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In the Name of God بسم الله

Imamology

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Islam and Feminism

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Qa'im

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Lady Khadija, Lady Fatima, and Lady Zaynab are exemplary models of Islamic femininity. Their virtue, intelligence, patience, and strength is celebrated in Muslim civilization, alongside other reputable women. These women stood up to the sociopolitical injustices of their time, making their permanent mark in history. Without these paragons, the religion of Islam falls apart. Throughout the Quran, God explicitly addresses both men and women, because they are both necessary in the establishment of good societies and families. The Prophet elevated the status of women, from being buried alive beneath the Earth, to having Paradise beneath their feet.

But today, we live in a time where it is almost easier to say that you are a cannibal than to say that you are not a feminist. People look at you as though you are in favour of rapists, sexual assault, inequity, and bad behaviour to women. The truth is that we live in a very individualistic society, where competing individuals are pitted against each other in all aspects of life. There are constant clashes between economic classes, races, religions, sects, and now, even genders. As individuals, we stand largely on our own, with little communal or neighbourly support. Instead of viewing society in a familial, tribal, or communal lens, we view society as a collection of selves in constant competition for jobs, grades, wealth, reputation, and territory. As Muslims, it is true that we have individual responsibilities, but we are also commanded to be selfless - not greedy, stingy, territorial, or combative - and genuinely look for the collective interests of our communities.

Faith in God, Trust in God

A Muslim is one who has become convinced, through reason and intuition, that there is no god except the One Creator, Sustainer, and Nurturer of the cosmos. We then accept the prophethood of the final Messenger (s) due to his inimitable character and revelation. After we have established the Book of Allah and the Sunna of the Prophet as our ethical foundation, we are to follow the moral guidelines and principles that they espouse. It is our belief as Muslims that Muhammad (s) was the last prophet and messenger, and that the system that he brought would be one that would be in our best interests in every era and every place. Our God, in His boundless compassion and mercy, wants us to live out the most fulfilled, natural, and productive life, so that we may achieve the best of this world and the next. Islam recognizes that men and women are different, but equal, and so different instructions and obligations have been given to each gender for our own best interest. God has also warned us of what happens to communities that transgress these natural balances - dogmatism, nihilism, and eventually destruction.

Feminism vs Women's Rights

Feminism is much like the Marxist dialectic, except the proletarian class is replaced with women, and the bourgeoisie is replaced with men. Feminists advocate for women's rights, but its underlying theory is that men have collectively oppressed women by monopolizing all forms of power: political, economic, cultural religious, physical, and sexual. Its goal, therefore, is to destroy the patriarchy - which it says has been built to keep women down - and redistribute the power. Historically, feminism addressed some serious issues: suffrage (women's right to vote), economic independence, and generalizations against women. There is no doubt that some aspects of pre-modern society and developing countries have been very oppressive towards women in particular, including violence and economic oppression.

There is, however, such a thing as being an advocate for women's rights without being a feminist. All of the prophets uplifted and defended the rights of females, but they were also proponents of a patriarchal system. Islam advocated for the right of women to own property, take leading roles in commerce, choose their husbands, and take part in politics. Societies still addressed domestic violence, and chivalry instated the respect of women, the removal of their burdens, and holding them in protection and honour. Women were even exempted from religious and economic responsibilities to make their lives easier. In reality, a good man wants the best for his mother, his sister, his wife, and his daughter. Similarly, a good woman wants the best for her father, her husband, her brother and her son. These "patriarchal" civilizations consisted mostly of women who would reinforce these values in their sons and daughters. It's inconceivable that a worldwide system would collectively dupe and oppress all women for thousands of years.

But the underlying premise of feminism is that the two genders are at war with one another, and the only way to stop that is to destroy the patriarchal power structure. This simplistic worldview sees all aspects of patriarchy - including Abrahamic religions - to be oppressive and designed to put women down. It generalizes all men, it ignores any good that came out of traditional communities, and it puts the world on a dangerous course. The gender war basically pits the two genders against one another, perpetuates misconceptions about men ("mansplaining", "manspreading", "toxic masculinity", unhinged objectification) while ignoring men's issues (graduation, suicide, poverty, drug addiction, gang violence, work-related injuries, conflict, imprisonment, unfair divorce settlements and custody cases). The movement presupposes that men are privileged just by being men, and then ignores the many ways that men suffer.

Feminism is Changing

This is not an argument for weak women, there is no women in my mind stronger than Fatima, Zaynab, Umm al-Baneen, Sakeena, Ruqayya, Khadija, Asiya, and Maryam. They all displayed strength in their life and were often killed or imprisoned for their strength. I do not believe that all women must be submissive, gentle, meek, or put up with male abuse. Pre-modern societies had their misogyny: preventing women from owning property (how is that any different from Fadak?), forcing women into marriages, having women pay dowries, and having women put up with brutally violent husbands - all of this is haram and reprehensible.

However, supporting third-wave feminist ideology is different from supporting women's rights. As Muslims, we should be against an ideology that preaches Free Love, which is promoted by some of feminism's pioneers ( such as Mary Nichols), and promoted by popular modern feminists like Gloria Steinem. We should be against the idea that marriage and the patriarchy are a plot to keep women down, which is the position of Wollstonecraft. We should be against a feminism that shames stay-at-home mothers as uneducated and brainwashed. We should be against the simplistic idea that males are privileged just for being male, which leads to policies and customs that ignore the issues of our young men and boys. We should be against a raunchy feminism that would like to normalize female sexuality (the Vag.ina Monologues, #freethenipple campaign, slu.twalk, Femen) and legalize prostitution (Margo St. James, Norma Jean Almodovar, Kamala Kempadoo, Laura Maria Agustin, Annie Sprinkle, Carol Leigh, Carol Queen, Audacia Ray). We should be against a feminism that enshrines discredited narrative over fact (the wage gap, rape culture) and silenced those that disagree with it. We should be against an ideology that promotes the legalization of late-term abortion. We should be against queer-focused, anti-nuclear family feminists that have sway over the LGBT and Black Lives Matter movements. We should be against a feminism that denies any biological, anatomical or psychological basis for gender, and promotes gender-fluidity, non-binary and nongendered identities, genderless bathrooms, and cross-dressing. We should be against any ideology that promotes censorship on campus or among academics; including the idea of a safe-space. We should be against an ideology that attacks the hijab and separates harassment from clothing (a clear contradiction of 33:59 in the Quran). As someone who works with young people, I can say that all of these ideas are very influential among millennials, including young Muslims.

Freedom to Work, or Freedom from Work?

While feminist ideology has often run against capitalism and the free market, there is a strong aposteriori link between feminism and capitalism. It's an unintended unholy alliance: just as feminism encourages emancipation through economic independence, the free market will always want more consumers, more workers, more students paying tuition, longer hours of operation, more bank accounts (more revenue from interest), and more people relying on outside food. Most feminists today realize that there will not be a proletarian utopia, at least not any time soon, and so co-opting the current system is good enough for now. Many policies are being proposed and implemented to give women an edge in the business world. Today, women have a 2-1 advantage getting a STEM job (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) at an American college (Cornell 2015 study). A lot of this is because of the oft-repeated statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The problem with this statistic however is that it does not take into account career choices, degrees, hours in the work place, men being more likely to ask for raises, and female CEOs less likely to give themselves a higher salary. When you account for these factors, the gender pay gap is only about 4 cents, and there is no way to verify if those 4 cents are because of gender discrimination or other reasons. Wages are different from earnings.

Although feminist tropes can be good for upper-middle class white women, who want to escape the boredom of being a housewife or mother to work in bookstores, offices, and schools; it can be extremely detrimental to working-class women, who are now forced to work as maids and babysitters while raising their own children at the same time. Many women must support their children and their parents, often without the support of a man, whilst working overtime. All households in the future will definitely require two full-time incomes just to make ends meet. The problem, however, is that women no longer have the freedom not to work. They are basically forced to work to upkeep a home, because their husband's salary is now likely worth significantly less than it used to be. They will no longer have the option to stay home and raise their kids: nursing them, teaching them, and safeguarding them. Now, they must rely on babysitters, the television, the internet, coaches, and out-of-touch retired relatives. Leaving children unattended also gives predators and abusers more chances to get to these children. In general, naturally, a mother has the best interest for her children. When she is removed from the picture, many children grow up unloved, abused, suffering from mental health issues, behind in school and filled with the media's filth.

I can understand the reasons for female economic independence, but it comes with several costs: delaying marriage, raising one's chance of fornication and casual relationships, and having less family time during marriage. Especially today, economic independence is taking much longer to achieve, because more people are attaining university degrees. As Muslims, we must brainstorm as a community and find a more Islamic middle ground and moderate path.

Islam is not against working women whatsoever. Lady Khadija was a rich businesswoman, and the Prophet was her employee. A woman can do whatever she wants with her own money, while a man is obligated to spend his money on his family. In our fiqh, a wife can even demand to be paid by her husband for any housework or childrearing that she does. Many women in the history of Islam were known for their knowledge in the Islamic sciences and their personal virtues. But this all happened in "patriarchal societies".

Children

You cannot rely on the education system to teach your children ethics or practical life skills. On the contrary, you may even have to reverse some of the negative affects that public schooling can have a child. How much energy can realistically you give to them when you are working and under stress, on top of other responsibilities? There must be a middle way: take the first few years off, then work part-time (or go to school) until they hit adolescence. In our religion, a woman can also demand a wage for household responsibilities, demand a dower of her choice, and demand a maid for cleaning or nursing. These tools need to be revitalized for the modern age, even if it means that men work longer hours and families live within humble means.

As a child, I was able to do extra reading and math, French, Arabic, Islamic classes, Quran, sports, and eat only home-cooked meals, all because my mother took those years off. Most of all, she gave me the love, attention, and energy I needed as a child, without relying much on babysitters. She was able to become a teacher, memorize the Quran, volunteer at my school, exercise, have a social life, and have time for my father. Any lifestyle we choose will require some sacrifices, it's about what you prioritize. As a highschool teacher, I learned a lot about the parent-child relationship and how it affects their school and social life.

Feminism plays right into the hands of misogynists

In feminist circles, marriage is constantly attacked as a patriarchal institution designed to oppress women. Stay-at-home mothers are mocked and seen as weak and brainwashed. This is completely irreconcilable with Islam, which promotes marriage and motherhood as means to reaching God and a balanced, fulfilled life. Instead, free love is pushed for both genders, and a strong effort is being made to take all shame away from all forms of sexual deviation. Advising our sisters is now considered "sl.ut-shaming". But free love is incredibly oppressive towards women. Men can now have as many sexual partners as they want, without their parents' permission or knowledge, without being responsible for children, for food and shelter, or for other marital responsibilities. If sex is freely available, then men can do this indefinitely, without getting married, and they will become more adept at this with age, which is usually coupled with economic stability and maturity.

Furthermore, with feminists pushing to legalize "sex work" (prostitution), they believe that they are trying to free sex workers from the patriarchal law enforcement. But does this really help women? Paving the way towards legalizing prostitution means that cheating will be accessible to more men. More men will just rely on the sex industry, and less men will need to commit to a woman through marriage. With free love and immodest clothing and behaviour, women open themselves to the objectification of players, without those men paying any consequences. God created women to be the most sentient and empathetic of beings, and there is no doubt that being used, abused, and heartbroken repeatedly inflicts permanent scars. With more men checking out of marriage than ever before, and a 50% divorce rate in some parts of the world, it is not a mystery that older ladies with many past partners - and even children - will not be able to find the most desirable spouses. Islam recognizes the power of sexuality, which can either build or destroy communities. A woman is most fulfilled with a strong, stable man by her side - this is conventional wisdom in every culture - and so Islam recommends early marriage. But instead, feminism encourages women to get a full education and climb the corporate ladder, only to find that there is a lack of suitable male partners that can stimulate their intellect. With drug abuse, suicide, war, homelessness, and other crises that affect men in particular, there is always a natural imbalance in society. God hates bachelorhood and divorce, because they destroy the family, which is the basic unit of society. Men potentially lose most of their assets in a divorce, and often lose custody of their children, which causes more men to just keep a girlfriend.

Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression. Sex in Islam is enshrined in the protection of women, while free love victimizes women in many different ways. it is true that 1980s Second Wave Feminists were against prostitution and pornography, because they objectified women. But feminism today is changing, and its campaigns play right into the hands of perverted men.

Feminism is Anti-Scientific

Feminism ignores tons of conventional wisdom, science, psychology, and evolutionary biology. One of the faults of feminism is that it assumes that all feminine and masculine traits are socially constructed. Meaning, any characteristic of a gender is a product of culture and society, rather than nature. This flies in the face of everything we know about gender through biology, psychology, chemistry, and anthropology. The reality is that we are hardwired with certain traits, which allowed the human race to survive and thrive for thousands of years. Human nature does not change overnight due to an ideology. Political correctness and gender politics is silencing the academic process ("trigger warnings" and "safe spaces" are the most unacademic and unintellectual concepts in modern universities). The reality is that male and female brains are different. Men and women excel in different subjects and they tend to [refer different careers. Male domination of the STEM fields or physical labour is seen as a sexist social construct by feminists, rather than just respecting the different skills men and women have. Males and females compliment one another; they are not supposed to be exact copies of one another. In today's sanitized politically-correct culture, we can no longer highlight these differences without being silenced or shamed.

The question we are brainstorming is: is gender a social construction and a function, or is it biologically/neurologically/chemically/anatomically/psychologically rooted? Most reasonable people would say that it is both. Even the LGBT movement, which argues that people can be born with a male or female brain, would therefore agree that there is such a thing as a male or female brain, or a male and female anatomical appearance ("lipstick feminism"). So we must ask ourselves, do these differences have social consequences? Are we attracted to the same things in the other gender? Is motherhood and fatherhood exactly the same - and if they are different, what are the consequences or growing up without a mother or a father in a divorced or gay household? Why have almost all cultures used the exact same division of labour for generations? My view is, in answering these questions, we will conclude that men and women should have the same rights, but that their behaviour and affect in society will generally differ. And this is a good thing - it brings balance to the system. Men and women need one another to live a fulfilled life.

Not to mention the current LGBTQ trend (i.e. gender politics), which are a spin-off of identity politics. I can now identify as a 6'10" grade 1 lesbian Chinese female fox without being challenged in most academic or work settings. We can debate the roles or stereotypes of men or women, but if we are silenced from questioning basic identifiable realities, then what does that say about our ability to answer the real questions?

Addressing Women's Issues

I firmly believe that the issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, and unfair treatment of women needs to be openly addressed in our community. Domestic violence is a symptom of a diseased heart. It destroys families, and it cannot be taboo in our communities to openly challenge its reality. The caveat, however, is that we must address these issues in a way that does not give credence to movements that are set on destroying our civilization as well. As Muslims, we should rise above the domestic power dynamic and learn how to be compassionate, merciful, and loving. God created marriage as a sign so that we may know Him. But we can reproach these serious issues without compromising our futures.

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Extended readings:

Allah's Hijab: http://www.shiachat.com/forum/blogs/entry/65-allahs-hijab/

Feminism and Islamic Epistemology: http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/feminism-recalibrating-faith-according-to-an-islamic-epistemic/

Feminist outrage: http://muslimmatters.org/2014/11/17/the-hypocrisy-of-feminist-outrage/

The Gender Pay-Gap Myth: http://www.businessinsider.com/actually-the-gender-pay-gap-is-just-a-myth-2011-3?op=1

The Decline of "Marriageable" Men: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/308654/

Women who have more sexual partners have unhappier marriages down the road: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/21/more-sexual-partners-unhappy-marriage_n_5698440.html

Violence against men: http://www.sciencevsfeminism.com/the-myth-of-oppression/violence-by-women/a-historical-review/

Same-Sex Science: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/same-sex-science

Same-Sex Attraction: http://muslimmatters.org/2016/08/22/from-a-same-sex-attracted-muslim-between-denial-of-reality-and-distortion-of-religion/

Marriage will never be a Feminist Choice: http://www.xojane.com/issues/unpopular-opinion-marriage-will-never-be-a-feminist-choice

Is feminism destroying the institution of marriage? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11824814/Is-feminism-destroying-the-institution-of-marriage.html

Egyptian women number 1 beaters of husbands: UN study http://tribune.com.pk/story/1158555/egyptian-women-number-one-beating-husbands-shows-un-study/

More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

Ashura march for LGBT victims: http://i.imgur.com/otAHWTD.jpg

MSA Gay Pride Month: http://i.imgur.com/eACrFns.jpg

University of Toronto professor attacked for refusing to use "genderless pronouns": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4R0bWC41g4

Why as Muslims we cannot support Noor Taghouri: https://themuslimvibe.com/muslim-current-affairs-news/why-as-muslims-we-cant-support-noor-tagouris-decision-to-feature-in-playboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MashAllah Qaim, you're so talented.  Please consider publishing your blogs in a book format.

You made so many good points in this blog, esp. the one about women and working.  I hated leaving my baby boy with my elderly parents to return to work.  Isa was only 4mths old when I did so, and the guilt never left me. I ended up being a wage slave.  Sometimes baby would keep me awake the whole night, and then I would somehow stagger into work like a zombie.  I would think to myself on the way into work, this is isn't freedom or liberation.....THIS IS HELL. 

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Sometimes, feminism plays right into the hands of misogynists. Even if a woman would like to make different life choices and spend time with their children, they are pretty much forced to work. If they are single mothers, they may even work two jobs, while bound to her children, struggling to get sleep and have a social life.

Furthermore, the incoming legalization of prostitution will only subject women to more objectification, abuse, and unfaithful partners. Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression. Sex in Islam is enshrined in the protection of women, while free love victimizes women in many different ways.

Third-wave groups like Femmen are protesting objectification by protesting naked. This, "sl.ut walks", and "free the nipple" campaigns play right into the hands of perverted men.

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9 hours ago, enigma313 said:

MashAllah Qaim, you're so talented.  Please consider publishing your blogs in a book format.

You made so many good points in this blog, esp. the one about women and working.  I hated leaving my baby boy with my elderly parents to return to work.  Isa was only 4mths old when I did so, and the guilt never left me. I ended up being a wage slave.  Sometimes baby would keep me awake the whole night, and then I would somehow stagger into work like a zombie.  I would think to myself on the way into work, this is isn't freedom or liberation.....THIS IS HELL. 

Since you're still their mother, guess it was a treat from Allah swt and you just passed it very well, don't worry about it.

I'm sure Isa will proud to you.

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incredible brother Qaim most of the points you said were incredily spot on and how i too as a woman felt about these issues, i completely agree about boys reaxhing for trucks and girls reaching for dolls, now i was a tom boy but even i didnt feel one had to com pletely and absolutely reject feminine identity i didnt want to see little girls stop playing with dolls or told they couldnt ? and its not wrong to identify what one can play and not play with, i have seen women are generally emotional while men are not, simple and true fact in society. Qaim i am impressed not just hte points i mentioned here, i am impressed overall

Edited by sidnaq

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

Many feminist thinkers have been against the traditional gender roles, because they limit women to the domestic sphere, thereby having less economic and political influence and independence in society. Gilman and Goldman are key thinkers that argued for the economic emancipation of women, breaking out of the private sphere of unpaid childcare and housework. Gayle Rubin has also encouraged female economic independence so that they would not need to rely on male domination in heterosexual marriages. So yes, practically speaking, second wave feminists encouraged women to finish their education and attain economic independence before thinking about marrying. The problem today is that economic independence takes a long time to attain (a bachelor of arts won't get you far), and even then, most households cannot subsist on one income alone. Again, I can understand the reasons for female economic independence, but it comes with several costs: delaying marriage, higher chance of fornication and casual relationships, having less family time during marriage, etc. In Islamic fiqh, you can come to a middle ground. Women can pursue a career, or be paid for their housework and rearing, but marriage and having children remains an early priority.

It isn't just to challenge male domination for the heck of it, it is a matter of finding practical solutions in a certain kind of society.  What is wrong with encouraging women to achieve financial independence in state capitalist societies?  You can live in a dream world and think about a patriarchal utopia as well, where single or dependent women are well taken care of, but that isn't the predicament most women have found themselves in. 

Okay, so you have identified the problem, you suggest a middle ground?  That is easy to suggest but how do you achieve this? It is easy to say marriage and children should be the first priority and I agree, but we both realize that for most women it isn't a matter of choice. So how is the women's rights movement to blame? I agree that such pursuits leave tremendous strain on marriages and are detrimental to the development of children, but I don't see how you can primarily put this on feminism.  Businesses are always looking to pit workers against each other, it used to be children before, it is women and foreign workers today.

1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

Many third wave feminists are against the institution of marriage altogether, or large aspects of it. Even a movement like Black Lives Matter, which was founded by feminists and LGBT activists, does not mention "fathers" on their website, and see heterosexual and nuclear families as an arm of white supremacy.

Okay, well at least you are being a little more specific now, even though I highly doubt most feminists today are against the institution of marriage.

1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

More consumers, more bank accounts, more workers (including more competition for the same jobs, which lowers wages), longer open hours, more industries. It's a match made in heaven.

It isn't, most features of capitalism run against the very core values of the women's rights movement.

1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

And what is women's emancipation? First, second, and third wave feminists have different definitions and goals, but all three reek of utopianism.

Yes, and islamic movements don't reek of utopianism?

1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

Well there were many second wave feminists that criticized the objectification of women in pornography, for example, but third wave feminism - which is pretty much feminism's logical conclusion - has promoted legalizing prostitution, sl.ut walks, naked protests, etc. The agenda to get women to wear less and absolve them of all shame and blame plays right into the hands of misogynists and players.

Again, this is exactly the nature of rhetoric you see on fox news regarding muslims.  Most feminists still see porn as objectification of women, because it is, and I highly doubt most are interested in naked protests, you seem to be drawing a lot of your conclusions based on sensationalist nonsense in the media. 

Edited by King

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I'm not going to deal with " Islam and Feminism". King said a lot of what I would have anyway.

I come from a perfectly good tribe  whose traditional  " gender roles" never depended on " western feminism" or " eastern Abrahamic religions" for anything anyway and few of our families, thank God, could be described as " nuclear". Multigenerational is the norm.. A lot of the work was done by both genders since much of the food supply was plant and fish based. Both genders can do that just fine. Women were /are leaders here,no problem. So were /are men. Who got the job ....who was/is  the best at it according to the community. Still that way. Works fine. In some other tribes, the Chiefs are all male, but the women , the Clan Mothers, choose them...and can depose them. That works fine too.

I will say the " neutral " articles ( those not associated with Muslim or conservative Christian websites...where one would expect only authors who agree with a certain position would post...kind of like the Salafi ones I am being directed to to show me why my daughter has made the mistake of her life) ,when you read them in full, do not seem to bear out the conclusions some folks seem to be making here. Just because a female or male brain are not the same size or the connections are different says nothing about abilities or intelligences and those articles are pretty clear on that. They are also clear as to the parts that societies play in men and women's  " roles" ....which is not related to their brains or abilities.

Here is a direct excerpt from the " truck" article:
"Previous studies have reported differences between males and females in toy choice; that is, girls generally favor toys such as soft dolls, whereas boys generally favor construction and transportation toys (e.g., Connor and Serbin, 1977; Liss, 1981; Pasterski et al., 2005; Roopnarine, 1986). We believe that this description of the findings fails to highlight another important and intriguing “within-sex” difference in toy preference, which is wonderfully illustrated in Hassett et al. (2008). As shown in their Fig. 1, when play time with toys is examined in human children (Berenbaum and Hines,1992) and rhesus macaques of all ages, males spend significantly more of their play time with the “male” toy(s) than with the female toy(s), while females spend about equal times with “male” and “female” toys. This is true both for frequency of interactions and in time spent playing (Hassett et al., 2008). "

(It appears females can swing both ways. Perhaps it is only the males who are "deficient"?.)

As well, PISA has found women's abilities in math, science, etc. to be closely related to gender-parity. The reason for this is probably obvious. Whether it has anything to do with " Islam" is up to you. In any " patriarchal" society where a woman's ability to get an education is ruled by a male who may or may not wish it, it is probably due to access,not her intelligence or  ability.

Findings: 
•  Boys do better in only about ½ of the OECD nations. For nearly all the other countries, there were no significant sex differences. In Iceland, girls outshine boys significantly. They also state that , in all nations taking the test globally,although boys  on average are  better in math, girls are better in reading and both genders do about the same on science.
programme for International Student Assessment.

There is an interesting article in Forbes on the STEM issue:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-and-the-gender-gap-where-are-the-women/#32232e8f33a9


IMHO, There is no  scientific reason to limit either gender in anything from toys to studies or to presume abilities. I have never found it to be true in teaching. In fact, the honor students in the upper grades tended towards the females. The math and science requirements were the same for both genders. 

If you want to say to your daughter that a good woman stays in the house and tends to her kids....do that.

If you want to say to your daughter, as I do, that she must be prepared to lead an entire tribe of people into a future that may include multiple  legal and possibly physical conflicts with the dominant culture...do that.

Just admit it has nothing to do with her brain.

Whether the problem is Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, culture, society, unfair gender roles ,or bad parenting...women are not being held back by  brain formation, lack of ability ,or temperament in relation to males.


(To remove the gender issue:
My own ethnicity ( and others as well)  is underrepresented  proportionally in the sciences to this day. Do you  folks think this the result of some inborn racial inability or do you think it could be due to the fact that up until my own high school career native kids were  routinely tracked off into non-college prep courses because they were considered fit only for manual labor or domestic work? )

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Feminism is much like the Marxist dialectic, except the proletarian class is replaced with women, and the bourgeoisie is replaced with men.

I'd say that both the struggle for the proletariat and women had their seeds in the Industrial Revolution, the driving force for which was the capitalist exploitation of scientific/technological innovation.

The latter upended existing socio-economic relationships, and there was a collateral impact on marital life. This change was followed by the trauma of the two world wars, both of which saw, in the west, the deaths of millions of men and the women left without them, again altering the balance of power.

Feminist ideology was simply a rationalisation, justification and solution to cope with the rapid changes that were taking place. 

Was it superior to what preceded it? Well, it helped society to cope with the new realities being imposed on it.

Both of the industrial revolution and the world wars equipped the west with the tools with which to dominate the rest of the world regarding both goods, arms and the ideologies with which to use them. The by-product of feminist ideology has been used in much the same way.

Will these ideologies persist?

No. Well, likely, not in ways that we are familiar with.

Firstly because as these ideologies have been communicated to other cultures, there'll be a range of different responses. Some cultures that lack the capability will take the ideology as is and will simply impose it on itself and will look towards the west for the latest versions of the same ideology.

More resilient cultures are likely to appropriate these ideas, adapt them and mould them to suit their own perspectives in a world that is in any case changing in terms of technology and science and which will anyway need an evolution in these ideas.

You'd imagine Islam would fall into the latter category.

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8 hours ago, LeftCoastMom said:

Multigenerational is the norm.. A lot of the work was done by both genders since much of the food supply was plant and fish based. Both genders can do that just fine.

I think when people talk about feminism, what they are often talking about is the loss of control over economic activity by the family unit, in favour of the industrial organisation.

Now some of this may ostensibly have been driven by the differing labour requirements of new economic processes.

But I think it is fair to say that some societies have internalised the industrial organisation into the family, for example, with the development of 'family businesses'.

As I said previously, resilient societies will adapt change to suit their beliefs, needs and traditions, less resilient ones will adapt themselves to whatever the new paradigm is.

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Glad I came across this blog and I couldn't agree more. And you're right that in the beginning Feminism dealt with some important issues and did indeed bring a good change for women but today it has gone out of control and it does not serve women in general and is destructive to society.

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On 9/27/2016 at 6:10 PM, LeftCoastMom said:

IMHO, There is no  scientific reason to limit either gender in anything from toys to studies or to presume abilities. I have never found it to be true in teaching. In fact, the honor students in the upper grades tended towards the females. The math and science requirements were the same for both genders. 

If you want to say to your daughter that a good woman stays in the house and tends to her kids....do that.

If you want to say to your daughter, as I do, that she must be prepared to lead an entire tribe of people into a future that may include multiple  legal and possibly physical conflicts with the dominant culture...do that.

Just admit it has nothing to do with her brain.

Whether the problem is Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, culture, society, unfair gender roles ,or bad parenting...women are not being held back by  brain formation, lack of ability ,or temperament in relation to males.

I have no disagreement that women should have equal access, equal pay, and equal opportunity everywhere. Even in traditional Islamic civilization, women were able to do almost everything men did (being judges or governors are notable exceptions, and I think that can be revisited. In my view, even Muslim men should not be judges in non-Muslim systems, but that's a different topic). The question we are brainstorming is: is gender a social construction and a function, or is it biologically/neurologically/chemically/anatomically/psychologically rooted? Most reasonable people would say that it is both. Even the LGBT movement, which argues that people can be born with a male or female brain, would therefore agree that there is such a thing as a male or female brain, or a male and female anatomical appearance ("lipstick feminism"). So we must ask ourselves, do these differences have social consequences? Are we attracted to the same things in the other gender? Is motherhood and fatherhood exactly the same - and if they are different, what are the consequences or growing up without a mother or a father in a divorced or gay household? Why have almost all cultures used the exact same division of labour for generations? My view is, in answering these questions, we will conclude that men and women should have the same rights, but that their behaviour and affect in society will generally differ. And this is a good thing - it brings balance to the system. Men and women need one another to live a fulfilled life.

The modern age is unique in that the nature of work is very different. Our jobs are not just limited to hunters, gatherers, farmers, builders, and merchants - aka jobs that require a lot of physical labour and travel, and so therefore have been historically dominated by men. Today, we have more educators, desk work, office work, writers, counselors, librarians, accountants, community organizers - i.e., more varied jobs that do not require any physiological function, and therefore will be gender neutral. It is natural that men and women will work, and their wages should be identical. But wage equality does not equal earnings equality or interests equality: men and women make different decisions in life.

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Just today in the news:

A professor at the University of Toronto, my alma mater, is being attacked in the press and decried on campus because he refuses to use gender neutral pronouns like "xe" instead of he or she. Bill C-16 potentially considers this to be criminal discrimination. Here is his plea:

Furthermore, today, an event called "Why Feminism Hurts Women" organized by internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was cancelled after the FBI investigated a credible bomb and firearms threat: http://www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/09/29/milo-event-florida-atlantic-university-cancelled-due-credible-threats/

For those who thought this was not a big deal: even openly questioning this stuff can hurt you or your career in the West.

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Now I'm no fancy big city lawyer, and maybe I do not know what is the proper decorum for treating a "guest" but I'm throwing my chips in here just for the heck of it and I am sorry if the rest of yous is embarrassed of me.

Firstly, @LeftCoastMom if you don't want to hear about Islam and feminism, good job. Maybe we don't want to hear about how y'all are oh-so-more-civilized than we? It's a two way street, innit. You can have a bit more tact is all I'm saying.

Secondly, and this is in relation to the oh-so-more-civilized bit: since you are teaching us the ways of you people, how about I teach you one of our words? The word "hujjah" is usually translated into English as proof. But it is more encompassing than the English word. For example, if I say: such-and-such prophet's word is hujjah upon you this means that what he says is binding upon you. Or for example, if a Shia Muslim wants to debate a Sunni Muslim, naturally he will try to use Sunni sources. Why? Because the Sunni sources are a hujjah upon that Sunni. It would make no sense for a Shia to argue with a Sunni using only Shia sources, and vice versa.

Now... what makes you think the ways of your ancestors are a hujjah upon us? That's the question.

As someone who used to have a sort of wannabe fascist tendencies but thanks God I have grown out of, I am not even convinced that the ways of your ancestors should be a hujjah upon you, either.

I'm not saying tradition is garbage, I'm saying: tradition needs to be assessed by a higher gauge, and not taken as a hujjah unto itself. Everybody has traditions; if everyone takes their traditions as hujjah, then it essentially creates a moral relativism.

By the way, before Islam, the kings of my nation used to practice incest and use religious justifications for it; that the relationship of incest was heavenly or whatever. Thankfully, people do not take that as hujjah upon them. Because that would be stupid. (FYI this is a five thousand year civilization I'm talking about here; what if people ignorantly used that fact to defend such a practice? It's not all that farfetched; it happens all the time)

Re: division of labor

As brother @Qa'im mentioned (thankfully he is much more clever than I), every society has had some sort of division of labor based on gender. This is something which is very difficult to argue against, given the biological aspect of it, both the gap in physical strength and the reality of pregnancy (aside from the metaphysical debates as to what is the "true" character of man or woman; debates which is unfortunately dismissed by people who think that doubtfulness is a substitute for intellect).

Of course, women always worked. The notion that women started working in the 1960s or during WWII or that crap... that's born out of the concept of the modern bored housewife. But if you go to any village and turn the clock back one generation, you know that there is no such thing as an idle housewife for most of history. What was considered womanly work a couple hundred years ago would be considered hard labor today. My mother has an aunt whose back is at a 90 degree angle. That's from a whole life time of non-stop work.

Women working is not unique to your special unique snowflake of a people; that's a universal thing. However, there has always been a division of labor based on gender. In every society, almost without exception. Why? Because it makes a lot of damn sense, that's why.

Now, I don't know what all those letters you posted signify. I am assuming they are some kind of test?

If they are a test, then I should let you know: I went through five years of university education and maybe studied for a collective... 30 minutes. for my entire time in school. I graduated with no issues; I didn't make the honor roll or whatever it's called but I definitely graduated. Meanwhile, female classmates always killed themselves before tests in order to achieve the desired result. If you ask any professor, they will tell you that grades are reflective of effort rather than natural aptitude. They will openly admit that they will give higher grades to someone who is constantly asking stupid questions and coming to them after class with more stupid questions, rather than someone who stays quiet but proves through their work that they understand the subject matter perfectly.

So yeah, I know that girls on average get better grades than us... but I can't really bring myself to respect anyone who considers grades as being valuable enough to judge a person's intelligence or abilities based upon them. FYI I'm not saying girls are stoopid, but this "grades" issue was brought up in the past on shiachat, and some poor soul was using it to justify the fact that certain jobs are dominated by women even though they ain't any better at them than men. It's kind of ridiculous, really. University, in most cases, is a complete waste of time and money. Most of us go into them with no goal in mind; it's just a social convention. This is why attendance rates are so much higher than graduation rates. The whole system is a joke; using our insecurities about "future" and "career" to squeeze money out of us; anyone who uses this as a way to assess people's abilities is faaaaar too confident in the legitimacy of the system.

Sorry if I left some of your post unanswered; I didn't read it all. It just seemed like an ethnic studies class threw up all over my screen. I already took that class once I didn't want to pay tuition again so I stopped reading.

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On 9/28/2016 at 1:47 PM, Qa'im said:

Let us keep the conversation going inshaAllah.

So just to clarify, this is not a thread that is going against all of the ideas and achievements of feminists. I think most people today instinctively agree with suffrage, equality of opportunity/access, and equal wages. I can tell you, however, that the movement is transforming among millennials, and not just with a minority subsection of the population. As a school teacher, and as someone who is doing his masters in a liberal arts program, I have some insight on the trends on campus and even among Muslim youth. I am talking about the feminism of people like Amber Rose and Lena Dunham, who are immensely popular today on the blogosphere. I am talking about third wave feminism, which is a pornographic ("The Vag.ina Monologues", Newman & White), queer-focused (BLM, LGBT, anti-cis), pro late term abortion, pro raunchy fashion and nudity (#freethenipple , sl.utwalk , divorcing harassment from clothing - a clear contradiction of 33:59 in the Quran), enshrining narrative over fact (the wage gap - which is oft-repeated even by Obama and Clinton, rape culture, folkloric myths that won't die), anti-marriage (have fun: https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=feminist+views+on+marriage), anti nuclear families, and straight-up man-hating (mansplaining, manspreading, toxic masculinity, which are periodically discussed on Buzzfeed, Vox, and VICE).

Events promoting all of the above have taken place on university campuses (I have attended 3 universities), and our community is not immune to this narrative. Just look at your average tumblr blog, and ask yourself if Lady Fatima would have endorsed all of this. Strange enough, men who are straight and white are even being banned from some events: https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=straight+white+male+banned+events

Furthermore, the movement, which was initially established to bring women up, ignores and fails to address issues where men are at a disadvantage in society today: graduation, violence, addiction, mental health, homelessness - all issues that affect men disproportionately. Even a 2015 Cornell study noted that women have a 2-1 advantage going for the same jobs, because firms must now fill gender quotas. Christina Hoff Sommers and Karen Straughan have highlighted many of the shortcomings of modern feminism, while still promoting equal rights and opportunity.

As for pornography and prostitution, it is true that 1980s Second Wave Feminists were against these things, because they objectified women. But that is not the dominant position among Third Wave Feminist theorists. And these are not just loony extremist ideas - more than 44% of Canadians (where I live) believe that prostitution should be legalized. These aren't just misogynists, this is the general population and a large subsection of modern feminists.

But you see, many third wave feminists are against marriage altogether, because it is patriarchal and oppressive. Strong criticisms of marriage go all the way back to Wollstonecraft. You can read their perspective below:

http://www.xojane.com/issues/unpopular-opinion-marriage-will-never-be-a-feminist-choice

http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/02/12/11-reasons-not-to-get-married/

And this is an article about divorce: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11824814/Is-feminism-destroying-the-institution-of-marriage.html

So we can promote marriage in our communities by denouncing certain feminist tropes, including this vile men vs. women dialectic, the LGBT movement, free love (Mary Nichols, one of the 19th century founders of feminism, believed in free love, same with the popular modern feminist Gloria Steinem). We should promote modest/elegant dress and healthy eating; not the rape-culture narrative and body-positivism.

In my community, there are a disproportionate amount of single and divorced ladies who simply cannot find desirable partners to marry. It is becoming an epidemic in almost every community I have visited. We have to review why this is happening, and my argument is feminism is partly responsible for this problem for contributing to free love culture and preferring education and career over marriage, pushing women to marry closer to 30 or 40.

If you take a look at your original blog post, it is loaded with gross generalizations and over-simplifications.  Now you seem to be elaborating on specifics and this contemporary third wave of feminism.  This is fine, and I acknowledge that some self described feminists today have lost the plot and and employ aggressive tactics which are detrimental to women's causes.  I still am not convinced that most feminists today are against the institution of marriage or are pro porn etc. Yes I realize that the institution of marriage has always had it's detractors, a lot of them male, and this would be true of any institution.  The institution seems to be struggling due to a lot of factors discussed above in this thread, it isn't that most serious feminists are out there encouraging their female counterparts to avoid the institution all together. We have already discussed the primary drivers for women seeking education and employment.  Also, most research in the west establishes the important role of both parents in a child's development, and women are generally encouraged by professionals to avoid having late pregnancies.

Legalizing prostitution however is an interesting question.  The arguments are backed in part by proposals based on a review of the practical consequences of prohibitive practices employed in different societies.  Legalization of drugs is also interesting, as in some societies this has led to a significant decline in overall drug related deaths and pathologies.  I do not feel the core of these arguments are driven purely by ideology and you cannot equate being for legalization with being for prostitution, so that inference above is not fair.

Thirdly, I do not see what is so surprising about the women's movement in general ignoring the suffering of men.  Most movements tend to be specific and primarily focus on the trials of the group they are trying to represent.  It would be better if this was not the case, but to expect otherwise is not realistic.

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If a woman with young kid has to work, it's only for a short period of time, 3-4 years. After 4 years, raising a kid is not so much work. If a women keeps having children when she has no support, then it's her fault for staying in the relationship. It's a misconception that a house wife can focus on raising kids or she is allowed to sleep in if she spent the night taking care of a sick child. Most women have responsibilities towards their in-laws or guests.

I want to work because being house wife is the hardest job in world. Women, who are not good in studies, are very good at housework and for men, only housework matters. When I go to work, at least I get paid for my work and I get SOME respect because of that money. I know many women who are brilliant in their professions but at home they are degraded in front of uneducated women because they are not very good at housework. 

If we compare women in east and west, I think anyone can see that women In west (where feminist movement is more effective) are in better condition than women in east. Compare the condition of women in societies dominated by men TODAY with the women in west. It's not fair to compare women in west with women in an ideal islamic community. That community doesn't exist. 

Edited by rkazmi33

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On 9/30/2016 at 8:46 AM, rkazmi33 said:

After 4 years, raising a kid is not so much work. If a women keeps having children when she has no support, then it's her fault for staying in the relationship. 

Wow, you're ignorance is so deep.  The hardest years begin after the age of 4.  

On 9/30/2016 at 8:46 AM, rkazmi33 said:

Women, who are not good in studies, are very good at housework and for men, only housework matters.

So only women who are thick and dumb stay at home, if they are intelligent they go out and work.  Spewing even more ignorance here.  I am educated to degree level, choose to work part time in television, and spend all my free time with my children. 

On 9/30/2016 at 8:46 AM, rkazmi33 said:

I know many women who are brilliant in their professions but at home they are degraded in front of uneducated women because they are not very good at housework. 

I know women who are talented in the home and in the workplace, and they would surely wipe the floor with someone as ignorant as you. 

On 9/30/2016 at 8:46 AM, rkazmi33 said:

If we compare women in east and west, I think anyone can see that women In west (where feminist movement is more effective) are in better condition than women in east.

The number of women with mental health issues is on the rise, as is the case of the number of women being treated for eating disorders, and the list goes on.

Oh and btw, did I mention or emphasise enough how ignorant you are, and how insulting your comments are too. 

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Salam brother @Qa'im

Are you married yet? If not how about set a good example for marriage for the rest of the brothers on SC , as you mentioned there are many single and divorced women who cannot find a suitable partner.

With your qualifications you have a lot of scope :)

Hope to hear the good news soon ** if you are not married or engaged to be married soon!**

Edited by certainclarity

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13 minutes ago, certainclarity said:

Salam brother @Qa'im

Are you married yet? If not how about set a good example for marriage for the rest of the brothers on SC , as you mentioned there are many single and divorced women who cannot find a suitable partner.

With your qualifications you have a lot of scope :)

Hope to hear the good news soon ** if you are not married or engaged to be married soon!**

Is this supposed to be sarcasm? How about we stick to discussing the ideas and concepts instead of ad hominem points

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1 minute ago, Qa'im said:

Is this supposed to be sarcasm? How about we stick to discussing the ideas and concepts instead of ad hominem points

Not at all just a sincere wish for you. :) 

Most of your points,in my opinion  are valid, otherwise I would have not liked it.

 

Edited by certainclarity

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Going back to third-wave feminism's objectification and sexualization of women. There is a strand of feminism that is provocatively and overtly sexual, in an attempt to normalize and humanize female sexuality. A relevant example in the news this last week is Noor Tagouri's feature on a reprehensible magazine. Noor Tagouri is a rolemodel for a lot of young Muslim women, and she has over a hundred thousand followers on social media. She has received a lot of support from some sections of the Muslim and non-Muslim community, and most of those supporters would probably describe themselves as feminists.

The magazine specifically targeted Noor not for her career, but for her headscarf. According to Linda Sarsour, this magazine actually contacted four hijabis for their piece. Three turned it down, but Noor took the opportunity.  This is classic orientalism: This magazine is trying to fetishize the hijab for a deranged male audience. Everyone knows who Hugh Hefner is, everyone knows what the bunny represents. This magazine has done nothing but objectify women over the years. Her feature has also redirected countless young Muslims to a pornographic page.

Noor wants to be the first hijabi mainstream anchor. But is the hijab just a fashion statement?

She should not be namecalled or threatened. But I sure hope this is not the future of Muslim women in the West. I actually followed Noor's career for years, because she had spoken against the objectification of female journalists. But she fell into this trap, and now thousands of young feminists are justifying it. She is praised in Western media as a liberated Muslim woman, a renegade, making her own stand, fighting against social norms. To me, this is not emancipation whatsoever, this is classic misogyny. Should Muslim girls look up to her and emulate her?

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      Standing on the platform with my snacks, amongst the flow of passengers and porters, I took in the destination signs on the different trains, heading off to distant parts of a sub-continent. Perhaps my diminutive 10-year-old perspective added to the perceived size of the place; I would not be surprised. The porters wore a uniform, after a fashion. For each one of them, the acquisition of a customer provided a sense of purpose and superiority of status which would be underlined by rearranging their head-covering to better protect themselves from the luggage that would soon be loaded on top. On this trip, I was just a spectator to the rituals of engaging porters. When old enough to be a participant, I’d find it a difficult balance between exploiting and being exploited. 
      At last, it was time to get back in the train and cover myself as best I could with an assortment of clothes, waiting for the morning to bring some respite. Some mornings were awesome, the rising rays of sunshine spread across green fields, punctuated by trees and seemingly in rhythm with the regular beat of the wheels on the track. At some point, I’d have to go to the toilet, which was a balancing act of the toothbrush, toothpaste and some attempt at washing and keeping my distance from the ubiquitous hole in the floor.
      At first, I had distanced myself from the perceived filth of the train and had tried to keep myself to as small an area as possible. But as the hours passed my comfort zone expanded until I was even comfortable lying full stretch on the wooden slats of the third-class benches. As the miles passed the squalor, even that of the toilet, was no longer alien but something to which I had become habituated. Though I still haven’t managed to achieve the level of equanimity displayed by a fellow airline passenger who went into the toilet barefoot. As someone else commented on this practice, the liquid on the floor isn’t water.
      Safety was and still is a distant concept when it comes to Indian railways, best observed by the person at risk. In both my childhood travel and in recent times safety seems to lie, for example, in keeping your distance from the open door of the railway carriage. As a 30-year-old on a train from Chennai to Hyderabad and no parent to hold me back, I was able to lean out to take videos and photos to rekindle childhood memories of fleeting Indian railway stations. The observation stimulated the same sense of passing through and catching the moment in local lives. What I was not able to recapture in a photo was the rising dawn that I had observed in my childhood journey. 
      On that childhood trip, I had brought a couple of books with me, which I still remember. There was ‘Tarka the Otter’ and Joy Adamson’s ‘Home Free’. I can’t remember which one was more boring, but Tarka does stand out as being particularly good for being interrupted by the least remarkable scenery outside. The same can’t be said for the novel I discovered at our destination in Lucknow. Our host had a copy of ‘War of the Worlds’ the title itself was captivating and the story engrossing. I remember sitting in various locations of the house working my way through the invasion.
      A few years before this train trip, aged six, I had seen a book titled ‘War and Peace’ sitting on another relative’s bookshelf in London and that also seemed to suggest excitement within. I wasn’t there long enough to pick it up, but a few years after the Indian trip, when I was about 14 I made a point about buying the novel but the enthusiasm stimulated by the title was very, very quickly dimmed by the story within. I decided to grind down the story by reading a page a day. It took a couple of years, but I managed to finish it. 
      ‘War of the Worlds’ was the starting point, since then I’ve come to associate books with the places where I read them: Sterling Seagrave’s, ‘Dragon Lady’ accompanied me on a trip to Singapore and provided the incentive to visit China. 
      Aged 17, I was transiting between two Paris metro stations, on a trip to Aix-en-Provence when a kindly gentleman took pity on me and helped me with my overweight suitcase containing Lipsey’s tome ‘Positive Economics’. Amongst other books, this would be entirely superfluous to my needs at the French language summer course I was about to attend. Even in adulthood, I have never quite managed to balance taking on travels work-related things that I would use as opposed to those I might regret not having brought with me. Laptops and cloud storage have meant that that personal deficiency no longer has to be addressed.
      This had been a unique trip in some different ways. My mother was a widow, and we did not have a great deal of money. I hadn’t been abroad between the ages of 5 and 10. But travelling third class on Indian railways and staying with relatives wherever we went meant that this trip was fairly affordable. So, it was not unreasonable that my mother was not too impressed with what took place when we arrived at the border crossing between India and Pakistan sometime earlier. 
      When we got off the train for the immigration check, there was a French lady in front of us, and she and my mother started speaking. Quite proudly my mother presented me as someone who could speak French. The unexpectedness and ambition of the challenge meant that I was completely dumbstruck. For a good few hours to follow, I’d hear my mother’s lament about how much she had paid for a French Linguaphone course for me, which was well beyond our means. I had assured her that this would be a great aid to my linguistic efforts, the advertisement promised as much, and I had waited with great anticipation for its arrival. Finally, one day there was a brown rectangular package waiting for me outside our house. But for a 10-year-old to master the use of the different texts and develop some semblance of a study plan was quite an ambition and one for which my abilities and self-discipline fell seriously short. 
      There must have been a subconscious notion that the pursuit of academic endeavours would give access to budgets otherwise unavailable. A few years later I’d decide that photography O’level would offer a greater chance of scholastic success. Once more I was lured in by a mixture of an economy with the truth by the people promoting the offering and my imaginative willingness to fill in the blanks. First, there was a need to buy an SLR camera, and as time passed it became obvious that the necessary skills to process photos could not be acquired in the few minutes, I’d have to be in front of the enlarger at school every week. An investment in a darkroom became a necessity. This time self-discipline wasn’t needed to drive study. I had discovered a subject for which I had a passion. I’d end up spending many happy hours in the darkroom, well past midnight channelling Diane Arbus and Cartier Bresson. By the time a school trip to the Soviet Union took place, I was reasonably competent and still have some of the photos of that visit. 
      Looking back, both the camera and the Soviet trip itself seemed like a judicious investment in an unrepeatable experience, a few years later the USSR would cease to exist. This lesson in political upheaval was to prove particularly useful before a trip with my wife and kids to Syria. My brother had borrowed my video camera and forgotten to return it, and the realisation only came in the departure lounge at Heathrow. Buying a video camera specifically for one trip seemed like an extravagance, but soon afterward the civil war broke out. I have clips of my daughter walking amongst a temple to the Phoenician God Melquart, I wonder whether ISIS have left it standing?
      For the India trip, in contrast, there was no camera at all. As I had left London, I had been given a compact camera, which refused to show any sign of working for the duration of the trip and which it had not been possible to repair either. So, I have no tangible images of the entire trip. Whether that has forced me to try harder to remember over the years or whether I have become better at embellishing the details, I don’t know. I do know that on one review I have left on Tripadvisor, I have commented that the prohibition on taking cameras into a particular museum means that visitors are more likely to pay attention to the exhibits in their own right rather than as fodder for an Instagram feed. 
      From Lucknow, we went to my mother’s ancestral home in Fatehpur. We drove through the potholed roads of Uttar Pradesh, slowed even further by overladen agricultural traffic. We arrived in the evening, and all I could sense was that we entered a courtyard and then another. This was quite different to any home I had visited previously. Morning brought a much better sense of the place. The hallmark of the building was its twin towers, installed a couple of hundred years previously, with permission from the rulers of Awadh, since they were considered a mark of royalty and my maternal ancestor’s position as a tutor to the princely household earned him the favour to use them. These rose above the building and the surrounding town. Beneath them was the building’s mosque entered through several large wooden doors, several steps then led to a large courtyard at the other end of which was a narrow staircase leading to some apartments on the first floor. The men of the family had offices cum bedrooms on the ground floor of the courtyard, and their families slept in apartments on the first floor. Any tangible evidence of conjugal relations, such as a couples’ double bed was considered impolite. There were also apartments on the ground floor. To the right of the towers was the entrance to the building and beyond that the disused stables, a further courtyard and then the exit to the main street of the town.
      In Fatehpur, there were no books, or indeed television, but there was exploring the building, listening to stories, fishing and staring at a night sky whose lights I had never previously seen in such profusion. Frustratingly, the shot guns could only be seen and not touched, in fact, I wasn’t allowed to use the air gun. Even the fishing wasn’t with actual rods, but the sensation of the lightness of a short stick with a bait at the end being replaced with the sensation of something tugging at the end of a line remains vivid.
      Exploring the old building would be an experience for someone who had lived in a terraced house all his life. Playing cricket in its central square meant that we had room for both wickets and the ability to run between them, while back in London the garden lawn barely stretched a couple of metres and in our London suburb kids just didn’t play on the street. And then there was the dungeon. Like quite a bit of what we were to experience the name or prior description didn’t quite live up to schoolboy expectations. The Urdu word they all used was ‘mahal’ as in Taj Mahal, but you could hardly describe it as a palace. The dungeon itself was no more threatening than a basement room.  
      The family mahal stood in contrast to the Taj that we had visited on a side-trip while staying in Delhi with an uncle. The sense of serenity reflected off the colour and curves remains in my mind. The sound track no longer remains, perhaps the size of the place drowned out the chattering throngs. The image is now distilled from the range of different perspectives: the head-on view as captured by those photographers who pictured Princess Diana in the foreground, to my standing under the columns staring up and being up close to the marble.
      While the Taj was glorious enough to represent the nation and thus rose above its religious and ethnic antecedents, this was not the case with the family mahal. The condition of this modest building perfectly reflected the state of the community it housed: elegant decrepitude with only a memory of former glories. While the building’s statelier past was visible from the remnants of the structure, so the stories passed by each generation reminded subsequent ones of the lifestyle they had been denied because of opportunities missed and talents wasted. 
      Such was the problem they were facing that even acts of renovation seemed like destruction, where older styles of building work and decoration were replaced with more functional and cheaper modern ones. My youthful displeasure at the erasure of history would later be tempered by a more mature realisation of the practicalities of habitat when I had the chimney breasts and fireplaces of my Victorian house removed to create more space. 
      Occasionally the person who had hosted us in Lucknow would visit. He was a local politician and would arrive in a stately Ambassador car or even more excitingly a ‘jeep’. Not an eponymous one of course, but I still remember the fact that it had gun racks. Both that vehicle and the Ambassador were made in India. This was India before trade liberalisation. Not as familiar a place as the Pakistan we had travelled through to get here. Pakistan had the welcome familiarity of brands that I had grown up with; the ketchup was Heinz and the coke a recognisably friendly white swoosh on a red background. Billboard and television advertising was reassuring. Here unfamiliar names came across as peculiar. Why would a cola be called ‘Thums Up?’. 
      Such has been the irony of globalisation that a few weeks ago eating at Dishoom restaurant in London’s East End I saw the Thums Up logo once more. A symbol of rejecting western capitalism had itself become a brand, with a consumerist meaning, evoking a carbonated essence of India. 
      Like all children of Asian immigrants on visits to their parents’ country of origin, I was also overwhelmed with the extensivity and density of familial connections. There were first cousins, second cousins, and quite a lot more complicated combinations, for which there are no words in English. Added to this, a matriarchal aunt could also be a cousin. My wife came up with a novel way of explaining one such relationship to me. “If that aunt were Mary Queen of Scots, your mum would be Elizabeth I”. Indeed, an artefact of such complex and inter-related ties was the obvious existence of rivalries, jealousies, and squabbles spanning generations. In England, my younger brother and I had been protected from this aspect of extended family life. The protection came at a price: we didn’t know how to deal with it at all. At the age of 10 this did not matter, but on future visits, it would become more significant and certainly by the time my brother and I reached marriageable age. For the time being, it was just nice that as I wandered from apartment to apartment in the mahal, everyone I met was a relative and I was too young to understand any political dimension of that relationship. It would also be in subsequent visits to the mahal, when I was older, that I’d appreciate the tensions with the communities who lived outside the mahal.
      On my daily walks, I’d see hand powered sewing machines and food being prepared more laboriously than anything I had seen at home. The dirt floor did not afford the comfort of sitting cross legged and sitting on my haunches was not something my leg muscles were prepared for. Unlike the urban homes, I had come across in the sub-continent, the toilet here was a platform raised above the multi-coloured offerings beneath. So large was the place that any smells remained distant from any other rooms.
      The cold had not left us in Fatehpur. At night, they would light braziers which were wonderful for bringing around family members, sitting together on the Indian style wooden beds, sharing each other’s warmth, stories and gossip. 
    • By 3wliya_maryam in spoken words/poetry/ deep thinking
         1
      When you go through a rough patch in your life
      And you feel that your heart is being stabbed with a knife
      Remember Hussein (as) and the tragedies he went through
      Would you ever endure that kind of pain too?
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