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Islam for Americans

November 6, 2009

by Khadija Anderson

1. means god in Arabic

99 names

no eyes
no ears

Al lah
Al lah


alif lam lam hamsa

Allah is not male
NOT male

not a man
or he
or HE

or anything that

can imagine

2. Does your husband make you wear that?

I am a
wrapped piece
of candy a
swaddled jewel
I am perfect
woman under
my packaging
you may not see
my effusive gold mahr
my fruitful awrah

3. Does your religion make you wear that?

the woman
who does not
cover her hair
should have it
~ Corinthians 15:6

4. Tessellation

Middle Eastern Art Scheherazade veil sheikh
The Alhambra calligraphy Afghanistan burqa
Palestine hashish Morocco pyramids violence
hooknosed Arabic sword mosque haram thief
sand nigger Sinbad jihad camel whore infidel
Iraq belly dancing terrorist Aladdin barbarian
Sahara couscous hookah Rumi rag head bitch

5. last words

I see a woman covered
in a long dress, headscarf
and face veil
salaam aleykum, I say
and as she looks at my
bare head, tank top
and tattoos
she replies,
wa aleykum salaam sister

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Khadija Anderson (blog) returned last year to her native Los Angeles after 18 years exile in Seattle. Khadija’s poetry has been published in print and online. She has been a featured reader numerous times in the Seattle area. She is also a Butoh dancer and collaborates with her eldest son in their dance company, Tanden Butoh.

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  1. karyn
    November 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    a beautiful reading of a thought-provoking work ~

  2. November 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    This is gorgeous.

    It also resonates deeply for me — especially the last section — as a religious Jew, likely to be seen (in summertime) in a tank top and kippah (the head covering that is traditionally worn by Jewish men, though in the most traditional context, not Jewish women, who instead cover much as many Muslim women do.) It confuses some people: if I’m religious enough to wear a kippah, how can I be baring my arms and legs? If I’m secular enough to bare skin, how can I be wearing a kippah?

    Anyway. The poem is gorgeous, and I love listening to you read it.

  3. November 6, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    That is a beautiful poem, Khadija.

  4. poppathomas
    November 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Khadija, your reading is as beautiful as your poem and yourself. HokaHey, my friend, my cousin — mitakeyu oyasin.

  5. Thomas Patrick Levy
    November 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm


  6. ayesha
    November 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Thought-provoking. I especially liked parts 1 & 5. (But shouldn’t it be “alif lam lam ha”?)

  7. Nathan H
    November 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Righteous butoh, too: that clip of 70 Virgins.

  8. Khadija
    November 10, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks everyone for the comments, I really appreciate the feedback.

    @ Nathan, I am working on a video of the poem and will use portions of 70 Virgins. Glad you liked it. Butoh is alot like poetry…

    @ Tom- Are you still in LA?

    @ Rachel- Thanks for your story, it is a tricky life!

    @ Ayesha, it is hamsa sister!

  9. November 10, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Please let us know if/when you get that video done, presuming you decide to post it on the web. I’m very interested in video poetry, especially when it incorporates dance. I have a small but growing category devoted to dance videos at my video poetry blog, Moving Poems.

  10. ayesha
    November 11, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for the reply, Khadija. I was only asking because there is no letter “hamsa” in Arabic – but I was thinking literally and not “literarily” :)

  11. Jenny Factor
    November 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    So glad you shared this, K! (It’s wonderful to hear you read!)

  12. Jenny Factor
    November 12, 2009 at 1:27 am

    and the poem is really extraordinary too. I love the way it permutates, translates and expands…while playing with word and sound. You read it beautifully too.

  13. Khadija
    November 12, 2009 at 11:38 am

    WOW! Thanks again everyone,

    @Ayesha- it is an alif at the end, but it’s sometimes written with a hamsa (hamza) which is a diacritical mark – if you see the “curved” alif at the end that is it, as opposed to just the line straight up, I claimed poetic license on that because I liked the sound better : )

    @ Jenny- Thanks so much, that is quite a compliment coming from an amazing poet and my favorite reader!! See you soon…

  14. ayesha
    November 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Oh, I’m a little confused now – hamza is this letter (ء), and Allah is written (الله) with the the letter ha (ه) at the end, so it’s spelt “alif lam lam ha”, or “alif lam lam alif ha” if you include the special short alif that is above the shadda over the lam – no hamza or alif/alif maqsura (the curved alif) at the end (though it might look that way in some calligraphic styles).

    I’m certainly not trying to detract from your work, which is lovely – just trying to understand that small point :) Perhaps I have completely misunderstood…

  15. Khadija
    November 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    HA! you are so right…that’s what happens when you take Arabic 10 years ago and don’t keep up your practice! Thanks!

  16. Ann
    November 15, 2009 at 12:32 am


  17. Elizabeth MacNaughton
    November 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    It’s nice to finally hear your voice, it is as beautiful as your poetry!

  18. November 23, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    This is beautiful and so amazing to hear you read it.

  19. Pak Hanafi
    November 30, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    salaam aleykum, I say.

    Exiled in Seattle indeed! Love you anyway.

  20. Victor
    November 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Read your poem and said to myself_ I’m liking this_suddenly towards last words_loving it…Thanks!

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