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Lama Ahmed // Writer
Salwa Iqbal // Editor in Chief
Oswa Shafei // Writer
Hafsa Siddiqui // Associate Editor
Lobna Mahdi // Writer
Mehreen Butt // Copy Editor
Sarah Kamaluddin // Writer
Sana Mohsin // Copy Editor
Enas Ali // Writer
Usama Ansar // Copy Editor
Junaid Ishaq // Writer
Ayah Abu-Hijleh // Photographer
Alina Mukhtar // Contributing Writer
Aysha Afzal // Webmaster
Aysha Mohammad // Sponsorship Team
Maha Abbas // Graphic Design
Faaris Hussein // Sponsorship Team
Patriceia Yu // Graphic Design
Ayah Abu-Hijleh // Cover Design
Farwa Mumtaz // Graphic Design
Muntaka Ahmed // Cover Design
Afsah Ali // Graphic Design
Jubair Aziz // Vice President Communications
Anastasia Pitcher // Graphic Design
Afrin Khan // Vice President Finance
Islam Got No Beef // 14
Editors address // 4
Glitched: TV Show Reviews // 16
Definition of vertigo // 5
Muslim Bingo // 18
Burying Muslims Alive // 6
Defense of Temporary Aimlessness // 24
Open Letter to the Ummah // 8
Can Islam and Patriarchy Coexist // 22
Between Joy, Pain, and the Desire to rebel // 10 Perspective // 24 Suffering from Vertigo? // 12
Uprooted // 25
Interview with Zarqa Nawaz // 13
Speak your Mind // 26
Special Thanks: To those who listened, supported and helped.
Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this issue do not necessarily reflect those of the TMV Staff or those of the Muslim Students Association
Twitter: TMVmagazine Facebook: The Muslim Voice Magazine Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Address 110
days. I interviewed for this position on a summer afternoon in Doha on July 15th. Producing the 28 pages you have in front of you was difficult, but the easiest thing about making this first issue was coming up with the theme. From the very beginning, I knew it was going to be vertigo. A loss of balance. That is the most accurate way to describe the past few years of my life. Being an adult who has lived away from home since 18 has been quite an experience. If there is one word that encompasses everything life has been, it is vertigo. The truth is, as a young adult in 2018, everything is constantly shifting around me, making me feel like the world has been thrown off its axis. A quick discussion with my team made me realize this narrative was not unique to me. The political news scene makes it hard to sleep sometimes. Uncertainty over degrees, majors, and internships haunt us. Even tasks like apartment hunting in Toronto come with a cornucopia of problems. A combination of these things leave us wishing we lived on Venus (Venus has the slowest rotation out of all the planets in our solar system — that’s a space reference for my little brother.) When things around me start to feel like they’re spinning out of control, I find comfort in the fact that there are some things in my life that remain constant; that act as my gravitational pull towards this world. The unconditional love and support I receive from my parents is my anchor to life. The belief that God’s plan for me is better than anything I could ever have planned for myself brings me peace. And the discourse and dialogue contained within these pages give me unbelievable hope. As you journey through the pages of this magazine, you too will come to realize that despite all the things that make us feel helpless, scared, or vulnerable, there is always a glimmer of light shining somewhere. It is our job to help make that light brighter. Creating this issue was a challenge. We were a brand new team, but our hopes and ambitions led the way. And here we are 110 days later. November 2nd, on the release date of the first issue. The enthusiastic, talented, and dedicated members of the TMV team are all to thank for putting together such incredible work. On behalf of the TMV Team of 2018/19, I would like to thank you for picking up our first issue. May your experience reading it be as enlightening as it was for us creating it.
Salwa Iqbal Editor-in-Chief
4 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018 | XXIV
XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 5
he night of Fatima’s lung transplant, she slept over at mine. It was her first ever sleepover, and wanting to make it special, I’d gone to Walmart and bought all the snacks I’d seen in movie sleepovers. As it turned out, she couldn’t eat about half of it; she was rejecting hot wings when we got the call. “They’re too spicy. It’ll irritate my airway.” Her phone rang from the other room. I didn’t want to be presumptuous in running to get it, so I watched as she took painstakingly slow steps down the hall, leaning on the rail for support. She’d almost missed the last ring when she swiped to answer. Out of breath, she answered, and within ten minutes we were hurtling down Bloor in a Lyft. Toronto General had an ER available, but she’d have to claim it in the next hour if she wanted her transplant anytime soon; and for someone with a prognosis of two weeks sans transplant, that meant paying whatever surge fare necessary to get there. As it turned out, our driver was Muslim. And when I told him where we were going, he shocked me when, after a beat of awkward silence, he said somewhat awkwardly,
Well, sometimes, in extreme situations... we can make the haram halal. His opinion is not an uncommon one; statistics are startling when Muslims are asked whether organ donation is permissible. In one recent study, 63.2% of participants answered “No,” or “Not sure,” when asked if they believed organ donation was compatible with Islamic belief. And 87.3%, an overwhelming majority, admitted that they were not registered donors.
So why do so many Muslims believe that organ donation is impermissible? The general consensus among scholars is that it is allowed, particularly in life-saving scenarios. However, there are a number among the ulama who argue that it is not allowed, particularly when the donation of organs can not be tracked; a Muslim should not donate his liver to a non-Muslim who may drink with it, for example. Or, some argue, except in situations where it can not be avoided, a Muslim should be buried intact and left whole, so that they may properly face the situation of the grave. Others source hadith that ban the wearing of false hair, or the impermissibility of cutting one’s hand to eat in extreme hunger. And finally, countless reputable hadith state that harming the body in death is akin to harming it in life. Obviously, organ donation was not yet a routinely performed procedure at the time of the prophet; the job of determining its permissibility falls to contemporary scholars, who are 6 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018 | XXIV
PHOTO // DIANA C. KIMBER
In the UK, it has been revealed that, on the NHS, Muslims wait on average one year year longer than Non-Muslims for organ transplants, due to a lack of available donors from similar ethnic backgrounds. A year is easily the difference between life and death for many who wait for transplants; short warning times are not uncommon, because organ donation is most commonly associated with end-stage organ failure. It is often a desperate, last-ditch attempt to prolong one’s life when they end up on a transplant list at all.
BURYING MUSLIMS ALIVE OSWA SHAFEI
confronted with a relatively new gray area. And just as we have some evidence in the literature for its impermissibility, there is a wealth to suggest the opposite: that Muslims should seek to do good, to help others, and, as the Lyft driver himself told us, a principle of Fiqh states that, “Necessity makes prohibition lawful.” The sad reality is that in Canada, most Muslims are unsure of whether or not to sign up as organ donors. Because of the nation’s “opt-in” program, only those who specifically consent to organ donation after death in Service Canada stations will be included. The damage wrought by this organizational system is evident in conversations among Muslim friends, when few, if any, can pull out their health card and show their “donor” certification. And, most notably, in the transplant ward of many Canadian hospitals, when young and old alike die of curable diseases because of a lack of transplantable organs. Most Muslims, particularly the devout, refuse to waste unnecessarily; they wrap up their food in restaurants, donate their old clothes to Goodwill, and give what extra income they have to the needy around them. Why, then, do so many of us allow our organs to go untouched to the grave, unneeded and spoiled within hours, when they could directly save the lives of others? Anyone of us could die at any moment; imagine something should happen to you today, on your way home from class. You could be struck by the Spadina streetcar at full speed, or stabbed by an agitated passerby on College. Those of us who are most visibly Muslim- who wear a hijab, or a taqiyah for example- often wonder if we will be targeted that day. We take great care to keep ourselves safe, and entertain the idea of dying martyrs; but do we consider what will be done after our death?
O people, you should do whatever good deeds you can, for Allah does not get tired [of giving reward] until you get tired. -Al Bukhari and Muslim If registered, one donation alone could save up to eight lives: the size of a class tutorial in some departments. Your age, medical condition, and history do not disqualify you from donation; nor does the process affect funeral processions. And as young, generally healthy Muslim students, we have a responsibility to contribute to the nation’s organ donor registry that extends beyond humanitarianism and into the responsibilities inflicted upon us by our faith. The need for organs in Canada today is remarkably severe. The unfortunate reality is that, due to organ scarcity, for almost every patient who receives a life-saving transplant, another will die while waiting for the same organ. Most of us wouldn’t bet on those chancesabout 50%- in any other situation. So why do we allow others to? Why do we allow others to die, when we can help them at no personal cost? The moral requirement on all those who can donate, to donate, is equal, equitable, and beared by all; but as Muslims, who profess a faith that centers around goodwill, it seems we should be more conscious of this responsibility and act upon it. When it comes to organ donation, every last one of us must play a part, and no one is exempt from this responsibility. XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 7
Minorities Within Islam An Open Letter:
The Need to Unify a Broken Ummah JUNAID ISHAQ
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slam is the religion of peace. The word derives from the arabic root “Salaam”, meaning peace. However, in our society today, Islam is portrayed as violent, archaic, and abusive. How did the beautiful message of Allah and his Prophet (PBUH) become so tainted? The culprit lies both within, and without our community. We, as Muslims, tend to focus more on the external pressures upon our community, as these appear more obvious and threatening. However, the true divide comes from within. The religion of peace and acceptance, the religion to provide guidance until Judgement Day, has been reduced to but a shell of its former glory. We discriminate and alienate our own, based on mere subtle nuances in our beliefs. We are racists, and sexists; not as a byproduct of religious teachings, but through cultural prejudice and blatant ignorance. The world has changed in the past 1424 years, yet we have not kept pace. We stand at a crossroads. The only way past is to decide what kind of people we want to be, and unite as a community. Within all religions there are sects, and Islam is no different. However, the majority of Muslims are Sunni Muslim, with recent figures approximating that Sunnis comprise 87-90%. This imbalance has led to insidious repercussions within Islamic society. Inherently, Sunnis believe they are most correct in their understanding of the universe. There is no issue with such a belief, unless it results in harm to others. And indeed within our society today, we witness that there is hate and discrimination within the folds of Islam, pitting brothers and sisters against brothers and sisters. Each sect within Islam, may they be Wahabi, Shia, or Sunni, call the other Kaafir. They attack one another, humiliate one another, kill one another. We are all imperfect beings. This is the fundamental basis of our need for religion. No one is fit to pass judgement over another. Live your life in the simplest manner, pray to Allah and respect His Creation, that is the true way to a harmonious Islam. Furthermore, we must discuss the sects in Islam that the greater Muslim community outright denies. It is stated in the Quran that the fundamental requirement of a Muslim is the belief in Allah and His Oneness, and belief in the Holy Prophet (PBUH), as the last of Allah’s messengers (7:59 & 33:40). However, there are factions who believe otherwise, and refer to themselves as Muslim. Again, it is not our place to pass judgement, and it is not our place to reprehend them. Islam is the religion of peace, and by harassing and attacking these people, we do not aid our mission to propagate the beautiful message of Muhammad (PBUH). We must not stoop to the level of the hypocrites, yet we should interact with everyone in a civil manner. Hear their case and state your own, as eloquently as is possible. If you are unable to change their opinion through words, do it through your actions. Follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and love Allah and all His creation. There is no better way to represent Islam. Another startling truth that we must face is that there is widespread discrimination within our community. Islam is an expansive religion, with Muslims established in all corners of the globe. Such diversity gives us immense strength. Disparagingly, with such diversity also comes strongly ingrained cultural prejudice. This prejudice has resulted in the perpetuation of racist
ideologies within Islam, including between Muslims of different ethnicities. Our bond is our faith, and this bond should transcend all other trivialities. Yet in a diverse society such as Canada, the cases of harassment from within our own community are astronomical and tragic. We separate ourselves into isolated groups, and only feed the hate into newer generations. It is time for change, and it starts by accepting all people. One more sore topic that we are outrightly unable to discuss is of equity and equality amongst genders. Islam is an accepting religion; however, we as a people are not. The Quran preaches of gender equality, to the extent that the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ each appear the exact same number of times , 24. However, the practical application of such doctrines are rarely demonstrated, an unsurprising reality in our patriarchal community. Although, it must be said that in recent years, there has been some progress towards a more positive outlook on gender equality. We still give special privileges to men, and twist laws to our advantage. All these matters are extremely volatile and detrimental to an equal society, and must be addressed at the fundamental level. It is a radical change, but a necessary one for our own sake. Along the same lines, within our contemporary society, we are still unable to discuss the matter of gender identity. Gender is a fluid construct. We must understand that people have the right to choose to identify outwardly in a manner that reflects who they are on the inside, and simultaneously follow whichever religious ideology they wish. Despite the views our religion holds regarding such ideals, we are taught to be kind to all. Belief is a personal matter, it is derived solely from what one truly holds in their heart, and cannot be established or forced by any outside source. It must be organic in order to be authentic. This issue festers further, as we are incapable of talking about such matters. Like it or not, any individual who identifies any which way, and a Muslim, is one of us. We must be there to support and help them in any situation, and the first step along that path is mere tolerance. In reality, with the treatment that we have already shown them, some may not wish to integrate fully. But we owe it to everyone to apologize for any harm we have caused, and act in any way we can to unite our diverse nation. If we cannot even depend on our own, and if we cannot even show compassion for our own, then we have truly failed in our mission of peace. There is a phenomenal beauty encapsulated in Islam, and what it means to be a practicing Muslim, both as an individual and as a community. By committing your life to service and bettering the world in the name of your faith, you assign an unparalleled meaning to your existence and gain the tenacity to persevere through all things. Islam in recent decades has been attacked by numerous outside influences, mainly in the form of misinformation, stoking the bright fire that already threatens to tear us apart. We further harm ourselves in the face of these threats, by fighting and alienating our own. Muslims must unite and overcome whatever prejudices plague and divide our community. This unity will only be born out of love and acceptance for all who practice Islam. These changes will not come easily, nor quickly, but with determination, and the right mindset, we can finally be worthy of Muhammad’s (PBUH) legacy.
XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 9
Between Joy, Pain and the Desire to Rebel I
s the University of Toronto actually THAT bad?
I get asked this question a lot, so let us settle this once and for all. If you thought that UofT is only about late night assignments, endless midterms and the perpetual threat of bankruptcy, you are wrong, dead wrong. The faculty recognizes how important it is that its students live healthy, self-actualized lives so in addition to catering for our intellectual needs, the faculty goes out of its way to ensure that students physical health needs are catered to. Research indicates that in order to live healthy lives, humans need at least forty minutes of intense workout, daily.
The university knows this, successive classes are deliberately scheduled at opposite ends of the campus, just so we can get off our chairs and spend the ten minutes between classes running to the next one, not sitting idle and waiting for the next professor to arrive. The university and us, hand in hand in the fight against obesity! Plus, didn’t y’all know walking fast is sunnah? say Ma Sha Allah! Living outside Toronto and coming to campus everyday is quite an experience, not least because you get to benefit from North America’s best transit system, a round of applause for the TTC please. Everyday, I have to pull the weight of my existence and travel thirty kilometers to campus and then back in the afternoon.
Roaming through the crossroads, one can witness the grandeurs of the past fading in to the indulgences of the present. 10 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018 | XXIV
We can conveniently call this exodus, but people like to call it a commute, so be it. Alas, the age of euphemisms, Orwell would certainly not be happy at what we have done to the English language. Regardless, I see the use of the word commute as an understatement. We are not just commuters, we are double commuters. The journey between classes is a commute in itself. The first “commute” is boring, the second one, fascinating. Roaming through the crossroads, one can witness the grandeurs of the past fading in to the indulgences of the present. At times this transition is as gradual as adulthood fading into old age, at other times it is as abrupt as the innocence of childhood giving way to the rebellion of adolescence. Sometimes, at Kings college circle, the elegant 1907 convocation hall leads to the vintage 1915 Knox college building and onto the expansive 1954 university college residence. Other times, the frail 1932 C. David Naylor building struggles to catch the eye of the passer-by in front of the mammoth 2004 Leslie dan faculty of pharmacy. Combined, these structures bequeath to us a valuable lesson, the same lesson which should be enough to humble us at times of joy and strengthen us at times of sorrow, the lesson that time shall pass.
PHOTOS // AYAH ABU HIJ-LEH
By: Usama Ansar
My daily commute begins at the intersection of Bloor and Bedford. Often, at this intersection, there are homeless men, shaking in the unforgiving cold of the Canadian winter, hoping some passerby would be kind enough to drop off a dime or two so they can feed themselves at night. What is ironic is, this happens in front of the building of the faculty of social work, which, coincidentally, is also host to Tim Hortons. Yup, you heard that right, the same coffee brand which agreed to set shop in both the Bagram and Kandhar on the request of the Canadian army, supporting, what many would call an immoral coalition supporting an unjust occupation. Walking down St. George street, just a few hundred meters from the faculty of social work, one only needs to see the cars lined up on the streets to notice how different the two worlds are. Between The fifty thousand dollar cars and the five hundred dollar shoes, between the five million million dollar buildings with custom made classrooms to enhance the learning experience of the fifth thousand students paying five digit sums for an education, perhaps it is not surprising that one does not feel the misery that exists outside this world. Between the “boundless” signs that line the streets, signs which have been intently placed to advertise the university as part of a movement striving for a better future, it becomes easy to overlook that there are people, just a few minutes away from us, who our pasts have betrayed. Then of course, there is Robarts library. The amount of material in Robarts stacks is amazing. Whenever one tries to enter to the
Call it hypocrisy, opportunism or greed, I call it reality. Were it not for our vulnerabilities, life would not have been a test. library hoping to find something interesting to read, one looks at all there is to read, figures he loves the 15 books there are, calculates it will take him 15 years to read all of them, and leaves without borrowing a single one, Robarts is an amazing place. If you have ever had a chance to study on one of the top five floors of Robarts, you know it is perhaps the best place in all of UofT to study in. All the knowledge in the world, coupled with the best views and a prevailing serenity, but look down the window on the spadina side and you see the the sigma chi fraternity. On one end of the road there is peace, on the other end there is rebellion. On side there is sobriety, on the other, inebriation. As the doors of intellect close, the doors of impulsiveness open to welcome you. When literacy leaves, spectacle takes over. The campus is a perfect paradox but are not all of us paradoxes ourselves? Is civilization itself not a paradox? We all leave history behind, we all strive to rationalize
our indulgent spending choices knowing that poverty persists, we all, at times, make the conscious choice of giving in to temptation knowing what we would be doing is wrong, but this is just how life works. Call it hypocrisy, opportunism or greed, I call it reality. Were it not for our vulnerabilities, life would not have been a test. Occasionally, on my way through the campus, these contrasts simulate within me, a renewed sense of awe. Occasionally, I find myself at loss to account for the paradoxical nature of the campus and that one word starts to haunt me: Vertigo. Perhaps it is true that life moves in circles between “joy, pain and the desire to rebel” (Iqbal). The more you try to understand it, the more it elopes you. Vertigo, perpetual Vertigo!
XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 11
TETHISTONE CURE FOR VERTIGO
*not real medicine
Q: How did you come up with the idea of Little Mosque on the Prairie, and what was the trigger that started this entire process?
PHOTO // ZARQANAWAZ.COM
ZARQA NAWAZ CREATOR OF LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE _ INTERVIEWED BY SALWA IQBAL Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of CBC’s hit television show Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is also the author of the best selling novel Laughing All the Way to the Mosque in which she details what it was like growing up in between two different cultures. We had the chance to speak to her about Muslim representation in TV and film, chasing your dreams, and being a trailblazer for future generations of women in the arts.
A: Well, the long answer is that I did a documentary called Me and the Mosque. I felt that the whole experience of Imams in the mosque at that time was very troubling because a lot of Imams came from overseas and there were major cultural differences between our (mosques) and theirs. Especially with a lot of women and young people, many issues were occurring. I wondered what it would be like to have someone that was more in tune with young people, so I thought that the idea of an Imam born and raised here would be different, and that was the idea behind it. Q: What was it like being a Muslim woman in the film and television industry? Where you seem to have gone, very few women have ever gone before. Did you feel at the time that you were paving the way for future generations of Muslim women? A: I didn’t think I was paving the way for anyone — I didn’t really know at the time that I was the first one. I was just sort of working and doing the things that I was doing. I had a journalism degree. So I made a documentary and then I went to the BANFF television festival to pitch a documentary and someone said you should pitch a television show. That’s where you go to pitch programs. So I went and pitched it, and then people started paying attention to me and they wanted me to do it. I thought, “ok well, this is interesting”, and I didn’t realize it was happening until it was way too late. It all happened, but I’m glad I didn’t know, otherwise it would’ve overwhelmed me. I was doing what I loved, and doing what I found fun. I enjoyed writing comedy and stories, but I didn’t realize that because I was Muslim, it was unique since it had never really been done in the Muslim community before. Most of us go into medicine and engineering, few of us had gone into the arts. At the time there weren’t a lot like me, now there are a lot more Muslims in journalism and film. Q: Little Mosque on the Prairie was seen as the definitive point of change in Muslim representation in television. Since the release of the show, do you think the industry has changed and adapted the model of the show, or do you think we still have a long way to go? A: I think that it opened the door to people thinking diversity could be mainstream and popular. Little Mosque on the Prairie opened that door, especially for people in Hollywood who didn’t believe this was possible — this show made that possible. Suddenly, all these executives were paying attention to more diverse storytelling.
They were then realizing that there was an audience for this and it could be a very lucrative audience as well. After the show aired, I started to see more interest in diversity and storytelling. Q: We’re now seeing the rise of storytelling from diverse points of view, from Black Panther, to Crazy Rich Asians. The success they’ve had has been phenomenal. Little Mosque on the Prairie was such a massive hit when it aired in 2007, do you think that if it had aired in 2018 it would’ve been an even bigger hit? Would its impact be bigger than before? A: That’s a good question, I get asked that a lot. It’s hard to know because it came out almost before its time. It ushered in a new era, so it’s hard to know what its impact now would be. But I think it had its impact, and it was felt in so many ways because of the fact that it was so popular, and so many people wanted to see it. So I don’t know how it would be perceived now. Q: I read that you had a Bachelor of Science and then got rejected from medical school, and it seemed like up until that point in your life it was always going to be medical school or nothing. The sudden directional change in your life seems to have worked out well, you found your calling for the arts very soon afterwards. Now it’s hard to believe that you ever wanted to do anything else. What advice do you have for students who are still trying to find their calling in life? A: It was really hard for me to make that decision to go to journalism school. I had to do four years of science to essentially be rejected. I would tell people it’s not easy to find your calling. You have to try a bunch of things and sometimes fail a lot. I know it sounds intuitive, but sometimes failing is the best thing that can happen to you because it teaches you what you’re good and bad at. Success all the time isn’t good for us, it doesn’t teach us much. Failure teaches us a lot more. The four years of science taught me a lot. It was gruelling, but it taught me how to be resilient, work hard, and not give up because I knew that’s not where I wanted to end up. But doing it taught me that sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. You have to finish things and then start new with the things you do like.
We don’t always get the jobs we want, or the degrees we want, but that doesn’t mean that the experience is a bad thing. You have to keep trying, working, and finding your way — that’s really important. XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 13
Islam Got No Beef LAMA KARIM
Ever thought about how a Muslim could be vegan? How veganism could be in line with Islamic values; being compassionate and conscious. So, you’re a vegetarian now. Is that what it’s called? Do you not miss meat at all? Not even slightly? God created animals for our service; they are meant to be for our use! What do you even do in Eid-al-Adha? What you’re doing is haram; don’t prohibit something that God has made halal for you. You are being too pedantic. It is not worth it. God has created those creatures just for our enjoyment. When we’re visiting family, meeting new family friends, or when someone from the community hears that I’m vegan, these are but a fraction of the questions I get. Three years later of getting the same list of comments and questions, I feel like I should get some kind of certificate or degree for acing this so many times. These comments are all but misconceptions about what veganism is, and the understanding of it in accordance to Islamic tradition. Throughout this article I’ll unpack the misconceptions and prove how veganism and Islam are very well aligned. I’ll start by explaining what veganism is, what it’s ethics are, why it’s ethics are in line with Islam, and why it is actually encouraged.
What is Veganism? Veganism is refraining from consuming, wearing, and exploiting animals for food, clothing, entertainment, testing, etc. If you’re wondering if this includes things like cheese, leather jackets, dairy ice-cream, and fur, yes, this includes them all. What we stand for is to treat animals with kindness and compassion. There are many reasons as to why people go vegan: environmental reasons; health reasons; and ethical reasons. Most vegans fall under at least one of those three categories. The main idea is that we cannot deal with the fact that, simply because of our choice of consumption, there is harm inflicted on Earth, our bodies, and other innocent beings. We cannot comprehend how all of this is happening and yet we do nothing about it. I will discuss the aforementioned reasons for people going vegan and reflect on why they are very much in line with what kind of people Islam calls for us to be.
Environmental Reasons I’ll start with the environmental statistics about animal agriculture. It is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, while the transportation sector is only responsible for 13% (FOA, Rome 2008)! That is 5% more than all transportation: planes, cars, trains, motorcycles, boats, etc. Methane (gas produced from cow excretion), and other gases are 25 to 100 times more destructive than CO2 (Shindell, Drew T, et al., 2009). Not just that, but producing animal products consumes mass amounts of water, that’s unsustainable. For instance: Producing one pound of beef needs 2500 gallons of water, one pound of eggs consumed 477 gallons and 900 gallons for cheese (Pimentel, David, et al, 2004). How insane are these numbers? When I first read them, I was extremely overwhelmed by all the information I had a moment of vertigo; my mind was racing in a million directions. I had no idea my meat consumption has been causing the Earth all this pain. I felt scammed. So, I went vegan. It didn’t feel right to be a Muslim and turn a blind eye on all this. I believe that God sent us to this Earth to make it a better place, be active citizens, and make a change; not be passive. I could not have learned all this information and then have done nothing about it. I could not in my good conscience, voluntarily give money to these industries and continue supporting them. It was my responsibility to stay aware and educated about my impact on this Earth. 14 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018 | XXIV
Ethical Reasons TW: there is heavy content in this paragraph concerning cruel animal treatment, and graphic depictions. I continued to research about what else these animal industries had shoved under the carpet, and what I found out was not pretty. I learned that dairy cows are artificially inseminated by farmers. They are excessively milked using metal missionary that harms them, causing ulcers and wounds. The puss from the ulcers and wounds goes into our milk. This sounded disgusting and extremely unjust. But, it did not stop here. I learned that they take baby cows from their mothers to force feed them in cages, inject them with hormones to grow fast, and then send them off to slaughterhouses. This sounded like a horror movie to me. Could it be that the milk, that I was told has all the nutrition I need and is basically liquid gold, could carry all this hatred in it? Sadly, this was true. Again, I felt cheated. I was interested about what Islam says about this, so I did my research. I found out that the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) diet was never really centered around animal products. Rather, it was centered around a lot of dates, barley bread, watermelon, vinegar. In addition to that, he never had cow’s milk! He only ever drank goat’s milk, on occasion. He would wait for the goat to give birth and feed her cubs, and then he would drink what was left. That’s because, if left inside the goat, it would harm her. He was extremely gentle with his animals. This opposed all the comments I receive from family and friends. I realized how uneducated everyone was, and how oblivious they were to the reality of these industries and the sunnah.
Health Reasons I never went vegan for health reasons, but my health got better anyways! I was not sure why. I thought that if I went vegan, I would be deprived of protein, iron, and essential fatty and amino acids. I found out that it was actually the opposite! We do not need animal products to thrive. Rather, they can be harmful in themselves, especially if eaten frequently and at such large quantities. Meats and dairy have been ranked as some of the most carcinogenic foods. Their high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat makes them as some of the most dangerous foods when it comes to cardiac diseases. Again, I found myself going back to the Prophet’s (PBUH) diet. His favourite meal was vinegar and barley bread, and he would often have meals of just dates. I realized that those foods contain some of the most important nutrients we needed to survive.
What’s the next move then? To put all this into action we must start with becoming more mindful. God created us as conscious, thinking beings; we have a mind to assess and be skeptical of our world. We must use this mind of ours to help this earth flourish for ourselves, and the generations to come. Every. Single. Action matters. So, every time you go out to get a meal, or get your groceries be mindful of what you are supporting with your money. Feed your soul not your desires. “The people asked ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied: ‘Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being).’ ” — Narrated by Abu Huraira Volume 3, Book 40, Number 551
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On the other side of the spectrum is Goldi Nahir. Although her character seems to represent Muslims well (superficially), there are some underlying problems. Degrassi seems to want to “white-wash” their characters. In this case, this means their characters always need to be in some kind of relationship, to conform to Western standards. What was the problem with having a hijabi character who has a good relationship with her religion, and, in that way, represents a large percentage of Muslim girls in Toronto? Why did this character, who believes that being alone with or high-fiving a boy is impermissible, need to be in a relationship (a secret one at that)? Seeing this enforces the Western idea that if you’re single, you’re a loser. This could possibly make a lot of Muslim girls, who resonate with Goldi, feel pressured into fulfilling Western ideals.
DEGRASSI Ah, Degrassi. The epitome of Canadian teen television. It’s been on our T.V. screens for over 30 years, and it’s set in Toronto (one of the most diverse places on Earth). This means the show is obviously incredibly diverse and has amazing representation, right? Wrong. In the multiple reincarnations of this classic Canadian show, I can only recall about nine “Muslim” characters. Degrassi loves to portray Muslim youth as struggling with their faith, because all of us clearly have a bad relationship with our religion and feel incredibly oppressed… (please hear the sarcasm…). If you’ve ever met a Muslim in Toronto, you would know that we’re all normal people who don’t rebel against our family and religion 99% of the time. Some of us wear the hijab, and some don’t. A lot of us also don’t have intimate relationships with people (e.g., dating). And even though we’re surrounded by other people who do (given that we live in a Western society), we’re okay with not having that kind of relationship. In fact, a lot of us are happy to wait for the right time and enter into a relationship the “halal” way. Degrassi tries to represent Muslims in two different ways: first, that Muslims are always struggling with and stressing about their faith; second, that religion has no effect on a Muslim’s life whatsoever. Contradicting much? Take Savtaj “Sav” Bhandari and Alli Bhandari for example. Their characters were problematic on so many levels. One of the main issues, proving that Degrassi didn’t even bother trying, was that “Savtaj” and “Bhandari” are straight up Sikh/Hindu names. If you’re going to have Muslim characters, please at least give them Muslim names (all you have to do is google “Muslim names”, like, come on). Degrassi also seems to think that the biggest problem the average South Asian in Toronto has is arranged marriage. Stereotypical much? They also rarely brought up the fact that the Bhandari siblings were Muslim, as if it had no significant in their life at all. 16 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018
Out of the handful of Muslim characters on the show, only a small percentage of them bring up their Muslim identity, while others bring it up once only to never talk about it again. This perpetuates the idea that one’s religion has nothing to do with their life. Why can’t the show represent a healthy balance with religion and other parts of life? Although Degrassi is trying to portray Muslims in a more positive light, they need to try harder to get it just right.
THE GOOD PLACE Hollywood’s problem with diversity has always been prevalent, and it seems like The Good Place has attempted to change that with its superficially diverse cast (“superficially” being a key word here). Out of the six main characters, three are Caucasian, one is African, one is Asian-American, and one is British-Pakistani. Given that half of the main characters are people of colour, why wouldn’t someone assume this was good enough? The lack of South Asian and Muslim representation has been a thing for years, and they have yet to experience the kind of success that African-Americans, Latin-Americans, and Asian-Americans have enjoyed in mainstream media in the past few years. The Good Place attempts to fill that void with the character of Tahani Al-Jamil, a wealthy Pakistani-born British socialite (whose name is more Arab than South Asian, by the way). If you’re like me, you were probably ecstatic to find out that a mainstream show created by Michael Schur (one of the creators of massively popular shows such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) featured not only a South Asian character, but a Pakistani one at that (because
in my experience a South Asian character is almost always Indian, as if India is the only country that exists in South Asia…). This, unfortunately, is where my excitement ends. Although Tahani is Pakistani by ethnicity, and (I’m assuming, given that they have yet to mention it) Muslim by name, they only bring up her ethnicity once. It’s nice to see South Asians and Muslims functioning in Western society without their ethnicity or faith being major stressors in their life. However, in my opinion, there’s not really much ‘representation’ happening unless those things shape the character. For example, can you imagine what Friends would be like if we didn’t know about things like Monica’s weight loss, Rachel’s previous wealth, Chandler’s father, or Phoebe’s background in general? Friends cleverly used their backgrounds to develop the characters and demonstrate how it affected them in the past, and still affects them in the present. Why is it any different with minority characters? Wouldn’t their upbringing (positive or negative) have a large impact on their character develop as well? Lack of a character’s background restricts the so-called “representation” that mainstream shows try to have. They’re essentially “white-washing” the characters by superficially portraying them as people of colour, yet implicitly implying that their backgrounds have had no impact on their development whatsoever. I want to see South Asians and Muslims in television who remind me of the ones I see in my everyday life; whether it be through appearance, family, food, etc. The point is, I’m not really feeling represented unless I see those people on screen. Simply being the same ethnicity as the viewer doesn’t do much. Shows like The Good Place with a mainstream platform need to try their best to responsibly ‘represent’ minorities in every sense of the word if they want to do us justice.
HOMELAND Homeland, according to The Washington Post, is “the most bigoted show on television” and honestly, it’s pretty hard for me to disagree. I’m not completely sure what this show is supposed to be about but I have a good feeling that ‘an Islamophobic mess’ isn’t in the synopsis, although it probably should be. This show draws on number of orientalist ideas of what life in the East is like, most of which are simply ignorant. Clearly the writers failed to do their homework because apparently depicting Arabs, Pakistanis and Afghans as all
being vile, bigoted, backwards people would be considered racist to most (who knew). The only characters in which a Muslim could possibly play on this show are that of the antagonist (always a terrorist), a willing collaborator against their Muslim oppressors or as a victim at the hand of other Muslims. Apparently the goal was to create a realistic depiction of the United States’ oversees war on terror, but all they really did was piss off a bunch of Muslims. In a number of cases, for example, depicting capital cities as being dusty, densely populated poor areas where any white women crossing the street would stand out to everybody, which just wouldn’t be true. But obviously, since cities in the east couldn’t possibly look as nice and clean as cities in the west do, they had to make them looks as dirty and poor as possible. If they were going to be racist, it would be nice if they could at least get their basic information right. A Google search on what the cities look like really can’t be that hard. The only good thing to come out of Homeland is the graffiti. In wanting to make the set of a Syrian refugee camp look more authentic, the producers hired Arab graffiti artists who, not being too fond of the show, sprayed the walls in Arabic with things like “Homeland is racist”, “Homeland is a joke and didn’t make us laugh” (a personal favourite), and “#blacklivesmatter”. This subtle act against of protest against the series definitely caught people’s attention and hopefully the writers caught on to how so many people feel about the show. In the age of Trump and Trumpism, it’s hard to imagine that anybody would really think that producing a show full of anti-Muslim rhetoric could be anything short of catastrophic, but apparently not everyone thinks so since this show somehow managed to score really high ratings with online critics such as Rotten Tomatoes and TV.com. What the producers and writers of Homeland don’t seem to realize is that having these bad depictions of Muslims as being either evil or as helpless victims at the mercy of white American saviours not only adds to the already existing Islamophobia but also continues to promote the idea of a white saviour. That people in the East couldn’t possibly help themselves and need white people to save them from their oppressor. Having a show portraying Muslims as normal people who aren’t oppressive or oppressed may not be as interesting for some people, but for actual Muslims, it sure would be much less harmful.
MashAllah MEHREEN B. & ENAS ALI NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 17
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In Defense of Temporary Aimlessness, Hopelessness, and General Not-Okay-Ness Sarah Maajidah Kamaluddin
o assert that all individuals who have experienced this shared reality of ours—life on earth, as we know it now— have been ceaselessly confident in their understanding of both themselves and what their purpose is in this world is undeniably a notion worth questioning. The more probable claim that represents a predominant measure of us beings is that we often find ourselves questioning our fundamental nature and the directions we ought to follow as we age and are faced with critical decisions to make. This questioning is arguably consequent of an imbalance that we are predisposed to by our very nature: the one between our spirits and its yearnings and of our minds and its desires. It is this struggle that forces us to constantly reexamine ourselves and reassess the degree to which we are content in the ways we actively and consciously pursue our lives. This imbalance, however, is not proposed here in an attempt to suggest a flaw or plausible inadequacy found in some of us. Rather, it is meant to be telling of the dual reality that we must exist with—that our earthly, or, mental life is one of inevitable impermanence and our ultimate, or, spiritual strife is primarily concerned with a permanent potential place of existence. Our worldly life is replete with frequently altering external factors that shape our beliefs, values, and aspirations, and from it, we have been led to hold as almost a fundamental truth that we ought to have prepared all our answers from a relatively early stage in our mentally and spiritually developed life. It is from this normative expectation, one can contend, that our mental self finds itself regularly puzzled and often at a loss when seeking concrete answers for ourselves and in our place in our shared existence. While it might seem, then, that these constantly shifting answers are what causes incongruities between our spiritual and intellectual selves, it is quite possible that the opposite, instead, is true: that our innately dynamic and changing nature is what will facilitate our process in seeking harmony of our full, wholesome, and best possible self. In his 1892 poem titled Song of Myself, Walt Whitman writes:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes).”
These lines precisely exemplify feelings that we encounter consequent of our fluctuating, impermanent selves. Each and every one of us, crafted with God’s omniscient intent and consciousness, possess distinctive, unparalleled histories and experiences that influence our talents and purposes in our
temporary world. As our lives progress, we take with us our past selves, or, versions of ourselves with particular values and ambitions, and we then undergo processes of refinement in which we, carrying our multitudes, as Whitman expresses, very likely contradict ourselves and can become susceptible to imbalance manifested through feeling lost, potentially scared, possibly hopeless, and generally, just not okay. We are left with the pressing question, still, then, as to why these feelings, which that we tend to associate with great negativity and therefore consistently seek to avoid it, can essentially be good, worth experiencing, and even redeeming. It is in its passing and consequential nature that the answer is found. Our periods of feeling thrown off balance and finding shortcomings in our pivotal existential questions remind us of the many faculties that our Divine Guider has equipped us with in order to fine-tune our progression of becoming our best selves and of the ultimately impermanent nature of our time here on Earth. If we were to experience life without such episodes of being directionless, and only existed in constant states of permanency and full contentment with a particular version of ourselves, then we would be closing off all doors for enhancing ourselves for the sake of ourselves, others, and for God—the entity our spirit aspires to content the most. So, rather than urging ourselves to be bound to normative perceptions of ideals—a process that has consequences on our spiritual selves—we may benefit substantially from embracing the possibility of not knowing; of being lost, scared, aimless, hopeless, and not okay. Are you feeling this way? Consider this a privilege for the ability to have time to experience this, and yourself lucky—you’re undergoing one of many fruitful metamorphoses of your life. We ought to, potentially, consider being lost, then. Consider being temporarily overwhelmed at the prospect of losing some facets of who you think your mental self is bound to, because there is a great likelihood of uncovering a new, polished, distinctive version of you fortified with new knowledge and understandings of how you can best exist in this life we were given. Be persistently cognizant of the relationships between ourselves, our world, and our Creator, and through it, you may unearth the hidden beauty of temporary abandonment of perceived permanents. After all, let us be reminded that our loving, gracious God granted us this life of impermanence with the ability to think—to reflect, relearn, and reassess, so may we do just that. And truly, God knows best
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Can Islam and Lobna Mahdi
scrolled through the Humans of New York Facebook page in heartbreak. Photo after photo, stories of women who were stopped by their fathers or husbands from travelling, from pursuing their passion, from marrying the man they loved seemed never-ending. I was especially disheartened knowing that the photos were taken in my country of origin, Egypt. The fact of the matter is, however, there are stories like this across the Muslim world, including here in Canada. The struggle, the tugand-pull, the back-and-forth between culture and religion has brought the Muslim Ummah/community to a state of disarray, imbalance. Many have chosen to embrace Islam’s teachings when it is convenient for them, and to resort back to cultural traditions when it is guaranteed that their positions of power and sense of dominance will continue to be upheld. Caught up in the midst of this back-and-forth stand thousands of women, unable to carry out their own visions of how their future should unfold, and thousands of men, wondering whether or not to fully embrace their religion in all of its feminist glory or to carry on the patriarchal values of those around them.
about our whereabouts and directions. This results in an intense feeling of dizziness, spinning and imbalance. Let us dissect the problem of patriarchy within the Muslim Ummah by using this as a metaphor. These men to whom I’m writing have lost the straightforward connection between Islam and their souls. The relationship between the two has been somewhat polluted by their cultures. I am in no way criticizing the role of culture in our lives; cultural traditions can be beautiful and work to bring entire populations together, giving them a sense of belonging. Particular cultural values, however, work to keep some people in power (in this case, men) and others (women) under constant domination. In an attempt to embrace and take pride in our culture, we accept it with both the good and the bad. Our cultural values and religious values start getting diluted and mixed; clouding our mindsets and judgements. Our soul waits patiently for information informing her where we stand on certain issues, what direction in life we intend to take, but she doesn’t get a clear answer. She tries her best to give us a sense of balance
It is important to note that the “feminism” referred to here draws upon a basic and straightforward understanding of equal rights and justice for men and women in Islam I am writing to the men who are caught in between; who are leaning towards upholding patriarchal traditions not out of ill intentions or deliberate mis-readings of the religion but out of mere confusion, disorientation, mixed messaging. I am writing to the men who are in a state of vertigo. Let us begin by using the medical explanation of vertigo. Our ears have a very important relationship with our brain; they are constantly updating it with information on where we are, whether we’re standing or sitting, whether we’re moving, what direction we’re moving in. Often times, due to a variety of reasons, this connection between the ear and the brain begins to deteriorate; it sends the brain mixed messages and loses its ability to relay important information
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and security, but is unable to build such balance on a shaky foundation; a foundation of contradicting ideals and values that are at times unsettling due to their unethical nature. The result, therefore, is a blurred vision and a conflicted conscience. The first step to clearing our vision and bringing the soul out of this state of vertigo is to differentiate between the two converging messages; to identify their sources: what is coming from religion and what is coming from culture? The way this can be done is not only by reading the Quran and Hadith but by delving deeper into these texts. What is the historical and temporal context of these verses? Who is interpreting these texts? Are these reliable sources? I understand that often times,
Patriarchy Coexist? no matter how hard we look, the answers to these questions are difficult to find. This is where I call upon upcoming feminist Muslim scholars, both men and women, to do this research as many before them have, and more importantly, to make this information accessible to the general population. Once these questions have been answered and once the differentiation between what is Islamic and what is patriarchal is made, the only logical conclusion will be this: Islam and patriarchy cannot coexist. Many who have physical experiences with vertigo, in attempt to stop the spinning, hold onto surrounding objects and furniture for stability and support. Our next step, therefore, is to remember that in order to guide ourselves out of spiritual vertigo, we will need to consistently rely and hold on to the Sirah (life) and legacy of the Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him (PBUH) and his companions, may Allah (SWT; May He be glorified and exalted) be pleased with them. Those who question whether women should study and develop themselves intellectually ought to remember that the Prophet (PBUH) encouraged and welcomed open dialogue at the mosque with women who wanted to ask questions and further their knowledge about Islam. Those who question whether women should take on leading roles and responsibilities ought to remember that Rufaidah Al-Aslamia, who lived at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), was the first Muslim surgeon and nurse in the history of Islam. During major battles, she set up her own tent, where she independently cared for and treated wounded soldiers and trained others to do the same and where the Prophet (PBUH) himself instructed various wounded soldiers to be sent to get treated. Those who question whether women should work alongside men ought to remember that during the time of Omar Ibn-Al-Khattab, Al-Shifa bint Abdulla, known for her intelligence and wisdom, was appointed by Omar as a bazaar inspector in the city of Madinah.
Latin American worlds. Women such as Nawab Faizunessa Chowdhurani, an advocate for women’s rights to education in Bangladesh in the late 1800s, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, founder of the Sudanese Women’s Union which targeted, amongst several issues, unequal pay between men and women in 1952, and Kamala Chandrakirana, Indonesian activist and co-founder of the global Muslim feminist movement, “Musawah” (Equality) in 2009 cannot be falsely reduced to mere reflections of western feminism. They must be seen as passionate innovators and activists of their own unique temporal and geographical contexts inspired and motivated by the teachings of Islam. When patriarchy whispers in our ears, attempting to throw us off balance, these are the examples and histories we must cling to. These are the legacies that will keep us stable and remind us that the time during which our Ummah was at its healthiest was a time when women did not just participate in society but were active leaders, educators, administrators, inspectors, scholars. In more recent history, when they were denied their rights and control over their own destiny, it was Muslim feminists who sacrificed their time, energy and even lives to restore the rights given to them by Islam without waiting for “inspiration” or “saving” from the west. This is our religion. This is our culture. It is at this point when a conscious, effortful, radical rejection of patriarchal values must begin. Change is hard, particularly for those who’s parents and loved ones have so heavily endorsed such traditions their entire lives. Living in a constant state of vertigo, however, is harder. We may seek comfort in the ideals that our communities have upheld, regardless of who they harm or limit, but we must always remember that our soul is searching for a clear, straightforward, non-diluted answer. And between patriarchy and Islam, we must always choose Islam
We must also remember that feminism is not a movement that was imported from the west or is unique to western ideologies. Feminism is both an inherent component of Islamic teachings and of the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and has long existed within Muslim communities across the Arab, Asian, African and XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 23
Just as the glowing moon can coexist alongside the glaring sun without losing its allure, the appearance of beauty in other places does not mean the absence of it in you. - Alina Mukhtar
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U p r o o t e d Sana Mohsin
The sea seemingly a constant to the naked eye is one long goodbye “Bronzed” by Dean Young
eople talk endlessly about home – from music to movies to poetry, and nothing else makes you yearn for home more then when you are up at 3 AM trying to finish the assigned readings due for a class the next day. I’ve always been in this state of inner conflict because for me home has never exactly been one place. Growing up as a child of diplomats I’ve been a bit all over the place and ever since I started university I’ve had to split my time between three countries on three different continents. Being a third culture kid, people think I would be used to this constant state of being in between the process of moving, of not really knowing where you’re going to go next. Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent half of my life in transit. The past year has entailed a lot of time spent in airplanes; from North America to Europe to South Asia, and then back again. My pattern for each place is almost always the same: there is always the initial struggle to set a proper sleeping schedule and escape the clutches of jetlag, the unfamiliar-ness of trying to adjust to a different setting, and the awkwardness of trying to reconnect with loved ones who you haven’t seen for a while. When you finally begin to feel comfortable, when it finally begins to feel like home, you’re on an airplane again and onto the next place. When your heart has been split into different time zones you try and correct the imbalance of it all, that feeling of vertigo when you’re going around in circles and trying to adjust in each new environment. Maybe they shouldn’t be, but the journeys are essential. How could I miss my friend’s wedding in Lahore? Or watching my brother’s eighth grade graduation in Geneva? I’m privileged enough to able to travel and be a part of these special moments and have each new place become as equal as home as the old places. My homes are the chai in Lahore, lakeside picnics in Geneva and 12am Popeyes runs with friends in Toronto. And I wouldn’t want to give that up for anything in the world. At the end of the day home is where you’re at peace, where you are the most comfortable, no matter what country that’s in
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SPEAK YOUR MIND
s I walk into the large brown building for the first time, I feel begin to feel a large mix of emotions. Driving over here I didn't really feel much but now, standing right in front of the set of double doors, I start to feel a lot more anxious about this. Not sure what to expect, I open the door and walk into the lobby, right up to the reception desk. “Hello”, I say to the receptionist, smiling as brightly as I could, despite being nervous. She doesn't smile back. '”Appointment for Nadia Kareem to see Dr. Jackson”. She scrolls through her computer for a few seconds and tells me to take a seat. I go to sit down in the mostly empty waiting room, nobody else present except for an older woman, maybe in her early 30s. I think about chatting with her, curious as to why she's here as well but I decide against it. A few moments later I hear the receptionist call out to me: “Nadia Kareem, follow me”. I get up to follow her, turning to look back at the woman still seated. She looks up from her phone and we exchange smiles. The receptionist leads me down a narrow hallway which, taking about 7 seconds to cross, feels like hours. Finally we reached the end of the hallway, the last door to the right, and the receptionist walks away. I knock on the door and hear a faint “come in” from the other side. Walking into Dr. Jackson’s office, my anxiety suddenly is at an all-time high. My body starts to sweat, my breathing shallows, and I start to feel very dizzy very quickly. Suddenly it feels like the room is spinning and the ground feels like it'll give way at any moment. Dr. Jackson, previously writing at his desk, turns to see me standing at the doorway, sweating, hyperventilating, and struggling to stand. Coming over to me, he takes hold of my arm and guides me over to take a seat on a leather armchair a few feet from the door. "Hello, you must be Nadia," he says to me as he sits on the couch across mine. "I'm Dr. Caleb Jackson, it's a pleasure to meet you". I try to respond saying it's nice to meet him as well but as I'm still trying to recover from my mini anxiety attack, all I can muster up is a nod and a smile which probably resembled more of a grimace. "Here, how about you drink some water, take a little time to settle down before we begin," he says, handing me a bottle of water from a pack next to his desk. I smile gratefully and take the water 26 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2018 | XXIV
from his, taking four large, gulps. I sit there for what may have been another 5 minutes, not sure what I should say or how to initiate. Finally, after another 2 minutes Dr. Jackson finally speaks up: "Alright Nadia, you seem quite better now. Shall we begin or would you like a little more time?" "No, I think I'm okay to start now," I say, feeling slightly better about the situation. "Alright then. Let's start with some simple questions about yourself first. We'll start with your full name". "Nadia Malik Kareem," I respond. "Okay, and how old are you?" "I'm 19". "Alright, what is your ethnic background?" "My mom is South African and my dad is from Iraq." It went on like this for another minute or so, he would ask me basic questions about myself and jot down my answers onto his clipboard. Finally, once we finished going through the basic questions, we really begin our session. "Okay Nadia, now that I have a very general understanding of who you are, let's begin. First off, would you consider being medicated or do you want to start with just talk therapy?" he asks. "I'd prefer talk therapy." "Okay, now what's the reason for your visit today." "Well..." I say nervously. I've never spoken to anyone about my mental health before. Admitting to myself that I had issues with my mental health was already very tough for me. So finding the words now, having to say it out loud, is taking a lot more effort than I had imagined it would. Dr. Jackson is very patient though, for which I am grateful. Taking a deep breath, I continue, "I guess my main concern right now is my anxiety and my dizziness". "I see," he says, jotting something down on his clipboard. "How long have you been experiences these feelings of anxiety and the dizziness?" "I've been anxious for as long as I can remember. Stressful situations have always triggered anxiety attacks for me. In terms of the dizziness, I can probably pin-point that to the tenth grade. And they've only gotten worse as the years go by".
“And what made you decide to seek help now?” “I got tired of being in a constant state of stress. Honestly, it’s embarrassing having a full-blown panic attack in front of your class because of a three minute presentation. I’ve missed so many great opportunities because I’m always afraid of the worst possible outcome or that something will trigger another attack.” “I understand. And how about your friends and family, have they been supportive to you at all?” “Actually, I haven’t really spoken to my family about this”. “And why is that?” “I know they wouldn’t respond well to it or take me seriously”. “Have you tried? People can surprise you, even those you know well”. “I don’t need to try. They would just say that I’m over exaggerating and it’s not that serious. Or that I’m making it up. According to them, mental illnesses like anxiety don’t exist”. “Sorry I don’t think I quite understand, what do you mean by that?” I sigh, not wanting to delve too deep into the topic of mental illness in Muslim communities but seeing that it’s the only way for me to make him understand, I suppose I have to. “See, in many Muslim communities, mental illness is a very taboo topic which a lot of people, especially the older generation, attribute to a lack of faith. If I say I have a mental illness they’re response is usually to pray more or try to get closer to God. If I tell my parents that I came here to see you, they’ll probably just tell me I wasted my time and my money when I could have just read some Quran to feel better. My anxiety is treated like a temporary emotion rather than an actual long-term illness”. "I can understand your hesitation Nadia, but I'm sure they would take you seriously, they're you're parents. I'm sure they know you have these anxiety attacks and dizzy spells so they should understand the severity of your situation, right?" "No," I say, feeling myself getting frustrated. I guess I can't blame him for not understanding since, as a white male, he didn't grow up in the same environment that I did, but it's still annoying that he can't seem to understand why I can't talk to my parents, even after I’ve explained it to him. "Like I said, they have their beliefs about mental illness, they're not going to suddenly change their minds, that's not how they are. In their minds, my anxiety is me being over-dramatic and my vertigo is just an iron deficiency. They don't take it seriously". "And you see absolutely no way of changing their perspectives?" "No, I do not". "Alright then. How about your siblings or friends?" "They probably think the same way. Birds of a feather flock together you know. Muslims generally all hold this same belief. Now he seems to be getting frustrated. Taking a deep sigh he says, "Well do you have someone else you can speak to? It's important to have a good support team behind you, people whom you can confide in when you're feeling anxious. Even if it's only one person". "Isn't that what you're supposed to help me with? I mean, that is why I even made the decision to see a therapist, so I'll have someone to talk to". "Yes that is why I'm here but I'm not always going to be accessible to you. You would only see me with an appointment no more than once a week. You should have somebody who can be more easily
accessible, someone who's a phone call away whenever you need them. Who you could better connect to on a personal level. While therapists are helpful, having a peer to confide in is just as, if not more, important. Do you see what I’m trying to say, Nadia?" I nod but say nothing. I don't really know what to say. I know he's trying to be helpful but he doesn't understand that I can't just tell somebody. He doesn't understand and that's okay. Hopefully these sessions will be enough for me. "As for your dizziness," he continues. "It seems to be occuring as a result of your anxiety. Often times vertigo, these feelings of dizziness, sprout from having an anxiety disorder. Since you chose not to accept medication, which is perfectly fine, we will first try to help you deal with your anxiety. As that gets better, you should be experiencing dizziness less often than you do". "Thank you". "Alright then Nadia, it seems that we're out of time for today. Make an appointment and next session we can go further with dealing with your anxiety. Different treatments and such. For now, take this pamphlet and look through it. It's got some general information on anxiety as well as some exercises you can try out to help you deal with moments of anxiety or when you feel a panic attack coming. Try some of these out, see what works for you and what doesn't, and we can go further from there," he says, giving me a pamphlet from his desk. "Thank you Dr. Jackson," I say, taking the pamphlet. "I'll give these a try. Hopefully something will work". "My pleasure. Take care Nadia". Waving back, I open the door and walk out of his office and back to the receptionist's desk. I make my appointment for next Saturday and walk back to my car. I sit in my car for a few minutes just reflecting on my session with Dr. Jackson. I can’t decide how I feel just yet, a mix of relief for finally beginning to deal with my illness, but also slightly more anxious than before, worried about how people would react if they found out I was seeing a therapist. But I guess that’s an obstacle I’m going to have to deal with if I really want to start taking better care of my mental health.
XXIV | NOVEMBER 2018 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | 27
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