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Why I Left Altmuslimah

April 27, 2014

Many months ago, I met a Muslim with a very compelling, grounded, and soulful take on sexuality. Thinking that her view needed to be aired, to be shared with the world, I asked her earnestly to write for Altmuslimah.

Without a pause, she shook her head. “There are a lot of people saying a lot of things,” she said. “But it’s the people who matter who need to say them.”

* * *

Last week, I resigned from my position as editor of Altmuslimah. As I went through knowledge transfer tasks and goodbyes, I found myself thinking of that woman’s words.

My Altmuslimah career began when they picked up a post of mine and I became an on-call writer for them. In December 2012, I joined their editorial team. I found myself in an epicentre of a fascinating discourse on being Muslim today. I reviewed books, got acquainted with talented writers, and interviewed amazing women such as Tayyibah Taylor. I even flew to D.C. last year for our annual retreat, hosted graciously by the Editor-in-Chief, and spent two incredible days with my highly intelligent, talented, and insightful colleagues.

Recently, however, I started to realize that this role didn’t mean to me anything it itself; rather, I wanted it to mean something for me. I started to think a lot about the limits of what I can offer and of certain mediums themselves. This tweet is a perfect illustration of the kinds of issues I pondered:

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 2.31.59 PM

The “more than a hashtag” part is tough for me, both theoretically and practically. There is a world of people out there–most depressingly, community elders –who see online platforms like these as just a group of subversive women chattering amongst ourselves. Whatever their reasons are, the reality is: they will keep calling the shots for generations to come. Part of my wake-up call was realizing that such individuals and the communities they influence will never take endeavours like Altmuslimah seriously. If I ever thought they would, it was because I had socialized myself, through my work there, into being around people who talk and think like I do.

I’m ready to be de-socialized now, whatever that means in cybersphere. I want to join the land of the living, of Muslim friends who have never heard of the Mipsterz video or the storm around the Abu Eesa controversy, or don’t make such a fuss about every hijabi athlete or the Muslim marriage crisis. For a while, it was cool to be hearing about everything Islam and gender in its glory and ugliness. But exposing myself so much to that discourse was draining. I don’t doubt that there are hundreds or thousands of seeds being planted via Altmuslimah’s work. I just don’t think I’m meant to do the planting anymore.

I think back to the woman that I talked to, how she, just like me, struggled to have her faith to align with her lived reality to what she knew to be true in her deen and spirit.

There are indeed a lot of people saying a lot of things, and maybe I should not worry about helping everyone say those things. Maybe it’s time for me to just be, and to embrace whatever fills up the space where Altmuslimah used to be.

It’s a delayed farewell, but one I deliver with relief.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2014 4:17 pm

    I’m identifying so much with this post. Often I find that I have nothing to say — or maybe I have plenty to say, but am not sure the point of saying it, or what the reception will be like.

    Recently I’ve been wondering if its just me feeling like there are so many brilliant, young and wonderful new bloggers (and social media platforms) out there — and that we’re all saying the same thing. I’ve been toying with the idea that as a seasoned blogger, perhaps it’s time to step back and let others take over.

    But then I’ve also been feeling that perhaps it’s simply activist fatigue. I can’t write anymore. Sometimes it hurts too much and I don’t see change. It’s why I’ve disengaged on Twitter, Facebook and barely write on my blog anymore.

    I too want to join the land of the living. I just bought a REAL journal and am retraining my hand on how to write.

    It’s time for that coffee my dear.

    • April 27, 2014 5:14 pm

      Here! Here!

      I had a head and heart crisis of a similar nature just this week! Subhan’Allah. I even wrote to my OnIslam editor telling him that the thought crossed my mind to retire from writing. He’s not accepting such sentiments in the moment. lol But I feel the pull toward stepping back from social media as well…in fact, in light of what we know now from #Snowden about the NSA’s activities, the more inclined I am to wish we lived back in the day before there ever was an internet… The sad reality is that the current generation will never know what life was like before the internet; I grieve for them. I grieve for all of us.

    • April 27, 2014 8:02 pm

      Thank you so much for your input, ladies, I’m truly humbled by it.

      What you are talking about reminds me of Fatemeh Fakhraie’s description of leaving MMW:

      “After leaving the site in 2011, I’ve done a fair amount of stepping back from the world of Muslim feminism. Not ideologically, of course, but professionally. Five years of learning, writing, working, collaborating, arguing, and speaking on Muslim women’s issues was fantastic, mind-expanding, empowering, and fulfilling.

      But it was also exhausting. Primarily because my writing alone was not a money-making venture. But also because repeating and explaining the same truths over and over for five years was draining, and every time I had to patiently explain that Islam is not oppressive or that Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive, I got a little more tired.

      And eventually, I realized my exhaustion impeded my ability to effectively run MMW. Which really didn’t matter; I left MMW in the most capable hands, and every so often I marvel at what the site has become and thank God that I made the decision to pass it on instead of just shut it down.”

      http://fatemehfakhraie.com/tag/muslimah-media-watch/

      And (not that I’m in the same league any of you, but) I do wonder, where can fatigued activists go? Do they channel their momentum to another part of cybersphere? Do they join the land of the living, and that’s that? What’s next? I guess that’s what we all are trying to answer for ourselves.

      • April 27, 2014 9:02 pm

        “But it was also exhausting. Primarily because my writing alone was not a money-making venture. But also because repeating and explaining the same truths over and over for five years was draining, and every time I had to patiently explain that Islam is not oppressive or that Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive, I got a little more tired.”

        OMG…Exactly! It’s kind of like, I’m Muslim now 12-years, and Muslim women are STILL complaining about the space allocated for them in masjids (or not), and Muslim reverts still feel a lack of support from the Ummah, FGM still happens, and Acid attacks still happen, and, and, and…it’s like all the work and time still stood…still. Exhausting, indeed.

        Personally, I’ve been asked scores of times, “Aishah, when are you writing the book?” Maybe it is time to turn inward and do just that.

        Letting go; commendable, indeed. ❤

  2. April 27, 2014 4:52 pm

    Just sending you love and du’aa as you continue forward in this “new” direction. 🙂

    • April 27, 2014 6:43 pm

      There’s always some new direction or another, isn’t there! *hug* thank you for your consistent readership and support, Api

  3. April 28, 2014 4:46 pm

    Wishing you the best!

  4. April 29, 2014 6:29 pm

    Very thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Anees permalink
    April 30, 2014 4:04 am

    Salaam Sarah,

    Upon reading the title, I was shocked I have to admit. But upon reading your words, I completely understand. Though I’ve been a supporter of the site for awhile in just a small way, I can only imagine how overwhelming it could be, in times like these especially, as you alluded to. I don’t need to tell you, writing is a powerful tool, and even more so now, in what our community is going through lately.

    Yet, at the same time, if it was preventing you from “being” as you say, then it seems like the right decision and I don’t doubt that. It was clearly the healthy decision.

    To be honest, whenever some big issue (several of which you mention) arises, and all these opinion pieces come out, just being the reader feels exhausting! I try to keep informed about the different opinions, yet I think with plenty others out there, I sometimes feel -where does this leave us/does this help at all? Not isolating AltMuslimah here, but the establishment as a whole.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us and while you did a great job in the short time you were on the team, I have no doubt this next chapter in your life will be an even better one Insha’Allah.

    Best wishes and Dua’s always.

    • May 11, 2014 9:52 am

      Thank you for your support, Anees. I know you are a regular reader and can relate to how overwhelming these sudden viral bursts can be. Thanks again, and it’s great to know that I can count on you as a loyal reader no matter where I go 🙂

  6. May 10, 2014 9:52 pm

    I didn’t realize this post would get so many views and responses. I wrote it nestled within my own shell, and there was a filter on. In the interest of transparency, I should remove that filter, and point out that there is another very major reason I left: There was no monetary compensation or strategy for volunteer engagement. I never minded the former, but the latter wore me thin.

    I won’t elaborate further as it’s a highly subjective and personal matter, but I did want to be completely honest and clarify that there was more than what I wrote above. The more people read this and reached out to me, the more of a fraud I felt like for not telling the full story. So here is a piece of it, for what it’s worth.

    Thanks to everyone who commented and wrote to me wishing me well!

  7. becomingmblog permalink
    July 3, 2015 1:57 pm

    I think as a writer you are definitely simply expressing an opinion which many people have nowadays. This does make people think though and can often inspire people to be more active in the “real world”. Potentially writing would be more effective as an outlet for real community work.. i.e. working with women who have experienced FGM on a voluntary basis. This is versus simply writing something that has its main impact online which generally does not make much change. Change is in laws, policies and then at the frontline within communities.

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