Saturday, September 20, 2014

Muslim Guilt > Catholic Guilt

A few weeks ago Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs went viral because some ass decided that violating a woman’s privacy was fine. Because she’s a woman.

In the aftermath of guys boasting of their single (or dual) handed orgies, Haji Mohamed Dawjee wrote in a Mail & Guardian column: “We live in a world where women must pay the price of being taken down a peg by a hacker or a this or that, for embracing their sexuality – whatever it is – or expressing their sexuality, in the very same way men do.”

And I thought, wow, that’s optimistic. The idea that women actually do embrace their sexuality, that is. 

Not long after, we were drawn into the brouhaha around the Open Mosque. In case you've just crawled out from under a rock (or aren't South African) have a look at the link. To summarise, claims were made that The Open Mosque, a 'gender-equal, non aligned, interracial mosque', was in fact a gay mosque. The Muslim community was up in arms, primarily, I suspect, because on some strange level, we consider being gay a bigger sin than being a fraudster.

Muhsin Hendriks, founder of The Inner Circle, an organisation dedicated to assisting “sexually diverse Muslims to reconcile Islam with their sexuality”, was dragged into the fray. The otherwise enlightened among us began their name calling and he was declared an infidel in no uncertain terms by the self appointed gods of social media. 

At this point I found myself wondering whether anyone had bothered calling insurance fraudsters, gamblers and drug addicts ‘unworthy of calling themselves Muslims’, or whether Hendriks was singled out for this special treatment, because his ‘sin’ was of a sexual nature?

This brought me right back to Jennifer Lawrence. And her boobs. Right back to the question of sexuality. And female sexuality. 

We squirm, don't we, when Muslim sexuality is brought under the spotlight? Over time, we've come to regard sex and all that is connected to it as a sinful pleasure to be indulged in covertly. Like drug use.

I say, 'over time' because from what I've read of the the life of the Prophet PBUH, his approach to matters of sexuality and sex was forthright. His legacy was not our special Muslim brand of faux modesty that has evolved into mislaid coquetry. 

While drugs have been declared forbidden in Islam, sex within a marriage is not. And given that we now have Islamic Erotica as a new genre of Islamic fiction to contend with, I’d say the time is ripe for exploring Sexuality, in particular, female sexuality, since Muslim men have less of a hard time (no pun intended) expressing theirs, than Muslim women do.

I had a pretty shitty introduction to female sexuality 101. I was four. The ‘other’ was over thirty (I think). I hated myself for what I allowed them to do. I hated that my body responded in spite of my own revulsion, shame and self-loathing. Add that to the guilt of knowing I’d SINNED, I was pretty much doomed from the get go.

As I grew up, I would not allow myself to explore my own sexuality because for me it was a shameful thing. In fact, I shunned that aspect of my ‘coming of age’ completely.

But what if I hadn't experienced what I had? Would I have been as comfortable with the idea of knowing both mind and body in the early stages of my marriage, as I am now?

I doubt so. 

I was weaned on Kitaabun Nikaah. The Karma Sutra of Muslim soon-to-be-weds, where I was taught that I’d have children born blind if I looked at my husband naked. That I was never to talk during sex or my children would be born deaf and dumb – I obviously heeded the advice, since I was blessed with five perfectly healthy children. Right? Right. 

But, above all, I was duty bound to satisfy my husband’s appetite. That I should hasten to his bed when he called, though I may be busy preparing his food (because that's all that women are made for?). That recreational sex was bad and that the sole purpose of intercourse was procreation (and keeping your husband faithful), though how procreational-sex-only would achieve this, the book never explained.

I know that I was not the only one to have this initiation to sex. Given this cloistered introduction, tis scant wonder that the mere idea of female sexuality is enough to have fellow Muslimahs scrambling for their hijabs and tasbeehs. After all, a good Muslimah embraces her role as lover in the dutiful way she embraces her hijaab, her role as caregiver to the children, her role as cook and cleaner. Who said she had to actually ENJOY any of it? 

While I understand the need for Hayaa, modesty, in Islam, I also understand that the urge for sexual release is natural, as natural a bodily function as peeing, though a whole lot more life affirming. Aside from the obvious benefit of ensuring the perpetuation of the human race, mutually pleasurable sex in a marriage is a value added bonus, the worth of which is not to be underestimated.  

So say it with me: Muslims enjoy sex.

And we shouldn't feel guilty making this admission. We are, after all, as human as the next.

And exploring and experimenting does, in no way, render us less Muslim. 

P.S. I think I deserve a chocolate for having the balls to say the word 'sex' as many times as I did in this post. But hey, lookit, I said 'balls' too. Epic win :p

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sliced sky

Save me from knowledge
That cuts my world a thousand ways
Like a frozen branch, a frozen sky
From knowledge that turns me inside out
Until the last drop of my hot blood
seeps into the bowels of an uncaring earth
From knowledge that burns
Like fire-ants inside me
Biting. Biting. Biting.
It’s okay that I live a lie
That ‘us’ is more in my head
Than it will ever be right here
It’s okay that I feel loved
These are MY lies
My pretty lies
Like rainbows that I  can feel
Or laughter that I can taste
Without my lies
What have I
But this, this thing
So large
This truth
That swallows me
And in its belly I find
All the pain I’d swallowed
Or buried
Or painted over
With rainbows
and lies
and jammy laughter

I am broken Lord,
Can’t you see?
Sliced a thousand ways
By this truth
Give me back my lies
And the mercy of forgetfulness
So I can unslice my being
And wrap my frayed cloak of love
Around my crumbling shoulders
And be real again

Friday, September 05, 2014

Jammy Laughter

You load laughter behind pursed lips
And fire it at me
Like feathers
That tickle the inside of my nose
I giggle too
Tasting your laughter, as it mingles with mine
Your jammy laughter, sweet, with an edge of tart
There was a day when your laughter was sharp
Like cheese, too mature
It bit. Your laughter
even more than the accompanying words
Remember the time your laughter was like chocolate?
Dark and warm, slipping down my throat
Warming me…all the way to my toes?
And then there was the day your laughter was froth
Spilling over the sides of a coffee cup
Pretty to look at
Too soon gone
I like to taste your laughter
Even on the days it leaves a funny taste in my mouth
Like chalk
Even when it cuts my tongue
Sour pineapple like
Even when it’s bitter stale coffee
But mostly, I like the taste of your laughter
When I've given it to you
Cos then it tastes

Like us

At 3 am this morning, I found myself lying awake in bed, thinking of laughter. Of how it tastes. Wanted to get out of bed and write. But it was cold. Better late than never, innit?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Gratitude Challenge

If you’re a Facebooker you've probably stumbled across the Gratitude Challenge, if not participated in it yourself.

It’s been interesting, reading how many different ways people can say: I’m thankful to be Alive.

When the delightful Azra tagged me, I considered doing it. Then chickened out because I’m not in a very thankful space right now (shameful, I know).

 But now I’m ready. And instead of posting three things daily to Facebook, I’ve decided that this Gratitude Challenge deserves, at the very least, a blog post. So here goes:

I’m really thankful for toilet paper.

Ask any poor sod who’s found themselves in a loo, woefully bereft of, at the very least, single ply, just how big a blessing toilet paper is?
Along that same vein, I’m thankful; for sanitary pads and panty liners. And when the kids were younger, disposable nappies. It’s these little things that preserve our dignity.

I’m thankful for puddles.
Not the kind that are fun to stomp in after a rainy day, but the walking, talking kind. Because it is equally possible to see yourself in a deep, still pool as it is to see yourself in a puddle. So to all those shallow, vain folk out there, thank you for being so…puddly. You’re fabulous daaaahlings!

As for people who are like seething oceans, well…they’re best avoided. I’m thankful for the wisdom to know this.

I’m super thankful for indoor plumbing.
Aging means that your own plumbing isn’t as…uhm… watertight as it once was. 2 AM urgent pees are so much better now that the loos are practically in our bedrooms.

I’m thankful for technology.
How else would we measure the trajectory of our own spectacular decline into total failure if we didn’t have all these radiant, I’m-so-fucking-awesome-how-come-I’m-merely-human people to compare ourselves to?

I’m thankful for tastebuds.
Without them we’d have no foodies. Can you even BEGIN to imagine the horror of a foodie free existence? Can you?

I’m thankful for feet. Just thinking how absolutely empty my Instagram feed would be without people’s feet, shod in a zillion different shoes, is enough to make me weep. By the same token, I’m thankful for heads (think hijaabs) and hands. They add such variety to my Instagram feed.
I’m also very thankful for coffee. Again, an Instagram life changer.

I'm thankful for laaities who think they're all that and therefore you MUST be into them just because you added an emoji to your last conversation :)  They do wonders for the ego.

 I’m grateful for illusion.
Without it we’d have no imagined reality.

I’m grateful for forgetfulness.
Though I imagine that if God forbid, I should end up like my mum with Alzheimer’s, I’d be less than grateful for this.

I’m thankful for boobs and nipples and basically all the human bits that make sex so much fun.
I’m also thankful that I can say this without fear of censure.

I’m thankful for words.
Their existence and their absence.

 I’m thankful for thankfulness.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writivism Flash Fiction Resurrected

I realise that lately my blog has seen a glut of opinion pieces. I've decided to remedy this, especially since I've just begun a rewrite (what I hope will be the last) of my novel. The process is...interesting, for want of a better word.

This piece was my flash fiction submission for the Writivism project. It featured on Books Live as well as Deyu African. It's one of those pieces where I am reluctant to hear what was made of it. But I'm sure some of you will tell me, regardless.

                                                        Breaking Glass
                                                                            Saaleha E Bhamjee

He comes to me as the day begins to breathe its last, his smile, like birth. There is a mole above his right eye. A period that completes the sentence of his brows.

“Heya,” he clears his throat.

“Hey.” Gurgling words.

“Long flight?” He is sitting in an armchair now, fragmented by the light filtering between shutter slats.

“The pilot found a wormhole. We gained twenty minutes in the air.”

My laughter is brittle.


He shakes his head.

I stretch out a hand. He takes it. His fingers are long. I see them now, covering my left breast, tweaking my nipple. He catches my gaze, his brow raised, a question. I blush. He kisses my palm. Trembling hands that can no longer bear the weight of an All-seeing God; the words I’d been cradling, spat at me by a critical conscience; his too warm mouth.

He doesn’t speak. Instead he closes the gap between us. I gasp against his lips as his crotch presses into mine. Laced fingers, my conscience’s pontificating displaced, the All Seeing God rolls onto the balcony.

I expect fucking but this is nearly lovemaking. When he leaves, I am both emptied and filled. I sleep, curled around ‘his pillow’. I smell his hair every time I move. I miss the call from home. The kids want pictures of everything. This is the message they leave me.

I return their call as I get ready for the first of the weekend’s meetings. I tell my husband that I love him. My conscience refuses to talk to me.

He has come to see me four times in the last three days. We’ve fucked every time, except this, the last visit. A daytime moon swims in an indigo sky. He wears shorts today. Has traded his All Stars for a pair of flip flops. I find myself distracted by the way the hair on his legs curls. Notice his feet, the scar just above his ankle. It saves me from having to meet his gaze. We are careful not to touch. I give him a bottle of cologne as a thank you gift. I’ve dabbed some of this on the lining of my handbag. He does not need to know.

The Airport is a yawning maw that swallows me. I’m almost late to check in. That last caress-the-pillow-inhale-deeply-as-you-do-even-when-you-promised-yourself-you-wouldn’t stupidity is to blame. And the gifts. There had to be gifts for home.

I hurry down the gullet that leads to the belly of the plane. 12C, I find the seat, stow away my laptop and settle in. The two seats on my left are empty. The rest of the plane, bloated.

Raihaan? I look up. The woman walks in front of him. He is telling a joke. She is laughing, her voice shattering like breaking glass. What is he doing here? Before I collect my scattered thoughts, they’re standing beside me. As I stand up to let them pass, I look straight into her face.

She’s definitely not my sister.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mum's not mad

a fleeting glimpse
in a mottled mirror

mum’s not mad
I say this out loud
it’s alzheimers
like asthma
but of the brain

and then I forget
and it’s something important
and I look inside
for signs
of the asthma
in my own brain
smothering my ability
to remember
to forget
to make tea
to feed a family

what if
the thing you gave me
is not
just hands
like yours
But this
this monster in your head
that takes from you


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

United Colours of Muslim

Since the beginning of the Genocide in Gaza, aka operation Protective Edge, 1865 (492 children, 243 women, 79 elderly) have been killed, 9563 (2877 children, 1853 women, 374 elderly) have been injured. All on the Palestinian side.

There have been marches all around the world protesting Israel's relentless assault on an imprisoned population. The Israeli propaganda machine churning all sorts of insanity, much of which has been lapped up by mainstream media. Calls went out in SA for our government to expel the Israeli Ambassador. Our president is now in the US, promising he’ll do no such thing, proving (as I suspected all along) that the ANC’s pro Palestinian stance is mere white noise being made to appease the now Boycotting Woolworths Mostly Slumous Masses.

In this last month I have seen more Palestinian keffiyehs on South Africans than I've ever seen on Gazans in the heart breaking images that have filled my feeds on all social media platforms. Often accompanied by designer eye-wear and/or expensive looking outfits. And I've wondered..

What follows is parody.

The Reasonable Muslim

Yes, it’s terrible... what’s happening in Gaza. The Zionists have been merciless in their assault. SO many women and children dead. So many. Senseless deaths. I keep thinking, what if these were my kids? What if this was my home? I can’t stand it anymore,

Yes, Hamas is wrong. Firing rockets into Israel is illegal, since they’re targeting a civilian population, and though I’m a Muslim, I’m not afraid to say that.

I know the difference between a Zionist and a Jew. So many Jews, peace loving people who want to see this war end, have marched alongside us. Some of them are even my friends. I get angry when I see idiots make these horrible anti-semitic comments on Facebook. What do these idiots really know about Palestine? Have they bothered to look at the history? DO they even understand it?

I've been trying to do my bit. Have engaged Ambassador Lenk on twitter. He seems a reasonable enough man. I want him to understand that not all Muslims are raving lunatics who would like to see Israel cease to exist. I also know that he knows that this isn't a Muslim/Jew issue. There are so many Palestinian Christians. Wonder if the ‘death to all Jews’ brigade even know that?

 Bloody morons. Giving all Muslims a bad name. 

Slumou Swag

Yes, I stand for Gaza. That’s why I’m here at the march (could you move your camera a little? Yeah, left. The watch is a Hublot. Yeah. 10 K. I’ve got 2).

SO, like I was saying, I think it’s terrible what the Jews are doing to our Muslim brothers and sisters. I mean how would you like it if someone came into your house and like, took all your stuff? It’s like Palestinian blood is cheap you know. Hitler failed. He should have just killed them all. Jews. Scum of the earth.

Er, can we move this way? These beggars are so damned annoying. You’d think at least Sandton would be safe. Fordsburg is just crawling with them. It’s like you not even allowed to breathe there without having to give them something.

So what time will you be airing this clip? I want to well…kinda put it out on twitter. For my followers, you know. And you think you could, like, send me the pic you took? It’s probably waaaaayyy better than the one I took with my friends. I’ll credit you when I post to Instagram. I just hate it when people don’t credit stuff. Like Jews, they are. Stealing Muslims’ land in Palestine.

The Pure Muslim

We’re here protesting against Woolworths stocking Israeli products. We think it’s just shameful that Woolies is being so arrogant and refusing to take a moral stand. Where would South Africa be if businesses hadn't taken a moral stand back in the apartheid years?

Shame on you Woolworths! You won’t be getting any more of my money. I used to spend up to R 6000 a month here. All my kids’ clothes, all my underwear and pyjamas, I've only ever bought from them. I cut up my Woolworths card. Now I’ll start shopping around. No more! Boycott Woolworths!

Was that okay? I tried to keep it brief. I’m not going to tell my family about it though. Because being on TV, ja well…

But I’ll keep an eye out for it.

It’s going to be hard, hey. I’m sure going to miss that cashew nougat. Luckily I buy my clothes from a local Islamic wear designer. Oh, this scarf? It’s such a blessing that Ajmaan makes them in Palestinian colours. Now if only Hanayen would come on board. Think I should ask my designer if she’ll make me an abaya in Palestinian flag colours.

Pfft, had to be Dayyaanah. Her kids wearing matching Palestinian flag abayas. Why didn't I think of that? Next march. There will be another one right? They’re still bombing Gaza, right?

OMG!!! Did you see that?? Layla just went into Woolworths. She obviously doesn't care enough about the poor Palestinian children being killed in their thousands. It’s the least we can do, you know. Our Jihaad. The Palestinians are giving their lives to protect Masjidul Aqsa. We can give up Woolworths. Allah will reward us. 

I think I’ll call Layla tonight…

The Real Muslim

Just look at them. Shouting Palestine Palestine when they can’t even cover their heads. That’s what Islam is about. Obedience to Allah. Not this showy shouting. Boycotting isn't the Islamic way. Muslims don’t behave like animals.

All these women, shamelessly mingling with men? How can Allah’s help come if Muslims behave like this? Did any of those people there even stop to read their salaah?

Hmph, we want to talk about a united Ummah for Palestine, but we can’t even unite to read one salaah. Everyone knows the Yahudis are no good. Everyone knows this was foretold. The war is coming. Dajjaal is coming. Will these animals that are jumping around on the streets like kaaria be ready to face him? Toyi toying. Since when do Muslims toyi toyi?

Ya Allah, look at what has become of the Ummah. Just look at them. Disgusting!