Thursday, December 18, 2014

2 . the shiny deathtrap . anthony watkins

The shiny deathtrap
that is tomorrow
rattles by and wakes me from the gentle sleep
that is now

Go on glowing machine
of the coming day
take the future with you

I will sit here and listen to lullabies and nursery rhymes
and listen to nursery rhymes
littleboyblue how are you
go away tomorrow

and send me a wolf
to eat everything up
we shall soup together
lamb soup, with chops on the side

chop, chop
said the wolf
he took a bite out of me
but I am crime
and mcgruff sent him
I am sure
go away tomorrow

merrily, merrily, merrily
I lie here on the sweet mattress of now
with a wolf who can blue a slow sleepy saxophone
and I dream I am awake in old new orleans

if I had traveled more,
maybe I could dream of paris
but I am a poor boy from Alabama
and I cant seem to dream past the French quarter

if they had a French dime
I could dream that twice
with money left to tip the horn player
we chase it down the street, biting at its tires
go away tomorrow

for more of Anthony's work, go here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Polarized Realities: Living a Theo-secular Purgatory in the Workplace

This post was originally featured on The Fatal Feminist here.

There is a certain drive to modernity in Lebanon that is heavily associated with secularism. Or should I say, anti-theism. This is manifest in a way where all things religious are looked down on or automatically associated with backwardness and closed-mindedness. Of course, this also means that the religious frown down upon this modernity for that very same association. And the rest of us who don’t belong to either polars, get sucked into the purgatory of their in-between.

Sexism in the workplace is pretty much commonplace everywhere. But, at the very least, you would think that in an Arab country like Lebanon, worrying about things like wearing the headscarf wouldn’t be an issue. And you wouldn’t be farther from the truth.

I mean, sure, I get it. Sectarianism has really done its job screwing this country up and leaving us where we are today. I get this wanting to completely dissociate from it, and all things related: religion. And in attempts to move forward, you want to move past all of this rubble. That’s great, really. The problem comes in with the ostentatious know-it-all attitude, and in the shoving this worldview down people’s throat. “We don’t believe in it, so you’re not allowed to believe in it either/not allowed to display any sign that you believe in it.”

A young woman who was traveling to Canada saw the stark difference in university classes. When in Canada, she was not only allowed, but respected for asking for a small time-window to pray, in Lebanon, you are not even allowed out of class for Friday prayers. Because prayer is stupid, and doesn’t belong here, so we won’t tolerate it nor will we allow you to cultivate it.

Taking this conversation into the workplace: A flabbergasting amount of companies in Lebanon have completely forbidden all religious symbols. This basically means necklaces with a cross, and the veil, among other examples. It is interesting to note how the symbols they are restricting are conveniently symbols donned by women usually. And this becomes just another way of controlling women and what they can and can not wear/do.

I have often daydreamed about interviews where the interviewer would ask about my veil and I would look at him, shocked, “Veiled? I’m not veiled!” and would tell him that I’m wearing this scarf for beauty/fashion purposes. Or an interviewer asking me whether I would take the veil off, and I would say yes. Then come into work with a hat on that serves the same purpose but does not fall under their category of “religious symbol.” I would wonder if they would create a new “no hats” rule just for me. There is something very horrible about the fact that I even have to consider scenarios like this in the first place. Something very flawed in that women are being forced to hide how they choose to represent themselves.

This is not reserved to the secular companies. As I said, Lebanon is very sectarian, and its political parties represent the sects of the country. Then, you have major corporations who will support a certain political party as a call-out to their sect. This means there are big companies in Lebanon that associate with the Sunni political leader(s) and the Shiite political leader(s) (this also means that they probably have shares/have invested in the corporation in exchange for this support.) I am only focusing on the Muslim sects because I am discussing the issue of the veil, but the above also applies to Christian political leaders as well. However, even in those companies where they are supposedly by the Muslims and for the Muslims, the veil is still not allowed. (Note: This is a generalization and is certainly not true in all cases, there are even companies that ONLY hire veiled women, and here the issue is the same, only reversed.) Banks, TV shows, you name it, all those bigshot places where men and women are the company representatives, the veil is not even up for discussion.

This, and we did not even go into the default disadvantage we’re at for simply having two X chromosomes. The major I studied has a ratio of 5:1 women to men in classes on average. You would think that this means women would only naturally be more dominant/present in the workforce. However, what I’ve noticed is that: Sure, almost all the designers, the employees, are women. But almost all the creative directors, the CEOs, are men. Men who probably don’t even realize their privilege of not having to push against an almost unbreakable glass ceiling to get to where they are, and presumptuously attribute it to their own mastery.

In other majors, where there is a more balanced ratio, or in a ratio where the men rank out higher, companies will almost always prefer the men. Their rationale supposedly has nothing to do with sexism, too. It’s simply the more convenient choice.

Hiring a woman means she might get married one day/get pregnant if she is married, and leave the job to take care of her children, so she is not worth a long-term investment.
Hiring a woman means she can’t go to Saudi Arabia alone because they forbid traveling without a mahram (a male relative or husband).
Hiring a woman means her husband/father will not let her stay late at work and so she won’t be able to carry the unthinkable load we want to put on our employees
Hiring a woman means her husband/father won’t allow her to travel, and so she won’t be able to carry out some projects through till the end
Hiring a woman means you have to worry about her getting raped when she goes to construction scenes/is a liability
Hiring a woman means you have to tolerate one regular day a month when she might not come into work because she is in too much pain
Hiring a woman means you will be subject to her regular mood swings, and cat fights with other women, because women are more emotional and not as professional as men

Most of these points are riddled with sexist thoughts and assumptions. And it’s because men themselves perpetuate those thoughts that they expect it of the men in the women’s lives also. As a man, he expects his wife and daughter to be stay-at-home moms, or do a job that doesn’t disrupt her “household duties”; he will not allow her to travel or stay late at work, and most certainly won’t allow her onto construction sites and the like. As a result, he will most certainly assume that not only is it the correct way to go about things, but that ALL men of the country will treat their wife/daughter the same way.

So they will hire women, but they will hire just enough to make them look like an equal-opportunity employer, then move on to giving all the spots to men, because it’s more convenient.

This is why in an interview, before I am asked to show my work or share my experience, I am asked (after the interviewer noted that I am a newly wed) whether I have a curfew or should be at home a certain time (read: what is the latest that your husband allows you to stay out?). I can hardly contain my disdained surprise in my response: “Who the hell do you think I married?” The reason this is so problematic is because it can be two-fold: The interviewer can either be of the religious/conservative party and asks this question because he actually perpetuates it and believes in it, and my response to him is “Your standards do not apply to me,” – or he can be of the anti-theist party, and the question carries an undertone of cynicism. He carries with him the assumption that all (backward) veiled ladies would only marry (backward) religious men who do not allow them to work after sundown. Considering the pretentious tone with which the question was asked, I would say it’s the latter.

So my being a veiled married woman ends up putting me at a triple disadvantage in the workforce, before the employer even opens up my portfolio. I am sure that this purgatory where the religious and the modern do not clash in arms has a whole community of people, who, like me, are fed up with not pleasing either side of the spectrum and not belonging anywhere. And this community should have its own companies and its own vision for how they perceive the future.

This is a community I would like to foster.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

1 . dead butterflies . zeina shaaban

It's the chase,
I keep telling myself,
why would anyone
want to hurt me?

I mutter obscenities, 
the blade has sputtered 
blood all over my 
nighttime pajamas. 

What will mother say?

It digs deeper and I yell, 
I scream, 
there is no
point in speaking, 
no point in begging.

When will this end, 
I have an assignment due
that I still need to work on. 
I have to wait until

the bleeding stops. 
You're a fucking bitch,
he speaks the only few words 
in his vocabulary,

other than ugly grunts 
and noises that twists my 
stomach in knots. 
The pungent smell of vomit 

the only thing that distracts 
the pain in my right arm, 
my jaw, my right eye. 
The stale state of pain is


I can't recognize myself in the mirror
No more. No more. 
I weep and the salt burns

the scars on my face. 
I weep as his fist attacks and invades,
as my mind starts to fade, 
as my consciousness erodes.

I wake up 
to the alarming scents that are trapped within
the room. I sit up, 
spent, my hands wrapped around my body.

I get up. Silently I change
the sheets of last night, I don't
want anyone to awake 
and see me amidst of my plight

At least it's over, I think, 
trying to exercise gratefulness.
I think about it some more, 
I'm attack-free until next time

I place my head on my pillow. 
A smile breaks out until the
wound under my eye halts it. 
I swallow instead.

I'll have to cover those up.

But the butterflies in my stomach 
at the realization
are still alive and well; 
I don't need to go back to sleep anytime


I finish cleaning my sheets, 
my pajamas and covering my bruises
I finish erasing the night before, 
I finish forgetting, and all too soon

You bitch, where do you think you're going? 
He kills the butterflies 
a sad and gruesome death, 
and I look at him in the eye knowing,

I must be sleeping. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So I've been shortlisted!, a brilliant initiative that aims at learning from and about the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him, has issued a competition. The competition is about making a video that shows how we were inspired by the Prophet in our lives or has inspired someone we know.

Below is my submission, that has since been shortlisted:

If you like the video and wish to vote for me, please visit, like the page, and then like the post of my video. I'm contestant F.

Thank you for your time.
And let's work for a better world, inchAllah.

Update: The video won at second place, alhamdulillah.
Thank you for taking the time to vote, share, and hopefully, this video sparks good somewhere.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I love my family.

Uncle: Is there anything worse than a man beating his wife?
Grandma: He's an animal.
Uncle: He's the one who should be beaten. 
Grandma: An animal that does not understand or think. 
Grandpa: Stop saying animal!
Grandma: Why? You think beating women is okay? An animal and a million times an animal.
Grandpa: You would be elevating his status by calling him an animal. So don't call him that. 
Grandma: Eh. Okay.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Yusuf Estes at AUB: Part II

Part I | Part II: The Review

It's quite the challenge for me to wear dressy formal outfits. Climbing trees, racing and having water fights become a lot harder without any pants on. But, here I was, wearing a black pantyhose and zipping my dress up. Some concealer here, some eyeliner there. And I was set. 

I got there and frantically took to ushering people in. The scene was astounding. People gushing in to catch the lecture that has yet to start. The ushers started guarding the doors, begging the people to go and stand in the adjacent hallway where they can listen: the house is packed. 

Our view to the third lecture held in the mosque. Quite
the difference between that and AUB's Issam Farres Hall.
Even more astounding is the way the entire hall went silent when Yusuf Estes came in; and came back in uproar to his cowboy-ish Salaamu Alaykum. Both of his lectures were very smooth, sprinkled with his sense of humor. On the first day, he talked about his journey, as a Christian Preacher who ended up embracing Islam and becoming a Muslim Daa'iyah. The second day, he discussed common misconceptions in Islam, and treaded on the usual confusions that people have.
The third day he had a lecture in Masjid al-Salaam, and talked about shirk, shirk in its obviousness, as well as in its camouflage.

Halfway through his second lecture, he treads on the issue of men and women, and says that "men and women are not equal". Then he proceeds to say that yes, in the eyes of God, God does not discriminate between gender. But men and women are not the same. I feel like I've become a broken record when I say:
We are not in math class.
equal =/= same 

To say that we are equal in the eyes of God, but then fail to parallel this into the socio-political sphere is a disservice to the deen. It is unislamic.

I found his understanding of evolution to be a little lacking, his claims against it unconvincing. But he didn't dwell on it, and passed through the discussion, perhaps if he elaborated further things would have been clearer.

The atmosphere at the end of the second lecture was electric, when he says that he has been told that a few people in the audience would like to accept Islam, and he did not want to make them nervous. So, he asked anybody who wants to proclaim and/or reclaim Shahaadah to stand up, and that they would recite it together. And almost all of the people in the hall were on their feet, waiting for him to utter the words. It was like a mockup of Hajj, the voices united in the worship of the Almighty. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yusuf Estes at AUB: Part I

Part I: The Design | Part II

Yusuf Estes, Christian preacher who embraced Islam in 1991 (i.e when I was born). Ever since he has dedicated his life to spreading the message to the best of his ability. 
Very recently, he had put together a tour sponsored by the TV channel that he owns, Guide US. And by fated chance, he accepted to add Lebanon to his list of toured cities. 

And so, we took on the task of designing the media for the event. 
The media team was consistent of Alaa and I. Coordinated by Rand Salah and Manar Mansour, under the banner of the Insight club. We started off with teasers that were disregarded after OSA (Office of Student Affairs) deemed them too offensive to be displayed in AUB or by AUB. Although they were direct extracts from his talks, and things he actually ended up saying in the event.
But, oh well.

Here they are anyway:
(click on the images to see them in original size)

After that, we spread out this poster all around Beirut:

And sent out those fliers:

And those invitation cards (with personalized names on envelopes, on high quality paper):

We also issued this teaser video online and spread it on fb and twitter:

And this was an added bonus (not done by us, but by an Insight club member), a trailer for the event:

The event was a great success, yielding about a 1,000 people in a hall that fits a little over 500, on both days. More details on the actual talk later.