About Me

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Indian streets in an autorickshaw

View from a speeding autorickshaw at night in Lucknow, India.

One of my favorite thing to do in India is ride the autorickshaw, it's a great way to see the city for cheap and it can travel through small roads and alleys. The fare is usually small and there is often haggling involved but I tend not to haggle too much. Taking pictures at night from a speeding autorickshaw often leads to pleasant surprises and abstract compositions with light. 

A history of the veil by Newsweek

Here is an article by Newsweek on the veil, will provide my own commentary on it soon.

Seeing Clearly

Aside from the flag, no piece of cloth in history has been imbued with as much power to liberate and oppress, rally and divide as the veil. Throughout the Muslim world, women have donned the veil as a form of modesty, piousness and defiance, and thrown it off to express freedom, strength and protest. Muslim governments have legislated head covering as a sign of religiosity and banned it as an obstacle to secularism. For liberal Western societies, the debate over the higab --a scarf that covers the head but not the face--crystallizes a key modern dilemma: how to reconcile the commitment to protecting freedom of expression with the ideal of integration and social cohesion?
As traditional as it seems, the veil has gone through perhaps more radical changes in use than any other item of apparel. It has been embraced, banned, enforced and made optional, often in the same country within a matter of years. Indeed, throughout history its meaning has been shaped by the political and social forces at work. The only unchanging characteristic of the veil is that it serves as a universal sign of Islamic heritage--and that women resent being told what to do with it, either way. "When women are pressured to veil, they protest, and when they are forced to unveil, they protest," says Fadwa el-Guindi, an anthropology professor at the University of Qatar. "The veil becomes the symbol of liberation par excellence."
The veil did not always have religious connotations. Pre-Islam, it was worn by upper-class Arab women in the Byzantine and Persian empires, who covered their hair as a symbol of status. More and more elite women began adopting the veil in the seventh century as a way to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. As the Islamic empire spread, the value of modesty--stipulated in the Qur'an for men as well as women--merged with the social customs of the upper class, creating a correlation between the veil and Islamic faith. While the Qur'an does not mandate veiling for women, it does encourage the Prophet Muhammad's wives to cover their heads to separate themselves from the rest of the religious community. "When Islam became imperial, a lot of cultural baggage infiltrated Islamic society," says Haifaa Jawad, a senior lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Birmingham in England.
Continue reading the article.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Being yourself in a marriage

I recently read an article by Kristin Armstrong, former wife of Lance Armstrong. The article is all about her marriage to Lance and how along the way she lost herself. She writes how she was before she met her husband, working for a start up and living the independent life, doing those things that she wanted and living her life fully. However after she married Lance Armstrong those things slowly went away and she threw herself into being Lance's wife, doing those things that helped her husband in turn slowly giving up and forgetting about those things that were important to her. She writes that
"The problem is that when a young woman announces her engagement, everyone is quick to roll out the matrimonial red carpet by throwing showers and obsessing over wedding day plans. This helps a bride prepare for the reality of marriage about as much as nine months of baby showers and nursery decorating prepare a gestating woman for the awesome task of raising a child: not at all."

Kristin Armstrong explains that marriage "has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity" as the wife slowly becomes the person who cares for everything of the husband and has to be willing to make more sacrifices. She fell into the often common problem of marriage for women and one that is often touted to show how marriage is a bad thing for women. I grew up in a traditional family with a stay at home mom and a working father, however I was never taught to be a wife that was to bend to my husband's lifestyle after marriage. I was taught to do those things that I want to do and is a reflection of my potential. As for getting married I did and chose a partner that would give me space to do what I want and also had similar ambitions and outlook in life. That is not to say that my husband is a mirror image of me, we have our differences but in the end we respect each other and encourage each other to do that which makes us happy. I did not have to give up doing those things that make me me. Similarly I don't ever tell my husband to give up a dream he has because of me I will be there to encourage and support him. This does not mean that we will lead two separate paths, there is always some give and take so that we can be together but never at the expense of each others happiness. Kirstin writes that if she were to do it over again, she would not have completely given up those things that make her and define her. As women we do not have to sacrifice our identity for our husband to make a marriage work, by doing that we only make it worse for ourself and also for our husband, as he thinks that we are doing it out of our own volition. In a marriage it's important to assert your own worth and identity and to let the other know when something bothers you or when you are not happy. A marriage really thrives well with good communication, and expressing feelings. A healthy marriage should be equal and loving for both individual, not one sided.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mooz-lum, a fresh portrayal of Muslims

According to a recent study put out by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Islam dominated the headlines for 2010. While this might appear to be a good thing, most of the news involved the rising antagonism towards Muslims. From the controversy over the planned community center by an Islamic group near Ground Zero to the Qur'an burning that was to be held by a pastor in Florida, many wonder whether there is any good positive and accurate portrayal of Muslim. Well let me tell you that there is one that has just come out and is a must watch by all, whether Muslim or not. It's a film by director and producer Qasim Basir titled Mooz-lum. The film's alludes to the mispronunciation which is often derogatory of “Muslim” by many Americans. The film centers on the character of Tariq Mahdi, a young Muslim who is starting college and trying to come to terms with his relationship with Islam. Tariq grew up in a strict Muslim household, with a strict father who wanted him to become a scholar of the Qur'an. When he starts college he wants to distance himself from his faith due to his bad experience with Islam as a young child. The film takes place a few days before September 11, 2001 with flashbacks to Tariq's life growing up with divorced parents, a very strict father, ridicule from his classmate, and his scarring training at a religious school. It is the day of September 11 that marks a turning point in Tariq’s life as well as the lives of Muslims. While the main focus is on the personal struggle of Tariq and his relationship with his family and faith, the movie also shows the struggle that Muslims face in America. On September 11, the Muslim students are fearful of their lives and are even attacked by other students who are venting their frustration of what happened in New York onto the Muslims around them. What I liked most about this movie was the accurate portrayal, from the diversity of the Muslim community to the challenges of college life for Muslim students to family life; all of it was so real and not contrived. When Tariq is embarrassed to say his name or tell more about his religion in school and college I could relate to it. He faces problems which all young Muslims can relate to such as drinking at a party. Additionally, the director presents one of the strongest portrayals of Muslim women in recent films. The Muslim women are not singular entities without a voice; rather, they are diverse and vocal. Tariq's mother is a very strong personality and is not afraid to speak her mind to her husband or to anyone else in the film. Tariq's sister and the other Muslim women are very sure of themselves and do not bow down to what others think of their religion or their dress. I highly recommend this movie to all, whatever your faith happens to be. In this time when there is negative portrayal, Mooz-lum humanizes Muslims and shows a fresh new perspective that is real. Mooz-lum is now playing in select AMC theaters in select cities.