Salam! This weeks post is a feature from my good friend Mona Hagmagids blog, https://daughterofdiaspora.com . Mona is a Sudanese and Afro-American woman from Northern Virginia, who is studying at the University of Pennsylvania. She has a love for poetry and Islam, and is an amazing spoken word artist. I am honored to share this piece on my site and I hope you like it as much as I did!
It seems that there is an ideal Muslim “woman”, particularly in my generation of non-black American Muslim men. She is funny (but will never take up too much attention at a party), flirtatious (but still a virgin), wanted by other men (but a maximum of no more than three previous boyfriends, and she must still be a virgin), pretty (but not curvy lest she be immodest!), smart (but not the kind of smart that will raise her hand in class or challenge a man in a board meeting, that’s not smarts that recklessness!), and a good balance of religiously and modernity (shops at Haute Hijab and Forever 21, watches Game of Thrones but also subscribes to Bayyinah TV), and involved in something or two beyond herself (perhaps a charity organization where she helps to plan events but never gets near the microphone, never the leader, never threatening).
She is the perfect Muslim girl, who will make a perfect girlfriend and then, if she stays in demand (keeps up her figure and stays on trend) and doesn’t draw outside the lines (God forbid she excel beyond him in school or make more money or begin to change herself in anyway), will, and can end up as his wife. He will marry her, she will make room in her life to have his kids and post pictures with them on Instagram and it will all be a beautiful story after that. We will comment and congratulate and nothing will be any different than yesterday.
Of course, this stereotype is crude, insulting, and above all, desperately shallow. But it seems, more or less, accurate for a significant number of Muslim guys.
And so, there is a lot of anxiety when it comes to thinking about marriage and men for a woman who does not fit that mold. There is added stress upon girls that might be able to jam the parts of themselves into such a narrow ideal that they do so at the expense of themselves, their personalities, and at times, their own values.
There is strangeness in Muslim dating culture, a strong undercurrent of old and weathered ideals cloaked in new age synonyms for Housewife and Obedient and Just-Like-Mama. It seems that no matter how many Muslim men of my generation put “woke” (whatever that means) in their twitter bios and repost Linda Sarsour on Facebook and put Colin Kapernick as their profile photos, they still perpetuate toxic ideas about womanhood and marriage and relationships which value superficial, inconsequential, and ultimately useless aspects of a person’s social persona as the threshold for who is worth bringing home to Ammi.
Our Islamic tradition is one that exalts and honors strong women. Strong in their deen, their dignity, and their self-worth. A strong woman does not always have to be loud, but her strength is observable, felt, and noticed. And boys, these boys, our boys, run from women who they know are their equals and will remind them of it every day. Our boys choose comfort and ego and social status over growth over home over depth.
This community has raised a generation of boys. Real Question: where are the men?