Guest post by Lina Free
So does Ramadan mean no sex for the whole month? Hello- I’m not that kind of Muslim! Ha ha, I just troubling u girl; I kno the thing- my father was Muslim. Eh heh? Yes, Salahuddin was his name. But is only me outta my brothers and sisters get that name. How come? He was always drunk, never had time for us. But I was the last chile; my mother said he felt sorry by then. Salahuddin sounded just like my grandfather Shaheed. Another ‘fullaman’ yes, but that didn’t stop him from drinking and womanizing. When my grandmother ‘ran off’ her head after he got another woman pregnant the same time as she and had to be committed to the Berbice mad house after giving birth to my father- the last child of eight- Shaheed amended his ways. But by then it was too late, the damage already done. Decades afterwards, when I sat behind him in the masjid, watching him prostrate himself in prayer, all I could think about was why I had to sit behind and not beside him. Stop asking all those questions I was scolded. Just keep quiet and do as you are told.
I’d always thought that my family was always Muslim. My father has the stereotypical male Muslim moniker- Mohammed; my mother the equally prosaic Bibi. We ate halaal only, went to Madrassa, fasted, feasted, made all the necessary animal sacrifices, and even if we didn’t pray all five times or wear hijab we knew there would be no miniskirts or short pants, no alcohol, and definitely no dating before marriage. But just a stone’s throw back, I recently found out, was Sahewatty- my father’s great grandmother. Herstory is not quite clear, but the rumor is that Sahewatty, travelling alone on the ship, met and hooked up with a fellow Jahajee- a Muslim man, hence the resulting Muslim offspring. None of this was extraordinary actually- Indian women crossing the Kala Pani alone, and shipboard cross-religious/caste romances were common occurrences, as Gaiutra Bahadur describes in her masterpiece text ‘Coolie Woman.’ Then, like now, economic constraints drove change in ways that could not always be anticipated. Also, that jumbie- love- has been making people act in strange ways for time immemorial.
I’m fascinated by how differences get dealt with. Sometimes they’re overlooked when inconvenient or circumstantially necessary. Other times- forgotten and erased, until it becomes politically expedient once again to excavate and wield them. Rarely are they celebrated. And sometimes, then, just superficially. A preacher man says hate the sin, not the sinner in one breath but that gays should be banished to an island in the next. While that is a fringe opinion to some, many others agree wholeheartedly with him. For them, apparently, love comes with conditions, God is not love, and those who do not conform deserve hellfire and condemnation. Same with the abortion issue- is ‘religion’ or some people’s warped beliefs- that keeps the progressive law that we have on the books from being properly enacted in all the public hospitals, forcing women who face unwanted pregnancies to bottomhouse butchers for abortions. When they are maimed, as often happens, and end up at the public hospital, they are often further abused and mistreated by the staff for “throwing away their baby”, nevermind that abortion- like homosexuality- has been around as long as humans have roamed the earth. In both these instances- differences in identity and life choices that are nobody else’s business but the individual’s, become battleaxes with which to browbeat, judge and despise others.
Yesterday, when I was looking up the fasting times, I ran across two tables. One had the times for Shiites, the other for Sunnis- a 10 minute difference that is life or death to some people. In other places, Arab Muslims murder African Muslims, wilfully forgetting Bilal- a formerly enslaved black man who was made the first muezzin by Prophet Mohammed. Today, in the glittering Middle East, with million dollar masjids, black and brown(er) folks, non-citizens, but members of the ummah nonetheless, are used and abused with impunity- to build the castles on sand, to wipe the babes asses, to serve the sheiks and sultans, masters and mistresses. Nevermind that they are all Muslim- they are lowly ‘others’ and therefore disposable in the hands of the more powerful. Also in the land of the obligatory hajj are women- Muslim as well- who are virtual prisoners in their homes, prohibited from driving by themselves, from choosing their own library books, and participating fully in the public domain. And let’s not even talk about the lives of gay Muslims. Or what Muslim women who want abortions must endure.
Wait- fuck that silence shit. Let’s DO talk about these things. Because not all good little Muslim (or Hindu, Christian, Jewish, etc) girls grow up to get married and have children. Some of us deviate from straight and narrow lives and make radical pilgrimages across oceans and cultural expectations, leaving behind constraints such as what should be and attempts to oppress and brainwash. Some of us morph from one creature to another that cannot even be imagined by the first, surprising self as much as the other. Some of us are lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer in multiple ways. Some of us choose not to have children and have abortions (and cats) instead. And sometimes, even those who do get married, who pray all 5 times, sometimes need and have abortions. No matter, all of us are worthy of love. For it is when we celebrate all our differences that we become more whole and wholly human, instead of broken things with jagged edges, cutting and drawing blood from each other.
Ramadan Mubarak. And Happy Pride! Pride Mubarak 🙂
Sahewatty- great great grandmother (paternal)
past life: good little muslim girl