In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful…
It’s good to be back!
It would appear that I haven’t contributed to this blog in a long time, but then again a number of pretty major changes in my life have occurred as well (just uprooting myself and my family to transplant us over here on the West Coast, that’s all…). The changes have been related to new academic pursuits and so far we’ve been pleased with the decision.
I do have to give a shout to a coworker of mine: we were sharing our contributions to the internet a couple of days ago (he a webpage, me this blog) and so when I came across something in the news yesterday that meaningfully affected me (this outlet being fresh in my mind) I knew right where to turn!
It is definitely keeping with the overall purpose of my blog, however the subject matter is darker and even more serious than what has already been discussed. Taking this blog’s direction into account, I suppose it was inevitable that we would eventually come to this (although in a most disturbing incarnation).
While casually glancing through the MSN front webpage news stories last night, I got hit with this – a story about a 21-year old Lebanese American woman who is the most watched female on a popular pornography website (from the story: for reference, this particular website is the 71st most popular website in the world, while CNN.com is 73rd and NYTimes.com is 97th – I think we can say it’s popular). She comes from a conservative Christian family and has a Bachelor’s degree in History. The news story is mainly about the controversy that has arisen around this woman because she’s originally from Lebanon where pornography is taboo and she’s here in America appearing in XXX movies. (She has tattoos on her arms and wrists repping Lebanon.) Wofford wrote in the article that “the debate over her career choice has expanded beyond a family disagreement to a national conversation in Lebanon about the roles of pornography and the Internet.”
I have no inclination to contribute anything to that debate, however there is something we should draw our attention to here. This woman is the most popular “actress” on a major porn website, the 71st most popular website in the world, and she has appeared in a “movie” wearing the hijab (what I’ve written about in this blog before – the traditional head covering for Muslim women) which I found out about from a Washington Post news story here.
I’d like to ask: who are generally and broadly seen as the most sanctified men in the world right now? (By sanctified I mean that which has sanctity, or that which is held to be sacred.)
We could say the Pope, Head of the Catholic Church.
We could also say the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Buddhists.
Who else? Basically religious figures, right? Businessmen and politicians might be as equally popular or even revered, but not seen as having the sanctity of the religious leaders.
Who are generally and broadly seen as the most sanctified women in the world right now? Muslim women.
There aren’t any nuns any more (figuratively) and there are no women in the Catholic Church hierarchy. Orthodox Jewish women could also be said to be viewed as sanctified, but who else? What other group of women is as widely seen as having sanctity as Muslim women? While every single person may not agree with Islam, or believe in its teachings, or even like Muslim women, it is typically accepted or recognized that a Muslim woman who wears the hijab is a practicing Muslim, is “religious” or takes her religion seriously, or has some kind of God-consciousness.
This Lebanese American woman then is taking the image of the most sanctified women in the world and subjecting herself to the lowest and most humiliating circumstances in the most denigrating context. Prostitution and selling one’s body is looked at as an extremely debasing and depraved activity, and it’s recognized as a lowly practice, but then to do so willingly in front of a group of other people? And have it recorded? Then published for mass distribution? I would say that’s denigrating. And then to do so in the guise of what another community considers sanctified and sacred? That’s rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, hurtful, and appalling.
She is quoted in the Washington Post article as saying, “The scenes containing a hijabi are satirical…There are Hollywood movies that depict Muslims in a much worse manner than any scene Bang Bros [the company who made the video] could produce.” I agree with that in the sense that the Hollywood movies have bigger budgets and higher production values and so are capable of portraying Muslims in a worse manner psychologically (like the Muslim is the villain in the elaborate plot, or throughout the course of the movie the character of the Muslim is portrayed in a negative light like they’re dishonest or violent or something) but that does not compare to her raw, obscene, sexually visceral portrayal of a Muslim woman in her “film”.
Now this leads to the discussion of “What is sacred and what should the boundaries of satire be?” which deserves its own blog post, but it’s just scary that there aren’t any limits for satire anymore – prophets, God, religious figures, historical figures, sacred historical sites, Earth’s beauty, human beauty – as blatant disrespect runs rampant and unfettered. This then leads to the discussion of how to address or approach this blatant disrespect, especially if one is on the receiving end, and while the solution is simple, straightforward, sane, and salubrious, it too is a topic for another blog post. Suffice it to say, there are people who completely get it wrong and make others inside their community and others outside their community who stick up for them look like imbeciles.
As I’m writing this we are getting news of masked gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar!” who stormed a weekly satirical Paris newspaper and killed 12 people Wednesday morning. This is also obscene, absurd, blatant disrespect and is condemnable; it accomplishes nothing except enraging the victims and further cementing the idea among non-Muslims that Islam is incompatible with the Western or Modern tradition. It will not solve the problem that the perpetrators are seeking to address, nor will it advance the cause of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself suffered much worse than what a few Muslims today are supposedly retaliating against and he responded with forbearance, kindness, and gentleness.
If we are Muslim we should follow his example – what would he say if we asked him whether or not we should carry out the act that occurred today in Paris? Honestly, how do we think he would respond? Would he really permit it? I don’t think he would, and I think that he would forbid us from aggressing and killing 12 non-Muslim citizens at a newspaper office.
I guess the crux of it all is that it’s not right to disrespect others nor is it right to be extreme in retaliation for that. I don’t believe it’s ok to hurt someone else’s feelings or disrespect them in the name of free speech, and I don’t believe it’s ok to murder someone guilty of that. Do the people who commit these crimes (and I mean the absurd, over-the-top retaliation) think at all of the harm they do to Islam and the difficulties they put every other normal Muslim through? It’s unbelievable.
Update: The disaster in Paris is now getting a great deal of media attention, as it should. It leads me to compare the ridiculously savage travesty at the satirical newspaper with the death threats that the Lebanese American woman mentioned above has received; both are insane and idiotic attempts to remedy a perceived problem. I can not stress enough how counterproductive these atrocities are, and I’m beginning to think that, on a global scale as Muslims, we are our own worst enemy right now and we will end up being our own downfall. May Allah forbid that and may He protect us and all innocent life everywhere.
Purity belongs to You, O Allah, with Your praises. I bear witness there is none worthy of worship except You. I seek forgiveness from You and I repent to You.