Art is the proper task of life











A recent piece by Huma Quershi in Guardian reminded me how with the Muslim and the non-Muslim community there is an assumption that Muslim women are supposed to look and behave in a certain manner or rather in only one way and any deviation from that is unauthentic. Here is the relevant excerpt.

So I met the production team and one of the women (not Muslim, by the way) pulled out a little camera and filmed me saying, among other things, how irritating it is that non-Muslims act surprised that I’m Muslim just because I choose not to cover my head.

It went well, I thought, and so they said. But – and this was quite a big but – they were a bit concerned about my appearance.

‘Your dress is quite Western,’ they said ruefully. I was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved top (yes, I really do remember what I was wearing that day. How could I not? I thought I was going to be famous and on TV), but I was hardly scantily clad. So much for the empowered, modern, young, cool Muslim woman; turns out what the BBC really wanted was a authentic, well-covered one instead.

You see, burkas make good TV. I don’t. I’ve just taken a look at the show. What we get is the presenter donning an abaya and going to Yemen to show us all the fun things us Muslim women do, like wear long, black cloaks, party in the women’s quarters and put sparkly eyeshadow on. ‘Waxing’s a big deal among Muslim women,’ she says, causing an cringe from me. ‘Having any hair is a complete social faux pas. The “Hollywood” that all the celebs are doing started in the Middle East’

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{May 16, 2008}   Three Mountain Pass

By Hô Xuân Hu’o’ng

A cliff face. Another. And still a third.
Who was so skilled to carve this craggy scene

The cavern’s red door, the ridge’s narrow cleft,
The black knoll bearded with little mosses?

A twisting pine bough plunges in the wind,
Showering a willow’s leaves with glistening drops.
Gentlemen, lords, who could refuse, though weary
And shaky in his knees, to mount once more?

Translated from Vietnamese by John Balaban



et cetera