Friday, February 17, 2012

A Call to (Email) Arms!!

In light of what I expressed in my first blog about daytime television's apparent passive-aggressive boycott of all things Ramadan, I am now looking to all of my readers to help me out. About two weeks ago, my husband and I were at our friend's house one evening, and we were talking about my first blog and the overall frustration we feel about the issue. The idea came up to get everyone and anyone to email Martha Stewart and inundate her mailbox with Ramadan emails. Despite my annoyance at not causing any notice over in Marthaland with my steady emails, I'll admit that it's very possible mine were lost amongst the multitude. Maybe one or two snarky assistants didn't like my tone and deleted them, but I think it's more likely they were never read in the first place. 

So I look to all of you who may read this blog to do me and my fellow Muslims a favor (and all the non-Muslims who will benefit from the show :)). This is a Call  to Arms to all my media warriors! Let's come together! This is the game plan:

Below is a short email written to Martha Stewart, asking her to give Ramadan a go on her show. Just cut and paste the whole thing in an email and send it off to, with my email as the contact info. A couple emails can be ignored, but surely not hundreds, right?! We have to keep in mind that this year, Ramadan will begin in midsummer, sometime in July. During the summer,  no new shows are we therefore have to try to get the show on the air either before her season ends this year, or right at the beginning of the new season in the fall. That is why we have to start immediately!

Let the emailing frenzy begin! We can make this happen, but I need all of your help to do it! To anyone who reads this, regardless of what your ethnicity, race, or religion, please take part in this campaign to get Ramadan on daytime TV. Can I get an "Amen!"? :)

Thank you to everyone who participates! Good luck!

P.S. You will most likely receive an automatic reply email from the production staff at Martha Stewart. Hopefully one of those producers will take note and actually read our emails!

Dear Martha,

I am writing to hopefully convince you to do a show on Ramadan. For all Muslims who participate in the month of fasting, it is a month of spirituality, steadfastness, dedication, unity, community and worship. It is also a month rich with delicious and unique foods, made for their nourishing, comforting qualities. So many shows on daytime TV have done whole shows or segments on various other religious holidays. Easter, Christmas, Lent, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Chinese New Year, and Kwanza have all had their chance to be highlighted and honored on your show...all except Ramadan. Ramadan is a month that affects the large population of Muslims living in the United States (not to mention globally), and I think they would all take pride in having you dedicate a segment or a show to the foods, traditions, and culture behind such a wonderful, spiritual month. I am sure not many of your viewers know much, if anything, about Ramadan. Please help myself and many others, and be the first to provide a venue with which to begin showing your viewers a very peaceful, beautiful aspect of the Muslim culture that perhaps as never been shown before on television. 

Please contact correspondence at:

Thank you so much!

Most sincerely,
Your Loyal Viewer

A few pics from Ramadan dinner at my house in 2010. There was more food in the kitchen! :)
 A closer view...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Something to talk about...

So obviously my first blog was inspired by something i am very passionate about. I feel infinitely motivated to seeing my dream of equality within the realm of day time TV come to fruition. I sometimes fall asleep with the chant, "Ramadan on Martha!" over and over in my head. With your help, my chances are even greater.

But that's not to say that my blog posts will be solely religious, political, or a combination of both (it's often hard to separate both sects of discourse). Instead, what i offer at Mssmais place is a little of everything. Many times I hear from my friends after I've regaled a story that I should write all my anecdotes down--stuff that I experience is often so unique, outrageous, hilarious, wacky, and sometimes just plain odd, that I'm told one could not "make that s*** up." The expression on my husbands face while I'm telling him about my day is often one of amusement and a hint of disbelief, and is usually followed by a shaking of his head, while muttering the words "crazy baby.." Then when my typical annoyance, frustration, anger, and whatever cocktail of all three, dissipates after my divulgence to his nonjudgmental ears, we usually laugh hysterically. 

So here, at Mssmais place, I thought I could share these stories with you as they come up. And maybe a few recipes that (ladies, listen up!) will guarantee that the trash is taken out without the second, or third, or fourth, request. Maybe even without a single request. They're that good. 

I hope you'll keep visiting me here, and that you'll find yourself chuckling as you read. I also hope I'll inspire you to think out loud and to act out loud. If something I write agrees with you, join me in saying so. If not, by all means, I want to hear it too. 

So, in short, expect the unexpected at Mssmais place! 

Let me begin with a story about something that came up this weekend. I love every opportunity to share my culture with anyone and everyone who is curious and willing to learn something new. Having just moved to a new city about 6 months ago, I have been lucky to meet some really nice people, and I have made great new friendships with some amazing women. I came up with the idea to host what I called a belly dance party, but to be even more specific, it'll hopefully be a cultural night full of Arabic music, some dance, and some Arabic food. I thought it would be a great way to introduce aspects of my culture that are not typically advertised in our media culture here in the US. Believe it or not, Arab families are not all concocting the next jihadist movement, or planning how to overtake the US government with sharia law (that'll be a topic for another blog!), but actually enjoy life with good food, good music, and great friends. My wonderful friends of course are open and excited for the girls night at my house. 

Well, I brought this up to a friend of mine over the weekend. She lives in New York, and is herself an amazing hostess. Her parties are legendary, everyone looks forward to her parties because she cooks incredible Arabic food, has a beautiful, spacious home, and is a funny, attentive, and generous hostess. I brought up my party idea to her excitedly, thinking she'd love the idea of me introducing my culture to my friends. 

Instead, to my surprise, she was 100% against it. She said that because belly dance has a stigma of bearing a likeness to stripping, and is associated with loose, promiscuous women, to host such a party in my home where I'm introducing and participating in such dance is unacceptable for an educated, successful modern woman.  My friend went on to say that she would never host such a party in her home.


But I didn't understand, and I still don't.  Why shy away from a chance to show my friends what Arabs do when we get together and have fun? We sing and dance, eat and laugh...they are just as much my friends as my Arab friends, so why not share the same with them? Help them get to know me better? The way I see it, if I can do my duty as an Arab-American and help dispel some of the misconceptions people may have about our culture, then I'll do it whole heartedly. And to do it in a way that's fun and entertaining...tell me, what is wrong with that? 

Maybe because my New York friend was born and raised in a middle eastern country, and only what we here would call a "fallen" woman would become a belly dancer, that her opinion of my party idea was uncomfortable and in bad taste. One has to keep in mind that in middle eastern countries, the majority religion is Islam. With that comes the social modesty of women that our religion embraces. Belly dancing can often be viewed as disrespectful to the values Islam projects. A performance belly dancer stands at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from a woman who wears hijab (head scarf). While a belly dancer wants to entice male temptation, a woman who wears hijab wants to protect herself from it. I can understand my friend's opinion from that standpoint. After all, perhaps most people think of as "belly dancing" is of a scantily clad voluptuous woman, wearing nothing more than a bejeweled bra and minimal skirt with long slits all the way her thighs to her hips...long, wonton hair, who is twirling her hips and wrists (holding mini-cymbals) while rolling her belly, shaking her breasts and hips like Shakira, and who has in mind to elicit the desire of every male in the room. 

Ok. Well, there are those belly dancers, of course...those that come sauntering around to "oriental" music in the occasional hooka bar or an middle eastern restaurant that caters to mostly non-Arabs, in effort to draw in people to watch and then hopefully, eat. It can be fun, if not ridiculous, particularly when she walks over to a red-faced, unassuming man and wraps one of her scarves around his neck, drawing him up out of his chair and forcing him to clap and twirl his wrists, to "dance" to that, again, "oriental" music. Those of you who have been there, can picture what I'm describing. Maybe those of you who haven't, may now want to go. 

But from this I must clarify. Belly dance, such as I've described above, is performance belly dance. Women who can do amazingly complicated motions with their bodies, while making it look fun and effortless, are trained. It is a trained art. Much as tap dancers, salsa dancers, tango dancers, etc., train and practice, as do belly dancers.  

But back in Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan, when people go out to a arabic music dance party or attend a pop Arab singer's concert, are the women wearing belly dance outfits? Nope. Are they moving their hips seductively, while simultaneously  reaching back in a sensuous back bend and twirling her wrists? Nope. But while we do move our hips and shake with the music, it's not done as performance. It's not done with the purpose to elicit the lust and desire of a male audience. It is rather the movement of one enjoying the music and expressing their pleasure in doing so.  The dance moves fit the music. It's different than American song and dance, it uses different muscles, different rhythms, but that's the beauty of it. That's the beauty of all dance. It is cultural. 

So back to my original issue: is hosting my cultural night a potentially scandalous affair, where I'll be propagating the stigma belly dance has, or will I be doing our culture a service by showing  my friends something they've never experienced before, or that they have a mysterious misconception about? And if I had referred to it as "arabic dancing" rather than "belly dancing," would it have elicited the same response from my friend, and spurred this entire discussion just the same?

If my friends leave my house with a better understanding of who I am, if I break up the fog that clouds over our culture, then in my opinion, it was success. If I can make the Arabic culture less threatening, less intimidating, and more approachable by showing the more fun, happy aspects of it, should I miss the opportunity to do so?