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Statement by British Muslim communities following the knife attack outside Small Heath mosque

We condemn, in the strongest terms, the knife attack on a 14-year-old boy outside the Idaara Maarif-e-Islam Hussainia Mosque and Community Centre in Small Health, Birmingham.
The victim received life-threatening injuries to the neck and head. We offer our love and prayers for the victim and his family. We recognise this is a difficult time for the local community, who have many concerns about the motive behind the attack, but we urge all in our communities to remain calm while the police establish the facts.
Let us, as representatives of Britain’s diverse Muslim communities, send a clear message to the attackers: your hatred and your actions disgust us. You do not represent us. You will not divide the unity that we as faith communities enjoy and have worked hard to establish. And you will not stop Islam from being practiced in all its beautiful diversity.
Finally, let us remember that we have a long history of working together. We celebrate and embrace the diversity of our communities, and we will continue to support one another in times of need.
#UnitedAgainstHate
Signed:
Akeela Ahmed, Chair and Independent Member, Cross Government Working Group On Anti-Muslim Hatred
Mr Mohammed Shafiq

Chief Executive, Ramadhan Foundation
Maulana Muhammad Sarfaraz Madani

UK Islamic Mission
Shaykh Yazdani Raza Misbahi (London Fatwa Council)
Harun Khan, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Mufti Abu Layth, Birmingham
Yousif Al-Khoei Al-Khoei Foundation
Prof.Ch.Shafique MBE

Chairman Council for Christian Muslim Relations (HW) 
Mohammed Abbasi for Association of British Muslims
Dr. R. B. Naqvi

Sayed Mohammad al-Musawi

Both of World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League
Maulana Najm

Majlis Ulama Shia Europe
Muhbeen Hussain – British Muslim Youth
Muddassar Ahmed, President, the Concordia Forum
Dr Akber Mohamedali, The Council of European Jamaats
Mohammed Kozbar

Finsbury Park Mosque
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims
Anwarali Dharamsi, The World Federation of KSIMC
Arshad Ashraf – British Muslim TV
Aamer Naeem – Penny Appeal
Maulana Shahid Raza British Muslim Forum And Imam – Leister mosque

Aisha Ali-Khan, Asian Mums Network

Shaykh Muhammad Umar bin Ramadhan, Chairman Ramadhan Foundation 
Ajmal Masroor, Islamic Society of Britain
Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam
Dr Akber Mohamedali, The Council of European Jamaats
Dr Imran Awan, Independent Member, Cross Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred
Dr Milad Hilli, Medical Doctor and Iraqi Community Activist
Hayyan Ayaz Bhabha, Secretary, APPG on British Muslims
Henna Rai, Women Against Radicalisation Network
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL Association of British Muslims
Imam Ghulam Moyhuddin, Ashton Central Mosque
Imam Tahir Mahmood Kiani, Batley and Birmingham
Prof. Ch. Shafique MBE, Chairman, Council for Christian Muslim Relations
Qari Muhammad Asim, Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds
Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Scottish Ahlul Bayt society
Sayed Mohammad al-Musawi, World Ahlul Bayt Islamic League
Shaykh Umar Hayat Qadri, Imam Ghousia Mosque Huddersfield
Yousif Al-Kadhimi, Innovative Muslim Minds
Saima Alvi British Muslim Heritage Centre, Manchester 

Julie Siddiqi, UK activist
Mufti Ansar Ul Qadri, Bradford 
Imam Khalid Hussain Ashrafi, Leicester 
Hafiz Ghulam Rasul, Hazrat Sultan Bahoo Trust Birmingham 
Ragih Muflihi

IMAN network Sandwell
Imam Hashmi

Sunni Ulema Council Black Country
Shoaib Malik – Muslim Action Forum
Imam Ejaz Shaami

British Imams & Mosques Forum
Mufti Faiz Rasool, Birmingham 
Ismet Rawat, President Association of Muslim Lawyers
Shaikh Talat, Chairman MCEC

Vice-chair LBE Racial Equality Council
Mohammed Ali Amla

Radical Dialogue
Ismet Rawat of Association of Muslim Lawyers
Naved Siddiqi, New Horizons in British Islam

Zehra Zaidi, activist and former Conservative PPC

Sara Khan, Inspire

Amina Lone, The Social Action and Research Foundation 

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Saudia Arabia FINALLY allows women to drive in oil rich but repressive kingdom

Tonight, my fellow sisters in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a very good reason to go out and honk their car horns in celebration. Finally, after years of campaigning, the King has issued a decree, allowing women to drive, according to reports.

According to the Independent, King Salman has overturned a longstanding policy which had become a powerful symbol of women’s oppression.
The move was announced on television and also by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, it will not happen immediately.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by Shariah law, with clerics and officials producing various excuses for women not being able to drive, including that it was culturally inappropriate, they did not have the “intellect” and that male drivers would not know how to behave next to a female driver to name just a few. 

Some regressive critics have also previously said women drivers would act “promiscuously” if allowed to drive. 

The move comes after King Salman issued a decree in May this year, ordering government agencies to list government services that women can use without permission from a male guardian, and directing organisations to provide transportation for female employees. Guardianship laws for women in Saudi are some of the most oppressive in the world, and have forced Saudi females to rely entirely on their menfolk for every day to day freedom. 

When US President Donald Trump announced he would visit Saudi Arabia during his first international tour, the Kingdom was elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in a move that left many critics and observers incredulous. 

However, there is still a lot to achieve in terms of equality.Women still can not open their own businesses, travel abroad alone or take full autonomy for their own lives.

A decisive battle is finally won but the war carries on! 

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Mahira Khan: A Double Helping of Hypocrisy!

Mahira Khan, breathing

So the latest Pakistani woman to take a few million direct hits in the past 24 hours has been Pakistani actress Mahira Khan. 
So what was her ‘crime’ I hear you ask.

Well the only ‘crime’ IMHO that she may be guilty of is not giving a flying hoo ha of what people think of her. Her other crime, if you must know, was to enjoy a cigarette with a male colleague, Ranbir Kapoor, while at work. 
Cue shock, horror, and a swathe of heart attacks across Pakistan while the nation comes to terms with the fact that a young, successful and self sufficient actress could actually have a life not in accordance with the ‘chador-covered gharelu’ Pakistani female ideal!

(For some reason, the quality of these pics were so poor that they rendered poor Kapoor entirely non-visible. Because, for some reason, he got no flack from anyone whatsoever even though he was also  standing next to Mahira Khan, smoking. Challo, it happens)

When I see these kinds of double standards within our communities, I am transported back to 1999, when I very much wanted to watch Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace at the cinema with my brothers and male cousins. My mum refused me permission to go- simply because I was a girl and that the ‘mahalla will talk’. 

So it was OK for my brothers and male cousins to go to the cinema to watch a family friendly movie but not me? To this day, I can still remember and feel the utter, shitty unfairness of it all. Believe me, time may have moved on but times have not changed!! 

Why are we as a community so riddled with hypocrisy? As an activist and campaigner, I’ve seen so many examples throughout the years I reckoned it was about time I compiled a list! Please feel free to add any of the 42625262 examples I may have missed!! 😉😉

1. Gender roles:

Daughters age 4: ‘You must learn how to be good cook and housewife so you can look after your husband, your in-laws and their 3 pet goats. 

Sons: it’s OK, mere Chaand, I will happily spoon feed and burp you until you are 40 years old. 

2. Keeping the family izzat (honour):

Daughters: Remenber, you have to keep your dad’s, brother’s, uncle’s, baba’s and the random malang’s izzat (honour) pure and safe no matter what happens. 

Sons: so you’re no longer a virgin? It’s not your fault, I know those girls are cheap and always throwing themselves at my sona sona laadla. How can you be expected to resist?!

3. Marriage problems:

Daughters- Stop being so selfish and go back to your husband. So what if he beats you, abuses you and cheats on you. You have to think of your children and our izzat, not yourself. Besides, at least he comes home to you every night.

Sons:

WHHHAAAATTTT? Your wife didn’t boil your dhoodh patti for 3 hours in the morning?! 

DIVORCE THE BITCH. 

NOW!! 
4. Education

Daughters: not only do you have to hold three PhDs to get a decent rishta but you need is to also know how to make round rotis and Dhei Bhalle in the summer for your husband.
Sons: Just exist my darling. That’s all you need to do. 
5. Fashion:
Daughters: make sure your burka has a burka on in case you are seen by the pervert standing on his kohta with a pair of binoculars three galis away.

Sons: wear what the heck you want: topless, backless, sleeveless, crotchless, as long as you take your nazar off meri jaan. 

6. Marriage to a non Pakistani: 

Daughters: Haven’t you done enough moo kala by being born a girl that you now have to dance on our graves while we are alive?!

Sons: It’s ok beta, bring that Jessica that you’ve been shacked up with for the past 6 months home. And if you want, after 6 months, we will ask for Maasi Sugra’s daughter’s rishta too so you can at least have 100% pure Pakistani children without any milawat! 

I’ve only managed 6 before I began to lost the will to live…. 

Altogether now: #WeAreAllMahiraKhan 

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Latest twist in Faryal Makhdoom-Khan/ Amir Khan split drama shows narcissism at it’s best. 

On Thursday 21 September Faryal Makhdoom-Khan issued a statement claiming that she was putting all recent dramas following her public spats with Amir Khan and his family firmly behind her to concentrate on making her marriage work for be sake of her daughter and unborn child. 
This statement should have marked an end to the increasingly bitter public fallout of the marriage split between Khan and Makhdoom-Khan. But just a matter of hours later, Khan himself posted that the divorce was very much on and thanked Makhdoom-Khan for “clearing up the accusations she had made about my family in the past which were false” 

Er… she did no such thing. But we will come to that later.

Let’s look at what came before Makhdoom-Khan’s original tweet.

Khan informed his *pregnant* wife that he wanted a reconciliation, which she eventually agreed to. But only on one condition- that she apologise to his family publicly and admit she lied all about her claims of his family abusing her. As anyone who has been through an emotionally vulnerable and fragile time can attest to, you are willing to listen to and accept any kind of promise, often against your own better judgment. Which is exactly what Makhdoom-Khan did.

How do I know all this? 

Because I helped Faryal draft her original statement that she eventually posted to her own twitter. In the first draft, I wrote that Khan was suffering from depression and stress due to not being in a ring for 15 months (which was one of the reasons he gave to Makhdoom-Khan to explain his recent conduct). The first signs of something amiss going on came when he refused to accept any responsibility for his behaviour before, during and after his public spat with his wife. He also demanded that any reference to his mental health be removed from this statement. 

Khan then demanded that Faryal ‘apologise’ more ‘sincerely’ to his parents and admit she was making up all the abuse claims all along. Faryal refused to do so, because everything she had said was true. 

What does this all show us?

Well, apart from the fact that Amir Khan is the very definition of the term ‘fuckboy’ and is tied so hard to his mum and dads ‘naala’ (ask any Pakistani) he is practically blue and brain dead?

It also shows the public a deeply manipulative and conniving guy hell bent on protecting his mum and dads izzat (honour) than his own pregnant wife and mother of his (so far) only child. As far as he and his family were concerned, Faryal needed to be taught a lesson for publicly exposing their antics and brought down a peg or two. What better way than promise her reconciliation in exchange for her public statement when all along the plan had been to say ‘sod off’ to his so called ‘leftovers’. He did this knowing that Makhdoom-Khan’s statement would be picked up by the press thus magnifying her hurt and humiliation when he eventually turned around and said ‘thanks but no thanks’. 

It is precisely these types of master- submissive roles that lead to couples getting divorced. The husband demands his wife bow down to his parents even when they abuse her badly otherwise he threatens divorce or worse. The family don’t stop him because it helps that he can show his wife her true place, at the feet of her husband and his family. Then all turn around and blame the wife if she dares to stand up for herself and speak out!
This my friends, is what we call patriarchy & misogyny at work. Oh, and sheer narcissism too.  

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Hijab: Empowering or Oppressive?

Image result for hijab pic behind

Last week, a Sunday Times investigation found that 1 in 5 primary schools now listed the ‘hijab’ as a official school uniform policy, even though young girls under the age of puberty are actually exempt from wearing it under accepted Islamic rulings. Campaigners such as Amina Lone, Gina Khan and Shaista Gohir have already brought a lot of attention to this very polemic issue. I hope to outline my own position and help put my previous comments into context with this blog. Feel free to leave comments below!

Do you want to ban the hijab?

No, absolutely not. I believe that everyone should wear what they want to whether that is a burka or a bikini, as long as they are exercising free choice. Over the past decade or so, the hijab is seen more and more being as a symbol by both extremes of the debate on Islamic dress for women- by groups such as ISIS who force Yazidi women and girls into wearing the ‘burka’ and on the other side, as a symbol of oppression by feminists and women who champion women’s rights, who want to see an outright ban.

It is very difficult to enter this debate because we can often end up in much polarised discussions and positions. ‘Do we ban the hijab?’ ‘Do we ban it for some and not others?’ ‘Do we allow anyone and everyone to wear it, even those who are exempt?’ Or ‘should we be tackling other, more serious issues such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and forced marriages first?’

For women like myself, finding a middle ground that allows women to wear what they want to wear without judgement, even if it’s a symbol seen by some as a ‘tool of oppression’ is often tricky and fraught with contradictions.

This blog is an attempt to explain and understand some of the popular misconceptions around the hijab and perhaps towards a better, more nuanced understanding of the debate around the hijab.

So what is the hijab?

According to Wikipedia, A hijabis a veil traditionally worn by some Muslim women in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the head and chest. The word ḥijāb in the Quran refers not to women’s clothing, but rather a spatial partition or curtain. The term can refer to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to a certain standard of modesty. Hijab can also be used to refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, or it may denote a metaphysical dimension, for example referring to “the veil which separates man or the world from God”’

For the purposes of this blog, I intend to use the term hijab to refer to a triangular headscarf, generally worn by Muslim woman to cover their heads.

To truly understand the beauty of hijab you need to understand the concepts behind it. According to the early scriptures, the hijab is not just a headscarf; it is a way of thinking and expressing one’s beliefs in Islam. The hijab encourages modesty and restraint both in thought and behaviour, as well as clothing. It also encourages empathy and the control of one’s ego. Moreover, Islam actually dictates that the hijab is incumbent on males first and foremost. Often you will see a Muslim man avert his gaze. He is not being rude. Rather he is observing the hijab of the gaze i.e. not to look upon a ‘ghair’ (non-relative) woman. To observe hijab, one must recognise their own failings and strive to improve their character internally first.

Another key point in this very heated debate which, regretfully, I can only touch upon briefly, is how women who don’t wear the headscarf are treated. Generally, there have been no issues at all, but some recent examples are showing quite a worrying trend. In a recent election campaign, the electorate was advised to ‘choose the better Muslim’ between two Muslim women based simply upon the fact that one wore a headscarf and the other didn’t. This needs to stop. The wearing of a headscarf is no barometer of whether the person is a good Muslim or not.

What about the hijab in primary schools?

Primary school starts at the age of 5. Girls under the age of puberty are exempt from wearing the hijab in Islam, so to have school uniform policies that allows young girls to wear the hijab doesn’t make sense. It also provides the perfect excuse for far right groups to attack the hijab and attempt to get it banned for everyone. This is what happened in France and what is happening across Europe as we speak.

I understand many young girls in Years 5 & 6 who have started their menstrual cycles, who may wish to wear it but an older child of say 10 or 11 is very different in their outlook and understanding than a child of say 4 or 5 years old. Let little girls be little girls.

I remember when I was a little girl; I only ever wore a dupatta on my head when learning to read namaz and sabaq with my mum. We wore what our parents wanted at home and stuck to the school rules when we were in school. I don’t see why it has to be any different now.

Before everyone goes off to get their pitchforks, let me explain my own family situation. My niece is 6 years old. The only time she wears the hijab is when she goes to madressa to learn Arabic or when she sees either her grandma, her mum or me pray namaz  or read the Quran. When I brought her a long abaya (dress) from Morocco a few years ago she wore it every day for a week and would only take it off to have it washed.

Our children are a product of our upbringing. But that upbringing needs to be tempered with understanding and an appreciation for our religion. How many of us went to the mosques and learnt how to read the Quran by rote without ever understanding what we were reading? And how many young people do we know that have little or no connection to the ‘deen’ now because they were only copying behaviour without understanding the concepts behind such actions? Why is there a generation of young people with emotional and behavioural problems, with a huge increase in mental health problems?

The young people I speak with have a real disconnect with their upbringing, their families and their spirituality. We can no longer expect our young children to follow our lead and accept what we are telling without also providing a solid framework for them to express their individuality and curiosity. In a truly digital age, where we have toddlers using iPads before they can even walk, the access to knowledge and different opinions via the internet is not empowering but rather confusing young people.

Some of the comments online have been interesting. ‘Best to get the girls wearing the hijab early so that they can get used to wearing it later on in life’ was a common theme. Islam isn’t about habit or doing something without any thought or love involved. Islam actively encourages free and critical thinking, free speech and the respecting of other people’s views.

Moreover, from my own experiences of teaching and working with young people, I have seen young men and women engage in behaviour that is contrary to Islamic practices such as drug taking, sexual activity, drinking of alcohol and so on while wearing Islamic dress or keeping an Islamic appearance. That is not to say I judge them whatsoever for their actions- is it between them and our Maker as far as I am concerned. But too many young people are leaving the faith, some because they feel they were forced to do something they didn’t want to. There needs to be a strong discussion around this topic but maybe for another post!

It is very telling when I come across comments aimed at me such as ‘c*ck sucking biatch’ ‘stupid ugly b*tch’ ‘daft b*tch’. Without exercising the incumbent Islamic principles of good akhlaq (disposition, nature, temper, ethics, morals or manners) these people demand something that isn’t even prescribed for under Islamic rulings!

Has banning the Hijab worked in France?

Whenever anyone discusses the banning of anything, there is a fine balance between respecting the human rights and wishes of the people affected, and on the other hand, promoting community cohesion while addressing the needs of the wider community.?

Last year I also campaigned against the Burkini ban in France on various media platforms. By banning the hijab, has France really satisfied their goals of tackling extremism or gender based abuse? That is open to interpretation.

My belief, that women should not be dictated to on what they should or shouldn’t wear by French or any other public policy, is grounded in the principles of free choice. Similarly, women should not be forced to cover up to satisfy the strict interpretation of men based upon their patriarchal cultural framework and little girls, absolutely not!

We do not need to look too far to see what is happening on our doorsteps. Campaign groups with a far right agenda are already circling, and looking for an excuse to start calling for a ban on many of the practices that we take for granted, such as slaughtering livestock that adheres to principles of making meat halal and the circumcision of males. Why give them any more excuses.

 

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