One of the biggest challenges I face is going into a venue and trying to explain the Muslim perspective to people who think completely differently.

It’s never easy, and I’m not complaining, it’s just a challenge that has landed on my plate for whatever reason.

I do the best I can, but it can get pretty dicey.

We’re dealing with strong emotions, and I often have to reign myself in. Remind myself to make sure to see things from other people’s perspective as well and above all, be reasonable and fair.

There was a bit of a tense moment yesterday.

Actually you could say it was downright confrontational!

The whole festival seems to have heard of it! I had SO many people, especially the organizers come up to me with comments.

I was on a panel with my good friend Uma Krishnaswami and a new acquaintance Cynthea Liu.

We were talking about multicultural literature choices. It was a parents’ panel and we were each making recommendations. I did picture books! I recommended: A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, The Orphan Boy by Tollolwa Mollel, Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye, Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Mama Do You Love Me by Barbara Joose and my own Big Red Lollipop

Uma’s picks were all fine by me. She even included A Hen in the Wardrobe by Wendy Meddour, a  book I quite enjoyed as well!

When I received the list of books that Cynthea was recommending alarm bells started clanging in my head! One of her recommendations was a flippant book about a ditzy girl with a crush on some guy and somehow the book has Ramadan in the title.

Oh boy!

Ever since Randa Abdel Fattah wrote her clever book Does My Head Look Big in This, publishers have been jumping on the bandwagon and there’s been a number of clones published where there’s a Muslim girl with the hots for some hunky boy at school who’s griping about not being allowed to date in her conservative Muslim family.

But this book went even further. So this Muslim girl decides that this year she’s actually going to really fast, because the last few years she’s been cheating–plus she needs to lose some weight. Anyway, she fasts, sheds a few pounds, and her reward at the end of Ramadan basically amounts to her lying on the beach in a bikini where men can ogle her.

Are some Muslim girls this shallow? Does this reflect the reality of how silly some Muslim girls have become?

You bet.

On those grounds I don’t have a problem with anyone writing a book like this. It’s the author’s business. They will have to answer for it on the day of Judgment, if they believe in that sort of thing.

Not my cup of tea…but hey, it’s a free world.

My problem though is that she sticks the word Ramadan in the title.

You see I can just picture somebody thinking, “Oh I’ve been curious about that, This would be a painless way to find out about Ramadan, why not…” Sort of thing, only to pick up this stupid book and get a complete misinterpretation of what Ramadan is all about.

Of course Cynthea Liu has the right to recommend it.

But I warned her ahead of time that I would bring up my objections to it.

I did so respectfully–but I couldn’t help it–passionately.

In fact at one point someone in the audience said something about me being angry.

I said, “I’m not angry. I’m passionate.”

Then I went on to say in no uncertain terms that this was nothing personal against Cynthea Liu. I have nothing against her at all. This was directed at the book!

And all I was trying to do was express the Islamic viewpoint on such a book. I saw the word ‘Ramadan’ in the title as a marketing ploy. And misrepresentative.

If the book hadn’t had that word in the title, no problem.

Uma then made the point that it’s because there are too few books about Muslims that it’s such a problem and I agreed.

If there were LOTS of correct books about Islam and Ramadan, it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much. Such a silly book would be an anomoly, and people would realize it only represents this author’s take on the subject.

As it is I can see people reading the book, and then assuming they understood Ramadan with a ‘been there read that’ sort of attitude.

Which would be very unfortunate.

The funniest thing was how the audience perked up as the discussion got more passionate.

Each side expressing their viewpoints, each side with intelligent remarks.

And through it all there was Uma, calm serene Uma Krishnaswami, practically moderating.

We went on to talk about what Uma refers to as ‘oppression literature’ but what I prefer the label ‘poverty porn’, basically books written by white authors that focus on the oppressed and miserable in other societies.

All in all it was a LIVELY discussion! People LOVED it!

So did I!

And the nicest thing was that I’m pretty sure we all left the hall, not necessarily in agreement but with a better understanding of each others’ positions on the topic.  

Call it a microcosm of the world at large!

Oh there are so many things I’m learning from the festival!

I’m loving it, but it’s also so incredibly mentally exhausting!

Oh, and visionary, but then I already said that in my last post.