Hello Readers! So sorry to have left you all waiting, but as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. IT IS FINALLY HERE! Before winter break much controversy was being discussed over an ad posted on one of UIC’s bus stops (http://www.hercampus.com/school/uic/expirednfabulous). This ad tells of a young lady trying to find true love despite the Arabic tradition of arranged marriage.
As a consequence of all the controversy this ad was taken down. Opinions over this were being sent via email and although we LOVE your feedback we just had to get feedback from our very own Carrie Bradshaw, Faiza Rammuny. Located in Greek Town’s Atropolis and accompanied by Chief-Editor, Claudia Martinez, the interview with this bubbly, chatterbox began. Enjoy!
Q: Did you always dream of becoming a writer and how long have you wanted to write?
A: I have always wanted to write. I mean I was somebody who would come home from school at the age of 12 and would go to my room and jot down stories I had in my mind. If I was frustrated with the day and had nobody to talk too I would write my feelings down in my journal. But the idea of becoming a writer was not something that seemed attainable in the private Muslim school I attended at that time because the Arts weren’t exactly encouraged. It was either you’re gonna’ be a doctor or you’re going to become a lawyer or a stay at home mom, which ever you preferred. So I think I always wanted to write but it was not something I thought I could do.
Q: What type of writing did you want to do?
A: I wanted to be a screenwriter after seeing the movie Gladiator. Eventually, I figured I could write obituaries just as long I was writing! *laughs* Now I think I am more crystal clear with what I want to do, I want to be an author, get a couple of books published. I would like to write about my life and in doing so highlight many of the differences between the Arab culture and Islam the religion. That’s very important and what better way to do that than by using my own experiences.
Q: What inspired you to write your blog and then publish it?
A: It was a lot of things actually. Writing as it has always been, was my salvation. It helped me stay sane when I needed to get my frustrations out and since I couldn’t keep an actual diary at home, because my dad always found them and turned them into nightly reading material, I decided to write privately online. So, I started a Blogger page and kept it private until I finally shared the virtual diary with my closest friend who had encouraged me since I was twenty to write my story. She read the entire diary in one night and the next morning told me that I should make the page live. I was sort of apprehensive about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to expose myself like that, but what changed my mind was when my father’s best friend’s son committed suicide after his father arranged a marriage for him that he didn’t agree to, he was sixteen. Although I could not claim that my website or story would have changed this kids outcome, I realized that perhaps it would serve as a platform to start a dialogue about the subject of arranged marriage and certain Arab Muslim families insistence on taking full control of the subject. What better way to tell that story, then by sharing my own, no matter how it made me look to those in the community. So I decided to make the page live.
Q: A lot of Muslim girls are saying that your blog is very much like Sex and the City and that you remind them of Carrie Bradshaw. How to you feel about that?
A: Well, if that means I inherit her closet, I’m all for it. *laughs* I think it can be compared to Sex and the City, except with hijab’s and prayer rugs.
Q: Some girls wonder, if your father ever knew about your blog or if not how do you think he would have reacted?
A: No! God if he had things would have been very different *laughs* he would be like, “What the hell are you writing about. You’re humiliating the family. Oh God, my heart!” My uncle found it recently and that is a whole other story of its own! He is not exactly excited about it as I knew he wouldn’t be; he figures that now he is not going to be able to find any marriage prospects for me, thank God! According to him, “Now you’re never going to get married. No one is going to want to deal with someone like that; you’re banished by the Muslim community.”
Q: We know how your father would have reacted, how did your mother react?
A: My mom is incredibly supportive of me. She’s understands how it is to have been raised in a traditional family, considering the fact that she was raised in a strict Italian Galician home. She always tells me, ‘I want you to marry someone that you love, someone that can take care of you, who respects you.’ So even when my father was bringing men over for me to meet weekly, she said meet the guys to make your dad happy but if you don’t want to marry him you have my support. Of course this put her in a horrible position with my father who constantly argued against her about her support in my “stubbornness” and “unwillingness” to get married. I feel horrible for that, but I’m also grateful to have a mother who has been there for me through the good the bad and the ugly.
Q: Did you have any expectations for publishing your blog and if so have they changed?
A: Well everyone has expectations when they are going into a sort of endeavor and mine were to attract a larger reading audience, hopefully more Muslims and Arabs or anyone who is in that situation because I don’t think my story is restricted to only Arabs or Muslims. It may be who I write about but it is not just for them. For example, there are really strict Catholic girls and Orthodox Jewish girls who have written to me and have been able to understand my story as much as an average Arab or Muslim girl. My expectations have and continue to be a need to start a dialogue about the subject of not only arranged marriage, but the pressures put on children like myself who are born and raised in homes where they’re wants and needs come second to that of their parents, whether it be because of religion, culture, or social pressures.
Q: According to your blog you have always dreaded the idea of an arranged marriage. Did you ever expect you would have the courage to go against your traditions?
A: Absolutely not. You have to understand that I dreaded the idea of an arranged marriage and still do, considering the fact that my husband was chosen for me the day I was born when my father promised my aunt that I would marry her son; my cousin. I didn’t have a say as to whom I wanted to marry or not. Of course, later on my father did allow me to say no to a man if I didn’t want to marry him, thanks to my mother’s full support, which is not the case in certain other more unfortunate situations where a Muslim/Arab boy or girl aren’t given a choice. But, the part of the Arab tradition that I’m going against, as far as my family is concerned, is meeting a man on my own without their assistance. I’m not saying I want to run around town on a dating frenzy, I just want to pursue a halal relationship further with someone I feel I can spend forever with, not someone my family deems fit. Hell I don’t even like when they go clothes shopping for me, why would I want them to choose my husband?
Q: When was your turning point, when did your wanting to date become an action?
A: It was when my uncle said he was bringing over a 20 year old guy and that he was going to tell him, “Hi. Here is our 19 year old niece.” Now we all now I’m expired and way over 19 although my ten year old boyish figure says otherwise, but I just realized they have no idea what I’m looking for. They tried a couple of meetings and it didn’t work, so they ultimately got frustrated and went back home giving me the opportunity to meet someone on my own. I figured if I met someone by the time they came back I could say ‘Hey listen, I met this guy and he is a really good candidate and I would like to marry him.’ It did happen to a certain degree because I did meet someone that I did relate to, although it didn’t work out and I am back where I started- single! But I don’t regret any of it. I learned so much about myself and what I’m looking for in a marriage partner and also what I’m not willing to compromise or alter about myself.
Q: When did you finally tell your family ‘No. I am doing this on my own?’
A: Oh, I kind of sort of told them the best way I possibly could. *laughs* My aunt said, “We’re going back home, but when we come back we are going to get you married. Period!” To which I said, “Yes amtee (aunt)”. I did not officially come out and tell them until recently when they discovered the website and, I told them I was trying to meet someone on my own which of course led to a week of arguing. They have a completely different mindset on the subject and can only understand where I’m coming from to a certain degree. It’s foreign to them. They didn’t choose their marriage partners; nobody in my father’s family has, so this idea of a woman trying to find her own husband is considered scandalous and unheard of.
Q: Is it really important for you to get approval of your man from your family?
A: Yes of course. I think everyone wants approval from their family of the guy they are interested in marrying. A marriage partner is something that you hope is forever; of course you want your family to approve or at least respect that person and your decision to marry them. He is going to be in their life as much as you are. If I did not get approval from my family I would hope that they would turn around and see that he is someone that could make me happy and trust my better my judgment. However, I hope I am never in that position because if you thought World War 2 was bad they’d make it look like a summer outing to Six Flags Great America!
Q: How strict are you on your standards of a perfect man? (Faiza Standards: http://expirednfabulous.com/category/51-fridays/)
A: Well, lets be honest every woman has standards. I use to have a list of the attributes I was looking for in a man, but as I’ve matured, I realize the important thing to look for in a man besides finding someone you’re sexually attracted too, is finding a man who will respect and support me. A man who will stand by me through thick and thin. A man who doesn’t tell me, “I want you to stay home and support me and my career,” as I have been told before. Also, I believe chivalry is still alive and well and so, I would like to find a man who practices acts of gallantry, like opening the car door for a woman.
Q: If a non-Arab man wanted to convert for you would that be ok?
A: I would prefer an Arab man to be honest. Just because cultural differences, like religious differences can pose as a huge factor in a marriage, especially where children are involved. However, if I met a guy [willing to convert to Islam] who I loved and loved me I would be stupid to let him go.
Q: What will you do if you have not found someone in five years?
A: Grab a noose and head to my garage! *laughs* No, if that happens I’ll do as I have been doing focus on myself, my goals, and continue my search for Mr.Right in the hopes that someday my prince will come.
Q: Lastly, controversy began because of the photo that was located at one of UIC’s bus stop. Please explain why you chose this photo.
A: Well all the illustrations were made specifically for my website by an amazing illustrator named Kat Leyh. I wanted an image that the average American could identify and understand that the ad was about a Muslim Woman. What defines a Muslim woman is the hijab (http://fashionsdesigns2012.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Hijab-Scarf-Styles.jpg ). Now I could have just stopped there and made a woman wearing hijab along with the smile and dangling of the wedding band although that would have still been controversial. The reason I put the niqab (http://www.duhur.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Niqab1_1.jpg ) was because I do feel that the face veil suppresses women, I think it silences them. For me the image portrayed lifting the veil of silence and almost saying ‘it is time for me to speak out and tell you my story.’ I did not want it to represent myself I wanted it to represent Muslim women as a whole and of course I wanted the image to grab a viewers attention and motivate them to check out my webpage and read not only my story but the stories of the other Muslim boys and girls I write about.
Q: What do you say to those who say your ad sexualizes Muslim women?
A: Listen, if she was wearing an open abaya (http://blog.yaaree.com/wp-content/2011/11/Abaya1.jpg ) revealing a garter belt with fishnet stockings and a sequin bra that would have been sexualizing Muslim women, but I don’t think Playboy will come knocking on my door for the image I had on my ad. I understand a Muslim woman is not supposed to lift up her veil but it’s symbolic for the message I was trying to send and I don’t think it is sexualizing them at all.
Q: Some have asked if you would hold a discussion forum at UIC?
A: Absolutely. The entire point behind this website is not only to tell my story in the hopes that it might help others in the same or similar situation, but to start a dialogue. The one unifying theory every human being has is in their search for happiness. We’re all looking for some small measure of happiness whether it be in our careers, family, or love. I’m looking for a happily ever after love story and I’m one of many Muslim boys and girls searching for ‘The One’ while trying to find a balance between making your family happy, upholding your religious teachings, your cultural traditions, and your own convictions. If having a discussion to tell my story along with the stories of the others that I write about could help someone, anyone, in even the smallest way, it’s worth every thing I’ve been through and am still struggling with.
Left: Faiza & Editor-in-Chief Claudia Martinez, Right: Faiza & Editor Sally Garduno