Interview: Taz & Zahra from #GoodMuslimBadMuslim

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Challenging Islamophobia on Campus - Wen-Do PosterWe’re getting excited for our Self Defense Workshop for Muslim Women this weekend so we interviewed sheroes Taz and Zahra who make the fabulous #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast.

Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles and Zahra Noorbakhsh is a writer, actor and comedian based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

About their #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast:

As Muslim American women, we are walking this fine line between what it means to be good and bad. So really, what does it mean to be a good Muslim, when we as American women are getting mixed messages from all different angles? We’ve decided to say – fuck it. We’ll define what it means to be a good American Muslim ourselves and through our #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast. And poke fun at both sides of this margin. We’ll create our own narrative how we see fit, and with lots of satire and laughs.

Why is it important/empowering/essential for Muslim women to have space to talk about Islamophobia and safety strategies?

Taz: We are living in a time where fear mongering is being used as a political tactic and Muslims are the latest victims. Because of this, anyone perceived as Muslim – from wearing a hijab to having brown skin, is a potential victim of fear mongering when out in public. To have space to feel empowered is essential for Muslim women so that when they are in public and when they have to deal with patriarchy, white supremacy, or islamophobia – that they will also have bravery. That’s what we can do in the conversations, the power to be brave. And strategies how to show it.

Zahra:  Just knowing that this space exists to discuss real safety strategies takes the conversation out of the realm of paranoia into something real, a real threat, a real danger.  As women, we feel attacked all the time and it’s scary for me to acknowledge that these threats are real.  And, as with all self defense strategies for women, it’s not enough to know how to mace an attacker, for example.  We have to know the steps that come next.  That learning happens in these professionally structured environments. 

How is minimizing used as a coping strategy by Muslim women? How does it benefit and how does it harm?

Taz: I’ve always been told by mother that if anyone tries to cause problems with me, that I need to be quiet. It was her immigrant way to teach me to be smaller and meeker – to not cause trouble. But as I grew older, I rebelled against that teaching – mainly because it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I think this form of minimizing is common in immigrant households. But it wasn’t helpful, it was silencing. To be outspoken and to push back are so necessary to live as a woman in today’s world.

Zahra:  A few years ago, at my work, my self evaluation from my supervisors said that “I was too tall and too loud, and therefore intimidating to my coworkers” — most of whom were women.  Of course, the one guy on staff who screams and yells when he doesn’t get his way had no “360-meeting” to discuss it.  Nonetheless, there I was with a choice to make: do I listen to this feedback that is coming from people I value, and if I’m going to, how do I do it in a way that takes care of me?  I reached out to another friend who is a communications coach.  What she taught me was how to push for the team and exit out of binary discourse, to seek a third approach.  I’m sick of the alpha male strategies that leave us in this binary where it’s “your way” vs. “my way.”  It automatically thrusts me into a more insidious conversation that’s all about winning rather than the more meaningful subtext at play.  I love that I now have resources in mindfulness and communications to be authentic to my needs without having to identify with and take on the emotional charge that the other person in the conversation is bringing to the table.  I’m glad we have a space that is formalizing that training as well.

Anything else you want to say?

Taz: Nope! That’s it! I wish I had a self-defense course to take!

Zahra:  Enroll!!!  EVERY woman should enlist for self defense training. And, for Muslim women, we need a space that speaks specifically to our needs right now.

 

More information about the Self Defense Workshop for Muslim women:

Wen-Do teaches ways to deescalate situations, draw in bystanders in the face of hateful attacks, and help build a safer community. This series of self defense workshops is for Muslim-identified women who feel threatened by Islamophobia.

Muslim women have the right to feel safe in our communities. Public attacks of Muslim women in Canada have made many of us fearful. We know it’s never our fault when we are attacked. Some of us want to strengthen our options to stay safer; this is one way to do it. Join us for a workshop by Muslim women for Muslim women facilitated by Wen-Do instructor Arij Elmi that focus on self-defense, sisterhood, and resistance!

We are offering two different FREE workshops:

On Campus 3 Hour Introductory Course

When: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 – 6-9pm
Where: CIBC Hall Student Centre, Room 319 at McMaster University

Light refreshment will be served.

Off Campus 2 Day Course

When: Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3, 2016 – 9:30am-5:30pm
Where: YWCA Senior’s Centre Auditorium, 75 MacNab Street South – Hamilton ON

Vegetarian lunch will be provided.

How to Register:

Space is limited for both events. Please register early at hres@mcmaster.ca.

For more information about accessibility, dietary restrictions, and child-minding, contact 905.525.9140 x27581 or hres@mcmaster.ca.

Learn simple, yet effective moves (physical and verbal self-defense skills) and we’ll talk about the ways that we as Muslim women access safety, and carve out safer spaces for ourselves.

This event is open to anyone who self-identifies as girl or woman that is Muslim through the spectrum of familial, spiritual, political, cultural, community and ancestral connections. Come as you are. The workshop is designed for folks with varying levels of fitness and ability. No experience necessary.

Presented by Human Rights & Equity Services, McMaster University, and SACHA as part of the Challenging Islamophobia on Campus initiative.

Thank you to Outburst! Movement of Young Muslim Women for inspiring this event and for the amazing work that they do!

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