I am working on a collection of poems and illustrations with my father, Shabbir Diwan, who is a trained fine artist. 99 Names is a series of 99 poems, each corresponding to one of the 99 divine aspects of Allah. The collection seeks to blur lines between sacred and profane, between pious and blasphemous, and between spiritual and corporeal. As a queer, Muslim, woman, a feminist and a runaway academic, I take the religion I was raised in and reclaim it. I infuse themes of heartbreak, illness and disability, sexual pleasure and transcendent love into these poems. At its core, this collection seeks to uncover the empowering truth that humans were made to imperfectly embody these divine aspects and to queer Islam and dogmatism in the process.
Making magic in my dad's basement studio in Ohio. Modeling for our book project collaboration, 99 Names, featuring my poetry and his brilliant ink sketches. Its precious to work on this Sufi poetry project with the elder who loaded my arms with stacks of my very first books of Rumi, Gibran, Hafiz and Krishnamurty. My favorite person to wander through art museums with and be swept away by mystery and imagination.
This event, hosted by Vigilant Love, NQAPIA and TEADA, was a living pledge to defend and protect trans and queer communities in the torrential wake of toxic executive orders. In the organizer's words: This gathering is a response to a "leaked Executive Order from the Trump administration threatening to further take away the rights of LGBTQ people through the façade of “religious freedom.” Under this order, by citing religious beliefs, restaurants and small businesses will be able to refuse to serve LGBTQ people. Social service agencies will be able to close their doors to LGBTQ clients. Employers will be able to refuse to hire LGBTQ people. Shelters will be able to refuse services to LGBTQ youth. Doctors will be able to refuse to perform an abortion.
Ironically, this executive order was issued on the heels of an order criminalizing a different religion - Islam. As an Asian Pacific Islander community, we know that this executive order does not protect us, respect us or benefit us and we will not respect it. This order dictates a morality based on people proving that they are worthy of life, safety or services, and that those that fail to meet their qualifiers, deserve nothing. This is done so under the guise of religious freedom and autonomy, when actually, this enables capitalistic self-preservation. This is not about community, religion or anything else."
Our Mic invited me to be a featured artist for the launch of "Brown Girls" web series. They asked for a piece honoring women of color. I shared a poem about sisterhood, nourishment and loss. And when I walked off stage I was greeted, in poetic fashion, with a bouquet of pungent, sturdy and fresh-picked lemongrass...held outstretched by the sister whose heart and generosity this poem was a dedication to.