Sensitive one?

Is it just me or do you also feel that it is getting increasingly difficult to patronize halal restaurants and focus on our meal or conversation because of large television screens blaring Bollywood or its Middle Eastern equivalent at us? Do any of you also feel horrified at the number of Groupons coming out for pole dancing lessons, adult novelties and burlesque dressing classes? Does it also bother you when young people bump into and walk past you, sans apology? Does your jaw drop when you see tweens dress provocatively and walk around malls with clothing that accentuates their still developing body parts? Are you, like me, one who rolls up her windows when the car next to you pours out loud vulgarity in the name of music? Then you, like me, are to be labeled a Highly Sensitive Person.

I stumbled upon this term/label “HSP” (Highly Sensitive Person) as I was doing some reading. One definition of which is “a person having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity”. Digging deeper I found that I, and many of the people around me, could be labeled “highly sensitive people”. HSP may be just a label today but I’m afraid that with the continued desensitization of our world that is taking place, being sensitive may be seen as a disorder and any one of us who cannot calmly watch heads flying, blood gushing, or nudity flashing, will be seen as the ones with the problem! Video game addicts like Kevin agree that they are desensitized, “as I ripped a monster’s head and beat his buddy with it….It didn’t bother me.” 1, but the many well researched, scholarly articles from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 2 and Psychological Science 3 publications will prove the cognitive, behavioral and affective outcomes are not just personally damaging but socially worrisome.

As a non Arabic speaker, the language of the Quran sounds sacred to my ears, so watching gyrating hips and sexualized images with pop music to Arabic lyrics causes me unease, just as the misuse of my ancestral language when attached with filthy English vocabulary does. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that violence and gore desensitizes us, but what about the sensuality, nudity, foul language and subtle references to all things immodest? Why do we still continue to accept this desensitization and permanence of foul into our hearts so quietly? Are we so desensitized as a community to not see a problem with violence, gore, profanity, sexuality and sensuality? Let me explain what I mean.

While at a certain halal desi restaurant, with a Bollywood movie playing on screen (which, if there were a rating system for Bollywood movies, would all be either R or NC 17), a family with three generations of guests sat together uneasily. My friend who was in the group asked the manager of the restaurant to change what was playing because of the inappropriate content and the reply she got shockingly was , “ Well, there are others watching too. I can’t change it just for you!”

Another example is when a different friend of mine was at a community park event where there were activists with posters showcasing the atrocities in the Middle East. Large, color pictures of tortured, killed and seriously injured victims of the violent Arab Springs hung around the park to draw attention to the urgency of the matter. This friend, who happened to be there with her young daughter, asked one of the organizers if the posters were really necessary- after all, it is a Muslim event and we all are in agreement over the seriousness of the issue. She was attacked verbally by the organizers who said she did not care for her Muslim brethren around the world and how shameful it is that she would shy away from the truth and wants others to do the same!

Reading Dr. Leonard Sax’s book, Boys Adrift, I was shocked (okay, label me HSP) to read the chapter on the addiction to pornography and I wondered how much of this begins with desensitization to sexuality? Television, magazine ads, video games, posters, billboards everything sells sexuality. Kids are bombarded with images of scantily clad women and today girls as young as twelve and thirteen walk on the streets dressed like prostitutes of the past. One tongue in cheek web article talked about how hard it is becoming for a man to pick up a prostitute because everyone seems to be dressed similarly! Wry humor aside, it is a point to consider as our kids are exposed to all this as well. If Imam Ghazali found a glitch in his memory from seeing a woman’s ankle, then what do you think will happen to our generation?

I still cringe when someone in a normal conversation uses the vernacular, “pissed off”, “shit” or “freaking”, but words like the “f” word, the “b” word and worse are all becoming quite commonplace. Verbal desensitization? Yes, according to this Highly Sensitive person. Rudeness is being accepted by even the youngest of people. I am not alright if a kid says, “Duh!” to his parent just because she did not get something he said right away! I am not okay with the term, “damn” either. But parents are letting a lot slip because as a community we are letting our values slide.

If our deen expects us to be caring, considerate human beings, how can one care if the faculty has been desensitized and numbed? We are losing haya (modesty/shyness) and being degraded, we are losing empathy and becoming dehumanized and we are losing compassion and becoming detached from our world. We have to wake up and make a change to this scenario. It has to start with our own children throwing away their video games (if they still have them), and our vendors shutting down their big screens that degrade us and our communities standing together with others and reclaim our right to be compassionate, caring human beings. We cannot be demoralized by what’s going on in society and shut ourselves out. We have to be determined to bring back sensitivity for and to humanity and pray that God help us be an ummah that is sensitive enough to “feel” for our brothers like we are commanded to, Ameen.

1. http://paranerds.com/?p=1176
2. http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/07CAB.pdf
3. http://sitemaker.umich.edu/brad.bushman/files/ba09.pdf

About Soulful Studies

Home schooling consultant, home educator and mother of 4, blogger
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9 Responses to Sensitive one?

  1. Tey says:

    I have been thinking of this a lot lately. Jakmfor putting it into words.

  2. Um Sumayyah says:

    ma sha’ Allah, great read Shaheen! subHan Allah, so unbelievably and unfortunately true.

  3. Ferdos says:

    Jazaki Allah Khairun sr Shaheen for a well written article and a very much needed one. If you don’t mind can I share it with my list of friends and family? keep up the good work =)

  4. fadia moemen says:

    very true, and if we do not do anything about it we will become minority. the good solution is what are you doing with your kids(home schooling)

  5. Megan Wyatt says:

    Oh Shaheen….You put my brain and probably that of many of us into words! Masha’Allah.

    Side note: on the whole pornography addiction piece – it’s worth noting for mothers with kids playing online video games that there is an entire industry that strives to link it’s advertising to “snag” boys and girls playing games. (not to mention graphic and sexually dressed, or rather not dressed female game characters.) (and all of you must know by now that kids see their first porn image between ages of 9-13 doing homework, finding something accidentally)

    The whole Bollywood thing….one day my daughter and I were eating at an Indian restaurant – mind you they weren’t Muslims, so it was Hindus, but eating the vegetarian food, and they had a movie playing. No joke, the lady was pole dancing. I had to look away, and occupy my daughter to not look either. Another quick glance up awhile later hoping everything had ended and there were upclose screen shots of breasts in a bikini top… I was like “what the heck!” I admit, I don’t watch things like this anywhere, so perhaps I am “re-sensitized” (is that a word?) but I told the owner that the film wasn’t child appropriate, and asked him to change it. Ridiculous…and it felt ever weirder that older “uncle” aged men were sitting with their wives, everyone eating and watching this. We never went back again.

    Same thing at an Arab restaurant – modern videos… yuck. I feel the same thing as you when I hear words like “MashaAllah” in an otherwise haram set of lyrics and video. I asked them to turn the videos off once, and the girl behind the counter looked at me like I was from mars, but I insisted it wasn’t “family friendly.”

    It’s too bad that so many “halal” eateries feel that word ends only at buying meat.

    Keep up the writing!

  6. Muslimommy says:

    ASA Shaheen, I agree with the audacity of the halal restaurants playing such shows and thinking it is ok because it is an eastern film. Btw, I’m definitely a HSP and proud of it! Great article to remind us not let the small things slide, may Allah Reward your efforts. Thanks!

  7. Umm Mariam says:

    As Salam Allykum Dearest Shaheen

    I have been meaning to comment on your blog regarding sensitivity for a few days now but finally found the time to sit down and gather my thoughts before putting them into writing. I, like you, could be labeled a Highly Sensitive Person. I roll up my windows when the car next to me is blaring the latest Lady Gaga song; I find my jaw dropping in disbelief when I see young Muslims girls dressed in skinny jeans and tights tops looking like they are headed for the nearest club; I am repulsed by the type of video games kids are playing these days, the list goes on. I have spent a lot of time being disgusting by the world around me and its lack of respect for “haya” and decency. But as of late, I have felt myself feeling more sad and sick to my stomach than disgusted and this feeling has motivated me to try and make a difference. When you ask the question, “Why do we still continue to accept this desensitization and permanence of foul into our hearts so quietly”, I find myself answering, “perhaps it is because we are too busy being disgusted and dare I say judgmental when we witness other’s participating in such acts to be motivated to try and help the very people we find so offensive. One of the greatest aspects of our beloved Prophet’s character was his ability to see past the faults of a person enough to motivate him to do what was necessary to save that person. He didn’t allow himself to be disgusted, offended or judgmental, rather he took it upon himself to save that person’s soul. He saw people acting in a manner contrary to Islam and was saddened by their actions not disgusted. Like you so eloquently said, “We have to wake up and make a change”. It begins with our children, I agree; however, we need to move beyond just saving our children. We have to make an effort to reach out to those whose action we find so repulsive. We have to be able to look beyond the skinny jeans and rude manners and see a person who is in dire need of being saved and we have to do what we can to save them!!

    Recently, I was asked to take over a halaqa for 13 and 14 year old girls. My initial response was “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but no thank you.” The thought of sitting in a room with a bunch of skinny jeaned 13 and 14 year olds completely lacking in adab was not something I was interested in. After seeking advice from other’s much wiser than me, I realized I had to say yes. Why did I have to say yes? Because these skinny jeaned girls deserve to know the beauty of their deen and of Allah. Moreover, they deserve to be saved from getting swallowed up by a dunya that is greedily devouring every non-protected soul in this world. They deserve to have someone care enough about their akhira to be willing to sacrifice a few hours of their time to help them see the beauty of their religion. So, I went back and said yes. Are the girls dressed immodestly? Yes. Are they friends with boys on facebook? Yes. Do they listen to Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga? Yes. Do they long to go to Prom? Most Probably. Do they sit in my haalqa chewing gum and texting on their phone? Yes. Do all these things drive me crazy? YES! But, I am learning (forcing myself) to look past the music, skinny jeans, and bad adab. I am forcing myself to see each and everyone of them as a soul that needs to be saved. As souls that need to be reawakened. I am forcing myself not to judge and not to be disgusted, but rather love them for the simple fact that they are Allah’s creation and deserve to be loved and helped.

    You are absolutely right. We have to bring back sensitivity and haya to our communities. In my humble own opinion this means looking past the things that we find so offensive, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty. Maybe, just maybe, if each one of us took it upon herself to mentor a handful of young girls we could change the state of our ummah. If we each commit to being non-judgemental, loving, caring and sensitive, then perhaps we could make a change in the lives of those around us. It is our youth that is in great trouble. We have to take it upon ourselves to save them.

    So the next time we find ourselves staring in horror at an immodestly dressed 16 year old muslimah, let’s try and see past the clothes and feel sadness and empathy for her. Let’s try and think of how we can bring her into our hearts and fill her life with Allah and not Justin Bieber!

    And Allah Knows Best

    Wa Salaam

    • Jazak Allahu khairan ya Umm Mariam,
      You so eloquently put in words what so many of us feel yet dare not articulate- our disgust due to being judgmental!
      May Allah give us all the strength to
      Look past the outward and help the person inside. May we all start by first being humble as our Lord put us in our position and not theirs out of His divine mercy- SubhanAllah!

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