maraahmed.com

un cahier perlé

August 3, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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pittsford library and mutanabbi street

yesterday, after dinner, we took zahraa to pittsford dairy for some ice cream and then walked around schoen place. she told me how the smell of the trees, late in the evening, reminded her of the parks in baghdad. we showed her the pittsford library and she told us about mutanabbi street, located in baghdad’s old quarter, filled with book stores and book stalls and named after the great arab poet, al-mutanabbi, who was born in kufa (iraq) in the 10th century. later zahraa showed me pictures of sulaymaniyah in the northern kurdish region of iraq. she and her family had vacationed there over the summer. we also talked about basra, a city known to me through its frequent mention in islamic history, literature and folklore. it’s located in the south of iraq. she told me about shatt al-arab, a river formed in basra, by the confluence of the euphrates and tigris, which eventually empties itself into the arabian gulf. this part of iraq has one of the largest date palm forests in the world, zahraa shared with us as we ate dates covered in belgian chocolate and stuffed with almonds 🙂

mutanabbi street

August 2, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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symposium on women and gender in religions

on monday july 31st, i attended a symposium on “women and gender in religions” at naz. got to engage with some interesting papers and discussions. here’s one.

hussam timani (christopher newport university) talked about “the feminine in the quran: reading mary in light of adam” and described mary’s pure nature and absolute obedience to god, qualities that endow her with angelic traits.
mary (maryam in arabic – the only woman identified by name in the quran) is considered “muharrara” or free from the taints of wordly associations. she devotes herself to god by secluding herself in the temple. her story is full of miracles including the birth of her son jesus.

the great sufi scholar, ibn arabi, considered mary the prototype of all mystics. as the mother of the one who sought union with god, she becomes a perfect human being and the manifestation of divine love.

adam, on the other hand, has a lower soul. he is disobedient, inconsistent. obedience is considered a higher virtue than monotheism. obedience is a choice whereas monotheism is understood to exist naturally in human beings.

there is a “hijab” or veil that protects mary and her son from satan’s corruption, while satan has access to adam.
dr timani sees mary as being a bridge between christians and muslims. he ended his talk with the need to recognize, acknowledge and pay attention to contemporary embodiments of mary.

i had some questions about mary’s free will as described in this paper. is obedience to god simply her nature (is she stripped of agency) or is that her choice? since mary is being compared to adam, i guess that their volition must be equally operative.

obedience itself is problematic for me but then i thought about how we are talking about obedience to god and conceptions of justice, mercy, beneficence and love. not that different from the reasoning behind social justice movements.

i find mary to be a powerful icon. during our travels to mexico, not only did we find mary’s presence (as our lady of guadalupe) to be ubiquitous, we also learned how some indigenous religions have absorbed the figure of mary and reconfigured it as the goddess of fertility. fascinating.

mara ahmed at symposium on women and gender in religions

August 2, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Sam Shepard (1943 – 2017)

‘[A] feeling of uncertainty was translated into dialogue of an uncommon lyricism and some of the strangest, strongest images in American theater. A young man in “Buried Child,” a bruising tale of a Midwestern homecoming, describes looking into the rearview mirror as he is driving and seeing his face morph successively into those of his ancestors.’

August 2, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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leadership program for iraqi youth

our wonderful iraqi student is here. today’s the first day of the leadership program at allendale columbia in which my daughter is also participating. saw some beautiful pictures of baghdad last night and learned how the city is divided by the river tigris into an eastern half (rusafa) and a western half (al karkh). also discussed the differences between pakistani and iraqi biryani and what’s considered the ultimate breakfast in both countries: kahi and geymar in iraq (flaky pastry soaked in syrup and served with cream derived from buffalo milk) and a rich omelette with onions and tomatoes served with paratha in pakistan (crispy, layered, shallowly fried flatbread). so many deep and distinct and vibrant histories, cultures and peoples in asia.

August 1, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Pakistan’s traditional third gender isn’t happy with the trans movement

“In its 70th year of independence, the discussion of gender in Pakistan is more complicated than it’s ever been. In some ways, Pakistan is years ahead of Europe, acknowledging and sometimes celebrating a third gender as part of its established history and future. But the ability to choose gender identity outside of the established third gender system remains elusive and is almost exclusively the preserve of an affluent, educated minority.” More here.

Comment by Bilal Ahmed: You know I’m in multiple minds about this. Yes, Khawaja Sira isn’t strictly “trans” per se, but there are a lot of reasons why activists would identify as trans in Pakistan today, even with the linguistic politics involved there. What’s more is that it’s not that “the notion doesn’t exist in Pakistan,” it obviously does, it’s just that certain behaviours don’t get labeled as “trans” necessarily, and not everyone chooses the label to code it. The danger here is that “trans” gets read as a thing that rich millennials do, when it’s more complicated than that.

July 30, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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Bacon…

In this documentary short, an elderly Jewish woman who has recently become an atheist decides to try bacon for the first time.

July 28, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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the pitfalls of inclusion in destructive systems

i don’t want to know what kristin beck did in iraq and afghanistan. that picture of her at the FBI something or other in west virginia, foregrounded against pictures of afghan men in civilian clothes – too egregious, too disturbing for words. trans rights – yes, always. american imperialism along with its military enablers – down with them. pls stop the glorification of war and all the talk about purple hearts. there are human beings at the receiving end of that “patriotic” violence. it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

July 27, 2017
by mara.ahmed
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No place for pinkwashing

“However, the response of the collective, supported by Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now, has made clear that the dispute which led to the individuals being asked to leave was not about them being Jewish. As a statement by Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago explained, “Many other Jews, including members of Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago, were present at Dyke March wearing Jewish symbols, including Stars of David, T-shirts with Hebrew, kippot, and sashes with Yiddish script, and none of them were asked to leave the event, interrogated about their politics, or were the target of any complaints because of their visible Jewish presence.”

The dispute, rather, was about the women’s vocal support for Israel. Dyke March is an anti-racist and pro-Palestinian event. The Dyke March Collective’s statement on the events explains that the people they later removed were disrupting pro-Palestine chants–“replacing the word “Palestine” with “everywhere,” saying: “From everywhere to Mexico, border walls have got to go.” Even after this had happened, organizers sought to reduce tensions so the pro-Israel marchers could remain at the event, rather than asking them to leave at once–the expulsion happened at the rally after the two-mile march was over.” More here.