African-American Plus Model

Inclusion: The Perception of Perfection in Islam

Photos Courtesy of  Eric Puschak

Photos Courtesy of Eric Puschak

Recently, I’ve been politely shunned because of the kinds of videos I make and the kinds of things I say aren’t ‘halal’ enough for Islamic audiences. I’ve also been outright told by another Islamic organization that I “don’t meet the needs for their current student body” and was denied a speaking engagement. Times like these I want to move further away from so-called Islamic organizations and communities.

Because I talk about bikini waxing, I’m not Muslim enough.

Because I talk about dating, I’m not Muslim enough.

Because I wear tight jeans and turbans, I’m not Muslim enough.

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Ever since I was a young, Black Muslimah, I’ve always felt displaced. No matter how hard I tried to outwardly appear Muslim and fit in, it was never enough to just believe. To the Arab-speaking Muslims, I wasn’t Arab so I was immediately dismissed. They wouldn’t give me salaams even though I’d offer it first or embrace me like they would other Arabs. I was ignored, pushed to the side. When I was in the Black Muslim communities, I hadn’t covered my face with niqab or wore black all the time, so to them I wasn’t Muslim enough because I was chasing the Dunya.

I’d go to the mosque seeking spiritual cleansing just to be stared down for wearing pants or bright colors or nail polish. I’d been told that my prayers weren’t going to be accepted. Basically, why are you even praying was what I heard. I always thought that in Islam, you come as you are.        

When I think of Islam, I imagine acceptance and openness and beauty and a sense of calming. Instead, I am met with opposition, fakeness, sexism, and criticism.   

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I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Ottawa next month about Islam and feminism. I was so shocked that Muslims at the collegiate level wanted me to speak about such a taboo topic. I thought that I’d reach out to other Islamic organizations as well and propose to lecture on topics like prejudice, sexism, and feminism within the communities.  

It’s 2017 and with all the community based campaigns that have been going on about tolerance and acceptance, I thought that perhaps some change had occurred.

I’ve emailed about 60 organizations. Not one has accepted my invitation to speak. Will my Black face tarnish the other male speakers or the perfect Middle-eastern or Indian hijabi speakers? Will my turban, red lipstick, and nail polish create a frenzy at your panel discussion?

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It’s funny how I’m too risqué for certain Muslims. What uproar do you see when DJ Khaled partners with Ciroc or when French Montana was dating a Kardashian but was openly fasting during the month of Ramadan or how Nouman Ali Khan was playing the field but still keeping it halal? How interesting that communities want perfect, virgin Muslim women to speak, be in the forefront, but men are judged on an entire different level.

The truth is, I don’t belong. And, I’m not sure if I should be sad about it or liberated. I’m too out there. Too opinionated. Too real for the organizations who like keep up appearances. How sad that we can’t include all Muslims in discussions. Include all Muslims in community campaigns and events. As a Muslim woman, why do other organizations welcome me with open arms? The LGBTQ community, the body positive community, random artists, and loners and the small amount of Muslim sisters who rock with me. With no judgment. They care about my character more than my appearance as a human being.

As for me, I’m going to reach out to other organizations that can handle and will celebrate a fierce, Black Muslim girl.

 

xoxo,

 

Leah V

Big Thanks: New Blogging Camera

For those of you who don't know, my refurbished camera from Amazon that I used for blogging and events broke near the end of last year. Samsung wouldn't honor the warranty and the Amazon seller went ghost. For most of us, money is always tight. As I sulked about not having a camera to continue my blog and vlogs, this organization I was working with told me that I should put my creative community to the test: start a GoFundMe page.

Like many others, it is hard to ask for something--anything. You feel weird involving someone in your own problems and issues. Siena (The Void Academy) told me that I had to get used to it. I was an artist and as an artist you create art and people WANT to help you succeed. They do? I pondered. Did the people around me really want to see me have a nice camera to continue creating?

In fact, they did. 

These pictures are the first photo I took with my Sony camera that my community allowed me to purchase. We raised $850 in 30 days. People shared, donated, prayed, and sent good vibes and we made our goal. I was like a kid in a candy store when I went to Best Buy to purchase it. I couldn't have been more happier.

So this post is for every single one of you who put in the work for little ole' me.  

Big thanks to:

Mary Carter, Dana Chase, Susan Cartsonis, Bonnie Culver, Taylor Polites, Siena OristaglioKaylie Jones, Barb Taylor, Samia Bowe, Scott Mitchel, Lauren Stahl, Cynthia Ramsey, Linda Hunt, Zarinah El-Amin, Gregory Fletcher, Suzzane Ohlman, Stephen Gliatto, Shawna Farmer, Camilla Vernon, Nicole April Carter, Nisha Sharma, Jasmine Nicholson, Aleka Thrash, Victorious ME, and all the other countless supporters!

 

 

  

 

 

Photo: Madinah M.  Model: Leah V.

Photo: Madinah M.

Model: Leah V.

Dress: Forever 21        Shoes: Torrid

Dress: Forever 21        Shoes: Torrid

Lippie: Colourpop

Lippie: Colourpop