Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Monday, October 15, 2012

Balpreet Kaur and Women and Facial Hair

Yes many, if not most, women are able to grow a rather luxuriant mustache and goatee. But though you may see these features on very old women who truly couldn't give a shit anymore, facial hair plus young women is an anomaly. Most women will not leave the home unless they're waxed, threaded, lazored and stripped of every hair that could possibly offend the universe at large.  Years ago I made a conscious decision to leave my arm hair alone no matter what I was wearing. When you have black hair that is clearly visible on a complextion such as mine, and you come from a culture where any hair on women (accept head, eyebrows and eyelashes) is considered gross then, yes, me not 'taking care' of my arms is an issue for too many. The shit I get for hairy arms, for barely (pun intended) going au naturelle, is hard enough but a woman wearing her facial hair is up up up here when it comes to bravery: Balpreet Kaur you are an inspiration. Readers: would you be able to do this?
Balpreet's photo was originally posted by a blogger in Reddit's Funny category wondering 'what the!!!!' But Balpreet wrote back. And the blogger apologized because, really, why should a girl with a hairy face be funny? Good for you to apologize Reddit blogger because a woman with hair on her face is not funny anymore than a guy with no hair on his face.
Following is Balpreet's reply: 
"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone."

On another note, I'm getting a bit of flack for making a big deal about this when there are 'more serious' issues and real heroines such as Malala (Here is my post on Malala, the fourteen year old shot by the Taliban). Malala is a marvel in so many respects but also because she is just so darn young (my utmost respect to all the adolescents out there who put their beliefs to the test)  Balpreet Kaur may be older but whether it's a Balpreet or a Malala, each is an inspiration in her own  own unique way for refusing to give in to societal expectations, patriarchy or an injustice. My God there are girls who do no give a shit about more than what they weigh, what they look like, and whether they look cool or hot. Circumstances made Malala into who she is, and Balpreet chose to be brave: As far as I am concerned both are equally deserving utmost respect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Malala Yousafzai, the Taliban, and Can Things Get Any Worse?

picture courtesy of the Pukhtoonistan Gazette
I remember the name Malala. I remember the report on National Public Radio in America a few years ago, a father and daughter from Swat determined to keep Malala studying despite what decrees the Taliban set forth. I remember their voices on the radio under the English language voice overs. I remember that girl called Malala. I remember thinking what a beautiful name, what a wonderful father, what strong girl- God bless her. Always.
And so this is when your heart breaks: when fast forward a few years and that fourteen year old girl still worries about things like being able to go to school, being able to wear her uniform, being able to have a life without worrying about things like acid being thrown on her or being shot. Malala Yousafzai is such a fourteen  year old. We know her name because she's brave- brave to speak out, mature enough to have an opinion, and smart enough to know that her voice out there will make a change--- small perhaps but so what- change is change. Malala was shot by the Taliban. Yes. Shot. A fourteen year old girl who would in another world be a junior scout, and selling cookies door to door, and making up cheers, and worrying about silly things like the unveiling of this year's new American Doll.
Instead this girl is an activist. Instead this girl worries about fates adults in many countries do not worry about: opening my mouth might equal losing my life. This is not simply a question of gender wars, of men against women, but rather a toxic ideology against a 'normal' life-- a life where girls go to school and get an education and are not repressed by screwed up notions of patriarchy which many women gladly believe in and adhere to too. To Malala, and all the others girls, and also the boys who understand how unfair it is: I just don't know what to say. I don't know what to say. Which is not good enough. Because silence is never good under any circumstances. Imagine how screwed up, how sick a human being must be to a school bus and ask by name for a little girl in order to shoot her point blank. What sort of a world is this. What sort of an unfair world.
Two girls were shot that morning. Malala. And the girl who pointed her out.
I had stopped blogging about events of this nature because I felt why when there are louder voices out there who can make an actual difference. But it has occurred to me gradually, painfully that not blogging about such events is actually worse. Yes I'm just another voice, another opinion, yes I perhaps make no difference at all: but I can do what citizen blogging does best and that is simply, through the written words, bear witness. Sometimes that is all one has. Sometimes one has to believe that it is something after all. 

from the Pukhtoonistan Gazette, December 2011

A couple of years ago, in 2009, she told me, “I curse my name Malala — mournful — which keeps happiness away from me.”
She had said this as she sat beside her father who ran a school. She cried as she talked about her wretched life during the rule of the Swat Taliban.
A day before the Taliban’s deadline for shutting down girls’ schools, I reached the valley on Feb 14, 2009, a little before dawn.
Various muezzins were calling the faithful to prayer, their voices resonating almost in unison. But despite the peace that enveloped the traveler, the menacing shadows of the surrounding mountains held Mingora city in thrall.
Almost everything in the dark valley belonged to the Taliban, who had reduced Swat to a ghost of its glorious past. Grabbing those who opposed them or did not conform to their diktat at night, they would drag their captives to the ‘Khooni Chowk’ to carry out their macabre ritual of early-morning slaughter.
Not too far from Malala’s house, it had become routine for passersby to view, until midday, the mutilated bodies lying in a pool of blood in the middle of the square.
The knock on the door at the pre-dawn hour, then, was alarming for Malala’s father Ziauddin. I had interviewed Malala previously on the subject of education, but today I reminded him of an earlier commitment for a documentary, which a foreign media outlet had agreed to finance. read rest here

from Dawn.
PESHAWAR: Surgeons treating National Peace Award winner and young Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked by Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday in Mingora city of Swat, have recommended the government to send her abroad for treatment to save her life.
Quoting surgeons, who conducted her detailed checkup, the official sources said here Tuesday that the single bullet, which hit her head, had pierced down to backbone. Swelling on the scull does not allow surgery right now, they added.
“In such a condition, she immediately needs a sophisticated surgical procedure, which is not possible in the country,” they opined.
Malala along with three other schoolmates sustained bullet injuries when some unknown assailants opened fire on their school van in Mingora early in the day. Later, she was shifted to CMH Peshawar.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has issued instructions to the pertinent authorities to complete the arrangements of her travel, if  need arises to take her abroad. read rest here