Welcome to my blog!

This blog is an honest look at what life is like for this particular American convert to Islam. We're taught in Islam to cover our sins, to not air them, for fear of lessening the severity of sinning. In this blog, I may relate past indiscretions from time to time. This isn't to make light of them, but in the interest of educating Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to the realities of life as an American convert, I present my mistakes honestly. I make no excuses for them, nor do I claim that they were okay to make. I am not perfect, and I make no pretenses as to that. If others can learn from my past, know that Islam, and religion in general, is open for people no matter what mistakes they've made, then I will gladly air my sins when needed.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Courtship of The Hijabi Waitress and LordSai

I'm on the OKCupid dating website; I have been for several years, even if most of them have been inactive. Occasionally I'll get really inane, asinine messages, and once in a blue moon I'll get downright harassment - mostly about being Muslim, or sometimes from a Muslim who can't fathom that sexuality and faith aren't mutually exclusive because I've put "bisexual" because they don't have options for "asexual, panromantic".

And then lo and behold, tonight I opened my OKC messages and this wondrous gem was waiting for me, by the charming and eloquent LordSai.

I mean, what a catch, right? Clearly this man is my soulmate - he is a gentleman who knows exactly what to say to win a lady's heart. Amirite, ladies?

After reporting my would-be suitor's messages as harassment, a rape threat, and harassment, respectively, I pondered how best to express my joy at his messages and yet sorrow at invoking his anger, and finally settled on the following:

I mean, what else could I have sent?


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Facebook allows sexually exploitative pages to stay up.

Oaky, so Facebook deletes and bans pictures of women breastfeeding, or of mastectomy scars/cover-ups, yet leaves up pages promoting rape, violence against women, pictures of nearly-naked breasts that aren't breastfeeding and show more skin than the breastfeeding pictures, and this page, that's 
dedicated to one of India's largest red-light districts, which is well-known for being made up mostly of underage girls and sex-trafficking victims. It has EXPLICIT photos of blowjobs and sex. Some photos have been up since before 2012.

And Facebook refuses to take it down.

Here's the Tumblr post and screencaps. Reblog the hell out of this, my friends, and report it to Facebook like crazy. My friends and I are reporting it as "I don't think should be on Facebook" and then "Sexually explicit content."


Update #1: Here's an article on the website Jezebel and the author's Tweet about it.



Update #2: Jezebel ran the above story on their front page, and it got into the Daily Dot.

Minutes later, the page was deleted.

However, at least two other pages advertising Sonagachi are still up, albeit with less explicit photos. That doesn't change the fact that many of the women and underage girls in Sonagachi are sex-trafficking victims, and I'm pretty sure "advertizing prostitutes - willing or not" is a major violation of Facebook's TOS.

If only they had pictures of some of them breast-feeding. >.<

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Queer Guide to Islamic Modesty

Note: If you're just joining the parade of ultra-cool awesome that is my blog, I'm queer-friendly. LGBTQIA all up in this bizniz. I'm asexual, possibly demisexual - it takes a deep emotion connection before I'm anywhere near comfortable having sex, but I'd just as soon not have it. I'm panromantic - I can, and do, fall in love regardless of gender or sex. I identify as queer, and I reject what mainstream interpretations of Islam say about same-sex relationships and non-gender binary people.

I'm not going to argue this. I don't need a lecture. I don't need it pointed out that mainstream interpretations of Islam hold that it's a sin to be anything but heterosexual. I'll go into detail later, but don't bother commenting if you're just going to concern-troll about my soul or tell me I can't be non-heterosexual and Muslim (sexuality and faith aren't mutually exclusive, I mean really, that's ridiculous) or just squeal that I'm wrong. Just ... just don't.

So, you're queer and you're Muslim. Awesome! Welcome to the club! Your secret decoder ring is in the mail, along with an illustrated guide to the secret handshake - it's complicated.

Or maybe you're not one, the other, or both, and you just want to know how to navigate our super-gay modern world successfully.

If you're wondering if it's possible to be both queer and Muslim, and maybe thinking that Sodom and Gomorra (the most popular citation for gay-is-a-sin ridiculousness) were destroyed for having a gay population, let me just ask you this: is it more likely that God lobbed an asteroid at them for allowing consenting, adult, loving same-sex relationships, or because they were an inhospitable bunch of completely immoral people who were trying to rape angels? Does God get pissier at consensual relationships or rape?

It's up to you to decide for yourself, but my money's on rape being considered more asteroid-worthy than consenting sex. And if anyone thinks that rape is less heinous than being gay, go jump off a cliff because you're a terrible human being.

Another theory is that if you look at the original translations of the old religous documents, it wasn't rape that pissed God off about Sodom and Gomorra, it's that men were having unprotected anal sex with other men, then then bringing diseases home to their wives. God wanted to stop the epidemic that this was causing, and pretty much killing all the disease vectors was the most efficient way of doing that.

Which is not to say that God was against gay sex - God was against unprotected gay sex while pretending to be straight and infecting unknowing partners, and the monks who transcribed all this didn't understand that God was talking about STDs being spread by unsafe sexual practices.

Anyway, presenting:

Larissa's Queer Guide to Islamic Modesty

First, let me define some terms for those readers not familiar with LGBT*QIA vernacular.

The alphabet soup just mentioned: Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans(gender/sexual), Queer/Questioning, Intersexed, Asexual. Basically, anything not heterosexual or cisgendered.

Cisgendered: Also cissexual. When one's physical sex is the same as one's mental gender.

Sex: The genetic identification of sex - breasts/vagina for women, penis/testicles for men, variations thereof for intersexed people.

Gender: One's mental sex; the self-identification of being male, female, both, or neither.

Intersexed: Also hermaphrodite, but that's an outdated term so don't use it. Physical characteristics of both sexes.

Trans: Transgender or transexual. When one's gender doesn't match one's sex, i.e., physically and genetically female but mentally male.

Queer: Somewhat controversial umbrella term for anyone not heterosexual or cisgendered.

Asexual: Having a natural lack of sexual attraction to others, with varying degrees of libido. Not to be confused with celibacy or being abstinent - which involve not acting on a present desire for sex, as opposed to not having that desire in the first place.

My childhood © NBC and the early 90s

The Qur'an assumes that, in general, people are going to be attracted to the opposite sex  - which most people are.

How do the modesty rules apply when dealing with queer and trans people, then? Technically, because the Qur'an doesn't mention having to cover my sexy bits around women but having to cover them around men, I don't have to cover around lesbians/bi/pan/poly women, who will find me sexually attractive 'cause I'm totes hawt, but I do have to cover around gay men, who will not find me sexually attractive because I present as female, both physically and mentally. With trans folk, it can be more confusing.

But, if read more generally as the Qur'an saying cover up around people who will find you sexually attractive, then you should cover as much as is required for being around the opposite gender.

Men and women both should ideally wear loose clothing. Sorry, dudes, those super-tight muscle shirts just don't make the cut.

For shame. Cover yourselves!
Public shaming © 141characters

For men, their awrah (the parts they have to cover when in public) is the same no matter what setting - from the navel to knee. Most societies - Muslim-run and not - have extended this to encompass the torso as well.

For women, their private (amongst family and other women) awrah is the same as men's awrah, but their public one is generally said to consist of everything except for their hands and faces, and for some scholars, their feet. There is much lively debate on this, but that's the general consensus so let's go with that to start with, and y'all can adjust it as you see fit.

Navigating modesty requirements in a queer setting also poses unique issues - do I cover if they're bisexual? What if they're a woman, but transitioned from a man (a transwoman)? What if they're a transwoman but are attracted to women? A transwoman who is attracted to men? A transman attracted to women, or a transman attracted to men? What if they're asexual? What do you do about romantic attraction?

My basic rule for sexual attraction is: if you know they're attracted to your gender, then cover your public awrah around them. If you don't know for absolute sure, then don't, unless you can find a non-rude way of asking, and every way I can think of right now is rude.

Romantic attraction is trickier. Personally, I'm never going to want to have sex with you, but I might fall in love with your during the course of our friendship. Do I always cover around everyone, or do the rules for modesty only apply to sexual attraction?

I'm inclined to think the latter. From what I know, the modesty rules are meant to keep sexual attraction at a minimum, so that mutual respect and solid relationships can be fostered without the urge to hump like rabbits clouding people's judgements.

Awww, bunnies!
Adorable bunnies who don't want to see your sexin's © portraitspatates

Another thing to consider is if you have to cover because you are attracted to their gender, regardless of their attraction to you. Let us consider the following hadith:

Once a blind man came into the house of Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told Ummul Mumineen Aisha (radi Allahu anha) to go behind a curtain. She replied, “O Prophet of Allah, he is blind. How can he see us?” The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied: “He may be blind, but you are not blind.” [Ahmad]

Full disclosure: I am very suspicious about ahadith. There are a lot of fabricated ones, and people mix up ones meant for a particular time/place/situation/person with ones meant to apply to all times/places/situations/people, and often don't include the cultural context - and sometimes there's a mistranslation that screws up the hadith (the whole siwak/shirak thing in regards to allegedly being able to beat one's wife {it starts at 16:50, but the whole thing is worth watching} comes to mind).

That said, this hadith - while talking to one of the Prophet's wives (who were under different rules than other women on account of being the wives of the Prophet of God) and refers to an actual barrier and not a piece of clothing - has been interpreted as forbidding all visual contact with non-related men, but can also be read as reminding people that they need to be modest not only because of the attraction they may provoke in others, but also to limit their own personal temptations.
By limiting your own temptations, you remind yourself that modesty begins inside you, and is a projection of not only how others see you, but of how you see yourself.

Or, you know, it could just be something that was directed at the Prophet's wives and only the Prophet's wives.

So that's it. That's my long-winded post. I hope you enjoyed it - and if you're queer and Muslim or considering converting, and you need someone to talk to about it, feel free to contact me for resources and no-judgement support.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What Feminism Means to Me: An Essay

I got to "What is feminism?" and had a minor aneurysm because WHO THE HELL DOESN'T KNOW WHAT FEMINISM IS, GOOD GOD YOU'RE FRIENDS WITH MY SISTER and then I finished reading and felt silly.

I feel silly a lot.

Anyway, I thought that I'd make a new blog post about What Feminism Means to Me: An Essay. So here it is, under the cut, what feminism means to me. It's an essay.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Controversial Opinion Time

And it's about hijab, because not nearly enough people talk about hijab, amirite?!

"You're fucking ridiculous" © Ainee

Naturally, if this doesn't apply to you then I'm not talking to you, so shhhhhhh.

Picture from uproxx.com

Basically, if you don't like hijab, don't wear it.

Saturday, May 4, 2013



Warning: Sometimes I Feel Things Very Strongly and start swearing. This behavior is absolutely normal. Do not be alarmed.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Converts vs. Cultural Backgrounds

I touched very briefly on this subject in my last post, and a good friend of mine reminded me that I had wanted to include it, but it really does deserve its own post.

Religions, as my friend noted, have as many cultural traditions as they do scriptural traditions, and if you don't come from the same cultural background as the adherents of your new faith, it can be, and is, incredibly alienating. All too often I see converts - honestly, sincerely trying to follow their new faith as best they can - take on the cultural traditions of the Muslims around them, mistaking them for religious traditions.

Wearing an abaya and hijab or a jelbaba and keffiyeh -

Pictured: Not religion.
Picture © Corbis Images

- or a shalwar khameez -

Pictured: Also not religion.
Picture © BuyNx

- instead of pants or a skirt and long-sleeved top -

Pictured: Still not religion.
Picture © Clutch Mag Online

- doesn't mean that you're following Islamic dress codes. You may very well be - but the origin of the outfit itself doesn't make it Islamic.

Once you convert, you're Muslim. Or Hindu. Or Christian. Or Jewish. Or whatever you've converted to. And a lot of the faiths in the world have strong cultural connections, connections that sometimes overshadow the religious part of them, but you don't have to wash away all of your culture once you convert, nor should you, and if anyone tries to tell you that you have to, kick them in the shins. Tell them I said it was ok. I'm Queen of the Muslims, after all. We have those, right?

All you have done in converting is take on the religious beliefs of that faith system. That is all. You do not have to change your dress to another culture's style. You do not have to change the food you eat*. You do not have to change your name**. You do not have to take on the cultural attributes of your new faith. You can bring macaroni and cheese to the pot-luck iftar (dinner during Ramadan, when you break your fast) at the mosque even if everyone else is bringing Arab or Pakistani or Yemeni food - probably because they're Arab or Pakistani or Yemeni. If you can wear jeans and a shirt and cover the basic requirements of the Islamic dress code, then congratulations, you're dressed Islamically. If your name is Michael, you don't have to change it to Mikhail - for the love of God, that's just "Michael" in Arabic! An Arabic name is no better or worse than a German or Greek or English name - my name means "gift from God" and you can not tell me that that is an unIslamic name, regardless of the language it's from.

A thing is not inherently more Islamic simply because it's Arab/Pakistani/Malaysian/Afghan/whatever. A thing is Islamic because it is a good thing that follows Islamic guidelines. Which mac and cheese totally does. And is delicious.

Haters to the right.

So be aware of this, when you're wandering around your new place of worship. Your native culture is still yours after you convert. It is no better or worse then any other culture. Leave the bad parts of it and run wild with the good. You do not have to choose between religion and culture because religion and culture are not mutually exclusive.

Are there people of different ethnicities in your new place of worship? Go up to a few and ask them all the same question, maybe about clothing requirements - can you wear American clothing, now that you're Faith X***? If they tell you that you can only wear the clothing of their culture, or if they insist that Mikhail is better than Michael even though they both mean the same damn thing, then run screaming nod politely, thank them for their wisdom and guidance, and do as you please - because you are not Pakistani/Arab/Afghan/whatever (unless you are, in which case that was a lie) and you do not have to abandon the culture you grew up in just to fit into your new faith (that part's still true).

Also, if you're not a convert, or have been around for a while, and you see new people, for the love of God, go up and say hello. They might just be new in town, or they might be new converts who have no clue what's going on, who don't have anybody to sit with during dinner or worship services, who don't have very many, if any, friends of their new faith. Make the converts feel welcome. Please make the converts feel welcome, and valued, and wanted. Think of us as orphans. Or immigrants to a new country. Or orphan immigrants.

Pictured: Coy baby fennec fox. Because immigrant orphans are depressing.

We need new friends and families, and we need to be made to feel welcome and wanted.

It would make Gir happy.

Pictured: Happy Gir
© Nickelodeon/Jhonen Vasquez

* Unless it's pork or alcohol, but baby steps.

** Small caveat: in Islam, if your name is one of the 99 names of God, has a negative meaning, or is the name of another god or goddess, then you need to change it - but it still doesn't have to be in Arabic.

*** Faith X is my new band name. No stealing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Muslim Perspective

It is nearly impossible to give people The Muslim Perspective. No, it is impossible. There is no single, defining narrative that tells the Muslim story, because there are over 1.5 billion Muslims spread out over every single country in the world and every socioeconomic status and every strength and vision of faith. We don't even have the benefit of the Islamic version of a Pope to tell us and the world What Muslims Believe. Shariah law is defined and implemented by Islamic* governments and everyday Muslims differently. Our religious laws change with the times and cultures they're applied in - and they're meant to, because one-size-fits-all is not something that an accurate faith system should claim.

The incredible diversity found in the adherents of Islam, and how we adhere to it, is one of our biggest strengths, yet it also makes it that much harder to describe us to people who don't have three hours to spare while I tell them about the differences between Sunnis, Shi'as, and Sufis (and Nation of Islam, and Five Percenters, and, and, and ...); about the differences between the main schools of thought in Islam; about fiqh and Shariah and ijtihad and sunnah and fard and the jumbled mess of ahadith and ahadith that were meant for people in general and ahadith that were meant only for a specific person or group of people and fabricated ahadith and strong vs. weak ahadith and by this time you're yelling at your screen "Just give me the short version!" but this is the short version, and how do I possibly begin to describe the vast intricacies of Islam when you ask me a question that has a million different answers that are each correct, even when they contradict one another? Even if I give you an answer, there's no way that I can give you THE answer because I'm not the Queen of the Muslims, no one is, and no one Muslim or group of them speaks for us all (I'm looking at you, Saudi).

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Not About You: Identifying and Acknowledging Privilege (Without Getting Butthurt - Because It's Not About You)

So, I recently posted this on my Facebook and a friend of mine mentioned that this was 95% of American citizens. I corrected him that it was more like 95% of white men, to which he replied that I was being sexist and racist. It is so important to recognize one's privilege - I have my own. Most of us do. One of the things about privilege is that you don't even know you have it, and you all know that I love to educate people.

This is what I replied with, with his name removed:

Actually, men, it's pretty much fact. As a white, cisgendered (as in, your physical and mental genders match up), heterosexual man, you, my friend, have a TON of privilege that you don't even realize you have. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON.

However. You don't have to worry about being sexually assaulted and blamed for it. You don't have to worry that the people catcalling you are going to follow you and get more and more aggressive, or that when you turn down someone's advances they're going to get violent. You don't have to worry that every time someone makes a rape joke, it's because they really DO think rape is funny and think that you really DO mean yes when you tell them no, even when you're screaming and crying.

You don't have to worry about getting pulled over or followed around a store simply because of your skin color. You don't have to worry about the government deporting you and your family. You don't have to worry about landing on the no-fly list simply because of your name or religion.

If you go to a mechanic or a doctor you can expect to be listened to and taken at your word - not second-guessed or talked down to like you don't know what you're talking about.

You don't have to worry about your relationships being legalized or accepted, because they already are. You don't have to worry about getting beaten or killed because of your sexual orientation, or for talking about it/holding hands with your girlfriend. You're not at risk of being fired from your job or denied housing because of it.

THAT is your privilege, gentlemen, and there's a lot more. It doesn't make you a bad person. It IS a part of your life.

But wait, there's more I have to say!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hijab treats a symptom; it's not a cure

Note: I'm not a scholar. All of my opinions are gathered from reading, researching, and my own personal prayers and contemplations - commonly known as ijtihad. I'm not a scholar. I just think for myself. If there is any historical inaccuracy in my posts, please politely let me know and link me to reliable sources. Thank you.

So let's talk about hijab, because the world doesn't talk about it nearly enough. I, however, have Very Strong Opinions on this, and it's my blog, so I'll state my Very Strong Opinions if I want to.