Later this May it will be a year since my essay 'War Stories,' was published in the Seal Press anthology, Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality. Nothing has changed. At least on the surface.
The world is still at war, trapped in an ever escalating cycle of violence. And women--not just Muslim women--are just still being victimized for many reasons. Killed for honor, killed for dowry, flogged for studying in Afghanistan, held down and had their genitals excised for purity, living in captivity for venturing outside the home...for resistance. It all boils down to one reason: they are killed because they are women.
The women in the anthology spanned the globe, representing almost every continent. They cut across not only racial and demographic lines but also in their degree of Muslimness. From the pious to the profane, from very Muslim to barely Muslim, all were represented. From essays to art, to memoirs and poetry, this slim volume has it all.
To me it was a work that reached behind the Muslim veil to uncover a world teeming with many and contradictory ideas. Personally for me, while writing War Stories, I broke many taboos.
I've always written honestly about myself --whether in my blog or in articles and stories--but it was in bits and pieces, vignettes. No one could really put an entire picture together. No one knew me. Now I was about to rip that away. In 'War Stories' there was no anonymity to hide behind, no disguise. This was my own story, my journey...and my resistance.
There are others braver than I, others who have resisted and overcome more, and I can only appreciate them when I think of the fear that came to the surface each time I started down to write this essay.
Fear about what my family might think and say, fear even if some crazy fundamentalist types might come knocking, fear of hurting others by my writing. I cannot even imagine the struggles of the others who wrote in the same anthology: the lesbian struggling to come out, the Afghan woman trying to make sense of her world.
In the end I am glad I wrote it, glad it was published and glad it was reviewed well. But I am most glad when I think of my own small triumph: my own resistance.
So, every May, from now on I will celebrate my resistance while thinking of those who cannot resist, those who die for resisting and those whose voices we never hear because they are stifled even as they resist inside. And I realize that wars will continue and become more violent, more tragic and yet sadly mundane. The only thing that ultimately matters is our own resistance to violence and to its insiduous reach.
Here's an excerpt from my essay:
"How do I define war? How do I redefine it? Is that even possible? For years war has been the fear that follows my mother even into her later years. Fear that blossoms like daisy-cutters in my dreams. It is being violently uprooted from long-held anchors like home, family, city, nation, and comfort. It is the understanding that places that were havens can become killing grounds, in an instant. Wars don’t even have to be fought between countries. They are fought within them, between people who live side by side. They can be fought between strangers or between brothers. Wars unleash machines of destruction from afar like mega video games. You can look straight into the eyes of your killer and he can feel the warmth of your blood on his hands before you die. War has to be felt and experienced. And it still might never make sense. Living in a culture and in a time where war is part of the constant narrative it is no wonder that its stories haunt me, though I am lucky enough never to have experienced it first-hand. "