CIP Greetings on International Day of Solidarity With Working Women [The original name of International Women’s Day] by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz March 8, 2017

German Socialist poster, 1914

The Center for Islamic Pluralism has always stood first, among Muslim activists, with the women combatants of Kurdistan, the victims of and fighters against the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and women organizing for their rights in Saudi Arabia.

“If women are educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”

— Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792

Why is the hijab becoming trendy in Indonesia while many in Saudi Arabia & Iran hope they don’t have to wear it (but are obliged by law)?

Glorious greetings to all the women in the world, but especially to Muslim mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, lovers, coworkers, teachers, medical personnel, feminist and gender activists, and employees, on International Women’s Day!

Faddism about hijab has become common throughout the global Islamic and Muslim-majority communities. While in some instances it is an expression of personal identity or defensiveness about Islam, female cover remains an unsettled issue in Islam. In countries like Indonesia I believe the role of foreign money in supporting such phenomena remains significant.

It is a paradoxical issue in that Muslims should support the right of women to make these decisions for themselves. But there are recognized restraints. Should Muslim sisters maintain hijab if it draws negative attention to them and to the community? Should Muslim women embrace or even subvert cover as an affirmation of feminine power?

I believe with absolute faith that Muslim women will lead the greatest effort at social transformation in human history. Every Muslim should participate in this true jihad with the greatest possible effort and energy. By Allah and the sakinah, women’s power for ever and ever!

Yarsani Kurdish women, a model for sisters everywhere.

If you are gay or a woman would you be worried if your state turned majority Muslim?

Transgender participants in the first Pride Parade in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2014, one year after the BD government of Shaikha Hasina granted transgenders constitutional status as a third gender. In a Muslim country! Alhamdulillah! Image from the Daily Mail.

Selamaleykum warahmetallahuh wabarakatuh!

Greetings to all people of sincerity, regardless of religion or lack thereof.

Full honor to our sister Selma for her articulate, common sense approach to this incendiary topic.

The question is deeply offensive by its ridiculous stupidity, and embarrassing for Americans who have failed to engage with Islam as it is, amid a bloody, global conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims.

In my view, based on extensive travel and study, Islam is the most diverse religion, though both the external and internal enemies of the faith try to deny it.

Radical fundamentalists claiming the mantle of Sunnism declare there is ONE ISLAM. One Allah, One Qur’an, One Islam is the slogan in many places. Islam-haters revel in citing such arguments to assert that all Muslims are jihadi. Said anti-Islam agitators want to silence Muslims like me more than they want to silence the extremists.

And there is most certainly One Unique Creator, Alone Worthy of Worship.

But I believe the claim that there is One Qur’an, or that the sacred rescript can only be “understood” in Arabic, is false.

Kosovar Albanian Muslims look at their heritage of Qur’an translations as a source of spiritual consolation and cultural inspiration. They are disappointed when handed a free Wahhabi edition of Qur’an from Saudi Arabia because it does not move them as their old Albanian version always has.

This is, to me, irrefutable proof that there is one Qur’an but that it has many faces and tongues. Where do we go with this?

I argue that we must recognize and study what happens when Qur’an is translated. It is not enough to send clerics-in-training to the Gulf states, Pakistan, or Malaysia, where they are drilled in the Arabic-language canonical texts.

I declare that the Divine Word is like an unimaginably, “cosmically” beautiful young woman who clothes Herself in different garments to express her identity and deepen the love of those devoted to Her.

When this woman appears among the Kurds, she may speak a form of Sorani Kurdish that is like birdsong.

When she visits the Muslim Slavs, she communicates in a purified, delicate idiom redolent of deep affection and a refined physical love between beings that seek to enter a kind of dual state, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Many Slavic Muslim songs combine religious ecstasy with a visceral erotic humor. Outsiders seldom grasp this.

Example: in Bosnian literature, I know of a war veteran author who, after suffering horrifically during the 1992–95 war, wrote of his experience as a refugee in America.

He describes getting drunk in a U.S. vets’ bar in Chicago and then singing the Balkan love song “Moj Dilbere.” In the lyrics the impassioned lover asks to be taken to the market and handed over to the boys who work there, as in the passage of The Song of Songs in which the (obviously female) narrator describes the absence of her lover driving her from her bed to the walls of Jerusalem, where the guards “slut-shame” her, to adopt an anachronism. I thank them sincerely for liberating millions, but American vets swilling cheap beer and waiting to watch sports on the big screen above the bar know nothing of the tender feelings of Balkan lovers, much less the verses of Solomon.

Now here’s the rub: the Turkish word dilber, which means “pretty one,” is applied to any lover, with a hint of the illicit, in Bosnia. A Bosnian man may have a female dilber and a Bosnian woman may have a male dilber. But among Albanians a dilber is only a homosexual companion. And there are many Albanian-language romantic, erotic, and spiritual songs about the joys of a dilber. Albanians do not obsess over gay issues.

“But… but… but…! How can that be? Muzz don’t hang queers? NO NO NO Muzz gotta hang queers so we can have our self-righteous gay/feminist/leftwing/rightwing bigotfest!!! WE GOTTA FEEL GOOD ABOUT US AND BAD ABOUT MUZZ!!!”

And how do ignorant and self-righteous Americans who bleat “we don’t know what’s happening in Islam,” in the manner of Fearless Leader Trump, claim to know everything about Islamic views of gender and sexuality? Muslims know these things. Silly and frustrated suburban American housewives and lumpen ex-proletarian men who attack minorities because the janitorial jobs in spark plug factories on which they lived disappeared, no longer impress me… but really, they never did. I have always been sickened by people who blame their neuroses on the invasion by dark foreigners with a religion different from theirs.

I am heartily sick of so-called humanitarians who claim, to cite one example, that female genital cutting exists among Balkan Muslims. A total fabrication based on nothing more than the application of the “one size” habit to these issues. To emphasize, hating Islam because of what Westerners think about the situation of women and homosexuals works for all the cowards, parasites, and dumbed-down lowlifes: “patriarchal privilege gays,” phony liberals, incoherent conservatives, born again Christian fanatics, etc. For the Nazis, targeting the Jew answered all anxieties. The Serbified West is on the same path.

Here’s my essential question: since suburban American housewives and goofy Brits get to free lance prejudiced opinions on Islamic law, do we Muslims get to issue broad-brush fatwas accusing the housewives of being unfaithful and the husbands of being closeted gays? Of course not. When morons in the Muslim world do this we object. But I am burned out with the reality that almost 16 years after 9–11 Westerners know less than they did then about Islam — i.e. they then knew nothing, and now know less than nothing. When I began writing for Quora on Islam I was pleased by the high level of queries and responses. But now I see Quora, on which I intend to continue writing, as a “gateway to hate,” where intelligent inquiry leads to loose-lipped demagogy. Not that I object. You have Western freedom and you choose to treat it as a toilet. That is your choice.

Here’s another suggestion: learn at least one thing about sharia before mouthing off about it. In Europe, Islamic law is a problem in the UK because South Asian Muslim women do not register their marriages in England and therefore cannot get divorced in an orderly manner. So radicals created a sharia divorce industry, which Muslims like me oppose. We simply call on the sisters to register their marriages in the UK so they can file for divorce.

There is no sharia problem in France. There the mufti of Marseilles, Soheib Bencheikh, declares that the French restrictions on religion are good for the Muslims because they assure equality between the religious communities.

Introduction of sharia as law in non-Muslim societies is prohibited expressly in the sharia. Only two Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, attempt seriously to maintain Islamic law based on a cracked idea of a pure Islamic past.

My favorite conversation-stoppers among “those who do not wish to learn:”

A) Israel has sharia courts for the Muslim Arabs. The courts have female judges trained by Sufis at a religious college where I have lectured.

B) Jewish law is a precedent that may be cited in issuing Islamic legal opinions.

C) Islam did away with female infanticide among the Arabs.

There is a lot more of the Islamic universe that is unimaginable to “convinced” Westerners. I have stood in the snowy courtyard of a Central Asian mosque and waited as male dancers socialized as women arrived to sing and dance without restraint, their eyes full of lightning and smiles wreathing their faces. Nobody hangs them. Nobody will ever hang them.

If fanatics show up and complain about the custom of hiring “ladyboys” to sing love songs, the local imam will tell the extremists to leave immediately and never come back. The singing girlboys were there before Islam. A wedding is usually approaching and everyone looks forward to their participation. They will be paid in gold coin which they can give to their families so that the non-singing brother can attend university and the born-female sister can open a shop. The pious Muslim parents will not refuse the income generated by their girlboy offspring. Nor will they ever, on any pretext, turn them away. That is the reality of the Muslim world.

Allah made them all, Islam will stand or fall, on the powers of the heart, on love and on art.

And Allah knows best.

Without radical affectations in costume, but fighting for the dignity of their sisters and brothers, and the right to live in harmony with all. The Bosnian woman soldier deserves the respect and praise of every Muslim believer.

What is the ultimate price of converting to Islam?

In 1997, on pronouncing the profession of Muslim faith, I was aware that I might pay a high price for saying so few words. But I had tasted the beauty of Muslim spirituality, and was not to be turned away from the path.

I understood that joining the Muhammadan community could put me at odds with American Christian, Jewish, and other non-Muslim believers and non-believers. Yet I had made a decision in Sarajevo and followed up on it, and have not gone back.

After 9/11 I was “outed” as Muslim and paid the price of internet stalking and other forms of harassment. As a Muslim I had few doubts about my choice. Having been “outed” I dreamed lucidly that I was walking in the Bosnian town of Mostar at night. I came to a door filled with light, and realized the light surrounded the greatest of all Sufis, Muhyid’din Ibn Arabi. In the dream, Ibn Arabi appealed to me not to give up the light.

The light of Islam is not exclusive, by which I declare that the grace of Allah encompasses the whole of creation. This remains the fundamental issue in Islamic theology. Traditional Muslims accept, for example, that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are created divinely.

The Creator and creation are one, joined entire by love.