Sister on a Mission

A Muslimah in the Midwest trying to counteract all the "war on terror" propaganda.

Location: Midwest, United States

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why Don't Muslim Women Support Amina Wadud?

There's been a lot of bru-ha-ha in the past couple of days about Amina Wadud and her efforts to fight for Muslim women's rights by purportedly acting as the first female imam in history. While the Western feminists are all over this and the Progressive Muslim Union (PMU) has helped create a media spectacle surrounding it, this is not an issue that regular Muslim women support or even care about. Why?

To Americans it seems an important step for Muslims toward "joining the 21st century". To fringe groups like the PMU is seems like a great opportunity to show Americans that we're "just like them". But to most Muslims - even Muslim women - it seems like much ado about nothing important.

As far as women's rights issues go, there are so many real issues that could be fought for - so many more important areas to spend one's energy on. Muslim women in some areas of Africa still suffer the horrors of radical circumcision - a practice left over from pre-Islamic times that destroys women's bodies and indeed their very identities. There are Muslim women who are illiterate and have no access to learning. There are Muslim women whose entire existence is marred by fear for their very lives, with Israeli or American or Indian or Russian missiles and soldiers breaking violently into their homes and killing their children and family members. There are Muslim women who are prevented by war or poverty or ignorant misogyny from accessing medical care for themselves and their children. And there are millions of misinformed Westerners who think that all those circumstances are caused by Islam itself rather than destructive economic systems, unfair foreign policy decisions made by their own leaders or deliberately ignorant Muslim men (who have deviated from their religion and enforce their deviation in order to maintain the delusion of their own superiority, much like skinheads).

Into the middle of all this injustice lands Amina Wadud, and she decides to spend her time fighting fiercely for...women's right to lead the prayer? Could there possibly be a more frivolous issue? The only people who care about it are the liberal Christians and the secular feminists. I even know a Catholic nun who says the same thing when accused of cowardice by some women in her own faith for not joining their struggle to get women ordained as priests: "If I'm going to fight for something, I'm going to fight for something meaningful - something that really helps women!" she declares. (And she does!)

And that's the crux of the matter. Wadud and her cohorts might really believe that women leading prayers would somehow improve women's status, but that's because for all their advanced degrees, they lack a basic understanding of Islam. They are chasing after the feminist dream of erasing gender roles - but that's not a Muslim dream. Not because Muslims are backward, but because it's not a healthy goal. It is a dream born of a sick society where only men and men's roles were valued. Their answers are not our answers.

There is wisdom and a primer for society in the way the prayers are performed. Men in front, protecting, serving and leading their families and communities. Women bringing up the rear - disciplining, nurturing and teaching the children, making sure they don't fall out of line or out of love in the community, and protecting them from the back-door dangers of the world - like doubt and negative peer pressure - with unflinching love and care. And the young men and women in the middle - secure and protected from all sides while they learn and grow into mature adults who will take their complimentary places in the community when they come of age.

This formula reflects a healthy society where men's and women's roles are different but both are respected. Where men and women have complimentary rights and responsibilities. Where men stick around and raise their families with kindness and piety. Where women are educated and independent, and participate in the life of the community just like the men, but don't abandon their responsibilities to their children and spouses in search of "self fulfillment". The dream and efforts of all Muslims should be to fully implement THAT system. Not to run around showing the dysfunctional Westerners how eager we are to implement theirs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank??!

Welcome to stage three of the neocon plot to take over the world.

Get your "Member of the New World Order" t-shirts now.

(Of course the back has a huge red target on it.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

muslim momma's interview

Muslim momma blogged me these interview questions!!

1. Did you find it hard to raise you kids here in the US?'s an ongoing thing, ya know? But I found it just as hard in Syria and Saudi. There are just different pressures. I almost like it here better b/c we can look at the larger society and say, "We don't do stuff drink and flirt and hook up because we're Muslims" and it's a very easily identifiable differentiation. Overseas when people do bad or dangerous stuff you can't say, "They're not Muslims" because ostensibly they are. Know what I mean?

2. What prompted you to start lecturing on Islam to non-Muslims?

Amina Assilmi. I saw her speak when I was very first Muslim and I said, "I wanna do that some day!"

3. What is your favorite food?

Sushi! And my secret vice is potato chips. Au Gratin or Flamin' Hot Lays! I loved the "California Dill" ones but they don't make them anymore.

4. Do you have big plans for when your kids leave the house and you become an empty nester?

To do activism full time, go to school, and go see the kids insha'Allah.

5. Do you find it hard to balance your personal interests with being a wife and mother?

Absolutely. I suffer from chronic Taffy Syndrome. I always feel pulled. When I'm at work I feel like I should be home and when I'm home I feel like I should be at work. But it's gotten better since I was sick last month and had to make some priority decisions and let some stuff go, alhamdulillah.

Monday, March 14, 2005


I spoke about Islam at a homemakers' club last week. The audience consisted of about 30 retired ladies who have had their club for about 30 years. They were wonderful and asked tons of interesting questions. One question, though, got me to thinking....

One lady asked, "Why are Muslim schoolchildren taught to hate America?"

I was completely taken aback. No one ever asked me that before, and I've been lecturing about Islam for over ten years. It goes to show that our president's "They hate us because we're free" drivel is reaching its target audience.

The amazing thing about this question is that the lady honestly believed its premise. It never even occured to her that this was a part of her own government's propaganda. That the question itself proved that Americans are being taught to hate - or at least fear - Muslims.

I answered with a long-winded explanation about wartime propaganda and reminded them of how we were convinced by our teachers and government that the USSR was this grey, dreary, freezing, colorless place populated by a bunch of babushkas who did nothing but stand in bread lines, work at antiquated factories and read fake news put out by their oppressive government. Then when the iron curtain came down we suddenly realized that Russia et al was a colorful place where the rest of the world had been vacationing for years, with castles and rich history and beautiful young women. I told her the Islamic world was something like that. A regular place where people lived and worked and raised their families, and that while they had their share of propaganda too, and while there is also justified frustration and anger at the US for its double standards and destructive foreign policies, they are not sitting around teaching their children to hate America any more than we are teaching our children to hate Muslims.

The irony is, though, that we obviously are.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Answers to Izzy Mo's Questions

OK, I checked Izzy Mo's blog this morning and she did indeed answer UZ's questions. So here are my answers to her questions!


1) Sister on a mission, what are plans for your new blog? (Congratulations on your new blog and your article getting published in Azizah Magazine).

Thanks!! (BTW I know I owe you a book review, too! I'm on it, really I am.) My blog is evolving. Into what, I'm not sure yet. My original idea was to make it a place where I can write out all those things I scream at my radio when NPR plays a clip of our esteemed president (minus the cuss-words). I don't know if that's what it will end up being or not. I'd like it to be a place where non-Muslims can stop by and go, "Hey, that makes sense. Those Mozlems aren't as out there as I thought they were."

2) As far as for sifting through the “war on terror” propaganda, how are you going to address the lies about our foreign policy in America?

Like any other salmon trying to swim up Niagra Falls - one lie at a time. But notice there's nothing on my blog yet about that stuff...b/c I'm still sifting and seeing what I want to address first. You can't just jump in the middle and start talking about things....or can you?

3) Are you a writer or editor of any hometown publications or newspapers?

I'm the copy editor and a contributor to the new KC newsletter (I'm not even sure what they're calling it, lol) that is being published by a sister and her dh. They're aiming for an audience of Muslims and non-Muslims in the local area. I have also published the school newsletter for several years. I do the articles, the layout, the formatting, the printing and the distributing. It's really a small-time thing and no one reads it.

4) What does “Islamic activism” mean to you?

Hmmm. Being pro-active in getting our voice out there in as many modes as possible. Sometimes that means organizing poetry readings, sometimes it means writing to the Mayor of London to thank him for his non-Islamophobic stances, sometimes it means talking to church or university groups. Just always, always be "on", talking about Islam at every opportunity.

5) Do you think that writing is the best way to combat the menace of Islamophobia or are there other effective means?

See above. Although I'd love to get an article published in a mainstream mag. I'm thinking of sending query letters to Redbook, Ladies' Home Journal, things of that ilk. To reach a lot of non-Muslims.

The thing is, Westerners have such a big blind spot they don't even notice it's there. You can't even talk to people unless they understand that they don't understand. Many people do but many others don't. :-(

Back to the frustration zone....

You know, I was once in a halaqah w/Sh. Mohammad Hilali. He was talking about the tafsir of Surat al Baqarah. He was saying how we humans would have looked at the situation of Bani Israel in Egypt and immediately said, "Let's go rescue them today" and done something immediate. They were in TROUBLE, after all. But that Allah did it slowly. He had a prophet be born and waited for him to grow up, and really set the scene and the circumstances. Then it all came together in His time. So I always try to remember that, suphan Allah.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ginny's Questions


AsSalaamu Alaikum. Here are your interview questions!

1. What is the best and worst thing about living in Tenessee?

2. Do you like strangers offering you help on the street or does it make you uncomfortable? Do many people do so?

3. What would be your dream job?

4. Were you scared when you went to Gambia?

5. If you could be boss of the world for a day, what would be the first three things you'd do? (Everyone has to listen to you and money is no object)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Interview Game Rules


Here's how you can play the interview game:

1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five commenters will be the participants.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions.

3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Interview Invitation

OK, so now I'm playing the interview game, too. The first five people to post "interview me" on the comments section, I'll interview.

Tasmiya's Interview Questions

The following interview questions are from Tasmiya, a fellow blogging sister from Down Under! Visit her at

1. What sort of environment is for you the best for writing? Did that one even make sense? (Noise, total silence, white noise, food that sort of thing)

I don't care about the environment, I can write anywhere as long as A) there are not dozens of small feet with big voices and even bigger needs calling, "Mom!" "Mom, she hit me!" "Mom, can I feed milk to the fish?" and "Mom, can you help me with this project that involves creating nuclear fission and is due tomorrow?" and B) so long as I have a solid block of time to do it in. I have a friend who writes whenever she has a spare 30 seconds. I can't do that.

2.What's your favourite Surah and why?

Surat al Mu'minoon. It is comforting and full of deep theology. I like surat Maryam, too. Actually, I'm always finishing a surah and saying, "Oh, yeah, this is my new favorite surah." lol.

3. Who has been the most influential person in your life?

OK, this is corny, but it's my husband. He taught me the real meaning of trusting Allah. I used to be obsessed about control and certainty and having everything a certain way all the time. He taught me that control is just an illusion. He always reminds me of Allah when I need it most.

4. What has been the most picturesque place/city/country you've visited?

Montreal. I marched in a drum and bugle corps when I was 15 and we went there. New Orleans was nice, too . And I love New England.

5. If you could be "boss of the world" for one day (no restrictions on what you can and can't do and everyone has to do as you say - you've got political, financial and moral clout) what would be the first 3 things you'd do?

1. De-throne all dictators, both autocratic and democratic (starting with Bush and Sharon)
2. Institute an economy where food and goods are distributed fairly and not by market pressures (this goes hand-in-hand with destroying the interest banking system)
3. Implement universal hijab.

And then...

OK, so now that I'm blogging I feel this weight of responsibility to write things with meaning and purpose. Things that will be found interesting and will educate people. Except I can't decide what they are. I wrote three different posts yesterday and trashed them all.

Maybe blogging is not for perfectionists.

So I'll start with....

I decided to start with interviews from other bloggers and go from there. What a fun game!

These questions are from Umm Zaid at She's a poet, activist and mom who suffers through winters in Boston now, where she arrived last year by way of the Bronx. She's a long-time friend of mine and a long-time blogger.

1. Why did you choose now to start blogging?

I keep a journal, in which I've written that I don't blog because it seems useless and pathetic...just throwing words into cyberspace . I also harbor a latent fear of the whole internet crashing one day (or at least my blog) and it all vanishing into thin air. But I noticed that people like you, UZ, had blogs with themes, and I've been toying with the idea of starting one for a long time now. When my dh started one for his restaurant ( I took the leap. I chose this theme because this is what I always wish i could express to people everywhere. That Islam and Muslims are not what you see on TV.

2. Do you still do doula work? If not, why did you stop? What was the best part of doula-ing?

I don't do doula work anymore. The biggest reason is because my family was not ready for 24 hour stints on their own. It put a real strain on my marriage and the family's schedule. Also, though, an old friend told me, "This midwifery thing is a good thing to do, but it only reaches one woman or family at a time. You write well, why don't you concentrate on that? You shouldn't waste that ability."
Plus also (I've been reading too many Junie B. Jones books with the kids!), lay midwifery is illegal in my state, so it was sort of preparing myself what? KWIM?
The best part was learning so much about the birthing process and seeing so many miracles. Birth really is a miracle every time. And translating was fun. And helping the women shape their memories.
You didn't ask but the worst part was convincing ppl they needed a doula. It was so new then no one knew what it was and thought it was fluff. I did a lot of work for free. Which is why dh didn't have much patience for those marathon births.

3. What has been the best part of Cafe Rumi? The hardest part?

Best is it makes dh happy. He's always wanted to do this. And he's really good at it, masha'Allah. Worst is....the long hours he has to put in. And adjusting to seasonal income, b/c they really do a lot more business in the summer months than when it's cold.

4. Of all the roles you play in life (mother, teacher, wife, etc), what is the most rewarding for you?

After motherhood (for which the reward is counterbalanced by the great responsibility) it is definately speaking about Islam. I live for it. I have a gig coming up for the MSA at Central Missouri State University and I can't wait!

5. If I could travel anywhere.... because ....

Canada, to see Caroline!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Intro and Intention

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I'm a Muslimah activist, lecturer, writer and mother of six. I designed this blog as a way to express the things I wish all Westerners knew about Islam and Muslims.

When I went to Syria for the first time in 1992 my mom was terrified. "How can you even think about going there? There's violence and danger and political kidnappings...!" Then I arrived in Damascus my mother-in-law said, "How can you live in the States? It's so dangerous. There are gangs and drugs and AIDS..." Such is the power of the media. To create monsters out of completely ordinary people and places..

In a time of war that effort goes into overdrive. Especially when it's a "pre-emptive" war which was sold to the American people on false pretenses. The "enemy" has to be painted in the scariest possible light in order to keep people afraid enough to put up with the injustice and immorality of the operation.

So it becomes easy for regular people to jump on the demonizing bandwagon and dwell on the "otherness" of an entire group of people. And Muslims are partly to blame because we haven't been active or vocal or visible enough in our communities. Unfortunately, when 9-11 occured most people had a void in their brains where information about Islam and Muslims should have been. That made it easy for a president with an agenda to come in and paint images of scary bearded terrorists who "don't value life the way we do" lurking around every corner and in every mosque. But the reality of Islam and the point of view of the average Muslim is very far removed from what is portrayed by the media and the current administration. I hope to give people a glimpse of it.

Please don't hesitate to leave your comments. Thanks.