There is a growing number of Muslim writers venturing into writing romance. Romance can be a culturally specific and powerful form of social commentary. I explained in a Journal for Popular Romance Studies article:
Romance explores culturally-specific notions of intimacy. Because it portrays a group’s conventions about love and amorousness, it can provide outsiders glimpses of norms and practices. Authors can describe and critique features of a given social context—such as racism or religious prejudice—in ways that inform outsiders and, at the same time, allow insiders to recognize and identify with behaviors and situations described.
I spent years studying and researching romance to develop scholarship in the subgenre that highlights and encourages an appreciation for the myriad of ways romance fiction can be crafted by storytellers. When I delved into romance authorship, I embraced the influences of my social intersections and life experiences, drawing on all of it to write romantic stories that simultaneously include common tropes of the genre and diverge from the Euro and Christian-centrism and White supremacy at its underpinnings. There is no denying that romance in the United States is White dominant, but Writers of Color continue to push back and carve niches shedding lenses on some unique ways characters reflecting social subgroups fall in love and attain their Happily Ever After.
Because romance fiction is increasingly becoming more nuanced, there is often a need for writers in not specific genres but also identifying with similar backgrounds to coalesce and discuss their craft. That is why I launched a small Muslim Romance Writers group on Facebook. Muslim romance writers face stigma inside and outside of their respective cultures. Many encounter assumptions about the genre based upon misconceptions and aversions to expressions about love and sensuality beyond finite Puritanical parameters. Like most romance writers, the “smut” generalization remains a problem, especially among Muslim authors writing outside of the genre and publishers interested only in works where characters don’t even approach the bedroom door—let alone open it.
In addition to stigmas and assumptions about their work, several Muslim romance writers struggle with deciding on content based upon a range of interpretations about what are “halal” depictions of romance.
Sensual content was one of the first topics broached by members of the closed group. Most of the pushback they get comes from family and friends raging that romance authors jeopardize their afterlives by writing about “private bedroom matters.” The fact that authors are typically writing about fictitious characters is immaterial. The fears instilled in authors is tangible, and the fire and brimstone talk became the first topic explored.
Writers in the small but growing private group also have a forum to discuss topics like sensuality within an Islamic context and how many Muslim subcultures have strayed from it as well as layers of sexual dialogue, including erotica, BDSM, kink, impotence, frigidity, etc. Writers share a variety of scholarly and popular text addressing Muslims and sex as well as their work.
It is pretty dope to have a safer space for Muslim romance writers to come together and encourage each other and avoid the haters.