Monday, June 15, 2009

From Hugging to a Handshake to Hello


When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia in October of 2007, I met many of my husband's family for the first time. There were many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles to meet, and honestly I still don't think I have met even half of my husband's extended family. I came from a fairly small family. My mom was an only child, so I have no cousins on her side of the family. My dad had one brother and one sister, and they had two children each, so in reality, I had only four first cousins. Because my mom was an only child, she wanted a large family, so I have four brothers. My brothers and I all have at least two kids each, so our kids have a healthy pool of first cousins. With my family spread out all over the US though, getting us all together takes quite a bit of planning and it's not something we are able to do even once a year. And that's one of the reasons why I was really looking forward to our move to Saudi Arabia, where we would be surrounded by my husband's large extended family.


Here in Saudi Arabia, we spend the most time with my hubby's sister and one of his brothers than with other members of the extended family. One of my nephews, Sultan, has become a favorite of mine. He was maybe 11 and a half when I first arrived. He and my son Capt. Kabob get along well together and they play video games and joke around with each other. We often play cards and he has even come over to our house to spend the night, which isn't really a common occurrence in this society.

The first year I was here in this country, whenever we would greet each other, Sultan and I would hug each other warmly. I also hug all of my nieces and my sisters-in-law when I see them, but I never hug my brothers-in-law or the older male nephews. We cordially say hello to one another but we don't even shake hands. Also I must keep my hair covered at all times when I am around them as well. All of a sudden one day several months ago, Sultan informed me that we could no longer hug when we greet each other because he had just turned thirteen. Thirteen is that magical number whereby he was now considered a man and was no longer allowed to hug women like me. So for several months Sultan and I shook hands when we greeted each other. Honestly this change in our relationship felt a bit awkward and felt like a loss to me.

Well, just recently now our dissipating relationship has evolved even further - now we can no longer even shake hands.

I realize that this is part of the culture and I understand that. But I'm 57 years old and Sultan is 13. To me, he is still a boy and I would never ever think of him in an inappropriate way. The culture here dictates that there should be no physical contact, like hugging or even shaking hands, between any "marriageable" persons of the opposite sex. To think that my nephew or I would ever ... or could ever ... It just seems so tawdry and distasteful, doesn't it? Maybe I'm just really naive, but are there really that many desperate older aunts who take on their ridiculously much younger teen nephews? Does this really happen?


So anyway, now Sultan and I must keep our physical distance from one another and just wave and say hello to each other. So far I don't have to cover my hair in front of him, but I have a feeling that might be the next thing to go. Which is something that I don't really understand because he already knows what my hair looks like. The situation just feels so uncomfortable to me now... I can tell by the look in his eyes that Sultan feels the same way about it too. It almost feels like we're being punished for something. Saudi women must experience this same chipping away of their relationships with their nephews as they grow up - I wonder if they feel the same way I do? Is hugging my nephew really indecent and inappropriate? Sometimes I think there are things that this culture carries way too far and turns completely innocent and pure affection into something dirty. At least I still get to hug my nephews in the states - and maybe I'll just hang onto them a little bit longer next time I see them!

131 comments:

  1. that's sad.

    I also have wondered why American Muslims - who are born and raised westerners andtaught that they don't marry their first cousins - ever - because they are considered like brothers to us and because it is against the law, would need to cover their heads in front of their cousins.

    And you are right a relationship between someone your age and a 13 year old would be so perverse that it really is not any more likely to occur than any other sort of perverse relationship, like one between between a brother and a sister or half brother and half sister or father and daughter or an uncle and his neice by blood. I mean not hugging a child in your family to avoid the very slight off chance that you might be a pedophile just seems illogical to me.

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  2. This is how I feel about kids at school. The day that I can't hug a child is the day I no longer want to be an educator! So many of our kids need that little extra hug!

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  3. maybe you should try to clear all these doubts you have about the religion and the culture, with your husband [who is Muslim I assume] or with a qualified person

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  4. I guess those are the cultural differences that are hard to understand and sad.

    I don't hug my mother because she's just not used to it and would feel uncomfortable if I did so. So I usually just put my arm around her shoulder sometimes but we were raised that way. I do hug my brother sometimes but it's something I have to think about. However, having lived on the mainland I can hug everybody else. Strange...

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  5. I'm sorry that some people see it in terms of some dirty old lady doing something sick to her husband's nephew... That's not how we see it. Just for some perspective, the older boys and men still hug and kiss their male relatives - brothers, cousins, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, which wouldn't be the case if everyone was worried about pedophiles...

    This is sort of a coming of age ritual; when the boy (or girl) reaches puberty, their relationship with the opposite sex (except close unmarriageable relatives) changes. I don't know Sultan, so I can't speak for him, but I have sons around that age, and they don't feel sad that they don't kiss their uncle's wives as they get older. They've reached a different stage in life, and now they're respected as young men. (And if he's reached puberty, he shouldn't see you without hijab.)

    In this society, your uncle's wife is not your aunt. I'm sure you know that there isn't even a word for "aunt"; there's one for your mother's sister and another word for your father's sister. (Same for uncle - there's your mother's brother and your father's brother.) So Susie, you're his mother's (or father's) brother's wife. (Family ties are important, so there are more detailed words to describe them - sort of like Eskimos with "snow".)

    I come from a family that didn't sahow a lot of affection, so I do MUCH more hugging and kissing nw - but with other women, not men. And I'm happy to say that the teachers are very affectionate; I've talked to teachers here who said that in the West, they were very cautious about hugging or kissing children, and they felt much more comfortable here.

    Just for the record, it's a common misconception that first cousins aren't allowed to marry in the U.S., but it's not true; many states allow it. (See http://marriage.about.com/cs/marriagelicenses/a/cousin.htm.)

    And desertmoon, the instructions about wearing hijab - or anything else - are for all people at all times. They doesn't change because you're born in America...

    Another Anonymous

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  6. Anonymous,

    With any rule, the most important thing is not the rule itself (the manner it which it is acted out) but the meaning and purpose of the rule - why it exists and the purpose which it serves. The manner in which the rule is applied is not more important than why it exists and understanding why it exists allows one to use common sense (a gift from God) to decide how to apply it in varying contexts.

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  7. I find the whole thing rather confusing. Am glad I live where I can hug anyone I want. Get lots of good hugs while your in the states Susie.

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  8. Susie, when you wrote that you and Sultan now feel as though you're "being punished", what an honest and sad statement.

    Do you think it will ever change?

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  9. hey susie i have been reading your blogs. KSA is an interesting place to learn about but not an appropriate spot for permanent living ( except for the arabian, of course ) . a boy who reach 13 considered grown up and can no longer get hugs and physical contact like he used to. what about girls ? Is there any rule and tradition between a man and girls ? (i'm thinking that the rules will be stricter ). what about teenage girls and their family ( like father & grandfather ), are the physical contact is limited once up to a certain age ?

    I feel terrible for you for not being able to hug each other again. a hug between an aunt & her nephew is simple 'warm' and nothing else more than that. but in saudi arabia, what to do ? i doubt whether the coming generation will be less conservative since parents have actually instilled all the strict rules to their children at young age. maybe the youngs have intention of giving all these a change but are not prompted so as they started to get used to it before they are in position of controlling the society and making impacts.

    susie perhaps you can secretly give sultan a hug ? or something light like patting his head ? that would be very nice and sweet , not too much.

    have a nice day susie!

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  10. I have to say, the name Sultan is one of the best I have heard. What a cool name!

    Im sorry to hear the relationship has to change, but it still sounds like the boy reguards you highly so I guess all you can do is take heart in that.

    I have a question, do Eldery woman gets in KSA get any more freedom? I don't mean middle aged, I was thinking more 70+ ? If the main reason behind the physical distance is for people who could possibly marry, I would have assumed that once a woman is past child bearing age she would be given a little more room to breathe.

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  11. It is hard to understand the idea of marriage within a family. I understand why it developed. It is a way of keeping family and tribal wealth within the same group.

    The idea that a middle aged woman has to cover up when around her nephews seems completely absurd. The age difference alone should count for something.

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  12. Another Anonymous--excellent clarification of the implications of the difference between being a biological aunt or one by marriage, and of the linguistic differences for maternal and paternal aunts.

    Teachers must think very carefully before hugging pre-pubertal students in North America, and might as well just hand over their teaching licence if they hug a high school aged male.

    First-cousin marriages are legal in all of Canada and in many US States, and present no significant biological risk to offspring unless there is a known genetic history or a pattern of multigenerational intermarriage.

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  13. Susie--my soul sister! I too come from a small family, with limited contact growing up with the geographically dispersed cousins.

    One of my conjugal cultural (mis-)adventures in Morocco involved saying goodbye after dinner at the home of the dear Moroccan friend who had got my husband and I together in France, acted as my interpreter at our wedding in Morocco, and who remains an intellectual and personal friend of mine as well as my husband's buddy. In the confusion of our normal "bise" (kissing on both cheeks) vs a "now married" Moroccan handshake, we did both awkardly.

    My husband interpreted part of it as a caress (really an awkward grope of the arm to find a hand) and gave me a LOUD piece of his mind in French as soon as the door of his parents' apartment home closed. Yeah, well, in French I can give as good as I get! Of course, SILs were there, and understood everything, and translated for those who didn't (probably best given the "tone" of our "discussion"). She kindly tried to smoothe it over culturally for me by pointing out that her brother's "jealously" was conjugal. Hmmmm.

    The change in your relationship with Sultan is a sad one, and definitely a loss, but probably respecting it will ultimately strength the relationship. I would recommend any furtive familial hugging be done by mutual consent on visits to the US.

    Oh, and don't google aunt-nephew incest (as I did to find out about incest laws)--way too much inappropriate information and detailled graphics (didn't look, don't want to know).

    Have fun in the US, and hug EVERYBODY you want to! LOL :)

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  14. I am so sorry my friend, both for you and that little boy who was happy to have a loving aunt.

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  15. Rest assured it's not because you might be doing inappropriate stuff or anything like that. It's just our own culture and tradion. Like in some areas in Saudi Arabia, girls who become nine years old must wear hejab and start praying and fasting. For others, it's not a must. You will get used to more stuff and you will get used to not seeing him at your home when he goes to highschool.

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  16. What I find interesting about this is it seems to be an enforced religious rule for something that might organically happen in the US.

    At some point in their growth, most adolescents seem to be less comfortable with hugging and kissing extended family. So it seems like this might have happened anyway (the hugging part, not the handshake part), but over time--not with an announcement from nephew to aunt.

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  17. A basic human need and expression - to embrace another human being in friendship, love and comfort...is lost to a culture. I do not know how I would function as myself if I were no longer allowed to hug those which cross my path. There would be a cold void in my world. And such a loss it is...to the whole human race. I find it so extremely sad.

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  18. It seems to me he’s really in the role of a customary ritual that leads the way to separate the child/young adolescent to adult, he’s approaching this issue in such a responsible way because he knows there’s a change of role. Is an anthropological fact within a tribe, society… He may feel pain because those true feelings are unique, but becoming a man has its price…

    For me it’s very difficult to understand why they do that because we do not, so the only explanation I see is the cultural/ anthropological point of view… but I find it’s a pitty to do without the love of half of your family and friends just because they are from the opposite sex…

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  19. perhaps you and sultan can discuss your situation. he may be feeling a sense of loss in his adult world with other members of his family. Remember how Carol Burnett used to end her tv program with a tug of her ear to let her mother/grandmother know she was thinking of her. maybe you and sultan can work out a signal or just a gesture that means a hug and that you are thinking of one another

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  20. Hi Balqis - My husband doesn't answer my questions most of the time. He has always been this way. It is very difficult to get answers out of that man!

    Hi Kay - I have known a few people who are not huggie types too - the one that sticks out in my mind ended up screwing me over really bad in business unfortunately!

    Hi Anon - Thanks for the explanation about realtionships in this society. I know it's very different from what I grew up with and to me, he's family...

    Hi Janice - I'm sure it will change in time as we both get more used to it. I think it will always feel like a loss to me though, as I've never really experienced something like this before.

    Hi Anon - I believe it's the same for girls. Girls can be hugged by fathers, brothers, uncles by blood, grandfathers - men who are not marriageable to them. So this rules out cousins, relatives by marriage, etc. I would not give Sultan a hug now, not even in secret, because it would not be appropriate. We still play cards together, so that will have to do!

    Hi Chanelle - Regarding your question about elderly women - yes and no. While older women do not have to cover their hair, most older women here do, and many even wear the veil too, because they have done it all their lives. But then there was a case in the news recently about a 75 yr old widow who was sentenced to 40 lashes for inviting two young men (not related to her) into her home when they were being kind to her by bringing her bread. So she is bring held accountable for something that seems totally absurd in the real world.

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  21. Hi Chiara - Thanks for sharing your story about your man friend and your hubby's jealous reaction. I didn't think to Google this subject - thanks for the warning!!!

    Hi HisSweetheart - I didn't know that he won't be allowed over to our house any more once he gets into high school! Wow... but I guess it makes sense in view of everything else...

    Hi Puca - On the day he first informed me that we couldn't hug any more, it had been discussed with his mom and his grandmother. They were present when he told me, and I looked at both of them and they smiled back at me nodding their heads, reinforcing what he said.

    Hi Anon - Maybe a little tug on the ear between us might work!

    Thanks to everyone else for your comments!

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  22. my son is 13 years old (im 33) and i could never imagine him being denied the love of aunts and cousin...i think its good for young men to have healthy relationships with female relatives.
    im lebanese so the culture is not the same...but i have spent time alone with my father in law, brother in law, male cousins, because they are considered safe, they are loyal to my husband.
    so i guess each culture has good and bad.. i just wish u didnt have to loose your nephew like that.

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  23. Susie:
    I know you are feeling a real loss right now, but look at it this way.
    If you needed to run to the store and your husband and son were both out, your nephew could be your male escort.
    I understand the difficulties of your life... you are a strong woman!
    And you mention having at least 2 children each between you and your brothers... I for one would love to hear about your other children and how they feel about your moving back to their father's homeland.
    Until your next post, inshallah...
    Kay

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  24. First Anonymous,

    "father's) brother's wife. (Family ties are important, so there are more detailed words to describe them - sort of like Eskimos with "snow".)

    I don't usually think analogies are intellectually appropriate (when explaining a scientific viewpoint) but this one is perfecto my friend! Anthropologically, he is spot on.

    anthogeek10

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  25. hi susie, what an addictive read i need to add to my daily readings! i can't imagine how not hugging must hurt your maternal soul...in expressing your happiness to see another and show affection. my heart would just break at the thought if i couldn't.

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  26. Great post Susie and I applaud your candor on this topic.

    I appreciate that there are "cultural" issues at play here that you and I and others not raised in Saudi might never understand, but I think, too, there are "human" issues which we perhaps understand better than others. Simple human interaction and affection, untainted by sexual overtones, is non-existent here in Saudi as far as I can see, and the impact that has is monumental! Women are good for one thing and one thing only in the mind of most Saudi men, for example. Talk about an impact statement!

    Anyway, another great post. Keep them coming!

    Sand

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  27. You have to ask yourself...what harm could a hug do?

    Considering the restrictions against it past a certain age...I would guess over there it can do a lot of harm...who knows.

    btw...restricting hugging etc between those of marriagable age (translate that into...those that might be lead to have sex with each other) doesnt mean a whole lot considering that fathers molesting their daughters....brothers molesting their sisters....uncles molesting their neices happens quite alot in the Arab world...just like everywhere else...

    In which case...females arent safe around ANYBODY no matter how close the blood ties are....so to be so restrictive against some "relatives" and consider that proper doesnt make sense given the wide spread act of sexual aggression used against females in that society.

    People should be able to monitor themselves...people should be able to make the decision to either hug or not based on personal feelings and understandings as to whether they can 'handle' the hug without letting it get out of control...people should be able to determine the best course of action (hug, handshake, kiss, or just greetings)...in other words...

    PEOPLE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE

    wouldnt that make a nice change

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  28. First of all, I’m 100% sure that Sultan knows that at 13, he shouldn’t hug and kiss his uncle’s wife. It’s not normally the case that his mother has to go and tell the woman that, because she – and Sultan – know. In this case, they had to actually sit down and inform Susie because she didn’t know this.

    I’ve never known a boy to become sad about this. When my sons enter the room where the family is, they go and kiss their grandmother on the top of the head. Then they go around the room, hugging and kissing their aunts (father’s sisters; I don’t have relatives here) and any males. As for the other women (uncle’s wives, older cousins), this depends on their age. When they’re young, they kiss them, too; after they’ve reached puberty, they just greet them without touching them. In between, they might go through a period when they shake hands. None of my sons has actually reached puberty, but the older ones have stopped kissing their uncle’s wives - not because anyone told them to, but because they know they’re getting older, and they feel more comfortable that way. (It’s the same for girls with their male relatives; they’ll still kiss grandfathers, uncles, great-uncles, nephews, etc., every time they see them.) There’s no shortage of physical displays of affection.

    This is not some weird aspect of Saudi culture; this is Islamic teaching.

    The comments I see sometimes describing the culture as “hypersexualized” are way off... especially when I read articles like the one in Time a few weeks ago that began, “If you're the parent of a teenage boy in Florida, you probably muttered ‘Not again’ while reading your morning newspaper this week. There on the front page was yet another case of an adult female teacher being arrested for admitting to having had sex with an underage male student…” and it went on “…Other female teachers in Florida have been booked for the same crime this year — and scores of others have been arrested or disciplined in the past few years for sexual misconduct with students… Florida, of course, is hardly the only state where female teachers have been nabbed for preying on boys. And nationwide, male teachers still commit far more acts of sexual misconduct than females.”

    Another Anonymous

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  29. I've been wondering ,will You have oneday anything positive to say about Saudi Arabia? If You red more about Islams teachings ,I think You would understand better the life over there.

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  30. Hi Susie,It's always hard to watch the kids grow up. Is that because it means were getting older?
    One of my own boys isn't much of a hugger.It seems like he gave it up when his brother was born and I wouldn't "take him back".LOL Now that he's a teen he's even more that way.That's hard for me, his mom,but then I think about all the other ways he shows his affection for me and the rest of the family,so it's O.K.
    I know this is painful for you but at least they came and told you how it is instead of having some embarrassing moment.It sounds like your in-laws really care about you a lot.

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  31. Thank you to everyone for your comments - I appreciate it.

    To AnotherAnon - Thank you for pointing out the problem of teacher misconduct with students in the states. I believe that most of the females teachers involved in this typoe of behavior have been in their 20s or early 30s - none have been pushing 60, like me. It's a shame that adults everywhere cannot act responsibly with children. Fortunately the % of Western teachers who act inappropriately with children is very small compared to the entire loving and truly caring teacher population. However despite all these precautions here in KSA & other Islamic countries, as CoolRed pointed out, sexual misconduct with children still exists, although it goes largely unreported.

    To Zahra - You obviously haven't read my blog. This post is not being critical of KSA - I am documenting a struggle that I am dealing with in adjusting to a totally foreign culture. I have written about many of the wonders of KSA in a very positive light. I have been reading about Islam probably since before you were born. Seeing how some of the Islamic teachings have been interpreted and twisted into use here in KSA has only made me question things even more, however. I would suggest that you read my entire blog - you will stop wondering. If your own mother were to move to the US after living in KSA all her life, do you think she would try to accept and embrace her new life there as I have tried to do? Somehow I don't think so...

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  32. Hi Always - Thanks - I am blessed with very patient and very caring in-laws here. If it weren't for them and how wonderful they have been to me and my son, I probably wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of months here.

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  33. Susie--I too was very impressed with the way that your inlaws and Sultan handled this right of passage. They obviously see you as a "keeper", a part of the family worth helping along in your adjustment. That they are sufficiently sensitive and biculturual to do this in such a loving way speaks volumes about them, your husband and own son, and yourself.
    I am similarly blessed, and it makes life alot easier.

    Another Anonymous--some very good points. I would only add that this is the teaching of one form of Islam that is intricately tied to specific cultural and tribal practices.

    Anthrogeek--I echo your praise for the appropriateness of the analogy. While analogies must always be chosen carefully, they are rampant even in "bench science" (a metonymic expression in itself LOL) :)

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  34. Hi Susie- the "rules" around interaction that you described are based on Islam and the concept of mahram. Some cultures follow them, others don't bother, some families follow them, others don't bother.

    My nephew also had to face the transition- I became the only aunt that he was allowed to hug/touch.

    Of course, one doesn't show love/affection to a child only through physical contact :-D

    BTW, the guidelines for "mahram" have implications beyond just touching, including marriage, inheritance etc

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  35. A Canadian ReaderJun 16, 2009, 6:32:00 PM

    One question: Would you subject a daughter to this prison life? You mentioned that you have two children but you moved to SA with your husband and son. Is there a daughter and where is she?

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  36. It isn't just Saudis who are uncomfortable with displays of affection. My own family wasn't very openly affectionate, certainly not when my father was alive. As a child, I never enjoyed being manhandled by kissy aunts.

    My wife comes from a more affectionate family and I still a bit uncomfortable with that.

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  37. Hi Ruhsa - Thanks for the clarification about mahram.

    Hi CanadianReader - My daughter is American and is grown and married with two kids of her own. I met my husband when she was 7, so he has been a prominent presence in her life. If my teenage son would have been a girl, I would NOT have agreed to come here to live.

    Hi Jerry - I know some people in all walks of life aren't comfortable with hugging - and that's ok. Thanks.

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  38. Susie, I admire you. I couldn't do it.

    Is it just me, or are there a ton of "rules", "laws", "ways" etc. to follow there. What happens if you forget and hug him?

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  39. Hi Susie,

    I guess I'm a lurker, I have enjoyed your blog for a long time but never posted a comment. I guess i'm just shy and in my real life I'm not much of a hugger either with anyone other than immediate family.

    I just really wanted to say that I love your blog. I'm an American woman who lived in the middle east for several years and continue to have a love/hate relationship with that world. I think you do a great job

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  40. A Canadian ReaderJun 17, 2009, 4:13:00 AM

    Thanks for the honest answer, Susie.

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  41. As always a very enlightening and interesting post. Very intriguing (and sometimes maddening!) to read of the ways and traditions in SA.

    When do you visit the USA Susie?

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  42. With my brother being one of the exceptions here (he is super huggy), I noticed that a lot of my male relatives became less 'huggier' as they grew up. This was more a reflection of not wanting to appear 'uncool', and usually they reverted back to huggers when they became adults, hehe. This story saddens me more because Sultan certainly appears not to have that self-consciousness that Western male teenagers are ruled by (at least not yet), but has to stick to the 'rules' despite what he may want. But, I guess if a Saudi travelled to Canada and observed how we live over here with our relaxed rules, I guess some would be repulsed, right?

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  43. To me, he is still a boy and I would never ever think of him in an inappropriate way.

    When you're a 13-year-old boy, women of all ages get you excited. It's just a fact of nature. I know it might be a little unsettling to think about, but it's true.

    Great blog, btw. I just started reading it a month or so ago.

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  44. Completely off topic:

    I love the music in this blog.
    :-)

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  45. Oh "Me from America" I couldn't disagree more! Any objective evidence to back that up? Any consideration of different ages of puberty? Any nuance about appropriate objects of desire (even from afar) like teen idols, classmates, "older women" (a high school girl)? Any belief in the value of platonic familial affection?

    Just so not my experience of conversations with adolescents and adults about their tweeny/teeny romantic/sexual lives. (It's my job to ask in ways that help them tell all).

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  46. This is really interesting to me. For someone that has lived in Saudi Arabia all her life, it never really crossed my mind as being an unusual thing. I personally still don't cover from cousins that are younger than me even if they are in college, its more of our family tradition and its different with every family as well. Also there are exceptions to this rule, in Islam women above a certain age (couldn't really tell you right now) that are not interested in marriage or any other "romantic relationship" are able to uncover if they wish to do so. Also another important point that was mentioned is that your husbands nephew isn't really considered your nephew (not a relative of yours at all)

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  47. Me from america said:
    When you're a 13-year-old boy, women of all ages get you excited. It's just a fact of nature. I know it might be a little unsettling to think about, but it's true.




    Wow. Just wow.

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  48. Hi Susie,

    I feel for you in this exchange. If you naturally want to express your affection en famille for a kid (child? Young man -- really?) of whom you're fond, it's sad that your cultures don't agree on this point. But you're doing the right thing in conceding to the family's expectations.

    Not to divert your thread or hog the comments, but I'm an American teacher living in Istanbul, and most of my students will readily identify themselves as Muslim, even though they don't often go to a mosque or pray or any such ritual. They are a fairly secular group in their practices, but still, that religious part of their identity is very important to them, more so than my very nominal "Christian" identity. And you know what? This is the most physically affectionate culture I've ever been in. Teenaged boys link arms as they walk, and have no qualms about being physical with one another that I can see. Girls will wrap their arms around one another in the classroom and give smacking kisses on each others' cheeks like long-lost aunties. Boys and girls hang all over one another in the most uncharged way I've ever seen. I have never even seen this kind of behavior between boys and girls in the U.S., without the boy and girl in question being coupled. And when I lightly teased a boy once about his "girlfriend" here, he was actually offended and corrected me.

    I nearly fell over in shock when I saw students cheek-kissing with their teachers IN SCHOOL, OH MY GOD, but you know what? If the kids like you, they do it almost automatically. When I returned to school this year, I saw some of my former tenth-grade boys in the hall, and as I reached out to pat one of them on the arm, he thought I was going to peck his cheeks, and an awkward lean/don't lean/jump back/shake hands/what now thing occurred that had them all cracking up. I apologized, and they were very tolerant and amused -- like I had some kind of handicap that they wanted to acknowledge in a nice way. This would be very uncomfortable and weird back home, but with the girls, I've come to accept it, and it's the most natural thing here with students that you have a good professional relationship with. Even at an award ceremony today, the principal, deans, and teachers were cheek-kssing certain of the students, on stage, in front of the audience. Muslims all, as far as I know....

    This moving around is an education, isn't it? (shakes head)

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  49. Another Anonymous: 'And desertmoon, the instructions about wearing hijab - or anything else - are for all people at all times. They doesn't change because you're born in America...'

    Susie is NOT a Muslim and shouldn't be expected to cover herself anyway even if you believe that Muslim women should, which is also debatable whether you want to think it is or not.

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  50. How things might change if we allowed a bit more physical contact between one another. We have become so obsessed with the inappropriate that we no longer know what normal should feel like. Maybe we need to try and influence the youngest around the world to view things differently.

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  51. The Queen, start your hijab argument with someone else.

    Desertmoon wrote this:

    "I also have wondered why American Muslims - who are born and raised westerners and taught that they don't marry their first cousins - ever - because they are considered like brothers to us and because it is against the law, would need to cover their heads in front of their cousins."

    My comment was addressed to her, and it wasn't about Susie.

    Another Anonymous

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  52. Well, Another Anonymous, maybe if you hadn't said 'for all people at all times' it would have been more clear.

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  53. Another Anon.....when it comes to Islamic teachings, a lot of people have different interpretations.....just like with the Bible, hence, so many different Christian denominations. I seriously doubt that the Quran gives specific details about who you should hug/kiss at this age, and not hug/kiss at that age. Just like with the hijab, it makes a general statement about women dressing modestly, and NOT: "ALL women MUST wear NIQAB/VEIL and a FLOWING BLACK ROBE that covers EVERYTHING from age 9 until death!"

    *that last part was sarcasm*

    coolred...I LOVE your post and I agree 100%.

    Me from America: Honey, maybe with you it was that way....

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  54. To Eastern reflections.We Muslims follow also the Sunna of our beloved Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh)
    And search in Quran (surah 25 verse
    31)about dressing code.

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  55. Eastern Reflections, contrary to what some commenters here would like to believe, there IS a body of Islamic teachings that comes from the Quran and Sunnah, and from judgments that scholars have made over the years. Some things are open to interpretation and some aren't, and one doesn't just pick and choose what's convenient. If something is agreed upon in all of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, one doesn't just say, "I don't feel like doing that, so it's not part of Islam".

    Muslims who have reached puberty aren't supposed to have physical contact with members of the opposite sex (except mahram - certain close relatives). There's no disagreement about that.

    Muslims should keep in mind that Islam comes from the root word submission - i.e., submitting to God. In doing so, we make this life happier and more peaceful, and work towards Paradise in the next life.

    If Muslim commenters choose to ignore Islamic beliefs and practices themselves, then at the very least they refrain from mocking them.

    Another Anonymous

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  56. Zahra, I did look up that verse. How does that relate to what I mentioned about differing ideas of women's hijab and also the topic of the conversation susis is talking about?

    Another Anon: There is a body of teachings. No one is saying otherwise. What I love the most about Islam is the fact that it says Muslims should always use reason to find the answers and truth. So just because the majority says "yes" doesn't necessarily mean God is saying yes :-) That has nothing to do with being an "enemy against God" or mocking them, thank you :-)

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  57. Just to toss in the mix- not all Saudi families are like this. I am also an American married to a Saudi, in my family there are many women who don't wear hijab, and we do mix as a family (so far with no dire consequences). I hug my teenage nephew- I have since he was born.

    I also don't cover my hair. I did for many years and enough was enough for me. I am not of the Wahabi Sect, and like many muslims I don't believe it is a requirement. But you can get away with stuff more easily after you've been here a long time.

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  58. Eastern Reflections, before people can start making their own fatwas, they need to have an extensive knowledge of the Islamic sciences and the Arabic language. Among the things they would learn is that when there is a consensus among the scholars, it DOES mean that we should follow it.

    In fact, there is a certain body of knowledge that each individual Muslim should have, not to make fatwas but simply for day-to-day living (basic aqeedah,the fiqh of purification and prayer, fasting Ramadan, zakat, etc., fiqh of marriage if you're married, fiqh of trading if you're in business, knowledge of tajweed to recite Quran correctly, etc.) It's not a matter of doing what you feel like, based on your own feelings or the society you grew up in.

    Since Jewel brought up hijab again and considers it a "wahabi" concept, I'll use that example again. ALL schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that hijab is required. "Wahabi" isn't even one of those schools. Read up on the biographies of the scholars that those schools are named after (Imams Malik, Abu Hanifa, Shafii and Ahmed ibn Hanbal - they're amazing men, masha'allah), and then see if you have the qualifications to use your "reason" to challenge something that they, and the scholars who followed them, all agree on.

    Alhamdulillah, Islam is a complete way of life, and we have the guidelines we need to live the best life, if we only would accept them.

    Another Anonymous

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  59. I like the comment from "Me in America" -- a 13 ear-old-boy is excited by every woman no matter what her age. And this is the gravaman. These restrictions are all about men & what they want & what is convenient for them. Forget tryng to find rationalizations for these restrictions. Forget trying to reason with the men who created these restrictions for women. There is no reason other than their "say so." This is not about women . . . it's about men. This situation is ultimate narcissism. They literally do not see a woman as a person, only what she can do for them, & how she can be useful to them & how they can control her to their best advantage. What better symbol for this than the black robe which drapes the entire body & sometimes even the face? But in private, very private spaces -- defined by men -- women may reveal themselves & be valued, protected & cherished? By whom? Her husband. Her daughters. & little boys who are children whom she must care for -- since we all know that men rarely like to "babysit" their own children. How convenient for them that she is able to care for their sons until a certain age! Yes. This is a harsh & cynical interpretation. One of many possibilities in a complex world.

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  60. Luckily, scholars aren't prophets, and schools of thought are an innovation. I know Wahabi isn't a school of thought- it is a sect.

    We have no clergy.

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  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. I never said ANYTHING about people creating their own fatwas. So I guess if all schools of thought agree hijab is important, the Muslimahs who don't wear hijab are not practicing Islam correctly? A good portion of Turkey is in big trouble then! Many other Muslimahs that don't wear hijab, especially those ones that wear it at home, then take it off when abroad for study and/or vacation. And what is the correct way to wear it? Considering the different styles of hijab throughout the Muslim world varies a great deal according to where you are. This conundrum and people's attempts at justifying their ideas is highly amusing. That's all I have to say about this topic.

    And I think it's ridiculous to assume that all 13 year old boys are excited by any woman...I guess that follows in the same line of thinking that all men can't control their lusts, that's why we must protect our jewels (women) and keep them away from every male non-relative. Denigrating boys and men sure won't help anyone's cause.

    Good point, Jewels

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  63. Jewel--good points about familial differences, and the flexibility of being a longer time resident.

    Amazing how "hijab" can become debatable on any post.

    Modesty in anything (dress, hugging) is temporally and spacially determined, as "the scholars" of all schools recognize.

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  64. 'Amazing how "hijab" can become debatable on any post'

    I know, cracks me up when sheeple keep trying to shove it down your throat that is is UNdebatable LOL
    I find those that hold that point of view to be the farthest from the true intent of Islam and the reason for Islam's bad reputation.

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  65. When you commence telling a boy of 12 or 13 that from now on he is forbidden to touch women for any reason because he will not be able to control the sexual feelings he apparently will have...whether he likes it or not...then you are training him to believe that he literally has no control over his sexual urges...and any woman that dares impede on his space for whatever reason...is only asking for it because she should know very well (having been taught by her mother) that men are not capable of controlling themselves.

    Does anyone see anything wrong with that?

    Islam is a complete way of life...as long as your a man and as long as it suits your purposes...other wise its just an inconvience that needs hadith and fatwas to get around the sticky bits...like lower your gaze and be mindful of your modesty.

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  66. Coolred, I think that before you've said you're Muslim, but now I'm confused. So are you?

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  67. The Queen--I should clarify. I meant that it never ceases to amaze me how just about any post can be turned into a debate about hijab, not as modesty overall, but more of a headscarf/face veil fight.

    It is too bad to lose the discussion of familial demonstrations of affection to yet another women's covering debate, even if they are generally related to the concepts of sexuality and modesty.

    Obviously the parametres of covering are debatable and debated, as scholars have done throughout the centuries.

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  68. Chiara: "Obviously the parametres of covering are debatable and debated, as scholars have done throughout the centuries."

    Can you name some scholars (I mean real scholars) who argued against hijab throughout the centuries?

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  69. Culture is such a difficult thing to understand...even within the Caribbean here, I've known friends to laugh / scoff at other West Indian ways.

    As a matter of fact, if you were to live here, in my country, you'd be confused.

    I see many things in developed countries that baffle me.

    You're right about the way Islam has been twisted and reinterpreted there.

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  70. P.S. Many Saudi Arabians, when they're outside of their country, behave disgraceful. I know folks [Muslims] who teach them.

    And I know Muslims from here who've been to Saudi Arabia, and had bad experiences.

    This is for those who want to portray Saudi Arabia as paradise. My point is, no one is exempt from bad behaviour.

    I, personally, would not choose to live there. I am Muslim, by the way.

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  71. Chiara, this post IS about hijab (the concept not the cloth) and it's affect on the loving relationship between an aunt and her nephew and as Coolred said 'training him to believe that he literally has no control over his sexual urges...'

    'Can you name some scholars (I mean real scholars'

    That's the part that really cracks me up, the 'I mean REAL scholars' part. You have to know that no matter who you say debated it they will be classified as not 'real' when every single Muslim is supposed to be their own scholar and use their own brains for 'ilm. Muslims are supposed to go out and seek knowledge from every corner of the Earth not just from 'real scholars' with pre approved opinions.

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  72. re:"real scholars"

    It's a new twist on that old classic, "mine is bigger than yours"

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  73. uh oh Jewels, now you're going to start the debate about how big the beard is supposed to be? LOL

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  74. Anonymous on Sun Jun 21, 01:44:00 PM 2009
    I agree with you about the caveat regarding "real scholars" by which I mean those with serious university level recognized study and accreditation, and validation within a major sect (as opposed to the self appointed interpreter, even one with a "following").
    I didn't mean to imply that any would argue against hijab, only that various schools have interpreted the Quran and Sunnah differently with regards to what specific items of clothing are to cover what specific parts of the body (for hijab in that sense).
    My apologies if I was unclear.

    The Queen on Sun Jun 21, 05:34:00 PM 2009
    I think we are in agreement that the post is on the concept of hijab as modesty, I only expressed the desire that the comments should remain more directed to its application to the idea of physical expression of affection within the family. Afterall, the issue was not whether varying expressions of greeting depended on Susie's state of covering, but rather that once her husband's biological nephew reached a certain age, her physical relationship with him changed (and not because of adolescent shyness).

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  75. Anon...what have I said that confuses you over my religious identity?

    Queen...good point...about the scholars thing.

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  76. Right... so it's clear that none of you can come up with the name of even ONE scholar. (Probably googling now to find something.)

    Coolred, just about everything you write makes me wonder. Mocking the whole idea of hadiths, fatwas, scholars, agreed upon concepts. This idea that any Muslim can make up anything out of their own desires and call it Islam. The sweeping, nasty comments about Muslims and Arabs.

    Another Anonymous

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  77. Another Anonymous--your question (under Anonymous) to me was "Can you name some scholars (I mean real scholars) who argued against hijab throughout the centuries?". My response was that I have never stated that scholars argue against hijab only that what sartorial details constitue modest covering are subject to debate and change over time and place. If you are even minimally aware of the history of Saudi Arabia you must be aware that prior to the late 1970's what was considered appropriate modesty in dress was different than it is now, and both "styles" are based on the advice from contemporary scholars. That should be sufficient proof.

    If not, you have the examples of Iran, Afghanistan (where the definition of hijab has changed dramatically based on scholarship, and politics), or the examples of other Arab Muslim countries where the ruler is also the religious leader, and relies on historic Islamic scholarship and contemporary Islamic scholars to determine various aspects of life in their countries, including both Morocco and Jordan--where both Kings, Mohamed VI and Abdullah, are considered to be descendents of the Prophet.

    In case this is not sufficiently clear, since I never made the claim you asked about I didn't provide the scholars names you so disingenuously requested (disingenuously since I assume you are aware that the answer would be that there are none, or as someone else pointed out there would be none by definition that you would recognize).

    I don't waste my research time (professional or otherwise) or resources (considerably greater than google) on close minded persons given to sarcasm. Your last comment (even more Anonymous, than your usual comments) has undermined you as a commentator in my estimation. That is a shame (as in shameful).

    Bslama

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  78. Sometimes I throw my own bone in the arena when it comes to defending others. But I can tell Chiara and CoolRed can hold their own pretty well, lol.

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  79. Eastern Reflections--your bones are always welcome. LOL :D

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  80. Anon...I do not mock anything...I argue, comment, debate, or just give my own comments and opinions. It is my right to do so and your assumptions that Im making fun of such things just shows YOUR level of understanding of other peoples comments here.

    I take Islam seriously...as Im sure do other people. Religion is no laughing matter...nor something to mock...people get killed for less (unfortunately). If you dont agree with my comments then thats fine...but declaring me not a Muslim (which is really what your doing) is considered takfir...and highly unIslamic...so whose the Muslim now?

    Taking anything and "making it Islam" is not something I'M prone to doing...I leave that up to (some) Imams, (some) scholars, (some)ordinary Muslims who feel they have all the answers and everyone else is... by default...wrong.

    Funny enough I NEVER claim Muslims who believe in certain concepts that I do not as not really Muslims (hijab, segregation whatever) but those very same Muslims are quick to jump on the takfir wagon...when the given the least provocation....whatever.

    I concur with Chiara on this one...whenever a scholar has come out with understandings contrary to the "agreed upon concensus" he or she are automatically considered "westernized" or secretly a non Muslim trying to wreak havoc in Islam...it matters little that they studied the very same texts...the very same sources...the very same history as all those accepted scholars...coming to a differing opinion renders one outside the folds of "real" Islam.

    So no...no scholar can be named that will be accepted by the Holier Than Thous...again...whatever.

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  81. Turabi, and I believe, Khalid abou al Fadl. Karen Armstrong- not a muslim but knows more about it than most Muslims- and is definately a scholar.

    Medieval scholars interpreted for their own time. They were never so misguided as to think their rulings were for all Muslims for all Time. They knew better. And so should we. So all the scholars that seem only in touch with Medieval world? If they don't know about this place we all live in today- then they aren't knowledgable enough for the scholar label. (and again our innovation of clergy...it really is leading us astray.)

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  82. Another Anonymous - with any religion there are always those who choose to take the legalistic approach.

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  83. @anoymous

    "a 13 ear-old-boy is excited by every woman no matter what her age."

    I doubt very many 13 year old boys are excited by 50 year old women. I certainly wasn't. I was barely interested in 30 year old women.

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  84. Coolred, I certainly didn't make takfir on you and I never would. I'm well aware of the consequences.

    Another Anonymous

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  85. Well, at least Jewels tried to name some scholars. A non-Muslim, of course, can't really be on the list, no matter how intelligent she seems and how many books she's written about Islam.

    Turabi was reported to have said that, but in his own words: "Those who stated that Al Turabi denies the wearing of the Islamic veil by woman either did not understand what I said or were not present at the lecture.' In any case, he also says other stange things, like that alcohol is OK as long as you don't get violent. His views have caused the other Muslim scholars in Sudan to regard him as an apostate, and Allah knows best.

    That leaves Khalid abou al Fadl. I don't know whether he actually says that about hijab, but he might, since he often has views that are contrary to agreed upon positions. If he does say it's not required, he's one out of how many scholars over the years? Hundreds of thousands? Also, do you know what his Islamic education is? I know that he had some, in Kuwait, but all of his degrees are from American universities.

    Another Anonymous

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  86. He has an extensive Islamic education- go look it up yourself. And yes, a knowledgeble non-Muslim can have a lot of weight with me- because they are less ignorant than many "accepted" scholars.

    Generally I distrust Islamic education from Wahabi Institutions- so what's wrong with an American Islamic background?

    Turabi- a character to be sure, and I don't always agree with him BUT I think he is a Muslim. They always declare a scholar an "apostate" when he disagrees. This is how they maintain "consensus of the scholars" which is another innovation because the prophet only called for consenses.

    Anyway, if you want to adopt class-status relevent(remember Muslim slave women were not supposed to cover)Byzantium dress codes- go ahead by all means.

    Some more...Amina Waddud, Fatma Mernissi -sorry if I spell them wrong. According to a friend of mine most of the Sheik's she spoke to when she lived in Syria...and the Quran which only specific directs to cover your cleavage. Yes- with a "khmmer" but no reference to how the "khimmer" was actually being worn- Even if it was on the head do you seriously expect me to believe that women were concealing every bit of hair while exposing their breasts? Or do I believe headcover in the dessert was standard but they were meant to cover their breasts? I believe Allah fully capable of saying what he means. And what he said was be modest- cover your cleavage. Really straightforward.

    I can't believe how every religious discussion online or in person decends into this. The pro-hijab person always has to toss it in.

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  87. Oh...and I didn't "try" to name some scholars. I named them. I know, I know, "yours are bigger than mine" enjoy!

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  88. Fatema or Fatima Mernissi (Arabic: فاطمة مرنيسي‎), the Moroccan feminist sociologist, and professor (l'Univerité Mohamed V) has her own website:
    http://www.mernissi.net/

    Beyond The Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society
    is her publication from her PhD thesis (Brandeis University, 70's)
    and has a review of the roles of women in pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabia


    Sultanes oubliées:Femmes chefs d'Etat en Islam
    [Forgotten Queens of Islam--ie women rulers in Islam over centuries] is also interesting as are a number of other of her books, including her fictionalized autobiography ("Dreams of Trespass"), and social development projects. All are accessible, along with interviews and other info via her website.

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  89. "He has an extensive Islamic education- go look it up yourself."

    I've looked it up before and never been able to find anything specific. I see "formal Islamic education", but I could say I've had formal Islamic education, and so could my kids; that doesn't mean much. He got his degrees from American universities, at the normal ages, so I'm just curious as to when he fit in all that Islamic education.

    Just for the record, I almost never find myself discussing hijab in real life. I know Muslim women who wear it, and others who don't - but they don't deny that it should be worn. The reason I keep discussing it here is because there are repeated comments giving wrong information. It's not right that people who come to this blog not knowing about Islam are given incorrect information.

    Another Anonymous

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  90. These debates are enlightening and I have learned a lot, but they are also good at reinforcing why organized religion and I sometimes do not agree :/

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  91. "It's not right that people who come to this blog not knowing about Islam are given incorrect information." -exactly.

    Dr. Al Fadl, had formal Islamic training in Kuwait and Egypt as well as being a Professor teaching Islamic law at UCLA.

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  92. Ahhh...once again...you cannot be considered a true scholar if your Islamic education did not arise from the heart of the Islamic world...aka Saudi (with wahabbi tendencies) or Egypt aka Al Azhar...because nowhere else in the world do they know as much as those two places when it comes to Islam.

    Funny enough...those two places produce some of the more extreme Muslims...go figure.


    If Im not mistaken Khalid al Fadl was held in detention in Egypt for his desire to promote a less then extreme version of Islam...even though his background up til then had been of the more extreme nature.

    People change...and thats a good thing.

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  93. I also wonder how someone can be a scholar if they are not well-versed in the realities of the modern world and modern knowledge. How can you interpret things correctly if you are ignorant of those things? I don't need medieval interpretations because I don't live in a medieval world (well sort of- it is KSA after all).

    When Bin Baz thought the world was flat and said you were outside Islam if you believe otherwise- well- how can that person really be respected?

    And I believe Al Fadl studied at Al Azhar.

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  94. That's right. Studying law in the U.S. doesn't make one an Islamic scholar. Being a Moroccan feminist sociologist isn't the same as being an Islamic scholar. A non-Muslim ex-nun writing about Islam is not an Islamic scholar.

    We don't even know if el-Fadl says that hijab is not required.

    And I know that "most of the sheikhs in Syria" don't say that; can you come up with any names there?

    I'm not a follower of Bin Baz, but he didn't say the earth was flat and not spherical, although it's a popular story. Muslim scientists knew 1000 years ago that the earth was round, including ibn Taymiyyah, someone that bin Baz referred to often. Not to mention that the Quran described the earth as being round - so it would have been strange if he did say that. Even if he did, I don't know what that has to do with this...

    Another Anonymous

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  95. assalamu alaykum

    this is not about "culture", it's about religion. The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam) never shaked hands with women.... that's why... but I know what Susie means, it does seem strange at the beginning but alhamdulillah :)

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  96. He studied Islamic law in the US and Al Azhar. Why aren't the others examples scholars? What is exactly the definition of "scholar" cause you make it sound more and more like "clergy" which we don't have.

    The prophet used to hold hands with women when accepting their pledges of loyalty. And he had a female friend and he would go to her house and lay his head in her lap so she could look for lice and he sometimes fell asleep. Interesting the commentary on this hadith (Bukhari) was only to assure us that the prophet didn't have lice.

    After more research it is true Bin Baz said those remarks were not true. So I don't know if he said them or not. However I personally read a lot of twaddle in a book he wrote on education and he has no credibility with me whatsoever.

    Read off the beaten medieval track a bit. There is so much out there.

    Most cultures have been mysogynistic throughout the centuries- scholars interpret through a cultural lens. If I can find non-mysogynistic scholars, as some parts of humanity progress- that's where I am going. Forward- not back.

    These medieval people may be able to pass law, or even be the majority in Islamic jurisprudence- but that doesn't make them morally correct- or their rulings (fatwahs) valid for all time.

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  97. Jewels--you are welcome.

    Al-Turabi's education is easy to find: "He attended Khartoum University from 1951-1955, graduating with a B.A. degree. London School of Economics 1955-1957 where he earned a M.A. in Law, and Sorbonne, Paris, 1959-1964 where he earned Ph.D. in Law." (from Wiki via Google, ie accessible to all). Whatever else the man is SMART (LSE and the Sorbonne being hard to get into especially at that level)!

    "...he is a lawyer trained in the Common Law whose doctoral thesis is on the role of emergency powers in a liberal state." (from The Sudan Foundation http://reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/SKAR-65ADW6?OpenDocument)

    Dr Khalid Abou Al Fadl: "He holds degrees from Yale University (B.A.), University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D.) and Princeton University (M.A./Ph.D.). He also received formal training in Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt and Kuwait." (Wiki via Google accessible to all). "Professor Abou El Fadl was trained in Islamic legal sciences in Egypt, Kuwait, and the United States" (from his UCLA faculty website, available to all).

    Doctoral Dissertation(probably harder to find): "The Islamic law of rebellion: The rise and development of the juristic discourses on insurrection, insurgency and brigandage" by Abou El Fadl, Khaled Medhat, Ph.D., Princeton University, 1999, 432 pages --thesis director Dr Andras Hamori, another brilliant one, and a Near Eastern medievalist, oh oh I feel the urge to do another doctorate coming on!

    Seems the 2 share the common fault of being "too progressive", for the taste of some, and both are definitely book smart and trained.

    Scholars of this calibre (including Mernissi) are fully capable of accurately rendering the writings of "Islamic Scholars" whether they are considered such or not.

    Ibn Baaz--self taught by reading, and learning from various Saudi scholars, one of whom appointed him as a judge and he rose up the ranks of the judiciary. Another relatively progressive one it seems, who was misidentified as being a geocentrist by an evolutionary biologist, perhaps in an attempt at character assassination.

    Thanks all, for introducing me to these men. If my husband kills me for doing another doctorate, well, you know who you are... LOL :)

    Now perhaps we can resume discussion of the physical expression of affection among non-mahrem family members. :)

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  98. Some people don't seem to understand the nature of Islamic scholars.

    No one can just study some parts of Islam and starts to say what's right or wrong about everything in it.

    Also, every fatwa must be tested by the evidence. So, in an argument if someone quoted a fatwa, it's not a proof in itself.

    People here argued with the opinions of AlTurabi and Abu AlFadl. The fact that no one found any known scholar in the Islamic world and history who said a similar opinion in such basic teaching, is an evidence in itself!.

    Also, in Islam you can't make a fatwa against the consensus "Ijmaa'", which is the case here.

    One last thing, AlTurabi said he was misunderstood and he never said that!. And i never found that Abu AlFadl said that either.

    Mu -Riyadh

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  99. I know you are aware of how difficult it can be in a different culture. A memeber of CDP http://tehranlive.org/
    has gone missing. There are many articles on the news channels here is the Life report
    http://www.life.com/image/first/in-gallery/28782/eyewitness-from-tehrans-streets
    Can we help find him?

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  100. Mu-Riyadh--good to read you again! :)

    This time I am confused though. Ibn Baaz was falsely accused of saying the earth is flat. Were the others also falsely accused of that or did you mean something they said about the hijab?

    I, for one, agree that hijab, modest dress is obligatory, and that is believed by all scholars. However, they do seem to disagree on just how much covering of what body parts (except for the obvious parts of the body's corps or trunk)is required. Even the Hadith are debated as to what exactly was intended by them and the Quranic verses, how to translate them to contemporary dress, and exact word meanings for bosom, adornments, veils, etc.

    I look forward to your clarifications.

    And in the realm of the silly, congratulations, yours was the 100th comment on this thread!! :)

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  101. Chiara, go back and read my comments. Or I'll just repeat it here: "Turabi was reported to have said that, but in his own words: 'Those who stated that Al Turabi denies the wearing of the Islamic veil by woman either did not understand what I said or were not present at the lecture.'

    So we're down to Abou el-Fadl. Maybe... because no one can find out whether or not he says it.

    The only disagreements among the scholars are about the face, hands and feet. There's a consensus on covering the rest of the body.

    Another Anonymous

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  102. "A non-Muslim, of course, can't really be on the list, no matter how intelligent she seems and how many books she's written about Islam."

    And I take it that born Muslims growing up all their life in an Islamic-dominated environment know tons more.....so no need for Islamic scholars either!......right?

    isn't that called ethnocentrism? Or is there another word for it???? religio-centrism??? lol

    coolred, good point :-)

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  103. Another Anonymous--Thank you, I assume you are clarifying on behalf of both Mu-Riyadh and yourself. Hopefully Mu-Riyadh will also comment further.

    My comment was only to share with those who seemed to have trouble finding it, the studies and training of the scholars named, and to clarify how poor Ibn Baaz came to be falsely accused re: geo-centrism.

    I still don't presume to try to find any scholars who deny hijab, yet there is more than debate just about hands, face and feet, as I stated above in the same comment in which I address Mu-Riyadh.

    Somehow Mo's comment about disappeared Iranian photojournalists makes this discussion seem arcane (although I realize it isn't).

    Perhaps Susie will resurface to let us know if she is now too busy hugging US nephews to comment further on this topic.

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  104. Bin Baz said enough other nonsense to discredit himself. We still have Karen Armstrong, Amina and Fatimah who have said hijab is not a requirement as well as many many historians.

    Still waiting for the specific definition of "scholar" and the Quranic evidence on which the requirements are based. That would help tremendously.

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  105. "People here argued with the opinions of AlTurabi and Abu AlFadl. The fact that no one found any known scholar in the Islamic world and history who said a similar opinion in such basic teaching, is an evidence in itself!."- Another anon

    A couple others were mentioned you reject-so, this is evidence? Of what? of the blind following of Medieval interpretations? The treating of ancient scholars as though their words are nearly prophetic? To the scholars credit- they never made any such claims that their rulings and opinion were somehow eternal or unchanging. Their modern followers, however love to control people, and have turned themselves into clergy,

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  106. Leila Ahmed, Javid Ahmed Ghamidi, John Esposito, Reza Aslan.

    I'm sure you'll find something wrong with them- that's fine. But it gives people a chance to look for themselves if they choose, and not to just swallow everything they're told.

    Believe it or not I've got other things I have to get to doing-so enjoy. Also remember though these are_Minority opinions "consensus" is NOT the same as "majority".

    Back to topic. Obviously you should never hug someone who is uncomfortable with it for any reason. And most boys/men in this culture are that way. I think it is sad. I hug my nephew-many extended family women hug my teen-age son, and I am glad of it. I do think things here revolve way to much around sex and control- but apparently they are a society obsessed.

    Really people male and female should hug those they are comfortable with. With all the homosexual behavior going on here-
    I don't feel my son shoud be obliged to hug any man,teacher, older boy- that makes him feel uncomfortable for any reason. And if he is comfortable with a hug from his female cousin that's fine with me.

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  107. im sorry it's hard for you :( despite being an american convert, i've always loved this aspect of islam and when i noticed my nephew hitting puberty started wearing hijab infront of him even though he wasnt yet 13. i guess since you're used to showing the affection you feel through certain ways it's really hard for you to have to let go of that! im sure he knows how much you love him anyway!

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  108. "People here argued with the opinions of AlTurabi and Abu AlFadl. The fact that no one found any known scholar in the Islamic world and history who said a similar opinion in such basic teaching, is an evidence in itself!."- Another anon

    I didn't write that; Mu-Riyadh did. But he or she is right.

    In general, an Islamic scholar is someone who is well-versed in the Islamic sciences, not only something like sociology or American law.

    It should go without saying that the person has to be Muslim. People like John Esposito and Karen Armstrong might have interesting things to say about Muslims and Islam, but you can't take your deen from them.

    And given that the source texts are in classical Arabic, the person has to be fluent in Arabic. Reading the tiny fraction of works that has been translated into English (and sometimes translated with a bias, at that) doesn't make it.

    Ignoring the huge body of scholarship over the centuries, to pick something that Fatima Mernissi or Karen Armstrong or Amina Wadud said, because it validates what one wants to do in the first place, is not following Islam.

    And I have read books by most of these people. I think that many of us Western converts, unfortunately, pick up those kind of books instead of actually studying the Book of Allah, for example. But studying deen is learning Arabic, memorizing Quran and studying its tafseer, and studying tajweed, aqeedah, tafseer, hadith, tajweed, fiqh, Islamic history, etc. - from the scholars and classical books in those fields.

    Then one can read those books, and have a basis with which to evaluate them.

    I love you sisters for the sake of Allah, and I urge you to seek knowledge in the right places. On the Judgment Day, I wouldn't want to try to justify something by saying that a book by Karen Armstrong told me to do it that way.

    Another Anonymous

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  109. Hi Chiara, nice to see you again too

    Another Anonymous already answered, it's the agreement on hijab in general what i refer to here

    ..

    Jewels

    You really have to read about "Ijmaa'" (consensus) in Islam, it's different than what you imagined.

    ..

    I'm in a hurry now, I'll come back again for more (inshallah).

    Mu - Riyadh

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  110. Jewels X3 and M.J.--excellent points!

    Another Anonymous--
    "In general, an Islamic scholar is someone who is well-versed in the Islamic sciences, not only something like sociology or American law."
    These are not mutually exclusive, and Al Fadl and other academics have demonstrated by their dual training.

    "And given that the source texts are in classical Arabic, the person has to be fluent in Arabic. Reading the tiny fraction of works that has been translated into English (and sometimes translated with a bias, at that) doesn't make it."

    All PhD level academics are required to have native or near native fluency in their source materials ie in this case Arabic. Both Al Fadl and Mernissi are native speakers/readers/writers.

    "Ignoring the huge body of scholarship over the centuries,... is not following Islam."
    As is ignoring contemporary scholarship, since Islam is not fossilized.

    "But studying deen is...from the scholars and classical books in those fields."
    As academic scholars do.

    For the record, I am not a Karen Armstrong fan, and don't consider her a scholar, but rather a knowledgeable, high level journalist who serves a useful transitional role.

    Jewels--very considerate to offer more names in this spirit. Leila Ahmed is already on my to be read more list.

    Mu-Riyadh--ah, on that part we are in agreement, then. Come back feessa (soon)! LOL :D

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  111. So, what's the definition of a Muslim scholar?

    Whats are the qualifications?

    Is it an academic degree?

    Is anyone who studied a course or took a diploma or even had his PhD in an Islamic specialty is qualified to be an Islamic scholar who gives fatwa?

    To know the answer you need to know what sources Muslims take their religion from, and how.

    And so, to make a fatwa, you need to have the tools for it.

    I want to give some examples here

    "Another Anonymous" mentioned the fluency in Arabic language, and because many people don't understand the situation of Arabic language in the modern ages, they will not understand the true meaning here.

    A scholar needs to comprehend Arabic to have the right understanding of Islamic sources. And i repeat, COMPREHEND, not only read or speak.

    Arabic is a beautiful language, you might not face a problem in speaking it, but to know the wide meanings of its words or its grammar is a very different thing. And currently, the vast majority of Arabs don't reach that level. Actually, most of them don't even speak the standard Arabic.

    The Quran is the main source in Islam. But, to read Quran is one thing, and to extracts the rulings from it is a different thing. The verses are associated with different circumstances and surroundings which a scholar must be fully aware of when interpreting them.

    Another example of what a scholar must have is the knowledge of Hadith (the sayings of the prophet). Muslims believe that Hadith _unlike Quran_ is unprotected against additions and alterations. So, every hadith needs to be studied (regarding the chain of the narrators and the actual wording), evaluated, and then categorized, and this is a very amazing and complicated process. Every category has it's own way and level of effect in the evidence.

    Another knowledge is the knowledge of "Naskh", which "involves the replacement (tabdīl) of an earlier verse/tradition (and thus its embodied ruling) with a chronologically successive one".

    And the list goes on.

    You can see that simple study and research isn't enough to reach the level of a scholar in Islam without the necessary tools.

    And even after that, his opinions will be challenged and his evidence will be tested, and it remain a work of men, where an error is possible.

    Mu - Riyadh

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  112. I am really tired of traditional Muslims making the remarks like,

    "Ignoring the huge body of scholarship over the centuries, to pick something that Fatima Mernissi or Karen Armstrong or Amina Wadud said, because it validates what one wants to do in the first place, is not following Islam."

    How do you know that is what we're doing- just because we disagree? and who are you to judge?

    Well, I could just as easily say the same. You all just want to cling to the established parameters. Some of you do whatever you can to shore up your control over women. Some of you feel more comfortable with a little checklist of things you're doing right because you are so fundamentally insecure you can't NOT have that list. Some of you even like to compare and try to make yourselves superior to others. You have a longer list of "do's" and "don’t's" and it makes you feel superior.

    This is what you 'want' to believe. Because you are so scared that your faith can't survive the realization that so much of what is being put forward is garbage.

    You have enshrined old rulings, enshrined schools of thought, enshrined tafseer etc. and made them sacred and can't let them go because you have made THEM Islam. To lose them is to lose your faith.

    Allah is so much better than that….Islam is so much better than that. Why make it so small?

    Mu- in Riyadh:
    lets just suffice it to say I understand ijmaa differently than you do. No need to assume I'm ignorant because I'm different.

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  113. You're welcome Chiara. Agree or disagree, I hope you find them worthwhile.

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  114. Mu-Riyadh--if you are defining Islamic scholars as those recognized as having the qualifications to make a fatwa, that is one very specific definition.

    PhD Academic scholars in Islamic studies, do meet language requiremments to be able to comprehend Quranic Arabic, and the other forms of Arabic and narrative analysis skills necessary to comprehend the Hadith and later scholars.

    Naskh is the correct term thank you, for what I meant in part by "Islam is not fossilized", as well as not being fossilized in that as you say the hadith are not closed to examination.

    Those scholars I have called "dually trained" have the necessary instruction from respected Imams rather than academics to have the tools you suggest for fatwah making, or refrain from fatway making.

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  115. Sorry about the typos above--finger hit publish before brain could proofread.

    Jewels--thanks again. Agreeing, disagreeing constructively, and agreeing to disagree make for good intellectual/spiritual stimuli!

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  116. Chiara ..

    That's true, i was talking about those who make fatwa.

    "Scholar" is a very wide term, but i was referring to a specific type of scholars whom are at the point of interest here, they're what we call "Mujtahideen" (from: Ijtihad)

    I'm not saying that someone with a PhD can't be a scholar, i said that there are requirements for fatwa, i mentioned some of them. It doesn't matter where do you get them.

    But again, it's not an academic degree, because a scholar needs to be a Muslim, to have Taqwa, to follow the evidence, ..., and such things can't be gained in college.

    Mu - Riyadh

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  117. Susie, how can you stand it there? Why don't you come home? Or can't you? Are you free to travel whenever you would like? Sorry for all the questions, I just found your blog.

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  118. When its mentioned that "context" must be considered...if the Quran is for all people for all time...then context shouldnt be required because we no longer live in 6th century Arabia...and shouldnt have to leave our understanding of the world...of each other...and how to relate etc in the hands of patriarchal men who saw no problems treating women, non Arabs, and non muslims as less than...and that obviously shows in their "scholarship".

    Islam is supposedly for all people for all time...and time doesnt stand still...its moving and changing and new ideas come along while old ideas fall away...the Quran is supposed to be a miracle...miracles should need no explanation...they just are. To explain a miracle changes it from a miracle to a normal everyday occurance. Nothing amazing there.

    Scholars work hard for their degrees etc...just like everyone else who strives towards academic excellence...but what they understand...the conclusions they come to... are not written in stone...in the end they are ONLY opinions. Opinions we can take or leave...because God grants us the right to choose, to understand, to learn for ourselves and come to our own conclusions based on what we have learned...and be held accountable for those understandings and the actions we took.

    There is no clergy in Islam....there is no Pope...there is a body of scholarship that we have at our disposal...to aid us...but in the end...we stand alone on Judgement Day.

    *continued

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  119. *continued

    If I or anyone chooses to believe differently from the concensus...then why do you (general you) feel you have the right to label us outside the collective understanding...therefore weak or following our nafs etc? What gives you the right to KNOW you are right and to KNOW I am wrong?

    My Islam tells me that God is a Merficul and Benovolent God that wouldnt create women then order them to cover their heads simply because He also created men with hightened sexual awareness of womens hair and bodies...and created them unable to control simple body functions...but funny enough He created women with that very same ability (sexual awareness)but we are expected to be more in control, we are expected not only to control ourselves...but to make it easier on the men by removing ourselves from their vision so they dont have to struggle in the first place with their sexual urges...sounds like a freakin unfair god to me...but that aint MY God...might be yours...and thats fine if you accept it...I dont accept that my status as a women is in anyway inferior to a mans...I dont accept that men are highly sexualized creatures that need constant pampering and coddling so that we dont lead them astray with our voices, our bodies, our smells, our very existence. Controlling a mans sexual urges in NOT a womans job.

    Covering my hair so that men are not viewing my "beauty" is just a an excuse for men to misbehave when they do see hair....or even if they dont...it sexualizes women for a creature that supposedly has no control over his sexual urges and apparently is not expected to.

    Way to go God...you really pulled a doozy on us women. Made us soooo freakin sexy...men have no choice but to resort to animilistic behavoir...despite having the VERY SAME CODES OF CONDUCT that women are subject too...but men are not required to cover their hair etc from us...why is that? Are women not sexual beings as well...do we not find men sexually appealing...doesnt a strand of curly hair that tapers at the neck of a man turn us on and make us want to reach out and invade the space of that man and take what we want...simply because his hair is sexy and we have NO control over our sexual urges?

    Why is it believed that women by and large CAN control themselves sexually...but men by and large cannot? Sounds like a huge distortion of Gods message...a message that has been shoved down the throats of Muslim women for centuries...and by and large...they swallow it without a murmur of protest...and argue with women (and men) that choose not too and decide to look for an answer or definition or understanding that falls more in line with a Loving and Benevolent God who considers both genders equal and accountable.

    I reiterate...controlling a mans sexual urges is NOT a womans job..its his...hands down no debate about it...its his. That being the case...the hijab should be absolutely irrelevant. If a woman wants to wear it for whatever reasons...then all is good...but to declare that God requires it of us simply because we are women...well hell...that just sounds so absolutely WRONG...and I dont even understand how women can believe in that...but at least I concede that fact that YOU can...why cant you accept the fact that I dont have to as well?

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  120. Coolred
    I understand what you are saying. It never used to bother me if people understand things differently than I do-only if they tried to compell me to be like them. I like to assume people are doing there best- the same that I do and Allah will judge where judging is necessary.

    But so many seem to feel if you are different you are somehow deficient in character or knowledge. The incredible intolerance is really sad- but to me really says more about their own insecurities.

    "Al Rahman-Al Raheem". Powerful, meaningful, holy words.

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  121. You can believe anything you want. What you shouldn't do is come on public forums - especially where there are many non-Muslims who are coming to learn about a culture they don't understand - and mislead people by insisting that your beliefs are Islam if they'e not.

    Readers here get the impression that women in Saudi are miserable creatures with no life, forced to cover themselves, always afraid that they're going to be victims of honor killings... I understand that Susie sees things as somewhat of an outsider, but Muslims should try to explain that it's not the way it is - not pass on more distortions.

    Another Anonymous

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  122. another anon:
    "You can believe anything you want. What you shouldn't do is come on public forums - especially where there are many non-Muslims who are coming to learn about a culture they don't understand - and mislead people by insisting that your beliefs are Islam if they'e not."

    Unbelievable arogance. But YOU can go on public forums? Because you are the accurate describer of Islamic beliefs? Do you not get that people who disagree with you think that YOU are the misled- misleading others?

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  123. That's just it Jewels. I believe thay they really, honestly just do not have a clue. That is how deep their arrogance goes.

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  124. Anon...so how about get some of those child brides on here to comment about how wonderful it is to be sold off to old men by their own fathers. Happens in Saudi with consent from authorities since no one stops it unless someone pitches a fit.

    Ask them if life in Saudi as a women is wonderful.

    I agree with Jewels...your understanding and interpretation of Islam is NOT the only one out there..to believe it to be so is the one with distortions to over come.

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  125. if you want to see fake muslim converts, come to this blog. all of them gather here to attack ISLAM, but in appearance they claim to be muslims !!

    no wonder Munaafiqs (hypocrites) in the the bottom of hell.

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  126. I haven't seen any fake muslim converts here Ismail. Or anyone claiming to be a Muslim attacking Islam- Or hypocrites-

    I see people disagreeing on how to understand certain things and I see people disagreeing on what is cultural and what is religious.

    Though I may be uncomfortable with how some people understand Islam- I would never judge others in that way- that is for ALLAH to do.

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  127. Dear Susie,

    I am living in Aramco Camp Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

    When I was younger I used to kiss and hug women (all relative or not, Mhram or not (Mhram means no way to marry)).

    put when the symptoms of puberty started to be noticed. I felt in myself I have to be a little bit away and keep distant with all women except the non marriageable relative.

    I felt sorry at the beginning for short period put I became happy now. You know what made me happier that all women I used to greet by kissing still greeting respecting and loving me without touch and they appreciate my puberty and why I am keeping distance.

    So please Susie accept Sultan as he is, I am sure he still loves you as he used to don’t let him feel that his puberty is making you unhappy and lower you love to him.


    By the way, this is the first time I see your blog and I really like it.

    Madhi

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  128. I always tell my kids that the devil is the biggest prude and wants to make us feel dirty about the things God designed in us, so there are bad laws, an attitudes that makes people feel dirty about sex etc, and that gives people like Hugh Hefner have a monopoly on sex, and then people learn to look at it all like it's dirty and shameful, an not a gift from God to be respected, treasured and guarded with reverence, but not shame.

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  129. http://mimizwords.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/%d9%84%d9%88-%d9%83%d9%86%d8%aa-%d8%b1%d8%ac%d9%84%d8%a7%d9%8b-if-i-were-a-man/#comments

    Thought this might interest you..

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