HIJAB NO MORE – Here’s why

By Rab’ia Keeble

I’ve toyed with this idea knowing that my identity as a muslim woman was going to be called into question. If someone can’t pigeonhole you, they are not comfortable. My brown skin identifies me as black, my features identify me as feminine, but nothing else about me would tell you I am Muslim except perhaps in male company I am somewhat subdued still because years of pulling my energy back to not offend men is hard to retrain. I wore hijab for twenty years. Most of the time I struggled with it. Essentially I put it on at first to be “like” other Muslim women, not because I felt the Quran or Hadith insisted I do it, which they don’t. I understood the idea of covering during prayer, many Christian and Jewish women do it, and Hindus, it is not just Muslim women who cover, but, it is just Muslim women who insist on making this Hijab an emblem of Muslim femininity. Many mistakenly believe it is like the nun’s habit, when it is nothing like that. Nun’s take oaths, they take oaths to live and wear medevil style clothing based on the orders that rose in those times and earlier when it was natural for women to cover, not for religion but for cultural reasons. Some Muslims try to point to the Virgin Mary and say look, she covered…we really don’t know that, but what we do know is that people like Micheangelo depicted her in robes and scarf to convey virginity, and purity. There is nothing in the Bible or Torah that says women have to cover their heads at all, there is something in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul bids women to cover their heads when they “pray” or “prophesy” but that could not be construed to mean “all the time.” I also stopped wearing the hijab because it gave the wrong message most of the time. When a woman in the Western world is single hijab makes her look unavailable. In a close society, where marriages are made behind closed doors and people can be matched up by families, parents, friends, a lone single black woman wrapped in hijab has no chance of finding a man, especially a Muslim man, who tend these days to be as elusive spoiled and standoffish as any animal on the list of disappearing beasts. I tend not to be attracted to men who hold themselves above anyone else anyway, but there’s that. Those who will preach from the minbar that Muslim women can only marry Muslim men, are basically creating a vast network of 40 something and above healthy women, in captivity with no hope of marriage let a lone a kiss. We are human after all and though i do believe in God my god is not a cruel exclusionary task master who believes only young nubile girls with white skin and green eyes deserve a husband. I took off the scarf because I realized it has no place in this society unless you are married or in a group where your needs will be tended to. Outside those trappings you are only a lone wolf, in a scarf. People who are non Muslim who celebrate hijab are meddling in very tricky territory. They don’t know what they are doing, and they don’t know how they are helping to perpetuate this idea that hijab means someone is Muslim, and that without it, someone is not. That is none sense and it needs to stop. The new Congresswoman from Minnesota wears hijab and it is complicated and person why she does, Islam does not make her do that, in her case it is more to do with marketing, her clan connections and interpretations of Islam through the lens of Somali ancestry. I would hope that she will quickly make a statement that her hijab is not something that is up for discussion but to focus on the needs of migrants, detainees, victims of school and other mass shootings, to fix our climate and other important issues. Yes, I am done with hijab and yet I am not against anyone who wants to wear it in a an informed way. Don not try to say it is an obligation it is not. It is not a command from God, and it says nothing about the woman at all if she decides to not wear it. What I also know is that there will be some who will try to tell me I’ve made a mistake, usually Muslim men whose vulnerability around hijab is telling and disgusting. I will cover when I want, when I pray, when I enter into contemplation, but that’s up for grabs too. I feel now fully me, and fully free.


John Worboys Initially Being Granted Parole Shows How Sexual Violence Survivors Are Let Down By Our Justice System

By Aisha Ali-Khan

The Parole Board found he had a “sense of sexual entitlement”, a “need to control women” and a belief that “rape was acceptable” and refused to grant him early release. Which begs the question: why was John Worboys granted parole in the first place?


The announcement that so-called black cab rapist John Worboys would not be released by the Parole Board after all, thus reversing an earlier decision made by the very same board, shows how difficult it is for victims of such predators to get justice from our current system.

The panel considered a new 1255 page ‘dossier’ that included seven victim impact statements. They found that his “sense of sexual entitlement”,  “need to control women” and belief that “rape was acceptable” meant that he still posed a serious risk as a sexual predator.

So how could the system allow such a predator to be released back into the public? Where was this ‘dossier’ before the Parole Board considered his release last year? Why did it take a concerted effort by the victims, campaigners, the media and the general public for this decision to be reversed?

Worboys was found guilty in 2009 of sexual assaults against 12 women, although many other charges against him were either dropped or allowed to lie on file, meaning that the victims of those crimes could not get justice or closure.

It was also acknowledged at the time that he could be guilty of sexual attacks against at least a further 200 victims. When he was finally arrested, the police found a ‘rape kit’ in his car that included champagne, condoms, gloves, sleeping tablets and an ashtray to grind up the drugs.

Given the extent of the evidence against Worboys at the time of his trial, it is beyond fathomable that the Parole Board would even consider, let alone agree to the appeal against the length of his sentence in the first place. To add further insult to injury, many of his victims were not even informed when he was granted release by the Parole Board in January 2018, finding out from the media.

Shortly after the verdict in 2009, the Metropolitan Police Service was forced to pay out damages to two of Worboys victims after admitting that they had failed to investigate leads properly, meaning that Worboys was allowed to carry out his systemic campaign of terror for a far longer period of time. At the time, many believed that the Met refused to take the victim’s testimony seriously because they could not believe that a black cab driver could be capable of serious sexual assault.

Sadly, a decade after that case, the Met and many other police forces up and down the country are still letting victims down. Whether the case involves stranger rape (as was the case here) marital rape or rape by a known person, the outcome is generally the same. For victims from a BAME background, the impact of trying to access justice is even greater. The #MeToo movement may have served as turning point for empowering victims to come forward and name their abusers but sadly, that still does not mean that our legal system is strong enough to ensure that these perpetrators are brought to justice quickly or even at all.

What this case further illustrates, time and time again, is that our judicial system is simply not up to it when it comes to ensuring that cases involving sexual assault and violence are dealt with the same brevity and seriousness as other serious crimes. The woefully low conviction rate for rape, which recently dropped by a further 9.1% is just one example of this. Providing, of course, that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decide to prosecute the complaint in the first place.

In this case, campaigners and victims such as myself can claim a minor victory, at least until the next time the parole board considers another request for early release by Worboys, likely to be in 2020. There are too many other cases where victims are being failed by our legal system, so for the time being, there is simply no rest for the rest of us.


DV victim silenced using UK libel laws- test case to be heard in Supreme Court

A decision is to be reached shortly on Lachaux v Independent News Print Limited and Another – a vital test case on women’s rights to freedom of expression in the face of violence and abuse.

On 13 November 2018, the Supreme Court will preside over a significant test case on libel law with far-reaching implications for women’s rights. A panel of 5 male judges – Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Hodge and Lord Briggs – will hear the case of Lachaux. Its outcome may well serve to shape the future reporting of violence against women in the media. Despite this, for reasons not furnished to us, their Lordships refused an application for permission to intervene on behalf Southall Black Sisters, the Nia Project and the Centre for Women’s Justice.

#Me Too and gender justice

At the heart of the case lies the question of the meaning of ‘serious harm’ under s1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013. It relates to news reports – published in The Independent, the i, and Evening Standard – which featured the serious allegations of domestic abuse made by Afsana Lachaux against her ex-husband Bruno Lachaux. At first instance in the High Court, Mr Justice Warby found – as a preliminary issue – that the published reports contained defamatory statements which had caused or were likely to cause serious harm to Bruno Lachaux’s reputation: a finding that was necessary under the 2013 Act in order for his libel

claim to proceed. The newspapers’ appeal against that finding was unsuccessful in the Court of Appeal, but permission to appeal was granted to the Supreme Court.

This is not just about an issue of media law. A narrow and context-free approach to the meaning of ‘serious harm’ could serve to deny women vital access to the media to highlight the injustices perpetrated against them. It is a case which cannot be divorced from the #MeToo momentum and the reality of the countless women who have no option but to turn to the media to expose, challenge and seek acknowledgement for the acts of abuse and exploitation they have suffered at the hands of men who enjoy the benefit of the full armoury of defamation laws, non-disclosure agreements and emergency injunctions to silence them. In a world where we continue to see high levels of sexism, misogyny and systemic institutional failings – not least within the legal system itself – the media play a vital role in validating the remarkably similar stories of routine violence and abuse perpetrated on women in the workplace, on the streets and in their homes.

Not only can public reporting of all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) lead to investigation and redress for individuals, it can also encourage other victims to come forward, contributing to a much-needed overthrow of public stereotypes, myths and attitudes surrounding violence against women.

Women’s right to freedom of expression

What we seek is a robust analysis of the need to protect women’s right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998, whereby the court is required to have specific regard to journalistic freedoms. Indeed, the need in some circumstances to protect even prima facie defamatory statements under the umbrella of freedom of expression has been recognised in a forum no less than the European Court of Human Rights. We say this should apply even more strongly to the particularly egregious forms of harms against women that many of our cases have highlighted.

The case of Lachaux is vitally important, not just for media lawyers, but for anyone with an interest in the rights of women to freedom of expression in contexts where they are not the holders of power in society.

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters says:

“We are not asking for women to be given a license to conduct trials by public opinion; rather, to show how gender justice is dependent on the public value of enabling women to come forward, rather than simply defending male power and impunity through disbelief and silence. The media present a key democratic space by which to ensure that long-suppressed accounts of domestic and sexual violence and trauma surface and are taken seriously.”

Harriet Wistrich of Centre for Women’s Justice says:

“This case is another example of the worrying trend where wealthy men who are accused of abuse are able to buy victims’ silence. Libel proceedings are extremely costly and few can risk speaking out for fear of punitive costs awards against them despite the huge public interest in exposing serious wrongdoing. In libel, serious harm to reputation seems to be valued more highly than the serious harm of violence against women that may be exposed by victims speaking out.”

Karen Ingala Smith of the Nia Project says:

“The publication of allegations of sexual and domestic violence can be vital in bringing forward other victims and increasing the possibility of achieving a conviction, look at Jimmy Savile and John Worboys for instance.

We already have low rates of reporting of domestic and sexual violence and even lower rates of prosecution and conviction yet we have extremely high rates of both domestic and sexual violence. If women are unable to talk about the violence they experience other than when a prosecution or conviction has happened, then this silences women, enhances impunity for perpetrators and suppresses understanding and facts about the scale and extent of men’s violence against women. The deck is already stacked against women victims of male violence without delivering the press into the hands of perpetrators as well.”

This blog has been adapted slightly from the press release issued by Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Women’s Justice and Nia Project ahead of the court case on 13 November 2018. Women United hope to see justice done for victims of all domestic violence.


Eve Ensler’s letter to all white women who support Brett Kavanaugh

Dear white women who support Brett Kavanaugh,

Last night when I saw Donald Trump mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I couldn’t help focusing on the women behind him who cheered and laughed. I felt like I was falling into a familiar nightmare. It compelled me to reach out to you.

When I was a child my father sexually abused and beat me. My mother did not protect me. She sided with my father, just like these women sided with Donald Trump, and I understand why. She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see.

She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women. It was only much later, after my father died, that she was able to acknowledge the truth of my childhood and to ask for my forgiveness. It was only then, too late, that she was able to see how she had sacrificed her daughter for security and comfort. She used those words. I was her “sacrifice.”

Some people when they look at this video of women laughing at Dr. Ford, will see callousness. I see distancing. I see denial. I have worked on ending violence against women for 20 years. I have traveled this country many times. I have sat with women of all ages and political persuasions. I remember the first performances of my play The Vagina Monologues in Oklahoma City, when half the women in the audience came up to tell me they had been raped or battered. Most of them whispered it to me, and often I was the first and only person they had told. Until that moment, they had found a way to normalize it. Expect it. Accept it. Deny it.

I don’t believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations.

I know the risk many of you take in coming out to say you believe a woman over a man. It means you might then have to recognize and believe your own experience. If one out of three women in the world have been raped or beaten, it must mean some of you have had this experience. To believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that sometimes feels unbearable. I know because it took me years to come out of my own denial and to break with my perpetrator, my father. To speak the truth that risked upending the comfort of my very carefully constructed life. But I can tell you that living a lie is living half a life. It was only after telling my story that I knew happiness and freedom.

I know the risk others of you face who have witnessed those you love suffer the traumatic after-effects of violence and those who worry for both your sons and daughters that may someday face this violence

I write to you because we need you, the way I once needed my mother. We need you to stand with women who are breaking the silence in spite of their terror and shame. I believe inside the bodies of some of those women who laughed at that rally were other impulses and feelings they weren’t expressing.

Here is why I believe you should take this stand with me. Violence against women destroys our souls. It annihilates our sense of self. It numbs us. It separates us from our bodies. It is the tool used to keep us second-class citizens. And if we don’t address it, it can lead to depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating and suicide. It makes us believe we are not worthy of happiness.

It took my mother 40 years to see what her denial has done and to apologize to me. I don’t think you want to apologize to your daughters forty years from now. Stop the ascension of a man who is angry, aggressive, and vengeful and could very well be a sexual assaulter. Time is short. Call your senators. Stop laughing and start fighting.

With all my love,



Kavanaugh’s confirmation proves that testimonies of sexual assault survivors are worthless

Every single news channel today (6 October 2018) has been leading with the story that has dominated the US news cycles for weeks; the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s handpicked nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court.

For some, mainly Republicans, the confirmation (which is likely to be confirmed the next few hours) will be seen as a long expected victory, albeit held up for a few weeks to satisfy the powers that be that a sexual assault allegation is nothing really serious, honestly. For others, not just the Democrats but survivors of sexual assault and women rights activists, too, this will be a bitter but not too unexpected pill to swallow given that that our American brothers and sisters managed to vote Donald Trump to the presidency despite his ‘grab ‘em by the p*ssy’ attitude to women.

The feeling that no matter what happened, Trump’s nominee of a Republican faithful as a Supreme Court judge would be confirmed,  was consistent, despite the fact that a credible and trustworthy witness came forward to claim she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh as a teen.

We all watched last Thursday as both Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh himself gave nearly 9 hours of testimony at Capitol Hill regarding the incident. Despite the fact that Dr Ford did not want to be thrust into the unrelenting glare of the world’s stage, she did not flinch, or become hysterical or give flippant, belligerent answers. She knew what was at stake; her credibility not only as a survivor but as a woman. When you contrast that with Kavanaugh’s highly strung performance that followed, which veered from overly emotional, shouty, and downright rudeness, it became apparent that, sexual assault allegations or not, this man was simply not suited to sit on the highest court in the land that could possibly decide the outcomes of cases that may involve controversial and sensitive topics such as abortion, same sex marriage, migrant worker rights etc. His outbursts, his arrogance and dismissive attitude to the proceedings he was involved in belied a man who is unstable, and overly emotional. Now, had these terms been applied to a woman, there is no way she would ever progress past the proverbial typing pool. As it currently stands, Kavanaugh serves as a circuit judge for the Court of Appeals in Columbia, his evidently fragile emotional and psychological state not a barrier or a hindrance.

Today’s outcome will serve only to galvanise and further motivate a movement that began over two years ago with Donald’s Trump’s nomination as the GOP candidate for the 2016 presidential elections. I know of many Americans who, the day after waking up to President Trump instead of President Clinton, asked themselves if what they did was enough, and what did the future now hold. Today’s verdict should serve as confirmation that those fears and concerns people like myself and others expressed were well founded and valid.

The partisan lines have never been more vividly drawn or more viciously defended. But the real battle has been between America’s ability to walk away from a man accused of sexual assault or to give in to the age old ‘he-said-she-said’ cop out and elevate a man to an even higher office. As we saw with Trump’s presidency, it has been and maybe always will be the latter.

Despite everything that has happened since Trump’s presidency began, I believe that this moment will be seen as the watershed.

Why? Because this is the point where the fight for women’s rights, the fight for survivors of sexual violence to be heard let alone believed, the fight for the existence of women full stop, has gone beyond that of no return. We cannot stay silent while men in positions of power abuse us or allow their compatriots to abuse us. We cannot allow those men in power who have abused us, then use their power to elect other men accused of abuse to further positions of power. Some of my sisters in the US have organised get togethers with each other for support, solidarity and reassurance in light of the bleak landscape that is prevailing us right now. Others are organising marches and demonstrations as I write (Womens March have announced they will be marching in Washington on 21 January 2019 on the second year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration) Some, such as myself, can only write and express our disgust and outrage. What binds us all is the belief in sisterhood despite being thrown under the bus by the many millions of women who support and vote for men like Trump and Kavanaugh.

By coming forward, today was very day Christine Blasey Ford had tried to stop from happening. Instead, today will be the day she helped to relight the fires for millions of women who refuse to stop fighting and campaigning for the rights of women, no matters how dismissive and contemptuous their opponents.


Tesco’s evasive response does not hold much water for customers facing criminal record for buying water

My response to Tesco, after they responded to my letter asking for clarification of their water buying policies:

Dear Mr Mitchell,

Many thanks for your response.

You say that you ‘have a policy in our stores which limits buying big quantities of any single product’

In what way was this policy communicated to you customers? Through posters or signs within the stores? On your website? At the start of each transaction when the customer’s go to pay at the checkout?

When you say ‘If a customer does want to purchase lots of a single product’  what do you mean by ‘lot’? Is there a numerical value? If so, how is it communicated to your customers?

Can you also address the questions raised in my previous email to you (I have re-attached my original letter to this email a gesture of goodwill) as these still need addressing as a matter of urgency. In addition to point 6 in my letter (prohibition of recording on Tesco premises) I note that a previous customer of yours had taken a photo of two women shopping in your store in their pyjamas and uploaded it to social media. Can you please confirm that you admonished that customer and evicted him from your store? It would have been fairly easy to identify him due to CCTV etc at the time.

You say that a full investigation has been carried out. As the incident involved three of your customers, I would like to see the results of this investigation urgently.

Finally, I would like an explanation from you into the conduct of the store manager Pam Taylor, who was filmed during the incident attempting to stop other customers from filming in store, despite the fact that two of your customers were being manhandled and abused by the police. If that is how your store managers treat the welfare of your customers then frankly, I would not want to risk shopping at Tesco ever again.

I hope that you will respond with speed and this time answer the points I have raised in my original letter to you.

Kind regards

Aisha Ali-Khan

From: customer.service@tesco.co.uk <customer.service@tesco.co.uk>

Sent: 02 October 2018 10:55

To: akalixxxx@hotmail.com

Subject: Re: Rochdale Store- Urgent letter for your immediate consideration << Reference ID: 7446884 >>

Dear Aisha,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

We’re very much aware of the incident and as a priority have carried out a full investigation.

We’d like to explain that to ensure good availability for all our customers, we have a policy in our stores which limits buying big quantities of any single product. If a customer does want to purchase lots of a single product, we encourage them to place an order with our customer services team in store. I hope you will understand our store was carrying out our policy and meant to cause no offence.

Regrettably on this occasion, the situation escalated. We are unable to give more information due to the ongoing police investigation.

Kind regards

Peter Mitchell

Tesco Customer Service

Tesco Customer Engagement Centre


Tesco has serious questions to answer after customers arrested over attempting to buy bottled water

After distressing footage emerged of an Asian couple roughly manhandled and later arrested at a Rochdale branch of Tesco, there were some serious questions raised that regular customers such as myself need urgent answers to. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Tesco customer services. I hope to receive a response soon and will post it online when I get it.


West Yorkshire


Tesco Customer Service Centres

Baird Avenue



28th September 2018

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am a campaigner and co-organiser for Women’s March London and write to you in relation to a shocking video that was uploaded to various social media platforms last week, filmed in your Rochdale Store.

The video shows a couple being manhandled and then arrested by two police officers. According to press reports and a statement released by one of the individuals involved, Nasir Hussain, he and his partner had attempted to buy an amount of bottled water but were stopped at the checkout by one of your managers who claimed it was “unfair” on other customers as they would be left without sufficient water to purchase.

The video has raised a number of questions for which I, along with our readership, would like an answer to.

1 How much bottled water does your Rochdale store keep on its premises at any one time and on average,  how many units are bought per customer?

2 What is the official limit of bottled water per customer and was this clearly signposted in your store? If customers have exceeded this limit (if it is indeed in place) what is the official policy of Tesco towards the customer? Are they asked to leave the store immediately?

3 Why is this the store policy and is it in line with the store policies of your other stores?

4 How many other customers has this policy been applied to and under what circumstances?

5 What is your policy of refusing to sell your goods to your customers? For example, do you tell them to leave if they do not agree? Do you then notify the police after the customer has refused to leave or before you ask the customer to leave?

6 After numerous customers (including Mr Hussain’s partner Mahira Hussain) began to film the incident, they were informed to stop as they were on ‘private property’. Can you please send me your policy regarding the use of mobile phones on your premises as well as signage prohibiting customers from using their phones to record in your stores.

As you can imagine, I, along with many others, are concerned about the manner in which your staff members behaved towards  your customers and look forward to receiving your responses to the above questions as a matter of urgency. Until then, I will not be shopping at any of your stores due to serious concerns over the violations of our basic human rights until this matter has been cleared up.

Kind regards

Aisha Ali-Khan