Thursday, March 30

All the Single Muslims

(Blog title shamelessly ripped off from the recent Extremely British Muslims here)

I mentioned in a previous post how I had recently discovered a vocabulary/language/framing that I found to be quite useful in thinking about some of the trials and tribulations suffered by those looking for a partner in these modern times. In that article I alluded to some of the more unique or specific scenarios that single Muslims are subject to and as promised here is the follow up post hoping to discuss that further. To recap though, those looking for a partner generally fall on a scale between two extremes:

  • The Companionates, who are looking for something a little more practical and measurable.
  • The Passionates, who are looking for something a little less describable and more subjective.

I'd recommend having a skim of the last post if you wanted more detail on the two groups. The important thing to note is that companionate and passionate concerns largely lie on the same axis and it's difficult if not impossible to reconcile the two. Feedback from the last post suggests that many don't agree, and if you're one of them the following probably won't hold much water for you either. In fact in many ways the manner in which some people claim that the two are orthogonal is the essence of my post below. Not that may smack of some kind of personal post-justified confirmation bias but hey, that's why this is a blog and not an academic paper.

I'll start with Identity. We all have one. Sometimes we choose what makes it up, sometimes that happens naturally via osmosis or upbringing. As we get older, we get more control over it. Muslims are generally taught to make Islam a large part of their primary identities. There are well defined concepts of brotherhood, community and character and with Islam being a largely scriptural religion a lot of things have been modeled for us, not many less so than marriage. In essence, marriage in Islam is naturally companionate and we are taught what to value and look for, and what to offer in return.

This isn't necessarily an issue (and perhaps even made things easier during simpler times), except for the desire for (or pressure placed on) many to embrace more identities alongside that of Islam. There seems to be a natural drive to be more than just an individual of a single dimension but the trouble here is that as with most things, identity is a finite measure and has a capacity, and each component we wish to add to it takes up some of that capacity at the expense of stuff that's already there - in fact we're often explicitly told to ignore any limits we might have or compromises we'd be making, and the result is a struggle to reconcile some quite disparate internal agendas. This struggle manifests itself in the issues some face in our workplaces, in our more social settings and (as you might have guessed by now) in our marriages and relationships. And I should be clear here: having multidimensional and multifaceted identities isn't in itself a bad thing, provided that the implications are acknowledged. Unfortunately they are more than often not.

With respect to marriage most requirements from the non Islamic part of ones identity will almost certainly be passionate in nature - for example a man might be less expected to fulfill what would have been seen as an Islamic duty to provide. Potentially, partners might not even need to be Muslim in the first place. In other words, the companionate requirements due to the Islamic identity should, in theory anyway, be replaced by the more passionate demands introduced.

And this is where the first obstacle might be seen: the Muslim identity is a powerful one and difficult to overtly compromise on, particularly when third parties become involved. Some have a tough time accepting the fact that if they want to embrace new identities in themselves, then they will have to compromise on their existing Islamic identities as well as compromise on the level of Islamic identity they expect in others. As a result they are left with two sets of requirements, one companionate and the other passionate... and we already know that that's the easiest way to have a very difficult time in the search. It seems like most caught in this trap are passionates on the surface, but can't quite let go of their ingrained companionate requirements. Worse still, the companionate demands tend to be requested and not offered, with the subject offering only passionate fulfillment in return. For the opposite party, whether companionate and passionate, this will never be seen as a fair trade.

Otherwise the observations are the same as in non-Muslim interactions: there seem to be more Passionate types than Companionate (at least overtly), with the latter knowing what they have to give to get and the former taking more of a "let's see what happens" approach. The twist is that many want and want to be both, the end result being complaints about candidates either "not wanting to fulfill their responsibilities" or "with whom a click isn't found", the irony being that in some ways these two requirements will always be diametrically opposed (at least during the search itself). The search for a passionate also demands a flexibility in dating that many believe their faith might have a positive view of: intimacy, co-habitation and the like.

Apart from the mismatch between passionate and companionate requirements, this "identity dissonance" also manifests in other ways. Progressive individualism contradicts the more traditional communalism many also seem to want, and we're left in a situation where every party is looking for someone to subsume rather than join. Differing concepts of chastity and morality also tend to add confusion, resulting in marriage sites which blur photos (demanded by a companionate, but scorned by a passionate) and mass marriage events - something I believe can only be seen in the Muslim demographic.

These internal conflicts have brought challenges and problems that still haven't quite been solved, and indeed seem to be the root of many issues seen in the Muslim demographic elsewhere. Coming back to this specific topic however, it seems the only perceived answer is to somehow conjure up a notion of Halal-yet-passionate boy/girlfriend type relationships which seems extremely difficult if not impossible to implement. It's then not that surprising there's a bit of a crisis.

Or is it really that impossible? Perhaps Islam has already dealt with this very issue by default. If so the real solution might be for those in the conflicted position to figure out exactly which companionate requirements they genuinely want and then to make those abundantly clear - and once formalised in a legal way to then focus on the less objective stuff. That in itself sounds like the companionate search, except one that forces each as individuals to decide for themselves where those requirements actually lie.

Tuesday, March 28

Film: Kong: Skull Island Click for more info

Another Kong movie? Maybe I've just been around longer than I'd like to admit... but it seems that the last one was just a few years ago. Skull Island is a pretty decent attempt nevertheless and does just about enough to qualify as an enjoyable movie. Kong himself manages to blur the lines between the goodies and the baddies, but in the end the audience ends up rooting for everyone who survives anyway.

It's also the start of a very obvious franchise (which could very well be epic), so as investment it's a pretty good bet. Recommended.

Saturday, March 25

BAHfest London 2017 Click for more info

I've linked to a few SMBC comics from here on this blog, and I still maintain it's the comic XKCD thinks it was. Since I'm such a fan, it probably comes as no surprise how eager I was to attend one of the annually held BAHfests hosted by the maker of the comic in various cities around the world, none of which were London... until last year. Imagine my disappointment then when I realised I was going to be away from the city during the inaugural festival, and that I was travel to the USA which was making me miss it.

But my historical angst aside, I did mange to grab the second annual BAHfest here in London this year, and it was just as fabulous and funny as I expected it to be. Perhaps this cements my nerdy status (I never denied it) but I laughed more and harder than I would have at other "themed" comedy nights (you know, the Asian or Muslim ones for example), the level of humour defeating even my most cynical of minds.

We had DNA hard drives, Earth defense shields (or really, escape barriers), renewable energy derived from ranting twitterers, and a theory on why natural selection has ensured why we're all so unattractive. Such fun.

And I think that was it really - it was the intelligence of the comedy, the not quite right logic and rigour, all presented with a straight face (well, most of the time anyway). That it was hosted by Imperial College was a bonus which added a few percentage to my perceived nerdy joy.

So yes, a definite hit and one which I'll be sure to attend every year.

Tuesday, March 21

Film: Get Out Click for more info

I'm sure I missed lots of the social commentary this film had to offer. I mean sure, I got the obvious stuff - you know, how even nice racism is still racism or how appeasement sometimes gets you results faster than any other method. Still, I'm sure there's more that I didn't pick up on because even if I didn't identify the genius, I did feel it.

And that's why I'm okay with that. Discussions on race and racism aside, Get Out was a thrilling ride and a lot of fun anyway. It kept things relatively straightforward, presented a perfect balance of fear and comedy and led the audience through the plot at a steady pace. I did feel that the ending was a bit flat and possibly rushed... but thinking about it more I really don't see how else it could have resolved all that it raised.

Once more then: Get Out is a thrilling ride and a lot of fun, and so much recommended.

Sunday, March 12

Book: Towers of Midnight, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

Book thirteen (2010) and we really are now at the end. Just like in the previous book, the story races along with all sorts of revelations and significant events exploding along the way. My observation of how Sanderson's contributions has made the final three books more accessible seems to hold, although of course as the end approaches plots and arcs tend to write themselves too.

Whatever the case, I really enjoyed book thirteen and yet and poignant about the fast approaching final chapter in the epic. It'll soon be pretty much over and that makes me sad.

Wednesday, March 8

Film: Logan Click for more info

Ah, so so sublime. Logan really is a wonderful film, and that for many reasons. It's a swan song, a liberation or even an unchaining of sorts. It dances, it sings, it performs. Hugh Jackman is awesome in the skin he's been wearing for the past 17 years, but this time he's joined by Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant and the wonderful Dafne Keen, a distilled ensemble that allows a more mature and intimate story and characters to develop.

It's quite adult too - this isn't no kids' film. And yet it's appropriately grown up - this isn't aiming for a Deadpool level of shock, but more a commanding of respect, a demand to be taken seriously. And yet all this hangs on such a simple story (held over a total of 4, perhaps 5 locations), that it just remains pure and to the point.

Anyway, the film is great. Recommended.

Thursday, March 2

Food: DUM Biryani House Click for more info

FIFTEEN QUID for a biryani? Surely even the most stupid hipster of brown people wouldn't fall for this? And yet here I was sitting at a table at what must be the most preposterous offer in London Town. Forget Dishoom; if you're looking for a place full of people who value style over substance, then check out DUM Biryani. In fact, in comparison, Dishoom is verifiable gem.

Of course it was well presented - sealed with a layer of puff pastry for what I can only imagine being the more fuller Facebook effect and I'm sure all your Snapchat fans will love your 10 second story of you breaking into the rice goodness below. But still, an experience worth £15? That'd better be worth a fair few likes.

Some tactical ordering did help - I stuck to multiple snacks from the starter menu which if I'm honest wasn't too bad (although really, the alternative of paying £15 for a biryani was pretty horrific), so if you find yourself forced to go there like I was there is a way to get through the whole ordeal. I paid £15 for enough to fill me, while those (possibly more sensible? Or perhaps less? I'm really not sure) paid twice as much for the honour of leaving behind some food. I guess in that sense there is a perverse argument for value for mone... no, wait, who am I kidding? This was £15 quid for a biryani.

Anyway, no, not recommended, not even if if gives one an excuse to lament how stupid (or maybe DUM?) the brown people of London can be at times.