The first true generation of American Muslim women--those who have always identified as both American and Muslim--offers writings drawn from their from diverse experiences and perspectives. Contributors include Sarah El-Tantawi and Asra Nomani.The first true generation of American Muslim women--those who have always identified as both American and Muslim--offers writings drawn from their from diverse experiences and perspectives. Contributors include Sarah El-Tantawi and Asra Nomani.Read Less
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It has been said there are as many paths to God as there are individual souls. Living Islam Out loud is a collection of essays written by American Muslim women about their experiences in searching for God. The editor?s intention is to ?humanize American Muslim women to our fellow citizens of the world.? For many of the essayists, including the editor, ?alienation from the mainstream Muslim community was a perquisite to our personal transformation.? She notes that each culture comes with its own interpretation of Islam but these women are all looking for ?a more gender equitable and humanistic Islam.? In many of these ?soul journeys? the contributor is also ?searching for the divine feminine in Islam.? Three criteria had to be met for an author to be included: 1) ?she must have been raised as a Muslim in America,? 2) she must be ?contributing to public life in an extraordinary way,? and 3)?she must possess the will and the courage to share honestly the experiences that shaped her life.? The editor leads off with her own story of her parents? conversion to Islam and being raised a Muslim. She was raised with cultural baggage that caused her to endure a bad marriage for longer than necessary. One young woman writes of being raised in the Desi culture and finding out that ?our parents? affiliation with Islam? about which some had little knowledge, was a way of holding onto their homelands of South Asia. Is that any different than most immigrant cultures which have congregated around ethnic churches until the second and third generations have moved away? She discusses the establishment of a dichotomy, ?God?s Way or Satan?s way? which really meant parent?s way or Satan?s way, as ?militant Islam in the kindest and most innocent of ways.? She continues with ?[m]y understanding of Islam was limited to my community?s teachings,? which essentially meant women being treated as chattel. This woman also had failed marriages, fell away from Islam and then returned to a more inclusive Islam. The ?Black, American, Muslim? historian tells of being raised in the Nation of Islam and then running into Muslim gender discrimination when she first left home. In the introduction to the section on Love the editor notes that no one wants to talk about sex and sexuality and this attitude breeds dysfunction. A poem on interracial marriage begins the section. A Palestinian American woman tells of how she internalized the community?s attitude that a ?being a quiet and demure girl was the path to being a respectable and pure woman.? This led her into a traumatic first marriage. However, since her divorce she realizes she has been given a second chance. This essay is followed by one that goes against the ideology is that a Muslim man can marry a non-believer but a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man. It is about a Muslim woman who is happily married to a non-believer, i.e. non-Muslim. In ?Fumbling Toward Ecstasy? the essayist discusses sexuality and the problem of not discussing it. She doesn?t believe the ?reality of many Muslim women [male primacy] is true Islam which is one of gender equity. A lesbian?s essay concludes the section and provides insight into that which is not discussed. A poem thatt starts as a woman is trying to pray leads into a discussion of hijab and is a good link between the sections on sexuality and faith. An activist from Harlem is the next essayist. She uses a quote from the Prophet Mohammed to set the theme ? if one sees an evil action do something to correct it. Her essay is one of constant activity to improve herself, her community and humanity. Morgantown, W.Va. is the scene of the next essay. Betrayed by her Muslim boyfriend, this contributor faced the stigma of being an unwed mother and fought for the ability of women to enter the mosque by the front door and pray in the main hall, just like the men. This essay is a discussion of her fight against gender discrimination. It is followed by two Islamic Bills of Rights for Women, one for the Mosque, the other for the Bedroom. The last section is entitled ?Soul Journeys.? In the lead essay the writer is asking ?Where and what is Islamic purity? Where and what is the truth?? and ?how does it relate to my searching soul?? She reviews her childhood experiences that ?emphasized punishment, ritual for ritual?s sake, and superstitution misunderstood as religion.? She notes the obvious reference to patriarchy in the Qur?an. Eventually she finds a ?clearing? that frees her from her past while retaining Islam. In ?Siren Song? a performer who had believed that ?my desire to share my creativity with others was at odds with my identity as a Muslim woman? because she had been taught that ?women and performance do not mix.? She found her voice by a different interpretation of Islamic strictures. A poem about one of the divine women in Islam?s history separates this from the last essay. ?My Son the Mystic.? This essay is by the mother of an autistic boy. The meaning for this woman?s life ?originated from the maternal womb.? She had strictly followed conservative Islamic requirements, complying with the teaching that anything that might attract a man, including the voice, should be concealed. Why, she wondered, after following all the rules was her son autistic? She turned to the ?outside? community when her local Muslim community provided only the common clichés to her question. The book ends with another poem, ?My Sister?s Prayer.? Unlike the book ?American Islam,? this book is a collection of essays written by different women. Each has her own story but with a common thread, a search for God. It is a must read for all desiring to understand issues American Muslim women face and how some young women addressed them.
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