A Look at Women in Ali Eteraz’s Children of Dust: Part I

Image via Amazon.com

Image via Amazon.com

Children of Dust, prominent writer Ali Eteraz’s recently published memoir, provides an excellent example of a Pakistani-American Muslim in search of his own self-identity.  Eteraz’s prose is a delight to read—I randomly started reading a segment from the middle of the book upon its arrival and proceeded to read a good chunk before realizing that I should start reading it from the beginning.  I found his descriptions of cultural experiences as an immigrant growing up in the United States to be reminiscent of my own cultural and religious experiences as a second-generation immigrant.  In the prologue to his memoir, Eteraz explains:

This book is about a thoroughly Islamic childhood and about a boy’s attempt not merely to know his identity, but to assert his sovereignty.  (Some parts of it are about the girls he met along the way).

While the book’s emphasis is on Eteraz’s own personal upbringing and understanding of himself, I was intrigued by his relationships with girls and women throughout the course of the memoir.  In Children of Dust, girls and women serve as mere sexual interests for Eteraz—he is unable to form long-lasting relationships with women without sexual motives.  Even with sexual motives, he is unable to form any kind of healthy relationship with women.

Eteraz describes his first sexual experience when he is seven years old living in Pakistan: “I learned of sin from a girl named Sina.”  He has Sina undress and exposes himself to her.  Eteraz does not elaborate on a prior, non-sexual relationship with her (or with any other girl, for that matter).  His mother admonishes him: “Good boys don’t play games with girls” (19).  The disturbing episode during his childhood foreshadows his subsequent relationships with women: they merely serve a sexual purpose in Eteraz’s relationships.

While a university student, Eteraz describes several other sexual experiences with Muslim women he encounters.  Eteraz, rather intriguingly, mentions his interest in “targeting” Muslim women:

Muslim girls were my immediate “target,” because there were certain in-built advantages I could exploit.  First, my aura as a “pious brother” was still intact.  That reputation allowed me to…initiate conversations with girls without having them think that I was hitting on them. (240)

Eteraz finds his exploitation of Muslimahs a thrilling endeavor, as he assumes an entirely noble personality when meeting women—Eteraz relishes his power to potentially deflower women who appeared to be sexually unavailable.

He later comes to realize, however, that:

Persuading girls to abandon the strictures of Islam…was not ultimately satisfying.  I couldn’t boast or gloat about it to anyone.  I couldn’t celebrate my success.  The secrecy ruined it.  What was the point of having power over another human being if it couldn’t be publicized?  (246)

For Eteraz, sexual behavior is the way in which he is able to “have power over another human being”—a power he realizes he is unable to portray freely due to his religious restraints.  Forming a healthy relationship with another human being would require a lack of power, which Eteraz is unable to display until the end of the book (where he, as an expat in the Middle East, forms his first true friendship).

While I enjoyed reading Eteraz’s prose and his journey towards his “sovereignty,”  I found his relationships with Muslim women were disappointingly abysmal—Muslim women merely serve a sexual purpose as an unattainable ideal and a way to feel “power over another human being.”  Why is this still happening?

Granted, the experience represented here is Eteraz’s own and not necessarily reflective of a larger group.  All in all, Children of Dust was an excellent, albeit frustrating read for this Muslimah.

You can read Part II of the review here.

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra

    This part is key: “In Children of Dust, girls and women serve as mere sexual interests for Eteraz—he is unable to form long-lasting relationships with women without sexual motives. Even with sexual motives, he is unable to form any kind of healthy relationship with women.”

    I find it extremely disturbing that Eteraz admits he tried to convince Muslim women to abandon their own religious beliefs in order to have sex with them, and that it was only unsatisfying bc he couldn’t brag about it. I feel pity for women who fall for men like this, bc of their obvious ability to manipulate and persuade.

    It is one thing to sin and keep it quiet, but to sin with the intention of humiliating someone is a serious affront to any woman’s dignity, and to the Character of Islam.

  • SakuraPassion

    I really want to read this book. Part of me understands having that kind of ‘power.’ I know for some guys, being able to take a girl’s virginity gives them a certain sense of power.
    But judging from your analysis I have say he was being rather manipulative with his interactions with Muslim women. With this I can only come to the conclusion that he didn’t really respect them. It’s good he came to the realization that it wasn’t satisfying.

    Looking forward to part two!

  • http://durkadurkistan.wordpress.com/ Durkadurkistan

    Some things are better left unmentioned.. Sadly, I think most men understand the logic behind his behavior. In mainstream American culture (and I suspect everywhere generally), we’re taught from a young age to view women as trophies and sexual relations as a sort of power play and ultimately ‘conquest’. Of course, the more inaccessible/exotic a woman is, the more one can brag about having been with her. And I suppose Muslim women, especially hijabis, are seen as the most inaccessible and exotic of them all. *sigh* I think I understood all this in elementary school. It takes a lot of vigilance not to fall into that pattern of thinking. Really poisonous stuff.

  • umm musa

    I have always thought that Ali Eteraz is a strange person…now I am convinced of it!

    If he is so dismissive of the rights of a Muslim woman then he should not bother writing of ‘behalf’ of the Muslims community as he often does.

    Another self-promoting Muslim media identity.

    As for his disgraceful ‘revelations’ in his book – he should realise that we are not a confessional religion where we have to expose our disgusting deeds to all and sundry in order to gain forgiveness.

    He should ask Allah for forgiveness for all of his disgraceful acts and stop trying to pretend that this is what goes on in every Muslim man’s head who lives in the West.

    • Fatemeh

      @ umm musa: I don’t believe Ali Eteraz has ever insinuated that his experience is reflective of all Muslim men, or even of all American Muslim men. The book is a personal memoir, not a treatise on Muslim male cultures or a confession designed to get him into paradise. It was his journey and no one else’s.

  • Molly Darden

    I also read the book, and saw it from a different perspective; I thought his entire thought process revolved around himself, with everyone else as accessories; he was experiencing cultural conflict and experimenting with a variety of scenarios in order to find his true place in his society. I believe that, with the possible exception of his mother, women were always on the periphery of his world.

    I believe that many people will see it from their own perspective, and that they will be diverse; that makes it interesting and rich.

  • Sana

    I finished reading this book a few days ago, and like you, I was intrigued by the women in it. I was delighted therefore, to see this. However, I couldn’t disagree more with this review. I read the author’s relationship with women very differently, probably because I took into account the cultural context in which they happened. To me, Eteraz’s relationships are not about power – they are about exploration and a desire to know the opposite sex, something that is at odds with the way he understands religion. Whether it is about Sina, or Amal, or any of the women he meets online, his writing conveys inquisitiveness, rather than lust. He notices details – smells, contours, colours – how can that mean anything other than a desire to know? His experiences, in my opinion, demonstrate the impact that sexual repression in religion can have, and the very dysfunctional way in which young people negotiate it. I don’t find his escapades manipulative either. Again, he uses his ‘pious brother’ persona because sadly, it is the only way he can meet women. But these women have agency too – they are exploring men as much as he is women. Further, I’m surprised that this review makes no mention of Eteraz’s relationship with his mother – she is a very important character in the book and the one that intrigued me the most.

  • Raaz

    Thank you for the comments, everyone. In response to some of your posts:

    @ Yusra-I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is “disturbing that [he] admits he tried to convince Muslim women to abandon their own religious beliefs in order to have sex with them.” Yes, it is frustrating to read, and it is an experience he explains frankly. By the end of the book, though, I think his attitudes towards relationships changes quite a bit and that he would feel differently about his actions. Instead, it might be better to ask what role his upbringing and cultural notions about relationships played in forming his “disturbing” views on women…

    @ SakuraPassion-I’m not sure Eteraz was interested in “taking a girl’s virginity”…Instead, he seemed more interested in having a “manipulative” relationship, as Yusra mentions. Eteraz enjoys having the upper hand in all of his relationships (which tend to fail miserably as a result). Towards the end of the book, with his new friend, he comes to realize how his persuasion and manipulation have deleterious effects in his relationships with others.

    @ Durkadurkistan-I agree with you, Durkadurkistan: societies display “women as trophies and sexual relations as a sort of power play and ultimately ‘conquest’” not only in American culture, but really everywhere. From women who are forced to agree to “arranged” marriages to women who are persuaded to engage in sexual behavior from either society or other individuals. It does require a “constant vigilance” break this notion.

    @ umm musa-I would like to echo Fatemeh’s point here–Eteraz describes his own personal experiences in his memoir. It is not my place (or anyone else’s, for that matter) to judge his actions–I was interested in looking at his relationships with women in the book, not in judging his beliefs. It is important for Muslims from various backgrounds to write about their experiences freely in order to combat stereotyping us as a group with rigid and collective beliefs. Human beings are complex and dynamic and have the ability to make decisions about how to lead their lives according to their own personal beliefs–this includes Muslims whose backgrounds might not be similar to your own.

    @ Molly Darden- As Children of Dust is a memoir, and thus his own personal account of his life experiences, I think it makes sense that “his entire thought process revolved around himself, with everyone else as accessories.” How would the account differ if he focused more on other perspectives instead of his own? Would we still be able to call the book a memoir?

    I like how you describe that “women were always on the periphery of his world”–they played a relatively minor role in his journey “to find his true place in his society.” But the fact that he mentions “girls” in the prologue was intriguing to me…

    You’re right about “seeing it from their own perspective”–one of the wonderful things about reading is that everyone who reads (anything, really) will see different themes that are important to them or remember certain scenes they find memorable. Through sharing our thoughts we are able to reflect on these ideas both as they relate to Eteraz and, perhaps more importantly, towards our own perceptions about life. Thank you for joining me in having this discussion!

  • Jaded

    I am a woman and I read this book last month.

    I have question for the reviewer: Why did you even bother to write about this book if you were going to do such a bad job?

    The most successful relationship Eteraz has in the book is with his mother. She is definitely the hero of this book. Much more than him because he is a kind of anti-hero with a lot of weakness. How can you talk about a character’s relationship to women without discussing the main female lead??? Its like if I described Kite Runner without mentioning the father!

    His mother actually says she’s a Muslim feminist and deals with all sorts of Muslim women in difficult situations. This is what probably makes Eteraz turn towards reform and helping Muslim women in the last part of the book.

  • Jaded

    Sorry I hit submit too soon:

    The Muslim girls Eteraz met are not very innocent. They seem more manipulative than him. These women were active participants in the sexual relationship with Eteraz. They chatted with him on-line, they flirted with him and some got on the train to come and see him, told him how much they liked attention from guys.

    Also:

    What about the married Muslim woman from overseas trying to get a green card?

    Another girl is cheating on her boyfriend with Eteraz. The hijabi! Then she gives him a Quran before they hook up. That seems worse to me than anything he

  • Jaded

    the last sentence of the previous comments should read as:

    “Another girl is cheating on her boyfriend with Eteraz. The hijabi! Then she gives him a Quran before they hook up. That seems worse to me than anything he did.”

    Editor’s note: This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines. Jaded, personal attacks on other commenters are not allowed on this site. If you disagree with the review, do so in a reasoned manner without attacking other commenters or personally attacking the writer–disagree with her conclusions and methods only.

  • http://luckyfatima.wordpress.com luckyfatima

    I am glad that you brought this up. I really liked Eteraz’s book a lot. I also loved his blog. However, I always got the feeling that he didn’t fully respect women and objectified us because of some of his blog writings, and reading the book just furthered that feeling for me. He is a mother-lover. He loves and respects his mother. But all other women in his life are just in the picture for trifling, at least as depicted in the book. I kind of took this as a sign of his immaturity, as he is describing himself in his late teens and early 20s at the time. He concludes the book with some self-realizations and signs of idealogical maturation, and I wish that a part of this was some reconciliation with his earlier views on females. Perhaps he will show us that in future works? Anyway, I and many other Muslim bloggers/readers of his old blog were very happy to see the book come out and just rooting for his success, but the objectification/hyper-sexualization issue was always something looming in my mind and it is just a reliefe for me to not be the only one who noticed. Looking forward to Pt. 2.

  • Safa

    Thank you, Raaz, for initiating a discussion of how notions of gender and power play out in this narrative.

    This book raises some interesting questions because of the author’s frank treatment of this aspect of his journey. It takes some guts to expose one’s hypocrisy, especially in such a judgmental culture. Although discomforting for some, I appreciate that this story challenges a convenient narrative imposed upon Muslims in America, while also holding a mirror to how we view ourselves. Pious-appearing Muslim boys and girls are capable of slutty behavior? Well, of course, they are. In all Muslim cultures. But American Muslims seem contentedly in denial about this aspect of their own behavior.
    What causes this fragmentation in our identities? How does our socialization and religious indoctrination contribute to this sort of sexualized acting out?

    How much did Ali’s Islamification contribute to how he responds and interacts with women, Muslim women, in particular?
    One of the realizations in this story — that clinging to dogma stymies the development of an authentic self — is also a subtext in his interactions with girls. I don’t think it makes much sense, however, to conflate a horny teen-aged boy’s desire to have sex with an affront to the Character of Islam, whatever that means.

    To consider your question: “Why is this still happening?”
    How many American Muslim parents or organizations are having honest discussions about sexual repression within a hypersexualized Western culture? How honestly do we talk about the fetishizing of Muslim women by our own men? How are western Muslim women reconciling the patriarchy within our religious framework? How authentic are our own intimate relationships or the ones we default to as our models? When we read a story such as Ali’s, is our instinctive reaction to pathologize him without wanting to confront the thorny questions this story raises (on many levels, not just those related to gender).

    I will take issue with this statement:
    “Eteraz finds his exploitation of Muslimahs a thrilling endeavor, as he assumes an entirely noble personality when meeting women—Eteraz relishes his power to potentially deflower women who appeared to be sexually unavailable.”

    Within the context of a consensual, sexual relationships, this notion of “deflowering” is archaic and insulting to women.
    Let’s assume the author had a particularly gifted ability to manipulate and persuade Muslim women to abandon their religious convictions to satisfy his sexual desires. Muslim girls still have agency in that decision. Is a Muslim woman giving a blow job to a smooth-talking guy in a car at ISNA a victim here?

    And, lastly you note that “…forming a healthy relationship with another human being would require a lack of power…”
    No relationship, no matter how “healthy” is devoid of social and structural power. Whether it’s between spouses, friends or lovers, there is a constant negotiation of power. It is interesting to ask if that power is evenly and justly distributed. And explore why or why not. Good to see that Ali’s book has provoked such discourse.

  • Jaded

    Dear Editor:

    I am sure this will be edited (and not appear) because of your editorial policies.

    This is going to be my last comment on this blog because frankly, you operate with uneven hand editorial policy. This is what you should considered given you have now edited my comment:

    (a) The reviewer (Raaz) and the commentators (Yusra, ummu Musa and others who have joined the bandwagon of character assassination of Eteraz) should not have been allowed to do so as that amount to personal attack on his character e.g., he does not have right upbringing (this is actually character attack on his parents), he exploits women and that he is not a good Muslim. These are all defamatory comments and are personal comments. Therefore, you should either judge people by same standard or allow complete freedom. If you are going to edit my comment then you should have used are editorial skills on the blog post itself and the commentators before me.

    (b) According to the civil and criminal law, if someone has attacked a character of an individual (i.e., your beloved reviewer and commentators), there character can be attacked, as according to the laws of evidence they have “opened the door”. Therefore, either you should have ensured that the door remained closed and not try to shut it when it was opened. Their characters have been opened to attack.

    (c) If the reviewer and commentators are going to argue that this is an opinion, well according to Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990), the First Amendment does not require recognition of opinion. Therefore, the opinions expressed are not protected by the First Amendments, and therefore, the individuals in question have no freedom to express their opinion, nor are the protected by character privilege since they have already thrown the first stone.

    (d) Even if you want to argue, public person privilege then it is not very difficult to argue that your reviewer and commentators published these statements with reckless disregard to their truth. I do not see any evidence of trying to contact Eteraz or asking him to clarify situation. This amounts to reckless disregard by all individuals involved. Further, the attack on his parents (i.e., upbringing) is not protected by this defence. The reviewer, Raaz, does not even know his parents. I do not see any editorial action to stop maligning of their character.

    (e) Interestingly, the public person privilege is only defined in these terms in US, and not in other commonwealth and European jurisdictions and given the fact that you exist on world wide web, your reviewers comment on international subjects and your readers come from various jurisdiction, the website can be sued in any jurisdiction. The laws of public person privilege are very different e.g., in England, a libel action can be brought in the High Court in relation to “any published statements alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual or individuals in a manner that causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of them.” The review and the comments in question do exactly that.

    You are lucky that the standards of your editing policy have not been questioned, and that you have not been taken to court by Eteraz. I hope you have a good media liability insurance.

  • Jaded

    What is so exalted about Yusra’s character that she can judge the authors character, while also defending the so called ‘character of Islam.’

    This is a legitimate query since she brought character up.

    Also Yusra is not a simple commenter. She is a contributor to this website. Are you saying that she can attack people’s character but the rest of us can’t question her doing so?

    Either you should edit her comment or approve mine.

    Finally a very simple question: is Yusra involved in comment moderation?

    • Fatemeh

      @ Jaded: None of MMW’s writers have access to comment moderation. Any mistake or bias in comment moderation is my fault alone. I have done my best to be even-handed in comment moderation, and I believe the majority of comments reflect this: Ali Eteraz has quite a lot of support here, despite your allegations of defamation.

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra

    Salaam Jaded, you can’t take anyone with an opinion on a literary work to court. MMW is a privately owned site, Fatemeh can edit what she wants. Any believer is familair with the so-called character of Islam; I believe the majority are in agreence that one’s intention is at least as important as his action. “sinning with the attention of humiliating someone” is not a character attack, but a reader’s reflection on one’s character, which was revealed. For example, After reading “Infidel” I may conclude that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a pro-America anti-Islam slant to her character.
    I nowhere stated that my character was above reproof-certainly it is not- but unlike Eteraz, I didn’t write about my bizarre (an adjective,, not an attack on one’s character)sexual relations with women-so let’s stick to the discussion at hand.

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra

    *That should say a pro-America anti-Islam as establisment or authority

  • Raaz

    Thanks again for the comments! I’m having a hard time keeping up! In response to some of your posts:

    @ Jaded-I would not go so far as to call Eteraz’s mother the “hero” of the book. As it is a memoir, it shows Eteraz’s journey to define his own self-identity (I don’t think there are really any heros/antiheros here–just a single protagonist as he goes about his life). While his relationship with his mother is important, I do not think that she played a prominent role in being the major catalyst for Eteraz’s change towards the end of the book–while she certainly has an influence, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “This is what probably makes Eteraz turn towards reform and helping Muslim women in the last part of the book.”

    In regards to your opinion on the women Eteraz encounters–it is not for me to judge them for lacking “innocence,” as you claim. As the book is written from Eteraz’s perspective, I was able to infer from the text his tendency to “manipulate” the situations he was in. I am unable to do the same for the women he presents–there is not much insight into what their motives might have been when compared to Eteraz’s personal insight.

    I am disappointed by the easy assumptions you make in assigning the “blame” of Eteraz’s sexual relationships on women. This does nothing to advance and further the important discussion of gender relations as presented in the book and in the Muslim community at large.

    @ luckyfatima-I wish I had come across his blog before it was removed! I am relatively new to the blogosphere and was not aware of the existence of the blog until I heard of this book. I would have loved to read it to get a better sense of his character. I, like you, had hoped to see a stronger female presence during the last section of the book and look forward to seeing how, and if, his views towards women are reflective of his new “ideological maturation” in his future work.

    @ Safa-You ask some very important and thoughtful questions that most Muslims are afraid to mention and discuss freely. We live in a society that is quick to judge others whose actions are seen as subversive in relation to what is conventionally old-school appropriate. The questions you mention above need to be addressed in order for Muslims to form healthy relationships from their onset.

    I have done my best, Safa, not to “pathologize” Eteraz in my analysis–I was interested in the way he describes his relationships with women and wanted to present this for further intelligent discussion. I agree that it is something that readers can be quick to do, but it is far more important to ask ourselves what we can glean from his relationships in a way that sheds insight into both the book and our own personal relationships.

    Thank you for your reminder that the use of “deflowering’ is “archaic and insulting towards women”–it should instead read “Eteraz relishes his power to potentially have sex with women who appeared to be sexually unavailable.” (Fatemeh, could you please make this change with a disclosure in the post?)

    And thank you also for taking issue with this quote: “…forming a healthy relationship with another human being would require a lack of power…” Instead of a “lack of power,” Eteraz has to relinquish having the upper hand in his relationships–this is a reflection of the state of power in his relationships, but by no means is it a “lack of power,” as you mention.

  • Safa

    Raaz,
    Thank you for your considered response. I look forward to reading Part II.

  • Jaded

    Replies:

    Yusra: I think you need to read the law (including case law) or go see a media lawyer, if you make a reckless claim based on a literary work than you can be taken to court. When you make a reckless character accusation then you can be prosecuted. You can form an opinion on the literary work. However, if you express that opinion and the expression of that opinion causes harm to the other person than you can be taken to court for your recklessness. The point being that your opinion and behaviour has caused harm to another person. The right to “think” or have an “opinion” does not mean that you have the right to express the opinion without consequences. The litigious issue is not having an opinion but expressing the opinion, which is not a protected right.

    Nevertheless, you did not express an opinion on Eteraz’s work, but attacked Eteraz’s character, based on a review, without any substantiated proof. The difference is subtle but a significant one. Further, as previously mentioned, if you are going attack someone else’s character than your character is open to an attack i.e., it gives others right to attack your character.

    Defending character of Islam: The definition of a believer is very broad, and I am not going to get into that debate. However, just because you are believer does not mean that you have a right to make unqualified statements about another person’s faith. If you feel so deeply moved by Eteraz’s action that you feel the need to comment on his action vis-à-vis character of Islam (assuming this means portrayal of Islam by Muslims), irrespective of your own shortcomings (unless you can categorically state you have none), than may be you should have made a qualified statement e.g., you could have written: “I am promiscuous and slutty (adjectives, not implying you are either) but do not think Eteraz …. (whatever it is that you think Eteraz does or not do for Islam” (I don’t think the book makes or even aims to make a point about Islam as a religion but that is another issue). However, this is not what you did. As a matter of fact, you do not even do it in your second comment.

    Rights of privately owned site: Just because the site is privately owned does not mean it does not have to comply with the law or it can be discriminatory in application of its policy. The same way private companies cannot work outside the premises of the law or their companies’ policies. When they do, they open themselves to claims of discrimination.

    @Fatimeh: my complaint regarding your editing policy had nothing to do with support Eteraz has received. It had to do with a fact that you unjustifiably edited my comment, while you didn’t apply the policy in the same manner to others. Further, that you cannot use different standards to judge character of individuals.

    @ Raaz: I am actually disappointed at you for assuming that the women in Eteraz’s book had no agency. This is wrong on many levels:

    (a) You are assuming that Eteraz has incorrectly stated those events, unless you can prove that you should not be making any such assumptions.

    (b) You are implying that women are complete imbeciles because they would just let a young teenager manipulate them and make them do things that they would otherwise not do. This is actually extremely degrading to women and feeds into the stereotype of women not being their own people, or being incapable of being rational or being good judges of character and situations. How exactly are women suppose to demand that they be treated as an equal if we are implying that they can be manipulated so easily? As mentioned in your post, we are not talking about a woman; we are talking about multiple women;

    (c) If we are going to talk about gender equality than we need to discuss women’s culpability in such situations. There are many women involved, from various backgrounds and of various age groups. Is the argument seriously that they were all charmed by Eteraz and had no role to play in these situations? (This also applies to my questions below.)

    (d) Are we assuming that males are always guilty in such situations by nature of their gender and women are innocent victims? As subtext to the above question:

    (i) Do some Muslim women have an inherent gender bias towards men? From reading your review and comments, it appears that you have an automatic assumption that Eteraz is in wrong because he is a man. Your entire premise is based on one statement (see below).

    (ii) Why do women continue to portray women as victim? Is it because it is easier to blame others than face the truth about women?

    (e) There are number of women mentioned in the book, and even if one is to assume your allegation that Eteraz’s has amazing manipulative prowess, why are so many Muslim women looking for sexual relationships online?

    (d) If we are for some reason to accept your allegation of these women’s gullibility, then the simple question that needs to be asked is why are Muslim women so stupid and idiotic?

    (e) Were these women manipulating Eteraz? The entire premise of Eteraz’s manipulation is based on a statement that he makes about his state of mind at a particular stage in his life. It is not uncommon for young men to feel that they have an upper hand in a relationship, when they really don’t. Women do lead men to believe this in many situations. As a matter of fact, there are number of books on relationships, which actually encourage women to make the men feel in control of relationship so that they can control the situation. Is this what happened in Eteraz’s case?

    (f) It is not uncommon in Muslim cultures (or for that matter others) for women to use their sexuality to attract and “trap” men. Were these women using a young teenager with limited sexual knowledge for their gain? In the book, we are explained Eteraz’s situation very clearly. He has lived very desexualised life in terms of what information is available to him. His only source of sexual knowledge is Internet. Do women, who are more exposed to sexuality, exploit boys like him online, boys who believe they are in control of situation but are actually naïve about sexual relationships? It is very clear from the reading of the book (even if written from Eteraz’s perspective) that the women involved had sexual maturity.

    (g) This was just a case of horny teenagers doing what they do, and the only reason it is appears so convoluted is because it highlights the hypocrisy of Muslim society and are ostrich like attitude. Muslim teenagers are forced to deal with these issues in the most strange manner and Ali’s book highlights that bizarre issue.

    The most annoying thing about your review is how it completely ignores everything else in the book and that it is completely out of context. Your review is completely devoid of various dynamics that are occurring in the book, the various phases of Eteraz’s growth, his mental state and his personal struggle. It so narrowly focuses on a non-issue (one statement) without reference to other things in the book. It appears (possibly incorrectly) that you have used Eteraz’s book (wrongly) to make a preconceived point and to vindicate your self.

    Also, if you had actually done some research online, you would have come across number of initiatives that were started and run by Ali on women focus issues e.g. initiatives in relation to Women Protection Bill in Pakistan and Stoning of Women in Iran. The footprint of his work is still available online. It might have given you a better perspective about the author. However, given that you were writing a book review, why should you do research about the author.

  • Fatemeh

    @ Jaded: It’s interesting the way that you have taken up the cause for Ali Eteraz versus the Evil Muslim Feminists of MMW. You state that Yusra’s opinion has “harmed” Ali, speaking on his behalf. And you talk a lot about litigation–are you his lawyer? Has he given you permission to speak for him?
    You make a number of troubling insinuations about the women in Eteraz’s life. While it’s fair to raise the point that the sex partners in his life share in the culpability for their deeds, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that they’re all manipulative, sex-hungry bitches who are “more exposed” to sexuality and use it to their advantage (really?). I can’t speak for Raaz, but you can’t expect her to read these women’s minds. While Ali provides his thought process in the book, there is no thought process provided for his partners.
    If you want to sue me for MMW’s opinionated sins, go ahead. You can clean me out of some books and a few pairs of shoes—if you get that far. But if you’re just here to make trouble because you don’t like (part one of) the review, let me ask you: what’s the point?

  • Jaded

    Fatemah: I initially commented on the review because: (a) I had recently Eteraz’s book; (b) I am a woman; and (c) I felt the review was devoid of any context and portrayed women as victims of a manipulating young boy without asking any other relevant question. The reviewer did not have to make up stories about the other women in the book, but they should have been mentioned: why were Muslim girls online in the first place; why were Muslim girls soliciting marriage proposals; things like that. The reviewer didn’t do a single thing like that.

    The issue of defamation only arose when based on your editorial policy — remember you edited my comment — I saw a double standards i.e. Eteraz’s character could be attacked, but when someone (me) questioned the character of those doing such attacks, I got edited. Why is that? I probably should not have bothered with lecture about defamation law. However, you need to know very clearly, that character only came up because i) it was raised by the reviewer and ii) it was raised by a commenter. You should have stepped in at THAT point. As it appears now, it looks like you will defend the writers of your website, but not commenters who question their conclusions. That’s not objectivity. That is favoritism.

    Finally you made me chuckle when you used the phrase “evil Muslim feminists of MMW.” You can’t be an evil Muslim feminist, Fatemah, if you are not a feminist to start with. Everything I have seen in this discusison suggests  that you — at least the reviewers and the other commenters — think that women are easily manipulated and play no role in the decisions they make. I do not want to portray women as manipulating bitches, but I do think it is pertinent question as to why women are automatically put in the role of victimization, when in fact I have seen some very strong and very coervice women in my life (some of us might be such) and some very weak and misled boys.

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra

    @Jaded: “Nevertheless, you did not express an opinion on Eteraz’s work, but attacked Eteraz’s character, based on a review,”
    No I expressed an opinion on Eteraz-the main character in the memoir, based on my own reading of the book.

  • Sobia

    I think I’m a little late to this discussion – you can blame stupid dissertation work on that – but I’m glad to see this on here. Mainly because it’s one of the few books I’ve read recently for pleasure and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. And as I did not find the role of women in this book at all offensive or frustrating I would have to second everything Sana has said earlier, especially

    “To me, Eteraz’s relationships are not about power – they are about exploration and a desire to know the opposite sex, something that is at odds with the way he understands religion.”

    I really did not interpret the women in the this book as you have Raaz, although I can appreciate your view. I think we’ve become really expectant of men using women that viewing these relationships as explorations seems difficult. But given the backdrop of conservative Islam, to me, these relationships, as described in the book, do indeed seem to be genuine explorations as opposed to exploitations.

  • Pingback: A Look at Women in Ali Eteraz’s Children of Dust: Part 2 » Muslimah Media Watch

  • Nawal

    I think it is important to keep in mind the context of any narration/memoir and it being personal, not nessecarily reflective of the majority.

    I am more disturbed by that Muslim women are emphasized as if non-muslim women do not have similar values. Generalizations on either side is unhealthy. Pakistan is more conservative where dating or physical relationships prior to marriage are concerned. Understandably.

    Europe was like that not too long ago. “Good and Pure” was equal to intact virginity. I am more disturbed by the less confessional trend of today, where many seemingly muslim males engage in sexual encounters just for the sex and exploitation – not void of power. Such as having your cake and eat it too. The girls are often non-muslim females, who are pressumed to have less value legitimizing to use them for sex. When the very same guys marry, they do not write a memoir, although they do pride themselves and boast about it to the guys all the while marrying a girl, who has saved herself for her husband only. The double standard is striking.

    So Eteraz is being more upfront and reflective and eventually learns. In my view, a girl, muslim or not, should be respected. So I am not keen on this singling out this as Muslim women being victims, because it is conscentual sex. So each is responsible for their own deeds. I think Eteraz which he also describes was caught in this identity crisis – the very conservative religious upbringing and gender segregation in Pakistan and then the less restrictive society of the U.S. With time he found his balance. Afterall we live and learn. Also must be kept in mind, guys mature late in age. As far as his admiration for his mother is concerned, I think, that relates more to her eventually stepping out of the extreme way of belief. This is not easy especially when your husband is not following suit. You have more to lose.

    I have more hope for somebody like Eteraz than say, guys with double standards, who go for the virgin bride while being sexually promiscuous/active themselves.. Because they most likely will not learn and they will instill similar thinking in their male offspring. I too view Eteraz’s experiences as more of an explorative nature than exploitive.

    That said, muslim girls today, even if they wear a scarf or otherwise appear modest, do engage in sex not just in the West but also Middleeast/Asia (i.e.hymenoplasty and hymen repair is availed by many). So treat this book as a personal memoir and keep an open mind.

  • Pingback: LIE Links: Reviews edition | Love Isn't Enough - on raising a family in a colorstruck world


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