FGM, Islam and Sexuality: One of these doesn't belong

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a topic that for many reasons elicits strong reactions within groups who are against the practice, those who support it, and even those who are confused about what to believe. However, very few resources on FGM take a holistic view on the topic and bring in an understanding of female sexuality. Given that I have worked extensively in the field of sexual health and not religious scholarship, many of my points relate to the former field with some elucidations to religious contexts with the support of an expert. Please refer to the highlighted text within this post to link to further readings.

The following points are worth considering:

1. Those who are in support of FGM often believe that the practice is a means to "control female sexual desire," which implies that women have rampant sexual desires that if not controlled would lead to a great deal of premarital sexual activity, and from an Islamic perspective, sin. The term "hypersexual…

The Sacred Flow of Yoga

It sounded out-of-this-world strange when the instructor prompted the class to lay on our backs with our limbs spread out, eyes closed, and to focus on our breath.

I wanted to spring open my eyes and look around the room, since I wondered if everyone else was following her cues. But I restrained that urge and did as I was told, trying to not squirm, or wonder how ridiculous I looked lying on my mat, attempting to relax the muscles throughout my body.

This was my first experience with a hot yoga Bikram class in 2012. My friend had suggested that I give the class I try, so three of us went and rolled out our mats in the last row of a busy class. I don't remember much else from that class, which must have been a good sign since five years later, I've stuck with hot yoga and can't imagine not having it in my life.

Before I started seriously and consistently working out from the age of 21, my fitness endeavors were sporadic. During summer I would go for long bike rides, walk, …

Getting to the Roots of Violence

I know that we are all trying to understand why, how, and what on earth is going on.

To say that it's been a Ramadan full of violence and grief would be an understatement. Our community started this month mourning the loss of arguably the greatest modern example of a Muslim. As the days proceeded, violence struck at home and around the world. The loss of innocent lives weighs heavily on our communities as we fast and pray for those who have passed, to protect those in danger, and to turn the hearts of those who oppress in the name of our faith.

It's a confusing and heavy time...

The question that's been on my mind is "what's going on with these men?" These young men who were once children. What chain of events led them to do what they did? At what point, or points, did their thought process lead them to believe that what they were about to do was more critical than life and self-preservation?

Most people in the field of countering violent extremism are (unfortuna…

On Muslims, Relationships and Abstinence

"Well, how do you know if you and your future spouse are sexually compatible if you don't have sex before marriage? What if he's a dud in bed?"

I did a double take at the text message, let out a sigh of exasperation, and tucked my phone away.

Abstinence. Islam, and many other faith traditions, preach "no-sex-before-marriage" as the ideal. Yet the reality is that the majority of non-married individuals will engage in pre-marital sex. The statistics related to Muslim communities are no different: research by Sobia Ali-Faisal indicated that of over 400 17-35 year old Muslims surveyed, 2/3 had engaged in pre-marital sex. And of the 1/3 who didn't, 50% had seriously considered it.

At this point, I'd like to clarify that this post is not about the fiqh (i.e. religious law) related to pre-marital sex. I'm sure at one point or another as Muslims that we have either received the "sex is haraam" line during our 5-minute pre-puberty sex talk, an…

On Sexual Trauma, Relationships, and Moving Forward

The day after I moved to D.C., I attended a community event. I was a little early, having not figured out that Google Maps tends to over-estimate the amount of time it will take on the Metro to get somewhere (!!). Someone else had checked in for the event. I "Salaamed" them, we introduced ourselves, and I wandered into the bookstore section to browse while I waited.

The guy I had introduced myself to told me he needed to use the bathroom and would be back (too much information, I thought to myself). He then approached me and started to chat (something about being on someone's campaign team, blah blah blah), not noticing that I was more interested in the books than what was spewing out of his mouth - which was a lot of self-endorsement. I then tried the "let me grab my phone" tactic to send him another hint since my short answers and flat affect weren't doing the trick. But he still hung around, even looking at my phone and commenting "oh, wow, you'…

Swipe Left: The Problem with Online Matrimonial Platforms

Could all the real Muslim men please stand up?

Our community (and I think society as a whole) is faced with a crisis, thanks to the lack of real men. I've spent the past month putting myself "out there" via various online means for marriage-seeking purposes, and it's been incredibly entertaining (and shocking) along the way. If you ever need a good laugh, open up a profile on Minder and spend time browsing the profiles on there. I'm blessed to have developed an antennae for fake-man-crap thanks to my previous marriage, and therefore I refuse to engage with the men behind the entertaining and sometimes groan-worthy profiles (most of whom are Pakistani and Arab, by the way). But it's scary to flip through profile after profile of straight "what the hell were you thinking when you wrote that?!" or "YIKES! How is that picture appropriate?"

In fact, I've calculated the ratio of fake men to real men on any given Muslim matrimonial website t…

A Letter to my Potential Suitor

To the Muslim man I may be communicating with for the purpose of marriage,

It's a pleasure to meet you. While I'm excited about the time we'll be taking to get to know one another, I'm also very apprehensive. And the best way I deal with apprehension is to write. 
And so here I am, writing a letter to you.
I'm sure that upon first glance at my online profile and the images I've shared of myself, I present pretty well. I'm smiling, so things must be OK. My profile is written articulately and coherently. Alhamdulillah, I'm educated, have a stable job, a fun side gig that involves a lot of traveling, and have spent eight years working in a field I love. I have solid friends, good health, and a loving family.
I appear to have it all together. 
I can pretend that I've lived the "perfect life" with no trials or challenges: that there haven't been many life events that have left me struggling. I can further pretend that I'm happy-go-luck…