Q’Eid Mubarak 2017: thinking about Pokemon, Racism, and Dumplings

I’ve finally wrapped up most of my Eid celebrations and am happy to have a quiet moment to write. But, I find myself with less than usual to say because it all seems so boring, but hey — that can be good too. I think it’s because I’ve had such a happy and fulfilling last two weeks. As many of you know, I decided to take a break from writing to work on (wait for it) writing another piece about my pregnancy journey. I think I pretty wrote non-stop for a week, plus, and whoooo I churned out some tears and words. I was also really glad to take a break and see Queen for a 24-hour joyride and to go to Half Moon Bay and to meet new friends at a Q’Iftar. Also, I had to stop fasting, and that super bummed me out. I felt as if I’d lost something, and I wanted my fast back, but I also wanted to take care of my body. Finally, I had some big questions that I had to go splash through my inner river to answer. I guess I lived and am living the questions as Rilke said to do.

Usually, my Eid is a bit on the strange side. This year I couldn’t make it to Saimo and her family’s to kiss that Irvine grass. I didn’t have the queer Mozzie community over in NYC and our lovely Eid-BQ. (Copyright?) I thought it was going to be bit of a disaster Eid, but instead it was an adventure in rolling with it that was unbelievably excellent and fun!

I went to Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for the Eid Prayer. Thanks to a video that Nour, the owner of the most awesome hijab and women’s clothing store (Hayaa Clothing in San Jose) made for me — I was able to actually pray without tugging at the corner of my hijab to make sure it wasn’t slipping.

 

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It was awesome if honestly the most lackadaisical Eid prayer yet. The Takbeer went on for possibly an eternity. The Khutbah was a long equivalent of get out the vote and at one point cited 401K’s as being a priority for people, though I think the Imam meant to urge people not to only think about their security. I prayed next to some kids (definitely elementary school age), so I ended up having to ask Allah to forgive me for being a terrible prayer guide for those kids who were possibly more confused than I was and yet continued to follow what I was doing. Thank you to my friends who continue to try and teach me – I want you to know that I did do many things right, just not everything. *forehead smack*

After, the food lines were a mess because it was at the Fairgrounds. But, the racial/ethnic composition at the San Jose prayer was different than the mostly Arab (Murfreesboro), mostly South Asian and Arab (Irvine), mostly Black (Chicago) Eid prayers I’ve attended previously in my many travels. It was nice to see a lot of faces that looked possibly Malaysian, or more likely Cham. A new friend who’s attended the SBIA masjid since she was a kid explained that there’s a huge Cham population in San Jose. Chams live near the Cambodian border of Vietnam, and have a distinct cultural and religious identity from the Vietnamese. It’s made me think a lot about race and Islam.

A while ago, I wrote that Islamophobia is a disguise for racism and racism is a disguise for Islamophobia, and back…and forth…and back. I witness this in how racism operates both outside of Muslim communities and within it. A lot of work can be done with non-Muslims in understanding that race, culture, and religion aren’t separate, especially when it comes to the socio-political realm. Queen and I were talking before Eid about the importance of acknowledging the political statement that we make when queer folks choosing Islam — that it is about our self-determination and the inescapability of our cultures, for many, which would be like asking us to say we’re not who we are. (I’m an exception in the sense that I wasn’t raised Muslim).

None of us are here for the inevitable demonizing (read racism) that comes with people asking people: WHOA, you’re Muslim, why would you be Muslim and queer? How do you deal with your “identities” hating each other? To me, the prevalence of this line of questions after Orlando is basically fueled by an effort to legitimize one (ahem, white supremacist) view of what Islam is, rather than the beautiful diversity of Islam, practiced not just by one group of people, but by so many (mostly) people of color in this world. It’s not just race, it’s the cultural patina of Muslims — so many different people are Muslim. Hate-filled racism leads people to claim one version of what being Muslim is — one story, meant to make Muslims seem like they’re a teeming mass of sameness, when in reality, the folks who’ve brought Allah into my life are a.) people of color b.) queer and c.) awesome. To me, there’s a messed-up element of stereotyping and bigotry in the discussion around requiring queer Muslims to say they exist in the first place.

This is also why I can’t handle the weird racist stuff around being people asking me why I would support a religion that isn’t feminist. First off, faith is complicated. Seriously, you don’t see me judging you for your belief in God, or your atheism for that matter. Second, one woman’s definition of feminism is another woman’s definition of imperialism and colonization. The reason we fight so hard to be who we are as people of color is because we have the right to create our own identities, not to have to answer to the powerful who demand that we justify why we are not exactly the same as them.

For a very long time now (incidentally before I knew anything about Islam) I’ve heard white people (and those of us poc invested in whiteness) criticize different (usually non-Western) countries and cultures as barbaric and sexist because the people in those places were darker-skinned and/or “oriental.” It’s the same crap I have to hear about how terrible Islam is for “making” women cover. It never ceases to amaze me how much the rest of the world needs saving and how many generalizations are made about women who wear hijab. It makes me wonder why all this rage and constant complaint doesn’t seem to materialize against the 100 richest people in the world (for instance). Why aren’t we demanding them to turn over their $$ and criticizing them for supporting a global economic system of wealth disparity which causes poverty, which in turn fuels violence and frankly, world environmental destruction. Why aren’t we upset that they’re covering up? So, it seems pretty obvious to me that racism disguised as Islamophobia operates hand in hand to give the sense that there’s this foreign group of darker-skinned people out there who somehow are more homogeneous and more dangerous rather than . . . the actual oppressors who somehow are really different than each other and harmless, even though nobody seems to be that interested in whether they are liberated from their clothing.

 


 

Anyway, back to my Eid which was so lovely and fun. I then eventually left the fairgrounds and was able to eat an amazing loco moco at a Hawaiian joint near my mom’s place. I met up with my sister, my newphew, and two cousins, where we joined my sister’s friends families (3 kids, 2 adults) to take down a Lapras and then a Tyranitar at this new “raid” where groups of players get together and defeat Pokemon to gather high CP (combat power) creatures. Let’s just say that I caught some major raid bosses, creatures I’ve never had before. This was a major highlight.

 

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Then, exhausted, I took a nap and then jumped up and made it out to Oakland to an awesome activist PrEid party thanks to a new friend Yve (who I’ve never met before). It was a chill queer family party w/ queer babies and a garden, and I loved the delicious cauliflower and lentil options. The sunlight was filtered and smooth. The awesome host forced me to walk away with a tub of organic fruit. Of all the amazingness, Yve really helped me put into perspective that any queer Muslim organizing needs to dig deep and confront anti-Black racism. I asked myself a lot of questions about how I could help or hurt those efforts now that I’m living in a new place.

I next drove to another amazing Eid party in Berkeley, invited by my friend Blissey. It was hosted by Kashmiri activist Huma Dar@baalegibreel 

I first need to mention that food-wise, it was the opposite of the first party. It was a BBQ with mutton and chutney, roasted duck and peach, kebabs of chicken and beef, and tons of thick bread. Both parties really killed it with dessert, but I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I won’t make you all salivate.

Huma was present, but in a lot of pain, thinking and discussing the dire conditions for so many people in Kashmir. It cost her deeply to try and find what joy she could in Eid. It was humbling to share space with Huma. Many of the folks at the party were also actively working to help the Dalit community, and it was good to understand how activism feeds itself for justice. Witnessing these linkages in person, I feel so grateful to be allowed to share this space, and to have learned more for myself about what is happening in Kashmir.

When I finally made it home, I was so tired, but the best part was that my mom was home from Taiwan. She’d only come back the day before when I picked up her, my aunt, and my uncle from SFO. I slid into bed and after sifting through my Poke herd for just a little, I fell fast asleep. I knew my Eid wasn’t over.

 

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(yes, i know it’s haram to eat gelatin…but mmmm…late night snacking i’ve missed yeh!)

 

Monday night, a group of us gathered to celebrate Q’Eid at Kamdesh, a lovely restaurant serving Afghani food in Oakland.Winnie and I traded Eid tales as we carpooled to Oakland from the South Bay. A friend, Verse, I hadn’t seen for maybe six years was visiting the Bay from LA. She suggested folks get together for dinner. That’s when i realized: every culture that has a dumpling be blessed! The mantoos were outrageous, and my chapli kabab was among the best I’ve ever had. It was SO delicious that I couldn’t resist the baklava they gave us for Eid. But I digress, because over this amazing feast, Verse told me that she had decolonized her mind to come to terms with her sexuality and gender. She’s now in a relationship with a trans man, and when I’d known her in LA that hadn’t been the case. I felt such a radiant light emanating from her, and such gratitude that she had gathered this group of people together. They are new friends here in the Bay — many of us different in our politics and cultures and race, but holding space for each other for Eid. It felt like a true homecoming.

We wrapped up the night, five of us who managed a second wind (after gorging ourselves), over at Fenton’s creamery, which I haven’t been to in over 15 years, since before it burned down and then remodeled. I even ordered a cherry pie with (decaf) coffee in honor of Twin Peaks (yassss – that’s right!). We talked about astrology and what our Harry Potter houses/dementors would be (though I didn’t get a chance to talk about Harry Li Potter, my take on the series). It was sweetness personified.

I want to thank you all for reading. I hope to someday share with you the piece that I wrote over the past two weeks. I want to thank T for guiding me on my journey through babylandia and giving me comfort when I needed it; Queen for giving me that beautiful blessing/greeting while I was at SFO and for keeping me company and easing my loneliness. I feel like my problems are becoming easier. Gratitude to Bollywood Superstar for being this dear friend and person supporting my fast and my efforts to become a mother; Winnie for sharing Ramadan with me and for inviting me to the Bay with such warmth and giving me so much time and energy; all my wonderful NYC friends, my queer Muslim community especially: Pele for checking-in on me, for supporting my writing, and making space for me to join book club remotely, the Imam for reminding me to hold Lucille Clifton close, and too many others to name, including Mirna for giving me baby-making advice. Special shout-out to P—- for that e-mail about cervical mucus and much, much more; B’Andrea for making space in her ache for hope for me; Courtru for being one of my dearest and nearest friends and for encouraging me always with this blog; Saimo for always teaching me to be a person and a better faster; Thanks to Tanzila Ahmed and the Ramadan Poetry-a-Day community; thanks to Andrew for sharing with me such a beautiful part of who you are; thanks to Lisa Ko for our perfect SF day during your book tour (The Leavers – buy it); thanks to Crystal for being an accountable fellow writer and for allowing our Ramadan time to overflow with spermutations of solidarity; thanks to my many VONA friends; thanks to my work buds Miriam and Mags for continuing to be there for me and giving me an anchor; thanks to the Doctor for so much, esp for urging me to pray the Istikhara; thanks to the poets whose words kept me company; thank to those of you who gave me love quietly; thank you if you took the time to text me or pray for me this Ramadan.

I’m sure I forgot people, but I won’t forget my amazing sister who holds it all down, the job, the chores, the two kids, and does it while remaining a generous, sweet person who doesn’t fly into fits of rage and who still manages to keep her pokemon addiction alive and to convert people into pokefiends. My brother for being there in this part of the journey while also stretching his wings to find the right path for him. My cousins, aunt, and uncle — for giving me that feeling that my family is endless. And of course of course of course, everything to my mother who is herself everything. I love you.

Allah – you kept it real. thank you for bringing the Awesomeness and for giving me this blessed space to reconnect with myself after moving from NYC. I can’t wait to discover all the blessings of Ramadan that will manifest through this next year, Insha’Allah.

 

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