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August 19, 2004


salaam wa shalom! thanks for sharing your interesting life history with us. it helps to make my job a little easier in defining Muslim away from Arab. just a quick question for you:

what does it mean to have a secular islamic life?

I thought about that after I posted it. You know how it is when blogging, type first, think later. The better term would be secular Muslim life, perhaps? My ex-husband was a Muslim. He didn't practice particularly, but he had a great deal of respect for his religion. Certainly he did as he pleased, as many Muslims do, and there were many strictures of a pure Islamic way of life that he didn't follow. He said it was between himself and his God. He and his siblings lived a thoroughly modern life in Egypt; his sister was somewhat sheltered but more because of the family dynamic than because of religious observance or custom. She did not veil whatsoever - in the early 1980s, when I knew them, this was not done in their circle, unless you were being an "extremist" or trying to upset your modern parents. His Egyptian classmates were extremely modern and also did exactly as they pleased in all matters - the women went where they liked, did what they liked, and their fathers didn't particularly stop them.

So that's what I meant to convey. These people taught me about how modern Muslims negotiate Islam and liberal social values in the urban Arab world. Everybody had their own ways of dealing with it.

One of my ex-husband's friends became very pious, again in a very modern sort of way, being educated and Westernized. This fellow took off on a rail tour of Upper Egypt and the Sudan, traveling on the cheap and living among lower class Egyptians. It was a journey about nation as well as spirit. He had an advantage no khawagga tourist could possess, being both an Egyptian and a Muslim, and a practicing, believing Muslim at that.

what does it mean to have a secular islamic life?

Possibly something similar to a secular Jewish life - i.e., an affinity for Islamic ethics and retention of certain key religious and cultural celebrations but not orthodox religious practice.

Good definition, Jonathan. You're better at the concise answer than I am. Thanks!

Well, we Jews have had two centuries to get used to the secularism business. :)

I quite like the definition. It's an understanding I am having a hard time trying to explicate. I think that orthopraxy has become so intertwined with the definition of being Muslim (not even "good" Muslim, but just Muslim) that it's hard to talk about having both secular and Islamic used as adjectives with reference to Muslim. I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm inclined to "islamicate" myself. ;)

I may wish to quote from the Dove's comments about Khaled Mattawa in our university publication here at U of Michigan, where he teaches. To whom should I attribute the remarks?

Hi Dove,
I'm coming to you via Sabbah's blog when you thanked me for posting the link to the Wawa song.
What a wonderful blog you have here. Politics, literature, environment, food to share, and most importantly a message of peace. I am an American 52 year old who is VERY amicably divorced from a Saudi. I lived there for five years, 1975-1980. We share a beautiful 28-year old daughter. She is half Saudi, and the other half American mutt.(Irish, Danish, American Indian, English, MUTT). I too come from a Southern background, East Texas Baptist somewhat red-neck and Morman on my Dad's side. Yet somehow my ex and I, our own families and our new marriages make it work. Who woulda thunk' as they say in some necks of the woods. When individuals WANT to come together, they do. My ex and I were married in Beirut in 1975 and I spent the first six months there during the first six months of the civil war.
Anyways, in a nutshell, we ALL get along, welcome eachother always and maintain a loving relationship even over the years. My ex's new wife is Austrian, we get along!! My 16-year old from my current marriage is spending August with them in Austria at the blessings of my current husband. Miracle of miracles, it's possible to get along!! Anyways, I just wanted to say I appreciate your site here and can really relate to your circumstances on a personal level. When one wants peace, it is at with our own hands that we achieve it. Thankyou for sharing your story.

Hello Leila,
I've been working on a list of Arab writers for forever now on my website, Arab Artists Resouces & Training and I'd like to include your information. Have you written any books yet? Or can I just include you on the artists page?

Hi Laila. I am the Founder of
The Dialogue Project. We bring Diaspora Palestinians, Israelis and Jewish American Adults into face to face encounters and dialogue(practicing active listening/reflection/personal story, sharing of info) on a monthly basis. We teach the transformative dialogue process to Mediators, facilitators and also public school teachers. We help people learn how to hear what they do not know and to challenge assumptions about the "other" and about their own narratives.

A request for advice? We are sending out our end of year letter and I am listing two groups in Israel and two in Palestine that teach democracy, practice joint actions. (I am an Israeli Ameican Jew). It is hard to list just two, in Israel I have chosen Neve Shalom-Wahat Al Salam and Ta'syush (an activists Arab Jewish partnership),
In Palestine I have chosen the Hope Flowers School and am undecided about a Muslim founded organization to suggest. Do you have any ideas? These efforts could be legal, human rights, etc. Do you have any to suggest?


I´m interested in Ghandour family from Nabatieh.... ¿Can you help me?


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