I am continuously surprised by the things I write

I just found this in the Tucson Citizen archives. It is a letter I had written to the Editor and I didn’t even know that it was published. This was me, a month after I turned 18 years old. It was published on February 11, 2006, which means I was done with college applications and just waiting to hear back while finishing my last semester in high school. I was fiery back then, full of opinions, and rightfully so, i expressed them. It was also when I was known as Tasneem in the publication world. Great times, I guess. Click to read or see below.

Tense times easily ignite emotions


The newspapers that published cartoons against our prophet should not be punished, let alone their editors beheaded, as some Muslims suggested. History repeatedly has proven that a free press is the best defense against oppression.


But as a Muslim, I was offended by these cartoons not only for insulting my religion, but also because they are discriminatory and racist.


One depicts Muhammad with a bomb-shaped head about to explode, suggesting all Muslims are terrorists. The purpose of political cartoons is to reveal truth. Bluntly linking the Muslim faith to brutality is ignorant.


Every religion has extremists, and actions of a few do not give the right to label all unfairly. The Quran explicitly states disapproval of violence.


The Western world’s treatment of Muslims in recent years has pushed tensions so high that any remark or small action can trigger emotions to burst.


Many Americans believe the war in Iraq is for democracy, but the Muslim world sees us as invading their lands, murdering civilians and imposing tactics foreign to their ancient culture.


Violence is not the way to peace, but when you feel you have no control, it is a natural reaction.


These cartoons are another way of telling us we are barbarians with false values. The European press is telling us we are not wanted in “their land.”


The cartoons represent the gap between the West and the Muslim world, and it is not closing. The catastrophe taking place should force us to see that – press freedom or not – democracy is intended for tolerance and understanding of every individual for the benefit of society.



senior, Catalina Foothills High

Eid day.

In Bangladesh, Eid-Al-Adha is also known as the “Boro Eid” (Big Eid) because it is feeding the beef-loving population of the country. The noises I hear sitting by window of my aunt’s seventh floor flat are that of black crows and goats, as well as the sound of the Imams in nearby mosques reciting the Eid morning prayers. I sometimes hear the “moos” of the cows, God knows what they are reacting to. My heart jumps a bit when I hear the animals or the sudden male voices yelling who are probably excreting their excitement and strength. I think I would have preferred to sleep in today until noon when everything would be done and cleaned up. Apparently, a good butcher can kill, cut, and clean up an entire cow in just 90 minutes. He chargest 10 to 20 percent of the cow’s price and with his sharp knives he is able to carefully observe and kill, make slender cuts and separate the parts of the cow and cut the meat into slabs, itemized to satisfy out beef palates. But I was awake by six in the morning, jumping into the shower where the cold water made me realize my surroundings.


zoomed in from the seventh floor of my aunt's flat.


It is almost 8:30 am right now and we are about to head out soon to visit my khalu’s family in Jatrabari, where we were yesterday morning to see the cow that is about to be, if not already slaughtered. My morning will be spent there and then back to Iskaton in the center of the city, where I will stay and maybe visit a few families too. The day will be spent eating, napping, eating more, and eating. Driving through Dhaka to visit family, eat, eat, eat.

Preparing myself for Eid.

I left my apartment in Baridhara to go to one of my aunt’s home in Iskaton at a little after eight in the morning, and even in this residential, mostly quiet neighborhood I could sense the Eid. There were cows and goats tied to the gates of practically every villa and apartment building, many adorned with colorful plastic flowered necklaces. The poor cows. I can’t imagine bloodshed in my little neighborhood of otherwise peacefulness (though I am still waiting to run into Khaleda Zia who is reportedly moving into my street).

I felt bad for the cows when we drove to Jatrabari, an area in southern Dhaka and I saw fat cows being driven on trucks, taken to homes on foot, etc. “Ei, koto holo?”, many who drove in their motorcycles past the cows would ask, and they would get an automatic answer from whoever led the cow. Apparently this is one of the fun parts of Eid, asking how much the cow cost from random strangers, and then boasting about it.

My aunt and uncle's Australian cow in Jatrabari

At my Khalu’s (my aunt’s husband) family’s home this morning, I saw three cows that they had bought to be sacrificed. Theirs was an Australian kind, spotted and pretty huge. Kids from the building were playing around the cows, trying to get a reaction and then running away. We drove from Iskaton this morning to Jatrabari for a bit specifically to see the cow they had bought before eating it in about 27 hours.

Do these cows know their fate? Listening to the comments around me all day were bizarre enough in my Western viewpoint- who is going to butcher it, is he good at cutting up the meat, did you get a good deal, where was it imported from, whose getting the stomach? When you spot a fat cow, it is either imported from India, or fed a lot of hormones (from India). Bangladeshi cows are not fat. They are skinny and obedient, calm and slow. They bathe in the local pond, and sleep on dust. Australian brand cows are prized- their breeds are prettier, resembling a cow you might see in a milk carton with its black and white spots, fed good grass, heavyset, energetic, and for this country, exotic. So many cows.

Tomorrow morning, Dhaka turns red with the blood, and the men of the families will get a chance to act like a bu tcher and participate in the holy day. Meat will be distributed around for days, and cooked in so many ways- curried, dried, fried, cooked for hours (bhunna), spiced and preserved, grinded into kebabs, the hoofs made into soups, liver pastes… piles of rice, pulao, and bread will await these dense dishes on the table for days on end. I remember coming to Eid when I was 11 years old and scarred from all of the blood and smell that filled the narrow alleys and roads. I had to shut my ears to not hear any noise. I mean, with so many cows, they are going to be looking around and seeing what is happening to their fellow beings. It is quite depressing. And I say this as I say that I love steak.

In Saudi Arabia, where Eid has already happened today, my dad had to go to one of the centers and wait in line to see our cow being butchered. They do not allow public butchering like in Dhaka- for sanitary purposes. My dad gave up after a while though because the line was so long. I mean, we are talking about a country where most people can afford their own cows, compared to Dhaka where many families share in on a cow and a few goats.

So I wait with apprehension for the morning. My mother asked that I go down to Shamoily to participate because my parents shared in on a cow in my name since I was spending Eid in Dhaka. How sweet (?)


Shopping in Al-Khobar for Eid where things don’t close until 3 am.

Last night I went shopping with my family to Al Khobar, a nearby city where stores opened around 9 pm and went on forever into the night/ next day. The streets were packed, and the roads jammed with people finally getting out of the house after breaking their fast and crowding the markets. There are so much lighting and decorations everywhere to celebrate Ramadan, from lamp posts, to the hotels and private buildings. The Saudi version of Christmas lighting.

There are “Ramadan discounts” everywhere and people taking advantage of it like no other. I went into a jewelry shop and could not find a counter space at all as flocks of people lined every free inch, mostly men, to buy gold. The counters for the clothing were a bit insane too, and I think it also drove the men running it insane who either spoke no English or just did not want to speak because they were afraid we would demand something.

The woman guarding the ladie’s fitting rooms were also a bit out of nerves. It is definitely not like the United States. I am trying on clothes and literally another woman and her daughter are standing outside my door staring at me, in a distance like as if they are about to come inside. It was… awkward. I was not sure if they were like, lining up to get in or just wanted to stare at me (both possible). One of the woman guarding it came and told me to hurry up in broken English to which my mother and sister snapped at and the woman just backed away because I am pretty sure she did not understand a single word and did not have a comeback. Having so many languages spoken at once just adds to the utter chaos of the stores.

I loved the vibe of the city though. I have celebrated a Muslim holiday I can remember just once in a Muslim country, which was Eid years and years ago in Bangladesh. Being in Saudi Arabia felt foreign to me even though it should not, I suppose. The entire month is a celebration, but only at night- during the day, everything is closed since people are fasting. It is dead silent. And around 3 am, an hour before sunrise when you have to start fasting again, restaurants and fast food places are packed with tired families and single men eating away. It reminded me of Las Vegas where the nights go on forever and the next morning you see dead silence as people sleep through their hangover. The hangover here is from overeating and carrying too many shopping bags, I suppose.

Barbie Dolls in Burqa Presented in Italy’s Barbie Fashion Show

Yet again, the problem with this:

– calling it “Islamic” and/ or “Islamic fashion” leads to a false image of what Islamic clothing is. There is no Islamic fashion or Islamic dress. This is another case of confusing religion with culture, and not allowing it to be de-linked. Burka, while traditional in certain regions of the world, is not something that symbolizes Islam, a religion that spreads around the globe and includes many elasticities. This is not to say that burqa should be dismissed. Rather, it is a cultural aspect of many societies, worn by many women out of choice rather than force. What I have a problem with is the labeling- by calling it “Islamic fashion” only enforces stereotypes of Muslim women to be one-dimentional.

Article here.

Freitag: Parastou Forouhar


In a culture of concealment, the significance of the visible is heightened. The fragments of the body that can be shown symbolically represent all that cannot be shown and cannot be said. This makes them eloquent and multivalent.

Friday …it is also a day on which the long Friday prayers and sermons, so important to Islamists, are held at the mosque. A day when morality and order are invoked and defined, when the mullahs of Iran often speak to crowds of thousands, who then chant their propaganda slogans. Rhythmically, ecstatically.

By Parastou Forouhar


Lalla Essaydi / Les Femmes du Maroc : Art

Les Femmes du Maroc #16

By Lalla Essaydi

Work- Photographs, C-Print, Contemporary, Moroccan: 2006.

Art that is redefining, and challenging the idea of women in Islam today. Essaydi, a Moroccan who grew up in Saudi Arabia and later moved to Boston uses photographs to showcase the idea of Muslim women- a way of looking at their lives and identities.She takes a portrait and fuses Islamic, Arabic calligraphy in a unique style. As for composition, she uses structures common to orientalist paintings from the 19th Century.

Abaya Does Not Equal Islam

Click here for the CNN article on “Islamic Fashion”

Why this bothered me: An abaya does not mean Islamic. Just because there are varied forms of abayas in this fashion show, it does not mean that this is Islamic fashion. Abaya is not even worn by the majority of Muslim women in the world. Rather, it is a piece of society in the Middle East, in particular the Gulf region that may have religious ties, but has largely become a cultural aspect of society.

I will agree with this:

“Modesty is not the opposite of fashion, and fashion is not about showing more of my body,” said Amina al-Jassim

I have been forced to wear the abbayah, and I don’t like it. I do not like it more because it is forced upon me to wear it when I visit Saudi Arabia, not because of the plain, straight forward style. Rather, it is sometimes nice to not have to dress up and coordinate clothes since no one is going to see it anyway. It is a kind of freedom I will never expect in the West since wearing an abbayah out in the streets of Boston where I am is going to get more attention than anything else. Anyways, I don’t know if I will buy into the more “fashionable” abbayahs since it never meant anything to me but something I have to wear in my short visits to the Gulf. Perhaps it is of course a different story for those who grew up wearing the abbayah and therefore, part of their upbringing. I agree with the author in that as more and more go abroad and leave their smaller communtiies, they bring back ideasof individuality that are going to have to be dealt with in the home country. A way to do so is incorporation without total rejection. Not at first anyway.

“It’s not so much a conflict, but an amalgamation of east and west that works quite nicely here.”