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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beautiful

Well folks, I've been to hell and back. Well, maybe. Long story. Depression. Anxiety. Hormones. NO sleep. Bad stuff. Anyway, back to the blog. Oh, and thanks to all of you who have left comments while I've been "gone." I'm sorry I have not yet had a chance to reply to them yet.

Recently, I've come to wear the scarf loosey goosey style. The kind of oblong on top of head, wrapped around neck, maybe neck or "bangs" showing. And one day I went to the mall without it on at all. I felt more at ease, confident, and friendly. Still, for the most part, I feel comfortable with a scarf on my head, "Benazir Bhutto Style," as my husband calls it. It's the the kind of scarf wearing that would lead the UMMAH FILMS guy to get up in my face and say, "Um...That's not hijab." And then that would lead me to punch him in the chest. Just kidding. I'd say, "please move out of my way." And that would mean all sorts of things.

Anyhoo...I saw this episode of the Oprah show which "discussed" in general, what BEAUTY means across the world. Here are some highlights:



In the Middle Eastern country Oman, women turn to nature as their source of beauty. Hashima, an Omani, says women like to put dried rose petals into boiling water and rinse their hair with it. "This gives the hair a very fine smell of a rose," she says.

Omanis even have an all-natural approach to dental hygiene. "The miswak stick is brushed on the teeth like a toothbrush," Hashima says. "It reacts with the human spit and gives an orange color to the lips."

Hashima says the more color a fabric or piece of jewelry has, the more beautiful it is. However, the brightly colored dresses are often covered by a cloak like wrap called an abaya. "This is to cover up the woman's body, and it covers also if you had a bad hair day," she says.

While it's not mandatory in Oman, some women also wear a burqa, which veils the face. "It's used as a sign of beauty," she says. "It's supposed to make your eyes look really sexy."



Can you guess which country has been dubbed "the nose job capital of the world"? It's not image-conscious Brazil or even the United States. It's Iran—the conservative Muslim country with seemingly endless contradictions. In a place where women cover most of their bodies, business is booming for plastic surgeons—they're performing an estimated 60,000 nose jobs a year.

While plastic surgery is kept hush-hush in many places, Iranian women like Naeimeh and Sahar are eager to talk openly about the procedure. "Here in Iran, women do have to cover their hair and the most beautiful part of their body," Naeimeh says. "They have to reveal their beauty out from a place which everybody can observe, which is the face."

After surgery, nose bandages are worn openly like badges of honor. Sahar says the surgery is so expensive in Iran, women see the bandage as a status symbol. "I had a friend who had a nose job, and she kept the bandage, if I'm not wrong, after two years on her nose just to show everybody that she had nose job," Sahar says. Pharmacists in Iran say nose jobs are so desirable, people who haven't had the operation still buy tape for their noses.





In the United States and many countries around the world, thin is the standard when it comes to beauty. But in a West African country halfway around the world, bigger is definitely better. Mauritania is a desert oasis that sits on the northwest coast of Africa. Here, a woman's beauty is revered—but thin isn't in. In Mauritania, plump is sexy!

While it might sound nice to throw dieting out the window, it's not all pleasant. For generations, young girls were subjected to the practice of gavage—or force feeding—in order to fatten them up and make them more desirable. In Mauritania, many say the more you weigh, the better chances of you have of finding a husband.

Although force feeding is now frowned upon by the government, old habits die hard in remote areas of the country. Some young girls spend hours each day in the stifling heat, forced to stuff themselves with couscous and high-fat camel's milk. Vomiting only leads to another helping of food.

Even in Mauritania's more progressive cities, some women are willing to do anything for a fuller figure, including buying black-market drugs meant for animals.


Interesting. All I know is I never have and never will go through all that trouble to "look beautiful." You should read and/or watch the episode here to see what CRAZY stuff they do in other countries such as drink/eat collagen for clear skin in Japan or undergo plastic surgery in the slums of Brazil. What price oh beauty?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Burden or Blessing

"Damn my situation. And the games I have to play with all the things caught in my mind. And damn my education. I can't find the words to say with all the things caught in my mind."--Oasis.

Burden or Blessing? Burden or Blessing? That is the question! It's obvious from my last post that I am in a spiritual slump. Spiritually OUT OF SHAPE. And just with being physically out of shape, one can't just decide to run a 10K Marathon the next day. The person has to train to get in shape. So the same thing goes with spirituality in a way. So I do want to share some spiritual "excercises," that are good for starting the training, or at the very least, a walk in the park to stretch one's legs, get some fresh air, get the heart pumping.

I find that watching videos on Islam and videos about Muslims, made for Muslims, made by Muslims are often inspiring (as opposed to going to the Islamic center, which often is not as inspiring -- at least on the ladies' side -- but that's another story). Here are a few that I like:

FRONTLINE: Muslims:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/muslims/



EMPIRES: ISLAM--EMPIRE OF FAITH


MUHAMMAD: LEGACY OF A PROPHET


313 The Movie



KARBALA: When Eyes Wept Blood
http://www.redtears.co.uk/karbala.html


Also, to marvel at God's power, just:
Read books & watch shows
about the anatomy of the human body and its systems

about specific animals and how they function:


about natural disasters

about space:

And my favorite: about the human development in the womb:




Wow, that's amazing, MashaaAllah, Alhamdulillah! Still, I wonder why it is so easy for me to get lost in the haze of the mundane when staying home all day and dealing with housekeeping (constantly picking up THINGS, cleaning, scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, dusting, --and that's just if you can get to it all) and cranky kids and having little uninterrupted time to focus on "improving" oneself. Of course, Alhamdulillah, there are dozens of moments in the day when I just stare at my kids and say, MASHAA'ALLAH, ALHAMDULILLAH. THANK YOU ALLAH. Often, the things that are the most burdensome to me, are my greatest blessings. Such is life. Such is Ramadan. Such is the headscarf. It can seem a burden, but also a blessing. It takes awareness, and some fresh air, to experience the difference. My admiration goes out to all the stay-at-home Moms because it is truly a difficult and respect-worthy lifestyle that deserves recognition for its many blessings--and an acknowledgment of its real burdens--in order for its true experience to be a blessing. And subsitute the words HEADSCARF, HIJAB, WOMAN, AND MUSLIMS with stay-at-home Moms--and it's the same. It takes courage and confidence to do/be a SAHM, a Hijabi, a Woman, a Muslim. With some things, like the headscarf, it's obvious--one needs courage and confidence to do it--but with other things its less obvious--for example, when I think of fasting for 30 days, I think, "I CAN'T DO IT" and "WHAT IF?"--it's interesting that my lack of courage and confidence plays into my practice of Islam. And the more courage and confidence one has, the less miserable one will feel, the more successful they will be. It's difficult. It requires help...

GOD GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CAN NOT CHANGE
COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN
AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

And, God knows, I need more time. I hope I have more time.

"Yes, I need more time just to make things right."--Oasis

Monday, September 22, 2008

Not to Mention

Ramadan is really kicking my butt this year. It wasn't so hard when I was a teenager. I'd fast for 2 weeks, then get my "monthly visitor" break for a week, then fast again for another week. Back then Ramadan was in the winter months, so the day would fly by in the distractions of school and work, taking long naps after school and on the weekends, then suddenly around 5:30 PM, it was time to eat. No big deal.

Things are different now. I have two little kids with me all day, every day, rain or shine. Most of the time it's just me, no other adults around who are also struggling with fasting. And I'm sure as all stay-at-home Moms with little kids can understand--food and drink is a great comfort, pleasure, de-stresser, and necessity during the long days of childcare. Not to mention that Ramadan is now during the long days of the end of summer (and it's going to get deeper into the summer for the next few years!). Not to mention that while childcare (and double not to mention housekeeping) is demanding--it is often boring and tedious-- and mind-boggling in its frustration--so there is not much mental distraction to help tide the time. And let's not forget that with young kids---naps no longer exist for me--the MOM--who must keep working while Dad and everyone else can fall asleep like kittens on couches.

And let's not forget that often, people like me (anxious insomniacs with 2 kids who awaken at night) get litle to NO sleep at night either, so talk about feeling miserable--add on not being able to eat and sleep and I've got a recipe for a big time butt-kicking.

All the above reasons (I know what you're thinking: BLAH BLAH BLAH enough of your pity party, woman! My life is difficult too! Suck it up, Sister!)do not validate skipping the fasts, although I would like to argue that the NO sleep is equivalent to being ill--but alas, my arguments fall on deaf ears. And what's the point of arguing with the rules? I may think that God has mercy on me, but the rules sure don't. Still, I've given into my misery and broke my fasts in the middle of the day several times this Ramadan. God Forgive Me, I just can't do it all the time.

Makes me wonder. Maybe Islam is just too dang hard for me. I still struggle to get my 5 prayers done every day. Some days I don't. And we all know the trouble I have with the simple headscarf.

Actually, it probably just means I can't hack it as a SAHM. If I had some kind of job out of the home, there would be structure all around me and thus, my Islamic demands could fit in schedule somewhere. I wouldn't have to depend on my own pathetically weak internal motivation and discipline to fulfil my religious duties.

I think I am one of those so-called "moderate" Muslims--the ones that will espouse the "beauty and logic" of Islam, while still listening to music, watching TV even if it has "trashy" commercials every 30 seconds, and yes, even skipping a prayer, a fast, and a head-scarf.

My husband scoffs at such "moderate" Muslims. They're not part of a "pure" Islam, a "true" Islam. Sure, we're all weak humans he'd agree, but that's no reason to give in to the temptations of the flesh--food, sleep, vanity. Lucky for me, he's too busy giving his time to the Islamic center and devouring scholarly Islamic texts to have time and/or interest in reading my simple, chatty blog, so the secret is safe with me. For now. Actually, I've told him before that I've skipped a fast due to my shear desperation--arguing that indeed it is bad for my health when coupled with the very unhealthy issue of NOT SLEEPING. He replied by telling me that's not really unhealthy--and an invalid skipping requires that I feed 60 hungry people. But then someone else told me it means I must fast 60 more days for each skipped fast. Well what's the rule for breaking the rule? I forget.

So nowadays it seems like it's a more "don't ask, don't tell" policy. You don't ask me if I'm fasting, and I won't tell you that I'm not. I like that. Saves me from offering my pathetic reasoning up for dissection and judgement. Same goes for praying. He doesn't ask me if I've done all 5 prayers, and I don't tell him if I have. Same goes with the scarf. He doesn't ask me if I let my ear show when I'm out without him, and I don't tell him that yes, sometimes, I do. I'm all for being friends with your spouse, but what's the point of 100% disclosure that will just push both people's buttons and create bad feelings? I mean, it's not like I'm out living a secret, double life. Am I? Hmm. And if he or anyone were to ask me, then, yes, I would say, NO, I'm not fasting. Still--the thing is, he knows how I am, so we don't need me to mention it every single time when I fall short of the expectations--do I? Hmm. Of course, God knows all the details. I know HE knows. That's something I can't forget.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Iranian Women

Here's a picture from the July 14th, 2005 New York Times of women in Iran.

The girl with the hat-scarf makes me smile cause that's something I would do.

And
OH MY GOSH
I can't get over this clip from the Today Show on Iranian women. They interview Iranian female firefighters, a female race car driver, and several "educated, outspoken" females YET they still can't stop saying, the women are REPRESSED and SEGREGATED and WITHOUT THEIR RIGHTS! Ugh. Just watch for yourself, as soon as the reporters start talking about how GOOD the Iranian women have it, they TRY (weakly) to show how "bad" they have it. It's such spin. It just goes to show, we don't trust what we don't understand (the bit about 2nd wives and getting a divorce---PULEEEZE. If they truly took more than 4 minutes to explain, it would be clear that those issues are not AGAINST women's rights. Those issues are about preserving an Islamic society--the thing they don't understand). And while I don't fully agree with the idea that forcing hijab is the best way to "encourage" it, it is still so silly to me that showing off one's body/hair is considered a "woman's right," when clearly it is just "a woman's desire" to do so. Apparently, in America, UNLESS a woman has the "freedom" to show herself, to walk around half naked--then she's truly not free. How condescending.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Bad Scarf Day


Man, I miss my hair. I mean, letting it all hang down, that is, when I go out, or anywhere. I saw a commercial in which the actress had very soft-looking, long wavy hair, no make-up, just very natural-looking beautiful, as it blew in the breeze on a beach. And I missed that feeling of looking naturally beautiful--letting the hair just be free in the wind. But I think it's weird that I felt like I was missing that because then as I tried to remember how I wore my hair before the headscarf, I wore it tied back in a bun 90 % of the time. But the thing is, the woman in the commercial looked very feminine. And that's what I miss, I think. Wearing the headscarf makes me feel foreign instead of feminine. And I think this feeling also has to do with not only the scarf itself, hiding my hair, but the way I wear it. Recently, I chopped off my hair so that it is short, but now I realize that it makes the scarf fall differently on my head. When the hair is long and it has to be put up in a bun under the scarf, it creates that bump in the back under the scarf that looks more feminine in style. Mine usually falls flat in the back now. And if it's wrapped tighter to eliminate that "big fabric effect" (when the scarf's fabric gathers in a big pile in front)that I don't like, it looks less feminine too. It sort of reminds me of a swimmer's cap or even a chemotherapy patient that way. Ugh.

And I know there's also a way to wrap and pin the scarf so that it actually resembles the look of long hair, especially if the scarf has some fringe on it, the way the character Rayann often wears hers on Little Mosque on the Prairie. I want to figure out how to do that, because that's what I miss--looking feminine. I don't like how her scarf "gathers" in the front like that, but I like how it hangs on the back. You can catch some more pics of her style here, at HIJAB CHIQUE, here's a view from the back:
And I don't think looking feminine is against the rule of hijab as you know by my previous posts. But still, even if I can get the scarf to flow to look more like long flowing hair, it's still a scarf--I miss my hair! One the few occasions where I did where my hair down in public, I got lots of positive feedback, "Wow, I've never seen you with your hair down--you look..." Apparently I look quite attractive that way (or at least I did--back in the day). Basically, as I get older and my youthful beauty fades--I miss looking attractive! And the scarf is hindering that "attractive" feeling too, of course. Hmm. Younger girls can look attractive even in the scarf, but the older one gets, the harder it is to feel..."pretty," but if one does not do hijab then she can use beauty "tricks" to enhance her beauty--the kind of tricks that do not work with hijab (hair highlights, a cool hair-cut, an outfit that highlights whatever physical assets she has left). So this blog is not just about wearing a headscarf in America--it's about getting OLD with a headscarf! But I know I'm not really old, my husband says I'm in my beauty "prime," although I don't feel like it these days. And I wonder, as I get older and older...how will the scarf fit into my life? It seems silly for an old lady to worry about her hijab doesn't it?

I know many might say, "well, a hijabi can "let it all hang out" in front of her husband or family or a party full of just women," but I do not seem to do that very often. As a mom of 2 young kids with a husband that works full time and volunteers full time, it's not like there is any time (or any reason) left over for me to get all pretty--most of the time I'm in my grubby house clothes and I have my hair pulled back again because who can do housework with their hair all hanging down? And even when I go to all-female parties, I usually have my scarf on and if I wanted to let it all hang out I'd have to go prep myself somewhere after I get inside the party, again, something that takes effort so I don't usually do. And plus, I'm not talking about the "dressing up" kind of beauty, I'm referring to that, walking on the beach with your hair flying in the wind kind of thing (not that I ever did that--but I want to now!)

It's a good thing that I was never really into styling my hair before the scarf. I know girls who go all out with the monthly highlights, haircuts, straighteners, etc. Their hair looks great, but I'm sure they miss it more once they cover it with a headscarf. In fact--their investment in/attachment to their hair is probably one thing that keeps them from wearing a headscarf in the first place. Some religions and/or cultures consider the woman's hair her crown and glory to be displayed. And how about those girls who start crying when their hair gets cut short--I was never "tied" to my hair like that--fortunately. But even still, I do "miss my hair", I mean, it was not hidden for so many years and now it is. So I don't look the same obviously.

And another thing off this topic--now if someone knocks on my door (usually a delivery man), I have to frantically run around trying to find where I left my long robe and then put on a scarf. By the time I get it all on, the guy is long gone and so is my package! And we have a little back porch in our apartment that my kids sometimes play on, and I usually sit inside by the door. But sometimes I need to rush out to help my kid with a toy or something and the same thing happens, I have to pull on my robe and scarf and it annoys me! I wish I could just quickly run out there without worrying about the cover-up. And actually that's what I do sometimes. I just us ally bend down so I am not totally visible to any passers-by. And what about having the drapes/blinds open during the day? I do that too. And I don't walk around in hijab in my own house. I just assume that it's difficult to see inside during the day. Hmm.

Anyway, back to the main point here. Bad hair days? How about bad scarf days. I went to a party and in the pictures I noticed that my scarf (which was an oblong one that I had pinned, one side hanging down and the other flipped to my back) had lost its shape and was sort of "balooning" around my neck, plus there was a part of my skin that was showing between my scarf and shirt. And what's worse---my scarf had become pointed on the top! Ugh! I hate that. Pointed on the tip, like an arrow pointing to the sky or like a pointed roof of a house. Blech. Why didn't anyone tell me? It's like walking around with spinach in your teeth every time you smile and no one tells you! Ugh.

Well, inshaaAllah...I'm going to grow my hair out long again. And then I'll wear it all down and lovely at the next all-female party. Hmm. But I'll have to dye it now since I'm getting lots of grey hairs now--good thing my scarf covers that up now ;-)

As I Was Saying...

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT?
As I mentioned in the comments section of the post, "What I am Not," I also cringe at the idea that hijab is worn to protect women from men as if men are not responsible for their own actions, as if women are just walking bait for a man-fish to gobble up. But men are not supposed to be in this passive position---that is why the Quranic verse starts off with telling men what to do:

Al-Nour (The Light)

24:30 Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity: [36] this will be most con?ducive to their purity – [and,] verily, God is aware of all that they do.


Then the verse goes on to the women:
24:31 And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; [37] hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. [38] And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, [39] or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms [40] And [always], O you believers - all of you - turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! [41]

And regardless of whatever translation is used, e.g. if the word "modesty" is used instead of "chastity," or "head-coverings" is used for "veils," or
"hidden charms," are used for "hidden ornaments," the fact is, the MEN are addressed and instructed first--but somehow people, even Muslims, lose sight of that and put all of emphasis on what the women should DO, i.e. the women should cover so the men don't have to see them, putting men in this passive position, but actually--men should be responsible for "their gaze" whether the women is covered or not. Muslim women do not have to cover up just because men "can't help themselves." And men do not get a free pass to stare at a woman just because she is uncovered.

And as for beauty versus sexuality, it makes more sense that hijab is worn to keep our sexuality private because people can continue to be sexual long after their so-called beauty has faded. And that is why, correct me if I'm wrong, hijab does not need to be worn in front of men who physically have no need/desire for sex, i.e. "male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex (Yusuf Ali translation)", and no longer needs to be applied on a woman who reaches an age where she herself is so old that she no longer has sexual urges (or past child-bearing years). And there are plenty of instances when a woman who, when totally covered and totally modest, will draw the attention of a man who finds her face and/or demeanour beautiful--and that is not the fault of her lack of hijab or what not--in fact it may not be any one's fault at all. It may just be what it is. And as long as the man doesn't "stare" or make advances toward her (without the appropriate respectful requirements) then there's no problem in that situation, I think.

Well, since I'm not really a formally educated Islamic scholar I should stop the interpretation here. But you get my point, don't ya?

ALL GOOD IN THE HOOD?
Another thing I mentioned was feeling anxiety going into a "ghetto" area. My definition of "ghetto" is anything of "low-quality," in this case, the area that the store was in is not so well-kept (OK, so it was a "DOLLAR GENERAL" store). I got a couple of comments mentioning African Americans in this regard and realized I must clarify. I didn't mean to imply it was a place where just African Americans are. Yes there were AAs there, as well as whites, hispanics, asians, etc. it was a diverse crowd.

The image I was trying to share was a place with young people (mostly so-called minorities), mostly single people who are often over-bearing in their friendliness, basically telling you like it is (keeping it real), not sugar-coating or being fake, sort of hanging out both in and out of the store, standing around, and I noticed that was the atmosphere that day at the store (it often is) and I felt nervous because I didn't want anyone to tell me what they think (even if was positive). And since I am a minority myself, I do think other minorities feel more comfortable around me and therefore they will ask questions or comment on things that catches their attention. But I just wanted to be invisible that day. And honestly I think I feel more invisible in places that are full of older (usually white) ladies (such as Steinmart) because they sort of look at me and then ignore me. And those type of places are usually fancy kind of expensive retail places. It really depends on my own mood and self-perception at the time as far as which kind of place I feel more at ease in. I guess "invisible" has different meanings too. Ugh.

And to comment on the comments, I agree, when I was in high school and most of the kids were harassing and making fun of me, it was several African American kids who were kind to me, my friends, and some who did not even know me would say "As-salam-alaykum" when they passed me in the hall.

Anyway I'm just rambling here. I don't know. It just goes back to not knowing where I fit in. Or just my paranoia that I don't really fit in anywhere.

Stereotypes. Culture. Labels. What a mess it is to figure it out. You'd think a 31 year old married mother of 2 would have it all figured out by now, but NO! I'm still uneasy. I think the headscarf does that to me--I mean, it's part of the Islamic culture I grew up in, but it's not part of the Pakistani culture I grew up in. (I mean, being Pakistani has nothing to do with my reasons for wearing a headscarf, whereas being a Muslim has everything to do with it).

Once, before I had kids, a friend of mine I were talking about Pakistani customs and I had an "I don't care," attitude and she said to me, "Well, what culture are you gonna raise your kids in"? And I said..."Muslim." She said, "but what CULTURE, Pakistani? American"? Hmm. But I still figured their culture could be Islam. Couldn't that just simplify everything? I think it does. Oh, no it doesn't. Well, I guess it's easier to know what you're NOT than it is to know what you ARE.

Still, I do have these images of people who must be very sure about it all, culture, religion, fitting in. Hmm...maybe they're just "mature adults." Go figure.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Scarf Ace: Fashion Fun

My OTHER blog:

http://scarfacefashionhijab.blogspot.com/

I don't want this here blog to get bogged down with fashion stuff since it's meant to be about my thoughts and feelings and experiences with hijab in America, so I've created another blog in addition to this one just for some hijabi fun with fashion, er, um, specifically clothing and accessories that can be found in America. Add it to your favorites if you're interested!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Polyvore

My first attempt at using Polyvore. Does anyone know how to save this set onto my profile? Or do you have to create a new set every time?

MUSLIM COLLEGE GAL:

TV: A Good "Habit"

Well, I found out that the show I discussed in my last post (re: PATHETIC) is called Flashpoint and it stars Amy Jo Johnson as the female lead. After thinking about it, I realized that there are a couple of cop shows that portray strong and intelligent females without exploiting them as sex objects, e.g. COLD CASE and WITHOUT A TRACE.

I've never seen an episode of either one of those shows that put the female leads in any sexually demeaning scenes, so that is refreshing. (Although in Without a Trace the one female character may wear a low-cut top sometimes as you can see in the picture).
COLD CASE is the best, the female lead is always dignified, intelligent, sensitive, brave, and all the while also feminine, but not "sexually explicit." And actually so is the other female officer in the show.

In other TV news, I caught a bit of a film called "The Nun's Story," on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian channel).

At first I did not know what the film was but I knew that it was Audrey Hepburn in the role, so I looked it up and found it. It is a really lovely and interesting film, very well-written, it is based on a novel. I wish I could remember all the dialogue that I found enlightening, but basically the plot is about a woman who enters the sisterhood but eventually decides to leave because she is conflicted about its demands on her. I found myself relating a lot to the character of Sister Luke, wanting to conform to the demands of her decision, but struggling with doubt and "disobedience." One line that really struck me was "Sacrifice is the only test of our love for God." It really made sense to me when I thought about the struggle in having to sacrifice so many things (pride, vanity, desire, etc.) to not only wear a headscarf, hijab, but also to just be a Muslim--in fact, a religious person in general. Of course there are other sacrifices...only eating halal meat when I really want that Big Mac from Mickey D's, stopping to pray when I really want to just sleep or finish some project, wearing a headscarf when I really don't want to. Of course, the nun has to sacrifice so much more such as having a family.

Apparently, when the woman first enters the convent, she wears a scarf that only covers the top and back of her head. Then as she is inducted into the sisterhood, she gets the entire "HABIT." In one scene, it shows a white head cover (a wide oblong fabric) being placed over her head and tied in the back. Then a larger fabric is placed across and on top of her head. Sometimes the clothes were black, sometimes white. I'm not sure what the colors mean, if anything. It's funny, I could relate to the scene which showed the nuns feeling very hot in a warm climate covered in all their garments.

I had written a long paragraph comparing and contrasting the concept of a nun being "detached," from the world and a hijabi's detachment from the world, but it got deleted when my daughter banged on the keyboard and I don't have the energy to rethink-retype. Ugh!

I wonder if people think of nuns when they see a hijabi. I wonder if there's the same type of respect and honor attributed to a hijabi that I would assume is given to a nun? A hijabi can dress in so many different ways, but even if some of the ways are very similar to a nun's dress, my guess is that the hijabi is seen as more..."strange," and there are way more negative stereotypes associated with her garments. I found this interesting link about a nun's habit online. It is a page of "EXCUSES" for nuns not wanting to wear the habit, plus the respective "RESPONSES" to those excuses. It reminds me a lot of some of the reasons for not wearing the headscarf. If you check the link and replace the word "habit" with "headscarf," the reasoning is almost entirely the same! I think the RESPONSE part of the link is a bit harsh in some lines, but the tone of some of the responses is often the same as the response one would get from many Muslims who believe in the headscarf as part of a woman's dress code.
Check it out of you have time and tell me what you think, especially if you are a Christian who has anything to add to this post (e.g. a link to a credible site that explains the history and/or purpose of a nun's habit).

By the way, I accidentally made a typo that I thought was funny: hijabit. Nice combo of the two topics, eh? Heh. I almost made that the title of this post.

Well that's all for now. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

PATHETIC!

The kids went to bed early tonight, so I start watching this show on CBS. I don't know the name of it, I've never seen it before.

Apparently it's about this SWAT-Team-type of crime fighting unit. So there is one character who is the only female team member. First, she shows how strong she is by dragging a 250 pound man across a room. Then she shows how valuable she is to the team--because she is smaller in size than the men, she is the only one that can fit through an air vent to follow the suspect. Then she proves how intelligent she is by successfully talking a suicidal teenager off a ledge. Heck, she's even brave enough to climb over the ledge to rescue the kid. I'm thinking, "This is a good show. Good writing. Cool plot. Nice solid female character here."

But NO!

Then there's the LAST scene. Suddenly, she is in the locker-room at the SWAT team station. She's just taken a shower. She's wearing nothing but a towel on her body. Then her male co-worker (apparently also her ex-boyfriend) "accidentally" walks in on her as she quietly and briefly protests as if to say, "Um. I'm naked here, go away. But wait, why are you looking at me so tenderly. Do you have something important to say to me. Ok. Nevermind me being naked--go ahead." So he says, "Well, I knocked. Just wanted to say how great you were today...blah blah blah...can I make sure you're okay?" So she turns around so he can see her injuries and.. I turned off the TV then. It was obvious they were about to make-out or some other LAME turn of events. What I saw was enough to totally frustrate me.

I was angry at the female actress who decided to play this tough girl--but ends up in a towel scene on television. She was one of the cool characters in that show "Felicity," back in the day, so I was like...how lame of her. And I was angry at the writers of this show who apparently think it's not enough to represent a strong, intelligent, valuable, brave woman without having to end up showing her as a sexual object, half naked, melting at the charms of some dude she has feelings for.

Yes, in real life women are strong, intelligent, valuable, brave, AND sexual beings--but why would this show put that actress--never mind the character--in such a degrading towel scene?

I don't know what I'm frustrated about. It shouldn't surprise me, but for some reason it did.

It just verifies to me that there's something wrong with this culture's (albeit the media's culture) view on women. You can be as strong and intelligent as you want, but you're really not "interesting" unless you're some hot chick in a towel. SO PATHETIC. It's sort of like this culture is saying, "Hey ladies, you can be whatever you wanna be, we believe in you! You're a strong, independent FREE woman who can be the powerful female in our man's world and we'll respect you and treat you right--but, hey, don't forget to be "sexy" while you're at it, OK?--then you'll be the perfect woman." Pathetic. Offensive. It's basically misleading, hypocritical, unfair, and unrealistic. I think it presents a confusing message to young girls in this society as well who think a character like that is a role model. A role model I would have advocated...except for that last scene. Is reality creating this show or is this show creating reality? Maybe it just shows that men and women should not work so close together? Maybe segregating the sexes is not such a bad idea, huh?

I don't know. But I'll take my headscarf over that towel any day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What to Wear to a Wedding

I received a NEWPORT NEWS catalog in the mail. The heading was "What to wear to a Wedding." I am InshaaAllah attending an American style wedding for an in-law in November and am looking for an outfit. Here are two from the catalog that I like:

The first look is "Black Tie":


I chose a nude colored scarf to match the nude colored lining of the dress, thinking a black scarf would be too much.




There are long-sleeved bodysuits available at Newport News that could provide extra coverage (and support) if the shrug is too sheer.

The second look is "Garden Romance":





What do you think of the two looks? I guess it depends on whether the wedding is at night or day or outside or inside. The shoes for both outfits are not really my style but probably would be hidden under the hem of the dress anyway. But I like how Newport News had the entire outfit (except for the cardigan and the scarves)all set up with all matching accessories, which would save me the trouble of finding it all in separate places.

I don't know how the fashion bloggers such as Hijab Style put together such nice collages of outfits and insert the matching links and information. It's a lot of work and I won't be doing much of it!

Here is the relevant information on the outfits:

Garden Romance:
NEWPORT NEWS (NN)
http://www.newport-news.com
Crochet Dress, $79.00, Catalog Code: A722534
NN Lace-trim Satin Clutch, $34.OO, A721740
NN Crochet Sandal, $29.00, A712883
Crochet Cardigan, $12.00 from Soft Surroundings:
http://www.softsurroundings.com
Rose satin and chiffon scarf, $12.00 from Hijabs r Us:
http://www.hijabs-r-us.com

Black Tie:
NN Lace Dress A7G7367 $79.00
NN Lace Shrug A7G1669 $24.00
NN Satin Frame Clutch A721895 $29.00
NN Satin Sandal A722865 $29.00
Nude sequined scarf, $18.99 from http://www.hijabs-r-us.com

Monday, August 11, 2008

What I'm Not

If you don't already, I'd suggest you read the comments that are left at the end of some of my posts. They are often full of more tips and insight into the world of hijab. Also, there are links to other blogs.

I had a random thought the other day. I've said before that the idea of hijab as a way to "hide a woman's beauty," doesn't sound completely accurate to me. I think hijab should be thought of as more of a way to "hide/protect a woman's sexuality." That's why hijab can be applied to both men and women because both need to protect their sexuality and not just flaunt it to strangers. Beauty is a more natural thing that often can not be hidden behind hijab. It is sexuality which is often played up & abused and leads to corruption. A woman can wear head to toe burqa but if the wind passes by, her figure can be shown--but that is a natural beauty and one she can not hide. But a woman wearing skin-tight, skin exposing clothing is showing off her figure on purpose which is something that requires one to ask: Why? For young girls who naturally have attractive figures, it is very tempting to throw on a tight, trendy t-shirt and feel good in her young self, highlight and straigten her silky hair---I don't blame her really. I've been there. But that's where hijab, or even just the headscarf comes in. It's a way to temper that temptation and keep some boundaries in a world that makes it so easy to let it all hang out. And that's also why I think the blogs devoted to looking stylish with hijab are fine as long as there is a line because I think there is a difference between looking stylish, fashionable, beautiful and looking sexy, sensual, sexual. Anyway, everyone has his/her own view of modesty--this is just my random, rambling thought.

POST 2:
Hmm... I need to keep a baseball cap in my car. That way, if (when) I ever have another anxiety attack [ which is what happened the other day when I went to this one store alone on a bright, hot day. I noticed a lot of single young people (mostly men) entering and leaving the store. I would describe the area as "ghetto," which I've noticed often has more young men talk to or randomly commenting on strangers as opposed to a fancy smancy store full of old ladies. Now if I had been wearing something tight and "sexy," I would have had the same type of anxiety. I was all covered up in my mommy clothes, but the headscarf was causing me anxiety as well, so I let it off of my head half-way to feel less of a target for attention)] that causes me to take my scarf down like I did on July 4 (see post: "Said It All,") I can at least put on a cap and maybe just wrap the scarf around my neck. Of course that is not full hijab, but at least it's something better than nothing. A cap with a scarf on the neck would look odd, but I don't have a problem looking odd (most of the time). I just feel vulnerable (i.e. a target for unwanted, negative attention) at times looking..."foreign," or like a fish out of water, which is how I feel sometimes, walking into certain areas alone with headscarf wrapped Muslim-style. I don't mind looking alternative because that's what I am, but I do mind looking foreign because that's what I'm not. Anyway, the first thing I think of on those days where I do the half-hijab is this blog. I think, how can I write a blog about wearing a headscarf when I don't wear one today! Well, it's all part of the struggle for me. So I'm still here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dress up or Mess up?

When it comes to finding clothes for attending a Pakistani wedding, most Paki girls in America have the option of either going to Pakistan or having clothes sent from Pakistan by their relatives. These clothes need to be measured/tailored for the girl to look really good. Now, since neither I nor my relatives ever go to Pakistan and send me clothes, my option is usually to go buy "ready made" outfits and then have them altered. Now, this is usually a tiresome task that requires having to haggle the price down to something reasonable, which I usually don't want to do. So now since none of the several outfits I got after marriage fit me anymore, and since starting to do hijab I have tried to put together my own outfits for the few wedding events I have attended since. Looking back on those outfits now, I wish I had had Pakistani style clothes instead because although I got several positive comments about them, they were sort of...eccentric. Luckily I am known to be "eccentric" so it wasn't so odd, but I've seen many wedding photos recently of my friends and family that make me envy their Pakistani clothes so much. Here is a picture of my cousins at a wedding:

So gorgeous with the vivid colors and detailing on the lovely fabrics. Now since I can't wear clothes like this for the reasons mentioned above, I carefully study these pictures to try to figure out how I could possibly look as nice with the limitations/boundaries I have. That's not to say that hijab puts limits on looking nice when dressing up. Just look at this picture of my friends wearing Indian style saris with hijab:

So beautiful! Wearing a sari is the ultimate challenge. It's so elegant and stylish. I think one has to be a bit taller to pull it off with flair, but it still remains the ultimate style statment for most desi females. But I have bigger fish to fry first! What to wear? What to wear? SO. I guess the point of this post is the struggle of trying to dress-up while maintaining both hijab as well as a sort of ethnic style without having the resources to get those authentic Pakistani outfits. It takes some creativity and some...gumpshin...nerve...disregard for conformity...luckily I have most of that. But I do wish I could work a sari like my friends did. Hmm. I think I will go get a ready-made Paki outfit next time (and possibly end up paying more than I have to) so I can fit in better with the other beautiful outfits...

So what do you wear to fancy wedding parties? Let me know.....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just Add Headscarf

Recent conversation between me and my husband:

Husband: Walk in front of me so people don't think you HAVE to walk behind me (in reference to the stereotype of oppressed hijabis).
Me: (Wearing an ethnic Pakistani tunic, pants, ethnic shoes and a brown scarf, traditional style, pinned under chin) That's the problem with wearing this get-up! (Joking). That's why I should dress more like Avril Lavigne.
Husband: (Laughing) Does she wear hijab?
Me: No, but I like that style, boots, baggy pants, t-shirts....
So yeah, I was thinking that I would like to dress more like a rock-star in my hijab if that's possible! I think it is. If I had not been born a Muslim, I would have become a rock star, you know. I like Avril Lavigne's style IN GENERAL (of course she, like all other rock stars--except for Sinead O'Connor) do dress trashy at times. But here are some pics where I like her style. Just add headscarf. (And sometimes some arm covers). And oh, of course add some length to her tops to cover her backside. And frontside (er, um...crotch). Sheesh.




And here are some lovely pics of Sinead O'Connor with her head covered. I just love her, that's all:




Anywayz...I ordered a shrug from NewportNews.com for $33.00. It seems like it might be too warm, but at least it is black, long-sleeved and will cover the arm-pits and some of the chest area as long as I don't wear this lady's icky top:


There are also many more shrugs at Amazon.com. Just search for "long-sleeve shrug" or "bolero." It takes a while to navigate and search everything, but you might find something.

Anywayzzz...I went to this out of town restaurant with my hijabi friend. It was a halal (i.e. Islamically correct MEAT) Thai restaurant. YUMMY. It was so cool because the food was great (I hardly ever get to eat out becuase there are no (maybe 1?) halal places in my town). Plus it was a great atmosphere. There was a family with hijabis there. And also young fresh faced college kids with tatoos. Elderly folks. Couples. Families. Friends. Very diverse and laid back. How I wish it could always be like that!

So...back to that rock-star style. Here are some cool arm covers (also called arm warmers) which could be worn with 3/4 sleeves or even with some t-shirts if your arms are short like mine. I love the arm sleeve look--although the ones I have (from Islamic stores) are uncomfortable. These are funky styles and give an edge to the outfit, and some even cover the hands:

black and white arm cover ebay.com

zebra print arm cover ebay.com

amazon.com from leg avenue $6

sierra trading post $32

target.com 9.99

target.com 12.99

virtual village 5.99

sporty look:
NIKE arm warmer 25.00

tree fort bikes 13.99

fancy:
virtual village 5.99


So there you have it. Some cool pieces to help complete the hijab puzzle. I know that a lot of those styles are not practical or typical, but I enjoy the options and it opens my imagination in terms of dressing and helps me express my own personal style.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shrug it Off

I can't find a shrug to save my life. It's a cropped light jacket that has sleeves. I need one that is lightweight cotton with long sleeves preferably with good chest coverage and no ties on the tummy area to cover up the few sleeveless tops I bought like this one from Chadwicks.dom, on sale for $15.00:
But the ones I got from Ross Dress For Less are even better than this photo because they have no stitching on the body of the dress so it is not tight in any place. Sleeveless tops are everywhere. I like the A-line dresses that I can use as long tops over pants. And instead of wearing a long sleeve t-shirt underneath or a cardigan on top, I've been looking for a shrug, but can't find one that I like anywhere, not even the Internet (unless it's a designer one over $100). I ordered one from http://www.target.com back in May and just last week they emailed me to say it's no longer in stock. Ugh. Thanks a lot, Target.Com! I've found these shrugs at some dance wear shops. These are from discountdance.com for $16.00. They will work as sleeves, but not sure if they'll cover the arm pits. I wish I could find one that buttoned on top!

There are several shrugs and boleros at Dancewearsolutions.com. Here is one that is nice looking, for $32, but so far only comes in pastel colors (I need a white one and a black one) and this is a bit warm looking:

This one from Dancewearsolutions.com is cool, for $18.00 will provide good chest coverage (and doesn't tie on the stomach which I don't like either). But it has a hood, which might or might not look odd depending on the type of outfit. I might go ahead and order this one:

Here is another one from REI.com, but it is more sporty then I need. It's called a bolero, for $35.00:

Here's a nice one from Dillards.com. But it's $80.00, too expensive for me. And it might not work for summer because I'd still need to wear arm covers since its sleeves don't go all the way down to the wrists:

So I haven't worn those sleeveless tops much this summer. I bought this white button down shirt that is a bit light and lacy which I've worn a couple of times with a couple of the sleeveless top/dresses. But I do not like the way it looks overall. I rather have a sleek looking shrug...the cropped aspect of it makes it more summer-like and feels less layered. Hmm...I'll keep looking...............