Frequently-Asked Questions

Search Term Round-Up #3: Non-Binary Gender & Other LGBT Issues

two brides holding hands

For the next few round-ups, instead of a plain listing, like I’ve done in the past, I’m going to respond in the grand tradition of Captain Awkward. I mean, with incoming search terms like “top ten male authors” and “heina dadabhoy boob“, how could I not?

In honor of same-sex marriage being made legal by the Supreme Court of the United States, I’m going to focus on the LGBT-centric phrases and questions that have led to this blog.

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Haramadan 3: Fasting & Other Health Hazards

If you’re in Southern California and free tomorrow afternoon, I urge you to attend the Free Raif rally, presented by CFI-L.A. in conjunction with Amnesty InternationalMuslims for Progressive ValuesPEN Center USA, and the Los Angeles Press Club. More information can be found on the CFI website and on Facebook.

One of the health hazards associated with living under Saudi Wahhabi-style Islam is a significant risk to expressing any views that might be interpreted to be offensive or irreverent. Another health hazard, one that can be found in nearly every flavor of Islam, is the fasting observed by many during this time of the lunar year. [Read more…]

Haramadan 2: A Wedding Reception

Heina & Danny decked out at their reception

Photographers are good and all, but friends sometimes capture the best moments with their phones.

A question I am asked rather often as an ex-Muslim is whether or not I continue to participate in Islamic rituals, holidays, and celebrations as a cultural sort of thing, just as many former and never-Christians celebrate holidays like Easter and Christmas. The one “holiday” of which never-Muslims tend to be aware is Ramadan, which isn’t actually a holiday at all and has no appeal to me as a non-believer. Dehydration is bad, period, but especially in these long, dry, Southern Californian summer days.

There are other aspects of my cultural and religious background that I continue to honor or at least acknowledge for a variety of reasons: Filial duty, unchecked expectations, checked associations, the die-hard nature of old habits, and even, when it comes to a few specific things, a tinge of fond nostalgia.

All those play a role in how I feel about my two recent birthdays, just two months apart from each other, as well as my family wedding reception. [Read more…]

Haramadan Day 1: Religion & Tragedy

Ten years ago, I would have spent my early afternoon reciting al-Fatihah at least four times, chanting Allah hu akbar seemingly endless times to mark my transition from motion to motion. Today, instead, I say the names of people I don’t know, people whose lives were cut short: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Clementa Pinckney. Cynthia Hurd. Tywanza Sanders. Myra Thompson. Ethel Lee Lance. Daniel L. Simmons. Depayne Middleton. Susie Jackson.

It isn’t that I think religious believers are apathetic when it comes to justice (quite the contrary), or even that I didn’t care about tragedy when I was a believer. It’s more that, without feeling like I know that justice will eventually be served and that the victims are in a better place, my immediate reaction involves a lot more anger. There is no way to immediately soothe myself, just a rawness and a sense of loss and of being lost. [Read more…]

#Haramadan Begins Tonight

I’ve not been as active as I had in a while, so to get myself back on track, I’m going to start the Haramadan Chronicles in this Year of Migration 1436*. I’m going to be reflecting and writing, facetiously and seriously, here and on other outlets, on my history with the Islamic month of fasting and its accompanying traditions, rituals, and routines. Dedicated self-reflection and ritual are the only aspects of Ramadan I have truly missed; now that I’m fairly comfortable with my apostasy, there is no reason for me not to give that part of it a whirl again.

Making this especially fun is the fact that my Hijri birthday is the 5th of Ramadan, my partner Danny‘s is the first of Shawwal (aka the day of Eid ul-Fitr), and he is going to be experiencing Ramadan and Eid firsthand for the first time this year.

Some reading to get you started:

* That is the year right now according to the Hijra calendar, which is a lunar calendar based on the year Muhammad reportedly migrated from Makkah to Madinah.

Fostering Felines, Trigger Warnings, & Impossible Standards

person with dark curly hair, tan skin, and fading henna on their hands sleeping on a black and white patterned bedspread with three small tabby kittens nestled on and against them

Clockwise: Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Jubilee. Southern Californians, please note that they are as sweet as can be and will be up for adoption in about a month.

A few nights ago, I gave the felines I am fostering (The X-Kittens) baths to relieve them of their smelliness and flea-related itching. They’re too big for their mom to force them into tongue-baths yet too little to clean themselves adequately, plus they’re too young for the safe administration of flea medicine. That one bath won’t stop the fleas or the stank forever, but it will stop the poor things from itching their neck fur ragged and from being embarrassingly stinky when we take them to the vet tomorrow. Plus, sweet-smelling, fluffy, soft kittens make for excellent napping buddies.

Would you argue that I ought not to have bathed them because that option isn’t quite nuclear? Unlikely. So why hold trigger warnings up to such an impossible standard? [Read more…]

Trigger Warnings: An Plea for Freedom of Speech

There is a trend afoot that threatens the free discourse that is integral to honest and truthful exchanges of ideas both online and off. From columnists at The Wall Street Journal to self-described liberal professors writing anonymously on Vox to reposts of well-known atheosphere luminaries on The New Republic to writers on feminism at the New York Times to fiction writers who speak against it yet use it to publicize their work, there is a growing swell of voices speaking up and out regarding freedom of speech. These voices clamor against trigger warnings, which they point out protect students from things that they have personally found to help them grow as people. They worry that students will never learn about anything unpleasant (or anything at all) if they are warned about it beforehand.

It seems that their problem is that they think that a warning is a firm deterrent, if not a total block, against anyone reading anything ever, rather than a method by which to include even more readers. Such confusion is understandable; once upon a time, I briefly shared in it. As a much more experienced writer than I was back then, however, I now personally refuse to submit to their assaults on free speech that rely so heavily on their confusion as a cudgel. However much they insist that their outrage should affect me, I will continue to add content notices to my writings as is my right under the First Amendment. [Read more…]

When “Articulate” Isn’t a Compliment

Ethar El-Katatney recently wrote a piece on Medium called “I’m tired of hijab.” Though I’ve not worn hijab full-time in about ten years, so much of what she said resonated with my memories of being a covered teenager. People were surprised (and sometimes also displeased) that I did things like cuss when I stubbed my toe, quote liberally from songs like Baby Got Back, and participate in the school limbo assembly. The line that stood out to me the most?

“I’m tired of being the token ‘omg-look-such-an-articulate-awesome-non-stereotypical hijabi!'”

That word. Articulate. The same one a teacher at my high school used to describe my participation in the annual interfaith panel (my first and last such panel as a Muslim). The word made me bristle, even then, though I wasn’t sure why.

According to the venerable OED, “articulate” means “having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently.” So how could being called “articulate” be a thinly-veiled (and probably unconsciously-given) insult? As always, the answer lies in context. [Read more…]

#DontAskAlice for Help with Sexual Harassment

In case you missed it: Science Careers, from the journal Science, decided to publish some advice from Dr. Alice S. Huang, former president of AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose tagline is “Advancing Science, Serving Society”) and someone who, according to her bio, advocates for women in science. The piece, titled Help! My adviser won’t stop looking down my shirt!, was swiftly taken down but lives on in Interneternity thanks to PDF screengrabs and the Wayback Machine.

The tl;dr of the piece? “Suck it up, Buttercup.” The rest of it is some rather disturbing and gender-essentialist apologia for the sexual harassment of women in STEM. [Read more…]

Muddled Messaging on Consent: Arousal as Consent

Content Notice for Explicit Discussion of Sexual Assault, Rape, and Menstruation

Combating messages about consent signaled via media is important, since those are often the only messages people receive when they are forming their sexual identities as children and adolescents. Even the lesser problematic media around tends to not do so well. Take, for instance, the ex sex scene in the 2008 Apatow Frat Pack comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The movie, as a whole, was rather funny and cute and not horribly or especially problematic, especially for its genre. Despite that, it managed to include a rather dicey message on consent in that scene. Yes, it’s a silly movie. A comedy. Allegedly humorous. I laughed at several scenes all four times I saw it. And it’s still harmful bullshit. [Read more…]