[Curator’s Note: I totally screwed this up! This was supposed to post last Friday, and I didn’t do it! So, I apologize to everyone, especially to our Crush, Ainee Fatima.
So, here I am, correcting it—please enjoy the second part of the interview with Racialicious Crush Of The Week, Ainee Fatima!—AP]
If you haven’t been following Badass Muslim Girl…what are you waiting for? Get to following, check out the first half of the interview, then come back and check out the rest of the interview that I did with the Tumblr’s creatrix, Ainee Fatima!
I love your response in your FAQ to the question asking if you plan to use your Islamic Studies degree to help American Muslim communities. What I love about the response is not only the “my community comes first” but the idea that you need to “teach” somebody else about Islam. Again, the idea of your existence is a walking classroom for others…thoughts?
I think it is a responsibility of being a Muslim to be a walking classroom, Islam is so strict on the preservation and need for knowledge and education that it expects us to be activists in every area of the world. I believe that being an activist means being and educator as well. At first, I used to get very annoyed when people came to me with questions regarding Islam in relation to race, feminism and politics but I had to step back and realize that I might be the only Muslim they have access too, which is a big responsibility but it is flattering that they do see my peers and I in a high manner when it comes to asking these questions. I feel as though there are not enough representations for young adult American muslims living in the United states and we’re beginning to see that change within our communities with people taking charge, even if it is by running a blog.
From your FAQ, you’ve been on the spoken-word scene for a while and your work has been recognized by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. When did you start writing poetry and when did you get into spoken word? Are you still doing it while pursuing your degree?
I wrote short stories for myself and my friends throughout Islamic School for many years. Then when I got into high school, I focused more on poetry but I wasn’t good at all. It’s actually really embarrassing for me to read my old poems! But my English Teacher in Freshman year “discovered” me and encouraged me to try out for the school’s poetry slam team. In sophomore year, I preformed on a stage at the poetry slam competition, Louder Than A Bomb, for the first time and it was scary. I still get stage fright till this day even though I’ve been performing for 6 years now. When you have a skill or talent, it’s work…you need to practice to make it perfect and get better. No matter how good you are, you always need to practice and by writing all the time, I got better.
I haven’t been able to write anything new since I began university, but I get inspiration everyday and make sure to jot them down to save it for later use. My style had always been personal story telling but I think when I start writing again, it’ll change, especially now that I’ve grown up a lot since high school.
Following up on that, where do you see spoken word—and poetry—in the larger conversations about social justice, especially in a world of blogging, tweeting, and tumbling? I feel it has a special place in some communities as a bassline and a balm in the rough times…
Oh yes! Poetry and Spoken Word is so crucial to the discussion in social justice. Even if it taking a stab at it humorously like Kai Davis’s poetry, who is an amazing poet and some people might have seen her duet piece talking about white hipsters. Those people who haven’t been in the poetry scene might look from the outside with a skeptical perspective but in the Chicago spoken word scene, so many of the poems are real stories from Chicago youth suffering from unfortunate things like domestic abuse, gun and gang violence, racism, sexism and religious oppression. It is very much a platform that has been pushed away to the side but I see it making a huge comeback in the future.
The last question I try to keep light: what are you into nowadays? What are you reading, movies you’re digging, music you’re into, people/things moving your soul?
Well, recently I just became a columnist at MuslimGirl.net, where you can read stories and articles written by Muslim women about their experiences living here in the United States. So I’m busy writing up my latest article about menstruation which was inspired by Laci Green’s misquotation of the Qur’an in her latest video which is also about menstruation. I’m also currently taking classes about social justice issues in university. I’ve learned so much from tumblr but it’s good to go out and know that it is being applied and taught in university classrooms, so it’s helping me a lot in learning every day.
Anything you’d like to add?
Nothing else but to thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be featured on one of my favorite blogs. You do some amazing work and I’m looking forward to reading and learning from you.
As we at the R look forward to doing with you! ::hugs::
**TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual harassment**
It was a Monday afternoon at the theater in Lucknow, a small city not far from Delhi, somewhat old-fashioned by reputation. We–the women in the audience–were wearing the loose, concealing clothing that women usually wear in Lucknow. The three women on stage were dressed similarly, but in striking combinations of black and pink. The audience was excited, maybe a little tense. During the introductory remarks, the Delhi rape case had been brought up again. About ten minutes into the play, the atmosphere changed when she walked on stage. Black hair, black top, short black skirt, long brown legs. She looked good, but she wasn’t trying to titillate anyone. She spoke with a kind of serene authority “Meri short skirt ka aap se koi lena dena nahin hai.” My short skirt has nothing to do with you.
The play was Kissa Yoni Ka, or The Vagina Monologues translated into Hindi. (Starring Varshaa Agnihotri, Rasika Duggal, Dilnaz Irani, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, and Dolly Thakore and translated gorgeously by Ritu Bhatia and Jaydeep Sarka.) This staging was the first in Lucknow, part of a week-long drama festival called Repithvar. Two years ago, the same festival had tried to bring this play to Lucknow, but it was cancelled at the last minute when the cultural minister objected to the “adult” material Bhupesh Rai, the festival organizer told me. Dolly Thakore, one of the stars of the show, told me that she was happy to have an opportunity to perform in cities where The Vagina Monologues had previously been banned at a time when rape and child molestation were at the forefront of discussion in India. Dialogue about violence against women is opening up across India, and this play is a part of that.
After the play was over, I tried to figure out why the short skirt monologue was the one that made it hardest for me to hold it together. And I thought, seeing this woman onstage, seeing the way she took control of everyone in the room made a lot of lies go away, at least for five minutes. One of them–that women get raped because of what they wear. Another–that the fucked-up ways of thinking that make this monologue necessary are isolated to certain countries and people of certain skin colors. Originally, the same defense of short skirts was written in English for an American audience. There, too, women don’t get to wear short skirts without occasionally being told they’re asking for rape. (Even my high school “health” teacher also told a classroom full of teenaged boys and girls that women who wear short skirts are asking for rape.) Kissa Yoni Ka was translation at its most powerful."
— Though I don’t care for Eve Ensler’s White Lady Savior politics, I enjoy guest contributor Hannah Green’s post on how Hindi women have taken Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues to move conversations about sexual violence against women in India. Check it out on the R today!