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Last Thursday, I went to the launch of AQSAZINE, a project that describes itself as “a grassroots publication open to 16-35 year old women and trans people who self-identify as Muslim.” The theme of this first issue is “resistance & self defense,” and it includes poetry, rants, articles and artwork on themes including war, occupation, homophobia, and racism. The purpose and perspective of the zine comes through in this paragraph from a letter at the beginning of the first issue:
If you’re tired of feeling alone or fragmented…If you get spoken to slowly because you’re wearing a hijab…If you get asked how you can you be Muslim and NOT wear a hijab…If you’re a steady victim of racial profiling, harassment by police, or “random checks” at airports…If you’re constantly having to repeat your name because no one can pronounce it…If you’re tired of defending your faith, rolling your eyes at terrorist jokes, or making the terrorist jokes yourself…If you’re sick of being told “surely you cant be Muslim AND gay!” We’re here for you, and we’re fucking LOUD. Intellectual, scandalous, curious, hijab wearing, non-hijab wearing, immigrant, sexual, honest, queer, trans, straight…all of it MUSLIM: United by our cause and in our diversity. Join us, won’t you?
I have to say I’m not sure what I think of the name of the zine. The inside cover describes it like this:
In Arabic, “aqsa” implies the furthermost, as in reaching out to the furthest possible point. AQSAZINE aims to motivate the utmost resistance to uppression in all its forms. 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez, whose life was taken on December 10 2007, also inspires this zine. It is to honor her and other Muslims who experience and resist violence.
The idea of “reaching out to the furthest possible point” is really cool, but as far as naming the zine in honour of Aqsa Parvez (may Allah have mercy on her), it makes me squirm a bit. I just feel like so much has been done “in her name” (or her honour, or her memory), and much of this is done by people who didn’t even know her. She has become a symbol of so many things, and sometimes remembered and discussed more as a symbol than as a person. From what I saw at the launch, it seems like the AQSAZINE creators certainly talked about her in a respectful way, but I worry that the more human side of her might get lost as the zine grows and travels. (At the same time, we’ve seen what happens when people decide that Muslims aren’t doing anything in Aqsa Parvez’s name, and decide to take it upon themselves to do so, and this is obviously a way better alternative to that!)
Anyway, overall, I liked the zine a lot, and it’s very cool to see this kind of project come together, as a way for Muslim women and trans people – however they may understand those identities – to express themselves and support each other.
The submissions were really varied, so I won’t go into all of them. I really liked Shadi Eskandani’s piece “Stopover in Rome,” which narrates her trip back to Toronto from Tehran at the beginning of this year, during a time of mourning for Muharram and for the attacks in Gaza, and speaks powerfully about dislocation and injustice. She asks:
Where does resistance begin? When does privilege end? Miles away from death zones some of us call home. Miles away from exploding limbs. Endless bleeding.
In this new year, where does our resistance begin?
Another contributor, a Palestinian-Canadian “hip-hop head and nerd” called M., writes about the meaning of “balance” when talking about Palestine. In her words:
Dialogue does not occur when you are yelling over a concrete wall imprisoning you onto shrinking islands of land. Dialogue does not cross checkpoints, and dialogue cannot be heard from the inside of an Israeli jail. That’s real-talk.
If your fundamental premise is my non-existence, just who are you going to listen to anyway?
Rosina Kazi, in her poem/song called Erase Me, she says:
It’s that feel you get
When you’re watched constantly
Soon come when we’ll all get stopped
You can hear the waves of some dishonesty
That whispers ‘it’s serious’
No matter what we say or do
No matter what we’re going through
Some day they’ll erase me
The zine also includes some really good practical information about self-defense and how to resist violence. A series of illustrations shows the proper way to make a fist (this was demonstrated at the launch, and also includes instructions for raising two fingers into a peace sign afterwards.) Towards the end, there is a page on how to support people who are experiencing violence, and a list of resources for support.
There’s lots more in there – it’s hard to cover everything all in one post! If you’re interested in getting a copy of AQSAZINE, you can email them at email@example.com (the cost is $4.00 plus shipping.) I’m told that the zine’s blog is also going to have some good writing up, and some opportunities to get involved.
Last, for anyone interested in getting involved with their next issue, here is their Call for Submissions:
Dear friends, lovers, sisters, allies, revolutionaries, haters and
everyone in between.
Submit and spread the word about the AQSAZINE Double Issue on Immigration/Migration and Love/Sex/Marriage. Deadline for submissions April 1st 2009.
*Immigration and Migration: If you feel like a minority wherever you go…if your heart longs for somewhere you’ve never been but that’s burnt into your memory…If all your parents ever talk about is “back home”…If you spend your life trying to find your place… if your physical home is occupied, forgotten, or far away… if your life consists of various checkpoints, “visas in yo’ name”, lawyer consultations, applications, rejections… If you’ve been expelled, deported, refugized, rendered illegal, or erased by your “non-status”…
If you’ve found a new “home away from home” that is warm, welcoming and REAL…If you’re searching for “home”—the place and the meaning…If you’ve found home in a person, community, people or state of mind… if you’ve found strength in your displacement…If you were never really given the choice…your expression is welcome here
*Love/Sex/Marriage: If you ever wonder what order the three words should come in, but often have no choice in the matter…If you believe in any or all of them and know Islam gives you the right to enjoy, even savor them… If you feel like you’ve failed your parents…If sex has been scary and filled with guilt for way too long…If you’ve stained your sheets and now you wonder what’s next?… if you have forbidden loves…if your body is someone else’s battleground…if you have (or think you have) been sexually assaulted…if fear, sex, and guilt have been twisted in your heart for far too long… if you risk so much of yourself and your safety to express love…if wherever you turn
people try to marry to you off to a “handsome doctor/lawyer/engineer”…If your heart is in the right place, but your
mind and body wonder……If you’ve asked many questions to which there were no answers…your expression is welcome here
Types of Submissions: Stories (fiction or non fiction); Poetry;
Artwork, Photography, Visuals; media reviews; Articles, profiles, interviews; Self help booklets, tip sheets, flyers and pamphlets; Any other form of personal art or writing
Confidentiality: Submissions will not be reprinted without the
author’s permission. You can use your first and/or last name, a pen name, or even remain completely anonymous. We want you to feel safe in making a contribution.
Send us your submissions, questions, resources, information firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace, love and hugs