Thursday, September 23, 2010


My new ipod shuffle is so inconspicuous it's the sort of thing I could crush up and put in my grandma's oatmeal, undetected. Something so small it hardly changes the taste of things. A tinge of bitterness followed by a clump of brown sugar makes it better. Can't even taste it.
It's September 14, 2010. Nine years ago I was in high school and my yearbook advisor was yelling at me for not capturing the faces of our students as they watched the news a few days before. At the time I agreed with him, Why didn't I take pictures? In retrospect, I can see that although I do frame everything that happens to me in life as a story to be written, 9/11 was too confusing to be thinking as a journalist.
And ten years later. It is hard to feel that we aren't moving backwards. Assuming that moving forward entails universally acknowledging that Islam is a religion, not a political ideology or a cult. At the same time, the definitions don't really matter, it's just words. And to hear the same people that were the first to defend Islam after the attacks, years later asking if it is inherently dangerous "by definition," is mostly because in 2001, many Americans didn't know enough about Islam to question if any of the things they didn't know about it weren't true. In our newly enlightened age, most of America now knows so many things that give them an excuse to talk, any one of which might warrant suspicion, hatred or book burning.
I am not a political person, although as a theory major I have to at least admit to being a political body. I am Muslim. I do know this for sure. I can't say that "killer fundamentalists" as I like to call them, are either Muslim or non-Muslim, the same way that I would choose to ignore anyone who claims that homosexuals or prostitutes can't be Muslims. The phrase, "who are we to judge?" should resonate with Muslims most of all, considering that it is the basis of our daily lives. We are not the judge. More importantly, there IS a judge.
I don't like to debate. I'm not quick on my feet. More of a monologue kind of girl. My voice was made for it. I am told it is soothing, and good at putting people to sleep. And debate has too much to do with vocabulary. Why pit words against each other? Let them be a family.
I recently heard a man who had sadly majored in 'Creativity" at Buff State refer to himself as "an ideas person." The walls of his bedroom were papered with interpretive maps of his brain. I am a "words-person." The term "Islamism" is baffling to me. It is redundant and reminds me of "exorcism." It is listed in Wikipedia under a special series on "Criticism of Islam." But in the same way that I can call it inappropriate, I would say that language is fluid enough that this word can mean anything to anyone, and language is playful enough that made-up words and titles are entitled to make fun of me. I like to think they're having a good time.
If not for the coining of this term to mean awful things, I might have at some point referred to myself as an "Islamist." Now, in such a situation I will have to resort to "Islamish." It reminds me of the trail of goo behind a snail.
Being Islamish is to agree to play the game where we pretend that we can take the proper noun of a religion and add "ist" to create a whole new genre of terrifying people, then to take the root word and add a little disclaimer- I believe in Islam, which is a way of life, and so as the world changes, so will my lifestyle. Not to be mistaken for Muslimish, because that is something different entirely and more reminiscent of a fictional Kosher dessert.
I know. Even the -ish is redundant. Isn't it liberating? You can never really know which things fall under the Ish category. It's like saying I am a student of X. As a student, I am a critic, and I am still learning. I am a student of Middle Eastern Politics today and in ten years I will be a small business owner. Ish involves room for more. A space that can be filled or left alone. An empty seat at the back of the plane. An empty seat at the front of the bus.
"Islamism" used to mean Islam. As we increasingly became confronted with what is also known as political Islam (if I have to be a political body, why doesn't he?) it was readopted. We.
That's right I said it.
Irrespective of my fondness for the third person plural, wanting to be part of something that you're part of, the We here is problematic. Is my We the same as your We?
I hear everyone talking about this Islamist threat, separating the Islamists from the Islams, the (m)islams. I agree, We as Americans should accept those moderate muslims as ones-of-us. But I won't put too much weight in the pronouns. It all depends on which room we decide to wander into at the party. I don't mind being a she or an it or a part of they. I know when I'm being talked about because no one stops talking when I walk into the room.

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