For those of you who are unfamiliar, the quote on this T-shirt is from a video made by FouseyTube, to which I unfortunately cannot find a link at this time. This video in the below link sort of illustrates the same concept that gave birth to the T-shirt:
For my non-Arabic speaking readers, haram means ‘forbidden’. In Islam, it is the opposite of halal, and refers to all things that are forbidden by Islam, such as eating pork or drinking alcohol.
I got the T-shirt in November of last year (shout-out to my awesome brother for the awesome gift), and was so excited I wore it the very first day I got it. Since then, I have been experiencing mixed reactions to its ‘message’.
I was shocked to find that many people considered it blasphemous; they were surprised that I didn’t feel it was 3eib (improper), asking me where I got it, why I was wearing it, if I “really find it funny”, if I was worried about getting arrested (in Sudan) for wearing it. Explaining the intent behind the message seemed to make things worse, somehow justifying the impropriety of it, as if through the use of the word ‘haram‘ it was somehow making fun of Islam.
At first, I ignored it. It’s a just T-shirt, it’s not a big deal, and I refuse to worry myself with the opinions of people who clearly lack a sense of humor. But after a year’s worth of comments, I can no longer keep myself from responding. Besides, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that to me, this is much bigger than *just* a T-shirt.
I live in a country where people’s freedoms are systematically curtailed, where opinions are only valid if they reflect what is politically “acceptable”. We are ruled by a system that hides behind religion, that twists and abuses it to justify its own un-Islamicness, for the personal benefit of those who wield it; a system that uses Islam to guilt us and strike fear in our hearts. Our government uses Islam to keep us in line, to keep us docile: who would dare question a policy claimed to be Islamic and risk being labeled a heretic (at best)? Our minds have been shackled by our blind fear for our souls and the terror of being judged and ostracized by our peers. We have been conditioned to unconditionally accept what we are told where Islam is concerned – to us, jihad now refers exclusively to war, no longer about the personal struggle of understanding self and deen (faith), and that’s exactly how they prefer it.
I also live in a society where, as a woman, I systematically come second. Once upon a time, my male counterparts called shotgun, and since then my thoughts and opinions have been relegated to the back seat. As a woman, my mere existence is considered an affront against the millions of ‘poor, unsuspecting men’ who can’t control their dirty minds at the very sight of me (that’s why my likeness is spray painted over, to save my nation from sin). My actions are at the mercy of every Tom, Dick, Harry and Ni3maat to shred with judgement, and nothing I ever do is right. I’m too outspoken and too ‘comfortable’ in my behavior with others, particularly those of the opposite sex. But if I keep to myself, I am antisocial, mutkhalifa (ignorant/backward), and not fal7a (smart) because I have yet to ‘catch’ a man. I am required to be the carbon copy of a construct that I neither helped create nor agreed to. My individuality is belittled, shunned, disrespected and deemed unnecessary.
To me, this T-shirt is more than just a funny quote. This T-shirt fully represents my position: that I will not bend to the will of those who know nothing about me or the measures of Islam by which they judge me. I will not be afraid to take ownership of my faith, to question it, explore it, and practice it the way I feel it should be practiced. I am not a 3awra (a private part that should be covered; a defect; a blemish). I am not illicit. My actions are neither triggered by you nor do they revolve around you and how you view me. If my knowledge of self and courage to be the person I choose to be deems me unacceptable, then so be it. I will not water myself down so that I may be easier to swallow. I will not live for your approval, because I do not approve of you.
I am not haram. You are.