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[Dunia] Tiada Iman sudah

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Post time 18-6-2017 02:20 PM | Show all posts |Read mode
Faith no more
Sami Shah and Ishma Alvi thought long and hard about Islam before deciding to renounce it.
THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE, JUNE 17-18, 2017
STORY: SAMI SHAH AND ISHMA ALVI | PHOTOGRAPHY: JULIAN KINGMA



My name is Sami Shah, and I’m not a Muslim. I was born a Muslim, I grew up a Muslim, but at a point in my life I stopped being a Muslim. You can do that, but it’s not encouraged. No religion gets excited when an adherent tries to leave and Islam tends to frown on apostasy: it’s illegal in most Muslim countries, -punishable by death in some. This is what the Quran says about apostates: … if they turn their backs, take them and slay them, wherever you find them. [Quran 4:89]. Now, I would really like that not to happen to me.

Every time I meet someone new, their first assumption is that I’m a practising Muslim – it’s practically an occupational hazard. It doesn’t upset me. I know that I have a Muslim-y name and a Muslim-y face. Brown skin, black beard, “Allah 4 lyfe” tattooed across my forehead. OK, so maybe not the last part. But I do have a face that’s Muslim-y enough that in a hostage situation, I’d be the suspect. Even if I was the hostage.

Growing up, I didn’t know it was a Muslim-y name or face. I was living in Pakistan, so it was just another face, just another name. Then, in 2012, I migrated to Australia, and all of a sudden I went from background scenery to curiosity. That’s -actually unfair to parts of Australia. In Melbourne, for example, you can have a 17-syllable name only pronounceable through a combination of whistles, semaphore, eyebrow curls and a 13-person flash mob, and people will go out of their way to make you feel as though that’s just how it is for everyone. And having a beard means you’re expected to own a ukulele, not implement shariah law.

Unfortunately, I didn’t move to Melbourne when I first landed in Australia. Instead, because the immigration department has a sense of humour all its own, I spent almost four years living in Northam, a small country town two hours’ drive from Perth. I still have many friends there and an appreciation for the West Australian -countryside – a thing of unparalleled beauty. But a small part of my love for Northam has to do with how far it is from the world I’d just left behind.


Sami Shah

Pakistan is a Muslim country. The religion -suffuses every portion of the country: from the -government to the media, and even to everyday conversations. To suddenly be away from Pakistan was a relief to me. I didn’t have my aural environment filled with constant calls to prayer, every sentence wasn’t ended with a religious invocation of gratitude for Allah’s blessings, and I could openly proclaim myself an atheist.

My departure from Islam had been gradual. I didn’t just wake up one day with the decision that I was no longer a Muslim – I came to it over time. Comedy replaced Islam as my primary identifier but it wasn’t this that caused Islam’s hold over me to disintegrate – rather, it was my decision to start truly studying the religion. By 2006, Pakistan’s briefly peaceful period under the rule of the dictator-president General Pervez Musharraf was wrapping up, with increasing terrorism. What stood out for me wasn’t just the mass murder and carnage initiated by the extremists but also their religious justification for it. The religion I had been told my entire life was a religion of peace – an argument I myself had propagated when -confronted with Islam’s critics while studying in America – was -comfortably being used as a -religion of war.

I decided then that if, as Islam’s defenders claimed, the extremists were perverting their pure religion, then perhaps if I studied once more I could counter those perverted and twisted arguments with the true wisdom of Allah. Except, a close -reading revealed no true wisdom to me. Every time I approached it, I found the Quran to be maddening as a text – dense and convoluted. I found the Old and New Testaments equally incapable of -having relevance to modern life.

I came to believe that the rest of Islam, derived from the life and times of the Prophet himself, was worse, containing phrases and quotes so contradictory that you can use them to justify almost anything you feel like doing. On the positive side, many Muslims lead lives of sharing, caring and empathic humanity because of just how vague those pronouncements are. However, if religion really is that Rorschach blot that I found it to be, then it’s no wonder psychopaths and mass murderers can also find within it whatever they seek.

So in Australia it felt good to no longer be -surrounded by Islam. I looked forward to never having to worry about it again – until my daughter came home from school one day and began to tell me all about Jesus.

We’d put her in a Catholic school. It was close to our house, all our friends’ kids went there, and everyone told us it had the best-quality education in town. And, to be honest, I didn’t consider the “Catholic” part of the Catholic school to be that overt. So when, one morning, my daughter began lecturing me about “Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”, I had a bit of an adverse reaction. What threw me into confusion wasn’t that I disliked the idea of her having religion. It was that I suddenly really wanted her to have some Islam in her life. At that moment, I realised that I may no longer be a practising, believing Muslim, but I’ll always be a cultural Muslim.

Until my daughter started talking about Jesus, I hadn’t considered just how much a part of my -cultural genealogy Islam was. I’m proud of the -culture that suffused my early life; or, at least, parts of it. Some things, like the grotesque misogyny, I’m happy to be rid of. But I still listen to Pakistani songs; some of them even make me cry. As does the right painting, or story. And I wanted my daughter to enjoy those works too. I wanted her to have some connection to the land of her birth and to the family she still has there. She needed to know why her grandparents prayed regularly and who exactly Muhammad was.

Both her maternal and paternal grandparents are still in Pakistan, so I asked them for help. And so their weekly Skype sessions with my daughter became about Islam. The Islam countered the Christianity enough that she enjoyed hearing and reading about both, but stopped caring about either. She didn’t talk about Islam beyond the Skype conversations, which, I felt, was just the right amount of Islam in our world.

My daughter is the main reason we migrated to Australia. If I’m to be perfectly honest, had I had a son, I would not have left Pakistan, despite the threats against me [in response to columns and news satire Shah wrote as a journalist]. Because, based on my own personal experience, being a boy in a Muslim country like Pakistan is a lot -easier than being a girl. As a boy, your freedom of movement is unrestricted, you’re free to dress however you want, and your level of personal safety is much higher than that of a girl. I wanted my daughter to grow up in a place where her -freedoms were the same as mine.

Nor am I alone in believing that; my daughter’s mother feels much the same. Ishma Alvi’s understanding of feminism within and without Islam has had a big influence on my own understanding of it. Which is why I turn this story over to her.


Ishma Alvi

I am an ex-Muslim. I was born into Islam, so a relationship with it was unavoidable. But by the time I was 17, I realised that Islam did not like me – not me personally, but women in general. I started seeing Islam as swinging between benevolent sexism (if there is such a thing) and venomous misogyny. So, Islam and I took a break. The relationship was on the rocks anyway; teenage rebellion beckoned. I drank and had sex and wore what I wanted.

Islam and I got back together when I was about 20, as a result of two events. The first was that I enrolled in a masters program at the -University of Karachi. The campus was an hour away, so I decided to take public transport. Women from the higher socio-economic classes did not – in fact, still do not – use public transport in Karachi. There were horror stories about women on public -transport being sexually assaulted and raped so I decided to defend myself by wearing the Arab-style abaya: a floor-length, closed-front gown made of heavy fabric, a hijab with niqab and gloves. And it worked – I felt protected from the worst of the assaults, and felt safe and even grateful to Islam for offering me this option. Islam had wedged a foot in the door of my psyche. At that time, it didn’t strike me that the only way for me to feel safe as a woman was to cover my woman-ness; that being a woman was the -barrier to safety.

The second event that let Islam get a foot in the door of my life was that a close friend had turned passionately to the religion, embracing the hijab and abaya, along with religious classes called dars, which I started attending with her. The leader, a woman named Farhat Hashmi, encouraged her students to seek an education but was quite clear on her interpretation of the role of women within Islam – as primarily compliant with and obedient to their husbands. She also supported the idea that polygamy (by the men) was something women should be comfortable with as “other sisters can also -benefit”, i.e. share the wealth. And she suggested that women could function as the saviours of their men, rescuing them from non-marital sexual intercourse (and thus, from the hell-fire) because men will be men. There was no mention of female sexuality – women were receptacles, handmaidens and pious saviours.

Despite my acceptance into this group, I was angry most of the time. Not just angry – I struggled with rage, doing things that put me at serious risk, like standing in front of a speeding bus to make sure it stopped for me, taking a crowbar to a man who tried to grab me between the legs as he walked past, throwing a brick at a car whose driver had tried to sexually solicit me. Some might argue that I was raging against a culture that was pitted against me. But I no longer differentiate very much between culture and religion when the boundaries between the two are so vague, as is the case in Pakistan.

I was tired of struggling to fit myself into what Islam wanted; tired of trying to make myself smaller, to hide my woman-ness just so I could be safe; tired of trying not to question things that were blatantly against me as a woman; tired of forcing my dissonance to resolve itself by citing faith, by citing context of the Quran. So Islam and I broke up for good. It wasn’t an impulsive decision: it took thought and reflection, and I homed in on the key issues that I couldn’t simply dismiss any longer.

For one thing, the issue of domestic abuse, where the Quran states: Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. [Quran 4:34]

The obvious and the implied, in this single verse, summarise the entire attitude towards women in Islam. It does not matter to me – as a woman, a -psychologist or a human being – whether “strike” is with a feather or a rod: abuse is not only about physical pain but also psychological pain and fear. And why would a man have to discipline his wife, anyway? Another area that I couldn’t just accept on faith alone was to do with a woman being valued as half a man: … And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (two women) errs, the other can remind her… [Quran 2:282]

The Quran here is quite clearly stating that a woman is half a man: in judgment, in comprehension, in the ability to be objective and just. It can, and has, been generalised to an overarching -perception of a woman’s ability to use her brain.

It’s also saying that women are ultimately to be obedient and submissive to men, that it is incumbent upon them to “save” their men from hell-fire by accepting polygamy, that a woman is not to inherit from her own parents what her brother might, that a woman can be beaten, that there is no legal/standard age for marriage in Islam, that marital rape is not directly and clearly addressed in Islam (a non-issue). That the woman is to cover herself, again to save the men from their carnal lusts. That there are guides to disciplining a wife/woman. And, finally, that there are no equal or even similar guides for women to be used with men/husbands. For all these reasons, I knew that I could not go back to Islam. That a return to Islam would be a betrayal of my gender.

Muslims in general, especially the -moderate kind, twist themselves into convoluted knots trying to explain away the blatant misogyny ground into the fibre of the religion. They cite -context: context of the verses, context of the times, context of the politico-social environment. But context serves no purpose except to excuse and justify. I’m frankly bored of the arguments to do with Quranic context and interpretation that are feebly used to defend this or that sexist verse, because none of that changes anything in terms of women in Islam, nor does it make it more palatable.

The most controversial of Islam’s impositions on women, due to its visibility, is the hijab. Let me be clear: I by no means feel that the hijab should be banned. But my perception of women who wear it has become slightly skewed. Where once I was unquestioning about what I perceived to be an informed choice, even defending friends who chose to wear it later in life, I now speculate about the basis of that choice, whether or not it was informed.

I gave some thought to recent female converts to Islam. They do not have the prior conditioning and have no predisposition to wear the hijab, so perhaps their choice is truly objective and informed. However, I need to come clean about my own biases first. I feel that if someone has converted as an adult, they are seeking something that they hope to find in Islam, and will probably be willing to embrace the rituals, dress codes and mores to get to what is sought. It’s a decision perhaps based on a hungry need, not intellectual understanding.

While I’m clear on where I stand on Islam and my choices, I would like to think that I take issue with the religion and not the people. Whether I can neatly separate the ideology and the people who put it into practice is what I’m still trying to resolve. There are groups within the Muslim community that I take particular issue with – such as the fundamentalists – for impinging on the rights of women due to their literalist interpretation of the Quran. But then, to follow this train of thought, these very people are actually following the Quran as it’s written, with no convoluted explanations or hiding behind context: practising Islam in the way it was meant to be practised, in simple black and white. Therefore, as much as this literalist group is damaging women, they are at least easy to identify and address. However, the moderate groups – the Muslim reformists and Muslim feminists – are tangled in knots of convoluted arguments; they are the ones who create the cognitive dissonance, blur choices and boundaries.

So what, in my opinion, does Islam need to do? Islam can do nothing; it is a concept. Only -Muslims can bring about a more female-positive change. This can happen when they stop presenting convoluted arguments that function only to manage their own dissonance and maintain the status quo. Justifications such as “But it was the first feminist faith” and “It’s about context” and “It depends on the interpretation” need to be discarded.

When the apologist approach to Islam from moderates ends, acceptance and an objective examination of Islam and women could happen. Which might be the impetus to positive change – reformists could then look at reinterpreting it from a women-friendly standpoint. But, frankly, I don’t see how that can happen. Even if it is reinterpreted, how can that new standpoint be accepted worldwide across the various Muslim subgroups and sects? And then be consistently practised and maintained so that the new practices and beliefs supplant the old ones? Maybe reformists and -Muslims have the answer to this one. I don’t.

In the end, I believe Islam is not a religion for women, nor a religion for our times, or for any time – because, at its very heart, it does not like women. And since I’m a woman, I don’t like it back.

Edited extract from The Islamic Republic of Australia, by Sami Shah, $32.99 (ABC Books)



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Post time 18-6-2017 02:41 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Sibuk je kamu acong pasal hidup org:zz
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 Author| Post time 18-6-2017 02:46 PM | Show all posts
sebu1 replied at 18-6-2017 02:41 PM
Sibuk je kamu acong pasal hidup org:zz

ini kerana lobai2 bahalol paksa org lain ikut seperti mereka   
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Post time 18-6-2017 02:49 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Rahman_Mulhid replied at 18-6-2017 02:46 PM
ini kerana lobai2 bahalol paksa org lain ikut seperti mereka

Oitt ikut dia le nk masuk agame ape. Perihal lobai pakse dia pun x dekene mengene dgn masalah Malaysia pun :zz
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 Author| Post time 18-6-2017 02:53 PM | Show all posts
sebu1 replied at 18-6-2017 02:49 PM
Oitt ikut dia le nk masuk agame ape. Perihal lobai pakse dia pun x dekene mengene dgn masalah Mala ...

ko tu bodoh....... pasal tu pak arab kata akal perempuan separuh akal lelaki  
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Post time 18-6-2017 02:56 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Rahman_Mulhid replied at 18-6-2017 02:53 PM
ko tu bodoh....... pasal tu pak arab kata akal perempuan separuh akal lelaki

Kamu mmg bijak sb x percaye tuhan wujud  dah Tu asyik provok islam dan mengutuk Allah.  
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Post time 18-6-2017 02:58 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Good riddance
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 Author| Post time 18-6-2017 03:05 PM | Show all posts
sebu1 replied at 18-6-2017 02:56 PM
Kamu mmg bijak sb x percaye tuhan wujud  dah Tu asyik provok islam dan mengutuk Allah.

bila aku provok atau kutuk? tohan bagitau kamu?  
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Post time 18-6-2017 03:06 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Mereka sudah mendapat cahaya kebenaran
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Post time 18-6-2017 03:11 PM | Show all posts
Orang Islam sibuk mencari lailatul Qadar, kapir kristian maideen  & multinicknya meroyan kenapa ?



dengar dan hadamkan tentang "rahsia sejarah perlantikan jesus menjadi tuhan oleh manusia" oleh bekas rahib gereja sendiri

rahsia & sejarah yang disembunyikan gereja
siapa yang sebenarnya melantik jesus sebagai tuhan ?
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Post time 18-6-2017 03:13 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Rahman_Mulhid replied at 18-6-2017 03:05 PM
bila aku provok atau kutuk? tohan bagitau kamu?

Mcm kamu baru hidup kat ci ni
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Post time 18-6-2017 03:21 PM | Show all posts
Esok kat Padang Masyar menjawab lah Pakistan itu......

Maideen~Kalau dia melintas depan aku memang aku belasah dengan kon trafik!

Takbirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
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Post time 18-6-2017 04:12 PM | Show all posts
keh..keh...orang orang yang keciwa,......

Cuba laa cari yg tak percaya dengan tuhan....ok...
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Post time 18-6-2017 04:34 PM | Show all posts
Kesian beruk athiest sekor ni, hari hari terpaksa bukak thread provoke. Nampak sangat athiest tak laku.
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Post time 18-6-2017 05:02 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
... kat sini pun ummah hanya Moslem masa kenduri dan baca yasin dan masa buat umrah aje, lepas tu sambung balik rasuah, togok arak, berzina, berjudi,mencarot marot macam Hadi Bawang ...
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Post time 18-6-2017 05:05 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Rahman_Mulhid replied at 18-6-2017 02:53 PM
ko tu bodoh....... pasal tu pak arab kata akal perempuan separuh akal lelaki

Perempuan jugak yg ko nak smpai convert jd atset         
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Post time 18-6-2017 05:42 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Again, this is not isu semasa. patot berada di BOD agama.

Mohon pindah.

@spiderman80 @perang_sivil @admin

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Post time 18-6-2017 05:42 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
Again, this is not isu semasa. patot berada di BOD agama.

Mohon pindah.

@spiderman80 @perang_sivil @admin
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Post time 18-6-2017 05:48 PM From the mobile phone | Show all posts
So????

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Post time 18-6-2017 05:55 PM | Show all posts
panjang benor citernya malas aku nak baca hehe...anyway, semoga mereka bertaubat lah sebelum nyawa tiba dikerongkong
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