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Entries in religion (4)


I Own a Dog. And, also, God is Not A "Him".

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but totally is. 

When I told many of our Muslim friends and family that we were getting a dog, there were two things that happened. One, everybody recoiled in horror and said, WHY?

And the second thing that happened is that everyone assumed it was my idea. It was not my idea. I like dogs. However. I was opposed to getting a dog for several reasons.

But back to the first thing that happened -- what I will call for the purposes of this story, "Muslim Dog Recoil (MDR)."

MDR exists because Muslims consider the saliva of dogs unhygienic. In fact, if you have completed your ablutions (ritual washing before prayer) and a dog licks you, you have to go do your ablutions again before you can pray. Orthodoxy suggests that dogs may be kept for the purposes of work. That is, a guard dog, herding dog or hunting dog is fine. There are also a couple of credible hadith (this is a collection of sayings of the Prophet - peace be upon him -- that is regarded as an auxiliary to the Quran) that are pretty discouraging of the keeping of dogs in the home. As a result of this, most Muslims don't have dogs at all.

For better or worse, I am a person who is grounded in context and history. I believe in miracles, too, but I also am accepting and cognizant of the human components that inject themselves into our cosmology as they are practiced on a daily basis. This was a fancy way of saying, I believe that God is All Powerful and has revealed Themself as the shaper of human destiny through the miracle of sacred texts, but I also believe in the power of human beings to shape those narratives and affect practice in self serving ways. (Hey, spell check, I see you with your red squiggly under themself, but I'm going to reject your political agenda and go with it). I know many of my Muslim friends will shake their heads and pray for my soul when I say this, but history matters.

The way I see it, the miracle of the Quran is that not only was it revealed, but that it exists today. As inhabitants of the ever changing Earth and members of the human race, though, our greatest jihad (struggle) is to discern the validity of what was revealed in context to the lives we live today. I will not blindly accept the narratives of the past regarding piety. I will certainly give these narratives of the past the benefit of the doubt, but I will evaluate them critically. I believe the biggest problem facing all Believers today is the ability to accept that when we critically evaluate our sacred texts, that we are able to leave space for different answers that allow us to coexist peacefully. I believe it can be done, but we are definitely failing as a species on this level. 

Regardless of what you're talking about, religion or human rights, dominant narratives are shaped by the needs of the members of a community who are dominant. This doesn't make the narrative wrong, but it does subject it to scrutiny. I think a good example of this is assigning Allah the pronoun of "Him." Y'all. God is not a "He." Yet, when we talk about God, we constantly use He. Why? Because the he-s were in charge when these words were being both invented and then subsequently written down. 

The most orthodox among my Muslim brothers and sisters will recoil and say this is nonsense talk and is such a small thing -- and, anyway, they'll say, who cares -- it' s just a word? Much the way the politically conservative among Americans will recoil when you commit to honoring someone's relationship to their pronoun as a choice.

That's cool. Recoil away. I'm still going to call someone what they WANT to be called. And I will continue to avoid using Him when I talk about God. Words matter, especially to those who have been historically divested of agency and power. The fact is saying "Him" matters when you say "All praise is due to Him" or "He is All Knowing" if you, yourself, are NOT A HE. Intrinsically, a woman saying "Praise Him" - on a subconscious or conscious level - reaffirms a false narrative created by hims that all the hims in the world have a special connection with Allah. They reaffirm that women do not have this connection because they are not hims. I reject this idea that "him" connection is stronger than the "her" or "they" connection, and, ironically, so do many of the most conservative members of my religious community who are tsking at my words this very minute.

This was a long, wordy way of explaining to you why those closest to us in our Muslim circle assumed that getting a dog was my idea. Because I have this crazy idea of questioning the established practice in the context of modernity and history.

But I DID NOT want the dog, y'all.

Because? I am so allergic. SO ALLERGIC. I have not been able to breathe through my noise without pseudo ephedrine pumping through my veins since March.

I will tell you the story of how we ended up with our beautiful dog who I love so dearly and who does indeed stay inside our house (but away from the areas where we pray and sleep). For now, know that I was completely railroaded by an alliance between my husband and daughter that was so well crafted that I still don't know how this happened.

Anyway, this is our dog just after we brought her home. She's a wire-haired Viszla. She is, in fact, the sweetest and smartest dog in all of creation. Her name is Hestia. And I ...achooo.. love...sniffle, sniffle.. her.

She's waaaaay bigger now. I'll post more photos of her soon.


*Friends, this is a post that discusses religion and, to an extent, politics. Be advised that while I respect freedom of speech very much, I would never permit someone to sit in my living room and disrespectfully engage with my ideas. I will not tolerate it here either. If you can be mindful, write thoughtfully, and stay in your lane -- then, feel free to disagree. If you can't... go yell in your own living room (or your own blog).


Ramadan Mubarak. Mubarek. Okay, Blessings.

I talk about it on last week's podcast of Hey!That's My Hummus.

This Jewish guy that's on the show talked about some stuff while I updated my Facebook status. I joke, I joke.

For more episodes of Hey! That's My Hummus! an interfaith podcast hosted by myself and Mike Scheinberg, check us out on iTunes.


#BlogHer2012 #BHIdentity Panel Snippet

There were major delays at LaGuardia airport. My flight was supposed to arrive in Memphis at 6p.m., but I didn't get home until after midnight. I'll be posting a little post mortem post on the conference later this week.

In case you didn't make it to the panel with myself, Deb Rox & Kelly Wickham, I thought I'd post a portion of my notes for your reading pleasure. I know most people use bullet points, but my style for speaking is to write a script for what I'm going to say and then never look at it again. Once I write something down, it's generally committed to memory.

Hope your summer is wrapping up and your ready for the fall to push on through.

From "Blogging the Fine Line Between Your Identity and The Issues" panel at Bogher 2012

In what ways does your identity limit or enrich your blogging?

 My identity enriches everything that I do. A friend once that told me she was envious of my identity -- the rich cultural heritage, the religious aspect, and the sense of community it brings me and the inspiration that community gives me. What my friend didn't realize is that everybody has multiple identities and that thoughtfully recognizing those identities helps create a community.  -- whether I'm writing to reinforce, defend or to dispel and reconstruct, identity is always a factor for me. Religious, national, cultural, gender, sexuality... Can an identity limit you? Definitely. That's why I added the "thoughtfully" part. I feel like this is the issue with our political landscape right now, we are being conditioned to think of identity as kool-aid drinking instead of viewing it for what it is: a malleable and fluid state that is in a constant state of evaluation or even reconstruction. As a Muslim, for example, I'm critical of structures within my religion as it's practiced -- that critical eye feels like an appropriate application of identity. If I thought I had to think a certain way and that being critical was never appropriate, then my identity would limit me a lot. 




The Tim Tebow Thing

Don't know much about football.

I do know a little about religion in America, and these days a young man named Tim Tebow is center stage.  For those of you not in the U.S. or who have "irritation induced amnesia" from 2006, Tim Tebow is a quarterback who plays (American) football for the Denver Broncos.

He's very good. And he prays. Like, all the time.

They call it "the Tebow."  Tim will silently kneel on one knee at various points in the game and pray for a favorable outcome.  He prays when he's winning as well as when things aren't going well. He talks to God a lot.  Which is, let's admit, most Americans find sort of creepy.

I'm not phased in the least by Tim Tebow's praying because Muslims pray, like, all the time.  Technically, five times a day, but way more if you count little prayers.

If I see a Muslim friend, I say, "May the Peace of God be upon you." A prayer.

Than that Muslim friend says, "May the Peace of God be upon you as well as his mercy and his blessings." Another prayer.

When I ask that friend how they're doing they reply, "All praise is due to God" and continue with their sentence.  I mean, it hasn't been two minutes and we've already prayed three times.

Oops, I sneezed, so I say "Praise God." We're up to four times.

So the person I'm talking to says, "And may his Mercy be upon you." Five.

My friend gives me a tissue and I say, "May God reward you with goodness." Six.

They tell me they just god a new job and, I say, "As God Wills." Seven gets you to heaven, baby.

And before I do most anything, get in the car, start writing something, lose my temper, start cooking, I say, "I seek refuge from Satan and his evil, and begin in the name of God."  I don't know, that happens anywhere from ten to fifteen times a day?  And I will not even begin to count how many times I ask for forgiveness.

So, I pray a lot.  Which means I don't think Tim Tebow is off putting for praying. And before you go, "Well, you're not kneeling on the floor and..."  Yes.  Yes, I am, for at least five of those thirty or more times times, I am kneeling.

You know who is off putting these days?

Bill Maher.

Many of you know, Bill Maher does not pray because he's an atheist.  WHICH IS FINE. Great.  And good for him!

That's not the annoying part.  The annoying thing is that Bill Maher thinks ridiculing Tim Tebow and other religious people is some sort of activist thing. I know he has a right to say what he likes, but I have a right to dislike him for what he says and take his methodology to task, too.

I'm not even remotely suggesting laws be passed or boycotts or anything of the like.

Bill Maher is just oblivious to the fact that he employs the same kind of "blinders on" thinking that he suggests are the source of all of our problems in the first place. News flash, Mr. Maher, you can be a fundamentalist and not believe in God. god.  Whatever. Ridiculing Tim Tebow makes him look good.  In fact, the third most googled term last week was "Tim Tebow 3:16."

Maher and other people who think this is all so very hilarious actually take the focus off of a very important fact: Tim Tebow ascribes to a paradigm that promotes the meshing of public policy and conservative Christian values that seek to limit the civil rights of American citizens to marry and women's reproductive rights. Furthermore, his popularity is either rooted in implicit support for this paradigm or is aimed at garnering support for it.

Now that would be a cause for concern for me  if I weren't so annoyed with Bill Maher making fun of the fact the the kid prays so much.

Last week on on Hey! That's My Hummus!, Mike and I discussed Tim Tebow as well as how Jamaican nationalism is affecting a recent translation of the Bible. You can download from iTunes or listen at the main site.  We're on Facebook and Twitter, too.