Love is in the air, floating under burqas and hijabs. Muslim women fall in love, but what do they do when Islam says “NO”?

Huma Qureshi writes in todays Guardian about a new book that is a collection of honest real-life love stories by American Muslim women and gives an interesting insight into their love, faith and choices …

Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women is a collection of 25 modern Muslim love stories. They aren’t fictional, they are personal accounts of what happens when you meet someone and fall in love – only you can’t really fall in love because a) your parents will go crazy and b) you’ve been told it’s against your religion to fancy someone.

In other words, this is also a book all about Muslim woman who faced the challenge of a conflict between their human emotions and their beliefs. They made choices, and as we all do, made mistakes, but worked things out as they struggled with their beliefs and what they felt.

So how did this all book ever get written? Well for a start the authors live in the US. Can you honestly see it being written in an Islamic country? If that had been attempted I suspect the book would have been tossed into the fire and then shortly after the authors might have joined the book. Here is how the article describes it …

…has been compiled by two Muslim women – Ayesha Mattu, a civil rights lawyer, and Nura Maznavi, a human rights consultant. The friends dreamed up the idea five years ago while joking about what a Muslim dating movie – now there’s an idea – would be like. They turned to Facebook to ask American Muslim women, of all backgrounds, to send in their love stories. The ones they liked best made it into the book.

So just how out of step is the content with traditional Islamic expectations? Very …

There’s the story of a convert who believes fervently in God and is also a lesbian living with her burqa-wearing partner. Political activist Tanzila Ahmad has a wild affair with a member of a Muslim punk band. Zahra Noorbakhsh shares the hilarious story of her mother’s sex talk (“You have a hole. And for the rest of your life men will want to put their penis in your hole”) and the disappointment of losing her virginity to a boy called Dean. There are also tender tales of falling in love via semi-arranged marriages and what it feels like when your mum tries to set you up with some aunty’s son.

The reviews on are very positive, so it just may be worth a read (and no I have no financial interest in that recommendation). Well yes, there are a few very negative reviews as well, but I’m sure you can guess that they are belief-driven reviews and not literary criticism …

Contains obscenity and is overall disappointing – Many of the stories in this book are not a true reflection of any practicing Muslim. If you are a practicing Muslim with kids, the only good you might get out of it is a renewed concern for how your kids might possibly turn out to be just Muslim by name.

Yep it is indeed a sighting of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in flight, because apparently no “true” Muslim woman behaves like that … except of course they do, and are not alien creatures without emotions (don’t you just love Islamic misogyny).

Not Islamic Content – This book needs to have a warning label on it. If you are a practicing Muslim and expect to find some inspiration in this book, then RUN, don’t walk away from this book. This anthology contains GRAPHIC sexual content between men and women as well as women with women.

True, it is indeed not “Islamic” (and perhaps that is why I like it) I can only hope that any woman bound by the constraints of Islam, surrounded by stereotypes of silence, forced marriages and oppression, will indeed be truly inspired by these tales of passion, and perhaps also inspired to break away from the misogyny and tyranny of such narrow minded thinking.

As you might imagine, the comments section in the Guardian article has been a honey-pot and attracted a few Islamic nutters who have been buzzing about and illustrating that Islam (at least their variation of it) is a lot more bigoted than most people thought it was. But then the story of the convert who believes fervently in God and is also a lesbian living with her burqa-wearing partner is indeed a bit of a slap in the face for many, both the true believers we refute it, and perhaps also for those who don’t appreciate that Islamic culture is far from uniform and vastly diverse. Just like Christianity, it contains folks who are homophobic bigots, but there are also folks who are gay and yet believe.  None of that makes the beliefs right, it just means that they are just like the rest of us – humans, making choices and working out things for themselves.

If I described fundamentalist Christianity as white Americans sitting in a ghastly mega-church longing for the rapture, you would (I hope)  explain that it is not that simple, because there is a vast range of beliefs, and associated behaviours. It turns out that Islam is just the same, so lets not dehumanise and marginalise the people, instead lets just stick to valid criticism of irrational ideas.

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