremists, will I now have to worry about being targeted for my background too?

***

Yesterday, a quiet neighbourhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, lost three wonderful people; Deah Barakat, Yusur Mohammad and Razan Mohammad. They were gunned down in their home, by someone who identified as a vocal atheist on social media. Those three innocent people also happened to be Muslim...


I cannot describe to you how this eats away at me, because I too am a vocal atheist and I too was born into a Muslim family. 

I have seen an outpour of compassion from all kinds of people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, atheist and non-atheist. I have also seen people on both sides of this use the incident as an opportunity to score a point or lash out in defensiveness. I have seen the anti-Muslim rhetoric rear its ugly head more times than I was prepared to see, coming from ‘rational’ people. And I have also seen the anti-atheists try to further their agenda in ludicrous ways, with the use of foolish false equivalencies.

I must admit, I am not shocked by bigotry and narrow-mindedness coming from ardent followers of texts that call for violence and murder. Sadly, it kind of happens all the time... Though I am baffled by how someone ‘rational' enough to abandon myth, can act in such a non-humanistic manner.

In the past day I have come across several calls for wiping out Muslims entirely, mass deportations, people calling ordinary Muslims a threat, people not even entertaining the fact that this heinous killing could have been the result of prejudices, to do with the victims’ faith. On the surface, it may have happened over ‘a parking dispute’ - but you would have to be in serious denial to not consider the involvement of other factors like religion, ethnicity, etc. This is not someone trying to put a spin on it, killings rarely do occur over parking. What was in the killer’s heart and mind that caused him to act in this way? Perhaps we will never know... We should definitely investigate.

*** 

On the flip side, I see plenty of atheist-haters smugly saying how Dawkins and Harris should apologize for this - since they want to hold the Islamic ideology accountable for it’s (very real and numerous) prescribed atrocities. With the increasingly reliable naivet√© blame-shifting, apologist narrative of CJ Werlman and his oft-used recipe for attention - a dash of malice and a hint of slander, you get tweets like this (which he apparently realized was wrong himself and deleted within 30 seconds): 

screenshot via 
Aside from the fact that this is vile, it’s plain inaccurate. I cannot believe I’m having to explain what a false equivalency this is, over and over again. Dawkins and Harris are not the 'imams' of atheism (they had no trouble denouncing the act anyway, but thats not the point), and atheism isn’t a belief. It is exactly the opposite, a lack of belief. 

Dawkins/Harris write books and articles, not commandments and scriptures that are meant to be seen as 'divine guidance'. They don’t claim divinity or want submission, they are fallible like the rest of us. The killer did not shoot in the name of his atheism either. But notice when someone kills whilst screaming Allahu Akbar, the media hesitates to call them Muslim. No one hesitated to call this guy an atheist - as they shouldn't.

Who are these atheists, and what do they believe? Well, let me put it this way;

A lack of belief in god(s) unifies people in some sort of ‘worldview’ as much as a lack of belief in mermaids unifies people. There is no doctrine about 'how not to believe in mermaids' .. there are no verses commanding non-believers of mermaids to kill people who daren't disbelieve in them. You can't blame everyone who doesn't believe in mermaids for the actions of one guy who doesn't believe in mermaids. There's nothing really common among them except for the disbelief in mermaids. Whereas a jihadist chanting "We have avenged our prophet" and a flag that says "there is no god but Allah", or a book that commands people to slay disbelievers.... those things can and should be held accountable, because depending on your interpretation, they are instructions straight from the holy book. Like it or not, there is nothing religion-like about atheism and I am so sick of this faux analogy. 

I am also severely irritated and embarrassed by those who jump to say, frothing at the mouth, that this story wasn’t being given importance, that it wasn’t being given coverage…simply because the victims were Muslim. Thats a fresh pile of BS right there, because it was on every channel I flipped to and I came across countless articles on Twitter as well. In this Western country filled with a non-muslim majority, the turnout for these beautiful people’s vigil speaks for itself. Is this the 'lack of respect' for Muslims you were referring to? 





Do we have vigils like this for minorities in our Muslim countries? Do we honour the lost lives of apostates? Or do we join in the call for their death? 

***

I’ll end with this; The killer was an atheist and I don’t think you’ll find many people trying to deny that. You won’t find anyone saying ‘he’s not a real atheist’, you hopefully won’t find disassociative hashtags like #NotInMyName and you won’t find many people making a fuss about an 'atheiphobic' backlash. What we should see is an increase of people distinguishing their critique of an ideology from holding individuals accountable. We should make an extra effort to point the difference out. Islam is problematic, not individual Muslims. Calling people towelheads and donkeyfuckers is not a valid critique of an idea. Violence is most certainly never ok ...and we should talk more about gun fetishization in the US. I read that the killer (Hicks) was one of those 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people' guys.  I have heard this same line about the Quran...

***

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Thank you. 







Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Menstruation Makes you Unholy


So this weekend we were helping my aunt move. And gosh I love her to pieces...she is one of my few relatives that defends my right to disbelief as an equal right to having belief. Why can't we have more awesome Muslims like this in the world?

Anyhoo, we were just about done with moving the big stuff, like furniture, and her daughter tried to hand her a pile of books - which she suddenly backed away from. Saying no no, "haat pak nahi hain" (literally translated that means: My hands are impure)... Ah religious books, I thought to myself...women are not allowed to touch the Quran while menstruating.

This has always bothered me a lot. Because the messy stuff is occurring in the crotchal region, how then does it make your hands unclean? Apparently it makes your whole existence 'impure'. God will not listen to your prayers during this time either... because you are not allowed to pray, according to some scholars.

(Yes I know some hipster Muslims will jump on this and say that's not true... you're not interpreting the Quran/Hadith right...women are regarded as equals, and all that jazz...but no)

My aunt is a very modern, progressive woman...but still abides by that, as do most muslim women I know. I remember when I was kid, my mom was never really religious, but at one time during my preteen years she got cornered into Quran lessons over the phone, by an older woman. When she got her period she probably thought,

"Score, I get a few days off from these phone-in Quran lessons"

Oh, but she was mistaken. The older lady said...

"Why should you miss any days at all? Get yourself some thin gloves you can wear during the lesson, so it creates a barrier between your hands and the holy pages."

I remember being irritated even then. I don't remember if this was before I got my period or after... but in any case, I was aware of what menstruation was... and found it awful that a woman should not be allowed to hold a book while bleeding in a completely different part of her body. I'd get it if our hands bled during menstruation... I mean that would be messy as hell... and the book would be ruined... but this idea of impurity associated with womanhood that we as Muslim women are forced to internalize is abhorrent.

And also, it can't be easy turning pages while wearing gloves.

Here we have a traditional Pakistani bride, photographed during her
menstrual cycle. And well, you can see what happens, women
turn into flesh eating zombies, and need to be kept away from the
holy books, understandably so. 

I'm not blaming my aunt, she grew up thinking this, as did my mom. It's more of a reflex now, than something that is actively thought about.

And even logically though, lets say there was some 'magical impurity' emanating from a woman's being during her cycle that could cause damage to the holy book.... how on earth does a pair of flimsy gloves protect it?

But back to the story about moving...I was taken aback and my aunt gestured to my cousin to hand the pile of books to me, I didn't want to offend anyone else in the room because my association with Satan is a well known fact (I kid, but some muslim people don't like non-believers touching their scriptures), so out of respect for everyone else in the room I hesitated to grab the books (in case I was blamed for being disrespectful later)...and said.. well if her hands are impure now, mine are probably in a constant state of impurity. My dad winced at the reminder, lol. Oh dad.

But everyone indicated it was ok for me to grab the pile of holy books. So I did...and I did not burst into flame. Yay!

----

But it got me thinking about what this is all based on...

Because surely now in the 21st century, people can conclude that if your hands are washed with soap, they are clean...right? So what's this impurity crap about? How petty of god to disallow prayer and worship during a menstrual cycle. (And yes, I know, Islam isn't the only religion with issues surrounding menstruation).

So here is what I found (see full website here):

“The menstruating woman and the one who is in a state of impurity (janaabah) (Janaabah = post-sex state of impurity) should not recite anything of the Qur’aan.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 131; Ibn Maajah, 595; al-Daaraqutni (1/117); al-Bayhaqi, 1/89.

On the flipside there was this:

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “There is no clear, saheeh text to indicate that a menstruating woman is forbidden to recite Qur’aan… It is known that women used to menstruate at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he did not forbid them to recite Qur’aan, or to remember Allaah (dhikr) and offer du’aa’.”

Preventing a menstruating woman from reciting Qur’aan deprives her of the chance to earn reward, and it may make her forget something of the Qur’aan, or she may need to recite it for the purposes of teaching or learning.


"God" forbid you deprive her the chance of that heavenly reward, and omfg what if she forgets something, that is .. you know, already written down...and readily available.

For this her impurity can be excused.

So basically it seems, there is no general consensus, and nobody is sure if god is really THAT petty or not... but:

"If a woman wants to err on the side of caution, she can limit her recitation to the passages which she is afraid of forgetting."

Gee thanks!

Oh wait....

"It is very important to note that what we have been discussing here is restricted to what a menstruating woman recites from memory. When it comes to reading from the Mus-haf (the Arabic text itself), a different rule applies. The correct view of the scholars is that it is forbidden to touch the mus-haf when one is in any kind of state of impurity, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):“… which none can touch except the purified.” [al-Waaqi’ah 56:79]. "

"In a letter to ‘Amr ibn Hazm, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told the people of Yemen: “No one should touch the Qur’aan except one who is taahir (pure).”"

It summed up here by islamichelpline.net:
"This is an issue on which the scholars of Islam have a difference of opinion.  The best and most accepted opinion is that a woman who is in her menstrual period should abstain from touching the Quran, until she has purified herself.
Most of the scholars are of the opinion that there is no harm for a woman, who is in her menstrual period, to recite the Quran from memory." 

So thanks, we have the privilege of uttering the words in our state of feminine impurity, but we cannot touch.

Gosh darn it's good to feel loved. :)

Thanks Islam!

(If you think this is bad, you should see what the Orthodox Jews have going on during and after menstruation).

Also, a huge thanks to my patrons: Lisa Fontaine, Ali Sajid Imami, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Know the Question - your support means a lot, and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"God is in the TV" - MM


I was never a typical Pakistani kid - those of you who read my blog regularly, are probably well aware. As a teenager I tormented my parents with a deep love for Mr. Marilyn Manson. :D It was hard to procure his music while growing up in Saudi Arabia, I must admit... but I found avenues....

During this time, My mother was visibly concerned that her daughter didn't spend time prettying herself up in traditional ways, she worried about who would ever marry a spike-wearing, black-clothing clad weirdo like myself. (No idea why marriage was even on the radar when I was a teenager, but it came up often)

My dad tried to understand (unsuccessfully) the psychological aspect of why someone would choose to look this way,  he literally winced every time he saw me in a Manson shirt (he did an awful lot of wincing back then). Our dinner table conversations were both interesting and frustrating those years.


Going against my parents' expectations of who I should be gave me a sense of satisfaction. I was discovering who I was for myself, no harm in that... Besides, it wasn't drugs or sex through which I rebelled, it was clothing and make-up, fishnets and accessories (ok and piercings)..pretty harmless, impermanent stuff in my opinion.

In retrospect however, I do realize how hard it must have been for my parents to deal with the reactions of our community, our extended family...people made up all kinds of rumours, some even whispering about how I had joined a satanic blood-drinking cult. *Sigh*

In Saudi Arabia, even in western compound life, there was no such thing as subculture, there was no 'alternative' way of expressing yourself. And people that didn't come from countries where they had seen this before, were absolutely mortified, stunned...and didn't know how to respond.  There were some attempts from Pakistani folk to 'save' me. Which didn't work obviously, because here I am years and years and years later... still unsaved.

:)


I also met a lot of small-town American army wives, in Saudi. If they saw me walk into the community centre with a Manson shirt...there would be much talk of them praying for my soul. They must not have prayed hard enough...because last night....I was AT A MARILYN MANSON CONCERT!

I mean, its been roughly a decade since I followed his work...when university happened, I was far too goth for Manson and his 'mainstream' records :P But now that I am *old* (read: have nothing to prove) and wanting to relive my youth, I pop on my Mechanical Animals cd every now and then. And thankfully, despite my protests of 'nah, too expensive', my little sister convinced me to go with her. It was nice to see the babygoths out and about...they seem to have vanished from all the old haunts in Toronto... :(

****

So post-blizzard, off we went, with vodka in our systems to keep us warm...me and the sibling (and her husband)....

The concert was quite tame actually....I was expecting him to have some crazy theatrics...but with me, he too is getting old I s'pose. Still beautiful though *swoon*....I didn't know half the songs, but it was a pilgrimage that needed to happen. I owed it to my teenage self.

Speaking of pilgrimage....and this is going to sound like an odd comparison, but it was reminiscent in some ways to the trips my family took to Makkah. The crowd at the concert was intense, aggressive and packed in like sardines. Not a great situation for a girl with a small bladder like myself. I was deliberately pushed and manhandled by crazy people. Lucky for them, I couldn't tell exactly who was pushing. But that desperation to get nearer, to push, to reach out and touch at the cost of possible injury to others...that reminded me of going around the Ka'abah in Makkah with my parents as a kid. There was clearly a magnetic force at the centre of the holy place, similar to a rockstar I suppose. The similarities are uncanny...and I'm not interested in worshipping rockstars or gods, but you know...at least rockstars are real... so I can kind of see whats making people crazy...I can't relate, because even at a concert I'm happy to watch from far away, and listen to the music...I like to spare myself the grief of sweaty strangers touching me...

Image from: www.gettyimages.in

Image from: pixshark.com

Image from ArtIslamic.com

Image from: jetpack.me

I usually go to concerts of much smaller bands (because I'm unhip like that), which is why I don't often come across this Mecca-like mania. But, it was a fascinating experience all around. The older songs I did recognize, sent me on an awesome trip down memory lane. So thank you for that Manson!





Oh - and I magically caught a glimpse of an old friend of mine I haven't seen in at least 7 years! In a crowd of I dunno how many thousands.. He reached through the masses and grabbed my lace gloved hand and kissed it....then we were separated by throngs of  pushing people again. But that brief moment of contact was lovely....it was like dipping my toes into the past.

Nice to be back in the present though. Where I can indeed say I've seen Manson live. Done it :D Survived the crowds and everything!

When I jokingly told my dad over the weekend I'd be going to a Manson concert...he cringed. Haha, some things never change.


And then it was over... all we were left with were sticky floors
 and giant glitter particles. Also how on earth do ppl make
 it through concerts *standing* in such high heels.
Kudos to her, cool shoes! I could never
walk in those, esp right after a blizzard. 

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