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Book review: ‘Let Me Tell You This’ by Nadine Aisha Jassat

You know when you come across a poetry collection so good, you just want to go out and buy a copy for all your friends whether it is their birthday or not? Well, this is it!

‘Let Me Tell You This’ by Nadine Aisha Jassat is just so compelling, I kept on going back and re-reading each one and every time I did so, there was a new meaning, a new layer. Split into three sections; Hands, Words and Voice with each section taking on different aspect of Nadine’s journey in life and her relationships with those closest to her.

“There is so much raw, visceral passion in ‘Let Me Tell You This’ the reader is on a roller coaster all the way through…”

A child of dual heritage, Nadine talks about growing up with her mixed heritage, and doesn’t shy away from sharing the ignorance of her peers. ‘Conversation as Girls’ is layered with hidden, hurtful meaning “I’m glad my parents are the same, Pure Blood’ while ‘Things I Will Tell My Daughter’ may be the shortest of poems but packs a powerful gut punch nonetheless.

There is so much raw, visceral passion in ‘Let Me Tell You This’ the reader is on a roller coaster all the way through, whether it is sharing Nadine’s pain as a customer brands her fake-tan stained hands ‘Paki hands’ or when she talks about the racial and sexist abuse she receives from random men in ‘Hopscotch’. You can’t help but feel her anger, frustration, outrage but also marvel at her bravery and the way each poem leaves an imprint in your mind, so that you’re still thinking about the words, the meanings days later. 

Who said women of colour couldn’t speak out? Because if it is one thing that Nadine does well, it is to use her mastery over the English language in such a way, it will break your heart, soar your spirits and have you demanding more!

By Aisha Ali-Khan

‘Let Me Tell You This’ is available to purchase from Amazon.

Aisha Ali-Khan is a campaigner, activist and avid book reader. As a child of Pakistani migrants, she felt that there just wasn’t enough voices from black or minority backgrounds in literature with whom she could relate to and identify with while she was growing up. Later, as an English teacher, Aisha would use poetry to bring her lessons alive, and introduced her pupils to many new and upcoming authors and poets.

 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

 

 


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Book review: ‘What if it were you?’ by Elizabeth Arif-Fear

Image credit: Elizabeth Arif-Fear and Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers)

 The title of Elizabeth Arif-Fear’s excellent collection of poems, ‘What if it were you?’ is a reminder, if we need one, of the fragility of many women’s lives. Hopes and dreams may be shaped by the political landscape and the country we are born into. Often our belief in God is what helps to define us.

” It’s uncomfortable reading, the visual imagery is raw as if Ms Arif-Fear has cried her way through each stanza.”

The short verses of each poem pack a powerful punch through the exploration of FGM, free speech, genocide and mysogyny. Each poem is like a stick of dynamite, exploding myths and breaking down barriers. The force of the descriptive language literally takes our breath away.

It’s uncomfortable reading, the visual imagery is raw as if Ms Arif-Fear has cried her way through each stanza. The poetry is gripping; it’s a book which draws us through it at an incredible speed, as if you are on a train passing through the very worst and occasionally the best of human nature. The book contains stories of women that must be told, deserve to be applauded.

It is a book detailing the power of faith and the equality with which that faith is bound to. Elizabeth Arif-Fear seems to effortlessly step into the shoes of an unimaginably large number of women, each with their own extraordinary story. Her writing is so perceptive that it is as if we are taken on a journey through the depravity of the human soul. We do not leave unscathed, our senses are left reeling from the experience. Ms Arif- Fear has a gift for propelling the reader on a real life roller coaster through the streets of Syria, the UK and within the confines of any place where a woman is suffering.

Sometimes we are filled with despair, at other times we sniff a glimmer of hope for a future where true equality between women and men is a reality.

By Anna Hussain

Elizabeth Arif-Fear is also one of our regular contributors. ‘What if it were you?’ is available to buy on Amazon.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Muslim & Jewish Women are going above and beyond to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’

The power of going beyond our limited thinking to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’. Mehatma Gandhi

At this time of uncertainty it’s easy to take our fearful thinking seriously and not question it. We can either retreat into ourselves and/or become more fearful of others. 

We may not realise it but our thoughts create our experience of life whether consciously (like when we are thinking about what we are going to say to someone) or unconsciously (like when we automatically make a cup of tea and are not aware of the thoughts that instruct us to do it).

But since thoughts are constantly flowing through us, often at great speed and ever changing, how trustworthy are they? 

When our thoughts look real, we live in a world of suffering. When they look subjective, we live in a world of choice. When they look arbitrary, we live in a world of possibility. And when we see them as illusory, we wake up inside a world of dreams.” – Michael Neill (2013), taken from ‘The Inside-out Revolution: The Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever.’

We are constantly, and innocently, making judgements about other people then acting out of that thinking; often without even realising we are doing this. It’s easy to make judgements about people but what are these judgements based on? How reliable are they? How much do we really know about the people we are judging? 

I was reminded of this recently when I had dealings with someone who I judged unfairly. I later found out that what I had interpreted as being pushy was in fact a passion for what they do as a result of them personally overcoming adversity that had a profound impact on them. Until I understood this I had interpreted their enthusiasm as something quite different. Needless to say I felt very remorseful but glad to have been retaught this lesson. 

We often think that our experience of life comes from what other people do and our circumstances rather than how we are viewing those other people and our circumstances in any given moment, a view that can change with our mood, how we are feeling, fresh thinking we have etc.

An example of this was when I was contracting at work and my contract was coming up for renewal.  I came into work one day feeling a bit insecure and no one spoke to me. I started to think maybe I had done something wrong and maybe my contract wouldn’t get renewed, so I started to feel even more insecure. Then I noticed that everyone was just working really hard and were up against it because of a deadline they had to meet and I realised they weren’t talking to me because they were busy and it had nothing to do with me. In that moment of realisation that my insecurity was coming from me and not from them it disappeared just like that. If I hadn’t noticed this I could have innocently acted out of my insecurity and done something that could have put me in not such a good light. 

Sometimes in life we need to step outside our comfort zone and go beyond the limitations that we and what we perceive others think is possible. A few months ago I did just that by passing my driving test at the age of 44. Something I and I everyone else I knew never thought I could do. How was I able to do this I hear you ask? Well partly I had a good reason that helped to motivate me beyond my fearful and self limiting beliefs (that I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t have good spatial awareness, that all other drivers were scary etc.). But also I had the understanding that fearful and self limiting beliefs were just thoughts like any other that ebb and flow. So when this thinking crept up on me, which it often did when I was attempting to drive, for the most part I was able to see beyond them and concentrate on the here and now of driving rather than the noise in my head. 

What I’m learning is that when see our thinking for what it is we start to see our thoughts as arbitrary which liberates us to go beyond their limitations and opens us up to people and possibilities in the world far beyond what we would have thought possible. 

In less than a month’s time an organisation that I am very passionate about – Nisa Nashim, the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network – will bring together Muslim and Jewish women from around the UK, who are bucking the trend of fear and separation and what they think is possible to come together for a one day conference on “Faith and Friendship: Shaping the future together”. We’ll explore what it means to view cross-community friendship as an engine of social transformation. We’ll ask, what does it mean to practice friendship as a form of social action? What role does friendship play in unlocking women’s leadership? What can our faith traditions teach us about being better friends and changemakers?

As Jo Cox so poignantly said in her maiden speech to parliament “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” The programme for the day reflects this with a wide range of sessions on issues that affect both Muslim and Jewish women such as Islamophobia and Antisemitism, campaigning and advocacy, and caring from the environment. It features a range of high profile women each courageous in their own way, including Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick, MP Naz Shah, Countdown presenter Rachel Riley, Deputy Mayor Debbie Weekes-Bernard and Annette Lawson OBE, the all-female team from Solutions Not Sides.  

So why not go beyond what you see is possible, “be the change you want to see in the world” and join us on Sunday 7 April

By George Halfin

George Halfin is on the steering committee for the Nisa Nashim Conference. She is an Innate Health coach and author of the blog Confessions of An Overthinker. She is also a Project Manager for Terrence Higgins Trust where she is currently working on a series of interactive films called ‘Their Story, Your Choice’ that aims to challenge people’s views and perceptions about HIV. 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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Accepting your dark side

We are told at a very young age how to behave. The social parameters of ‘normal’ thoughts and behaviour are clearly set out for us and stepping out of those boundaries can have grave consequences. So, it’s no wonder that we find it hard to accept in ourselves those characteristics that are classified as socially unacceptable and could lead to a painful rejection.

Throughout history we have been taught that we must ‘kill’ the dark-side, those negative characteristics and weaknesses within us. But is that even possible? And if so, is it even healthy? What we resist persists, so if we spend all our time killing and eradicating a side of us, are we at risk of doing more harm than good?

As human beings, we were created with a full range of emotional responses and desires, classified as good and bad, and this is universal. So what we do know is that we are not responsible for the creation of these, they are natural and they have a function. So why do we need to hide the ‘bad’ ones and pretend they are not there. Sheryl Lee said, “the more we deny that we have a dark–side, the more power it has over us”.

“Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people.”

The healthiest way to live is to accept the beast within us, that way we can keep it in check. If we deny it and ignore it, it tends to slowly get out of control and in time much difficult to harness. It’s hard to accept the dark-side because we often feel afraid of the rejection that will follow if anyone finds out about that side of us. We get busy creating a world where we are ‘fine’ and the problem is out there.

Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people. If we continue to live a picture-perfect life, denying a part of ourselves we can become exhausted and lonely. When we accept the dark-side it lives in harmony with the light and we lead much more authentic and healthy lives.

Fully accepting ourselves as people with dark and light sets us free, we become a more whole and complete person. The pressure to lead a ‘perfect’ life is gone and we are free to accept what’s really there for us. Once we are able to accept ourselves as whole, complete and perfect as we are and as we are not, we are able to do the same for others. The feeling of fully knowing ourselves and another and being able to share that is true intimacy and connection.

How do we know what our own personal dark side is? So, we need to listen carefully to the judgements we make about others, these are often the same judgements we make about ourselves. If we find fragility in someone annoying, then chances are that we find the same thing in ourselves annoying too and will probably go to great lengths to hide it from others. In such circumstances, we may openly judge others and gossip about them to deflect the same weakness in ourselves.

We may suffer jealousy, ignoring or denying this feeling can lead to dysfunctional behaviours however, if we are willing to accept that such feelings exist within us and that they are natural then we are free to deal with them. If jealousy is the overriding feeling, then we have to identify the reasons behind it. If for example, we are feeling jealous of a friend who has had a great holiday with her dream partner then the reasons why we are triggered is because we want the same. Instead of wishing it away from our friend it’s healthier to wish the same for ourselves and then establish ways to have the same possibly even by asking our friend for advice on how.

Once we begin to treat ourselves with such compassion and not judge reactions within us that are normal and there to be understood, we are able to harness that side of us. We become more authentic in our relationships. We are better able to allow that authenticity to show in others without judgement. We no longer fear rejection because we fully accept and respect ourselves for all that we are and all that we are not. Fortunately, we are not just dark, or light, and our real beauty lies in the harmony of both.

By Aamna Khokhar

For more information and to access e-learning modules or book a one-to-one please visit leafcoaching.com


Aamna Khokhar is determined to equip people with the tools to strengthen communication, regard and love within their relationships. She helps people overcome destructive thought patterns, obstructive emotional responses and manage stress and anxiety. She believes that the management of these can help people heal their relationships and reclaim their self-worth and improve their lives. With a background in Psychology spanning 20 years and a qualification in life coaching Aamna has chosen to specialise in Relationship Coaching. She works with individuals as well as in groups and runs workshops on self-development and the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships, including finding love. She has recently begun creating e-learning modules allowing individuals to work at their own pace and leisure to ensure that self-development is a pleasurable part of their everyday lives. 

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image credit: Akeela Ahmed


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It’s time to stand up to and call out anti-Muslim rhetoric

And treat it in the same manner as any other type of hate speech

The events of 15th March 2019, where 50 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Like all terrorist attacks of this calibre we go through extreme emotions of shock, anger, sadness and grief. Overwhelming grief. Yes we are a community in mourning. Why has this particular terrorist attack shaken us to our core? Let me explain.

It is little known that Muslims around the world are mistreated and killed day in, day out because of war and terrorism. Whether in Kashmir, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, or China  , Muslims are victims of complex conflicts and terrorism. In fact more Muslims have been killed by Daesh compared with other groups. Targeting Muslims in Mosques is not new – past atrocities have involved Muslims being killed in mosques.

After these horrendous events, we feel sadness, we may donate money or sign a few petitions. We say prayers for the victims. We do what we can sitting in lands far away. But this grief, following the horrific attacks on Mosques in New Zealand, a Western country, is new and it’s raw and I’m trying to work out why.

“Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.”

It seems to me, that my fellow non-Muslims on Facebook and Instagram are not affected by it, in the way Muslims are. This may seem unfair but the fact that very, very few non-Muslims in the public eye and just regular people in Britain have shared anything about the New Zealand terror attack, really hurts. Words matter, and support through a difficult time is always appreciated. The notion that ‘now they know how we feel’ which I’ve seen in comments under many posts is not as hurtful as those people simply not acknowledging it. Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.

Please don’t think for a minute that Muslims are immune to terror attacks. Don’t for a minute think this is a first for the Muslim community. Don’t for a minute think that the ‘shoe is on the other foot’. No. According to the Stop the War coalition, the US led war on terror has killed two million Muslims since 9/11. That’s right two million, so don’t for one moment think that Muslims don’t know about death.

When 7/7 happened and 52 people were killed and many more injured on the London Underground we were upset and angry as much as anybody else. Remember Muslims die in Islamist inspired terror attacks too. We are not exempt. We go to concerts, we use public transport so we are a targets too. But in this case we were targeted exclusively. Like the nine black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, these people were murdered whilst praying. When we’re praying we are vulnerable and detached from our surroundings. To target a group of worshippers is so cowardly and so personal to me. My husband and son go to Friday prayers. It’s such a normal thing to do. One of the victims, fourteen year old Sayyed even looks like my son. So yes it’s personal and yes I feel it. And I know the majority of Muslims who live outside of Muslim countries feel the same.

The truth is Muslims are battered from every angle. Whether it’s from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or from white supremacists, we are in the firing line every time. And if not a target for violence we are spoken about on social media like a worthless community. Too long the media with their inflammatory headlines have gotten away with demonising an entire religion and it’s followers.

Many young Muslims, born in the era of post 9/11 have felt victimised, experienced racism and anti-muslim hatred all their lives. With headlines like ‘Muslim schools ban our culture’ to ‘Muslim plot to kill the pope’, is there any wonder why some of the general public fear and dislike Muslims? These headlines are fuelling white supremacists and legitimising Islamophobia. According to the Cambridge University Press “For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press”.

Says it all really, and if you want to see the hatred from the comfort of your home then you just have to go on to a tabloid newspaper’s Facebook page under any article to do with Muslims and you will see it clearly. You only have to go on Twitter to see how many proud ‘Islamophobes’ there are who put in their bio that they are Islamophobic, and this is their main purpose, indeed their tweets are mainly about bashing and demonising Muslims.

Thankfully I’ve also found solitude in Twitter where so many tweets from non-Muslims have shown me that people do care and there are many who realise the subliminal anti-Muslim sentiment that some of the press has been espousing. Whilst it is being acknowledged, things need to change. It’s time that not just Muslims, but for others too, to call out the anti-Muslim sentiment that is present in our society today. Because there hasn’t been the Facebook and Instagram outcry that usually follows a large-scale terror attack. Extremists have now been inspired to attack Muslims in London, and one has already taken place outside a mosque. It’s time to stand up to anti-Muslim rhetoric and treat it in the same manner as other types of hate speech. Don’t let it go unquestioned, don’t ignore it, because people need to be held accountable for their words.

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

Sharmeen Ziauddin is a journalist and blogger who blogs at britpakgirl.com. You can find her tweeting @britpakgirl

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website


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Islamophobia in the Conservative Party: A Politics of Double Standards

Boris Johnson MP was accused of Islamophobia after comparing Muslim women to bank robbers and letter boxes

The Brexit debate and the Labour anti-Semitism row have fueled polarizing headlines on the back of accusations of racism, xenophobia and fragmented party loyalties.

At a time when the UK public is already uncertain about the future, multiple MPs announced their exit from Labour to create a new bipartisan group, citing an environment of anti-Jewish sentiments within the party, and the failure of Jeremy Corbyn to address the growing discrimination.

The media has investigated the (frankly, shocking and reprehensible) reports of attacks against the Jewish community, but has largely overlooked another brewing scandal: the normalisation of Islamophobia within the Tory party. 

A PARTY OF ANTI-MUSLIM HATRED

During the 2016 London Mayoral Elections, Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith, engineered one of the most controversial campaigns against his opponent Sadiq Khan. From distributing letters in the Tamil, Sri Lankan and Indian community, spreading falsities that Sadiq Khan supported a wealth tax on family jewelry, to baselessly tying Khan to extremists and preachers, and a seal of approval from far-right demagogue Katie Hopkins, this political contest was a no-holds barred quest for power for Goldsmith. His campaign was a blatant display of dog whistle-racism, insinuating that London was unsafe in the hands of a Muslim mayor. 

This vitriolic smear campaign was condemned across the board in the UK. Journalist Andrew Grice compared it to ‘Donald Trump’ tactics. Peter Oborne observed thatZac Goldsmith is responsible for the nastiest political campaign since the homophobic hatred of Bermondsey 1983’

Yet this was just the beginning. In 2018, Tory Councillors Ian Hibberd and Linda Freeman were suspended for condoning internment camps and posting the racial slur P*** on social media. 

Boris Johnson attracted widespread criticism after stating that women who wear the burkha ‘look like letter boxes’, garnering praise from white nationalist Steve Bannon. 

London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey retweeted a picture of Sadiq Khan labeled as ‘the mad mullah of Londistan’

MP Bob Blackman was accused of spreading and endorsing Islamophobia after reposting an article with the headline ‘“Muslim Somali sex gang say raping white British children ‘part of their culture’.” 

Former Conservative member, Shazia Awan-Scully, wrote a first-hand account of her experience witnessing anti-Muslim behavior within the party in an interview with the New Statesman.

This year, fourteen Tory party members were suspended for posting threatening, racist and Islamophobic posts on a Facebook group, dedicated to frontline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. The string of abusive posts contained content ranging from calls to ‘turf all Muslims out of public office’ and to ‘get rid of all mosques.’ One individual said that he could not vote for Home Secretary Sajid Javid, because that would equate to a vote for ‘Islam to lead this country.

It has since emerged that the Conservatives reinstated a former Councillor, Mick Murphy, who was previously expelled for reposting racist, anti-Islam and far-right memes from militant group pages such as Pegida and Britain First. 

This sends a conflicting message to the population regarding the party’s stance on Islamophobia, and proves that the party leadership has tolerated the rise of Islamophobia. 

A BUSINESS OF ISLAMOPHOBIA 

These are not isolated incidents, but rather point to the Tory party’s links to the lucrative Islamophobia industry, a minacious space that has created an intellectual dark web, riddled with racist anti-Muslim abuse, and steered by a dangerous network of extremists.

Nathan Lean, author of ‘The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims’ argues that the Islamophobia industry is a global network of private groups, not-for profits, conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, evangelical religious leaders and politicians. All of whom are united in their quest to convince their compatriots that Islam is the enemy, and having the backing of hundreds of millions dollars behind them. See the Bridge Initiative for more information.

A transnational network, the Islamophobia industry is promoted by mostly far-right European and American key players such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Laura Loomer, Debbie Schlussel, Brigitte Gabriel, Milo Yiannopoulos, Tommy Robinson, Geert Wilders, and ex-Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They use channels such as social media, fringe news outlets, public poster/billboards, marches, right-wing conferences and mainstream politicians to advance their political cause. 

In 2016, it was reported by the Guardian that a staggering $206 million went towards bolstering anti-Muslim rhetoric. In 2018, an investigation by Al Jazeera uncovered how millions had been paid by anonymous donors to six leading anti-Muslim organisations with a direct link to the current Trump administration.

This anti-Muslim narrative has perilous ramifications for the Muslim communities where Islamophobic hate crimes have increased in the UK and US.

Tell MAMA, a monitoring anti-hate charity presented some grim statistics in 2018. The 2018 annual report, by hate crime monitoring charity Tell MAMA, finds a rise of 26% from the previous year in recorded incidents of harassment, intimidation and attacks.

Gendered violence specifically targeting Muslim women due to their visibility has surged. Six out of 10 victims of Islamophobic hate crimes were women, while eight out of 10 perpetrators were men, mainly aged between 13-18 years old. Many anti-Muslim attacks were reportedly triggered in the aftermath of a terrorist attack or an incident involving extremists.

There has been an increase of 36% in far-right activity related referrals to police in 2017-2018. In that same report, it was noted that Islamist related activity referrals were down 14% This indicates a dangerous shift in political discourse, with a prominent far-right presence growing in the UK. Since 2017, there has also been a 56% increase in anti-Muslim vandalism from the previous year of 2016.

No wonder that a report by Hope Not Hate concluded in February 2019 that the Tories are ‘signaling that Islamophobia is acceptable’ and as a party have repeatedly refused to properly tackle anti-Muslim hatred within their own ranks. 

CALLS FOR AN INVESTIGATION

Whilst many within the Conservative Party do not acknowledge the extent of rampant Islamophobia, one consistent politician has been vocal on the issue. Former Tory chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has appealed to current Tory chairman, Brandon Lewis, to tackle the ‘very widespread’ Islamophobia within the party and has called for a full inquiry.

On this subject, Baroness Warsi also stated that Theresa May has turned a blind eye to the growing bigotry and accused the Prime Minister of ‘burying her head in the sand’.

She also said that her party was going through a process of ‘re-UKIPification’ of itself.

Latest revelations by  Buzzfeed, show a leaked document detailing how Downing Street was forced to intervene with a private apology, after two Tory officials, Ajay Jagota and Gerard Leake, quit the party. They had accused chair Brandon Lewis of failing to tackle the growing Islamophobia and ignoring their complaints for several months.

To add to this, there have been repeated calls from the Muslim Council of Britain and 350 mosques have urged the Conservatives to investigate the numerous incidents contributing to a hostile anti-Muslim movement. Yet no official inquiry has been launched so far.

Though Brandon Lewis states that there is a ‘zero-tolerance’ party policy on Islamophobia, the evidence is antithetical to his claim. 

Whether it is anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, hatred in all its heinous forms should be rooted out. There has been an exponential growth in far-right activity across Europe and many nationalist groups are looking to monopolise the contentious Brexit debate for political gain. This is the time for society to come together. 

However, what complicates matters is when those in commands of authority and responsibility, practice a politics of double standards and dictate the terms and conditions of what minority group deserves coverage. A culture of Islamophobia has been able to metastasize through the Conservative party’s culture of denialism.

Even though alt-right writers such as Douglas Murray have long perpetuated the misconception that Islamophobia is a ‘crock’ term that doesn’t exist, the reality of targeted attacks on Muslims is a statistical and national crisis.

These hostilities were not created in a vacuum. They have been fortified by political agitators exploiting visceral fear, with an aim to marginalise, demonise and ultimately expel Muslims from the western world. 

It is now apparent that there are reputable figures in mainstream political parties that are sympathetic to these fascist causes, and endorse prejudice and disunity. These zealots seek to pit communities against each other and work in opposition to the interests of British society. Perhaps, we now need strategies that defenestrate those in positions of influence seeking to standardise hatred and violence to promote personal agendas.

By Saira Mirza

Follow her @saira_a_mirza

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website

*this post was updated on 13.03.2019 to reflect that Shazia Awan-Scully has now left the Conservative Party.


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We Need To Stop Being Mean Girls.

“She got that promotion? Ugh, how did she get it with the amount of slap on her face? “

“She’s going back to Uni? Surely she’s a bit past it now.”

“She should not be wearing those shorts, sorry but her legs just are not made for ripped denim.”

“She’s going out with HIM? She’s got the personality of a wet blanket.”

Do these statements sound familiar?

As in do they sound like the misogynistic comments that people write they heard men say in the workplace as well as the comments that women have been calling out in recent years?

Yes.

But were they said by men?

No.

All the above statements have been said by women, about women.

A common misconception about today’s brand of feminism is that all women have banded together to take on the patriarchy. But the sad truth is that we haven’t. Not yet anyways.

The irony of all this is that we regularly hear/see/read about how men who have made these comments and have been called out on their mistakes and engrained sexism, so why is it that we are still spontaneously combusting from within?

I believe a large part of this has do with how for generations and even now, we as women are still made to feel as if there isn’t a large enough platform for all of us to flourish career-wise, that there aren’t enough spaces for us. As a result, we have been raised to compete over everything; from makeup to marriage and we tear at each other mercilessly over the same aspects that we lambast men for even daring to criticise:

1. Physical appearance

2. Choice of clothing

3. Personality aspects (too loud, too quiet, too ‘in your face’, too anything really)

4. Sexual history

Another reason I believe this takes place is because quite simply, we get envious from time to time and therefore we regress back into what the patriarchy have thrived on for so long: women fighting amongst women without realising the power and potential we have as a collective.

We’re only human and when we see other people around us doing well we want the same kind of recognition and reward. I’ve even had to check myself a few times in the past when I’ve seen other women around me absolutely smashing it at work or within the media. I’d find myself falling into that toxic trap of finding something to nit pick about that woman all the while secretly wishing I’d achieved the same thing she had in the same amount of time.

But that was me projecting my own insecurities on to this woman, that was MY problem….not hers.

Today, I now maintain the notion that we as women have enough to deal with from those still upholding backward and misogynistic views in the workplace without self-destructing from within the ranks.

So if a woman in your workplace/college/university circle does well, just keep these things in mind:

1. She probably worked damn hard for whatever reward she got

2. If she’s earned a leadership or management position, that’s AMAZING!! We need more women in higher roles which make a difference.

3. She wasn’t being “loud” or “rude” in that meeting, she was speaking honestly and firmly about issues that she believed

4. Her choice of clothing, makeup or hairstyle have no bearing on her abilities or intelligence.

5. Neither does whoever she’s dating or not dating.

Above all else she should know and feel confident that in a world where the fight for gender equality is more vocal than ever, the women around her aren’t looking to secretly stab her in the back.

Instead, we’ve got her back.

By Raisa Shaikh

Raisa Shaikh currently works as a Secondary English Teacher in the UK but spent the first 16 years of her life in Hong Kong and Singapore. When she’s not teaching, she’s avidly reading or writing on her blog about her passions: intersectional feminism, world history and everything in between! She’s also a self-confessed “Shakespeare Nerd”.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website


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Hijab Shaming: A Favourite New Hobby For The Haram Police

Image credit: Dina Tokio YouTube

Oh, to be a Muslim woman in 2019.

When it comes to the world of online social media hijabis, a new phenomenon is sweeping the digital sphere: Hijab Shaming by the online squad, referred to as the ‘social media mullahs.’

In the current post 9/11 political narrative, the Muslim community is generally experiencing a number of vicissitudes of life, especially Muslim women who choose the hijab, face a plethora of struggles in their daily life. Islamophobia, prejudice and physical violence has led many women to remove their hijabs to ensure safety from discrimination. However, there has been a recent trend of Muslim women relinquishing the hijab, simply because they no longer connect with it.

This has split the Muslim opinion and unsettled the Islamic patriarchy, one that roams the corners of social media to police the styles of hijabs worn by women. These men (and some women) view hair as a sexual feature and deem those who choose to display it as ‘immoral’

With a growing niche market online, these shamers typically look for hijabi bloggers on Instagram and Twitter. They then proceed to harass, verbally abuse, bully and target those they view as breaking from observing the protocols of ‘proper’ head covering etiquettes. They see this as an affront to religion and God and most importantly, interpret this as a woman compromising her ‘modesty’.

Recently, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the creator and force behind the well renowned blog MuslimGirl.Com, took to her social media and website to express her anger at this odious behavior.

Amani has categorized such behavior as ‘sexual harassment’ and chauvinistic pietism. She stated:

‘A recent wave of highly visible hijabi influencers have been taking off the scarf, provoking shock amongst their followers ……………. ‘Let’s call attacking Muslim women for their hijab what it is: sexual harassment………

The fact that we simply don’t, and often can’t, police Muslim men’s religiosity publicly is what makes hijab policing an inherently gender-based double standard.’ (MuslimGirl.com ‘Hijab Policing is Sexual Harassment. Period.’)

However, this new religious mob mentality has taken a further disturbing turn.

In her article, Amani discussed the recent case of high-profile Instagram influencer Dina Tokio, an incident that illustrated the sinister and threatening nature of hijab shaming.

After years of donning the hijab, Dina no longer felt it necessary to covet head covering 24/7, instead opting to wear it part-time. When she revealed her hijabless new look to her 1.3 million Instagram followers, she received a barrage of abuse, death threats, verbal and sexual harassment.

Some of the vitriolic comments and comminations she received ranged from being called a porn star, to being accused of being mentally sick, labelled a disgrace and in some instances and the most disconcerting, some hoping her family die painfully and slowly.

Many, including myself, are questioning how something as personal as a hijab, which is a decision solely based on the individual freedoms, has become a favourite metaphorical blood-sport for the Islamic social media police? The simple answer is that toxic masculinity and religious cultural constructs have been major contributing factors. These must be addressed and dismantled.

When paricentric forces within the Islamic world create such a dangerous discourse, Muslim women can become public property to disparage, judge and exploit. They become fair game to anyone. It then creates a platform for opportunistic institutions, groups and anti-Muslim organizations to instrumentalise that dialogue for personal gain.

In a world where hijab wearing women are caught in-between the realms of western Islamophobia and patriarchal fanatical misogyny, Muslim women have become the ultimate political pawns in the battlefield amidst a power-struggle.

Whilst one group uses bigotry fueling stereotypes to deem hijab wearing women as oppressed, the other uses religion and intimidation to control the bodies of Muslim women. Both are two sides of the same coin seeking to regulate the decisions of these women.

A sad realization is that, it is 2019 and Muslim women are still denied agency over their own bodies.

By Saira Mirza

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website


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Love Love Love

Love is such an elusive thing, there seems to be an art to it, some of us get it and others well, we just don’t. If you’re in search of the one or if you have already found them it’s important to realise that you are in control and true love is not such an elusive thing.

We often think we are alone in love, that the plight we suffer is ours alone. However, if we look a little deeper we will find that we all experience the same joys and sorrows, the same gains and losses, in relationships we are all in the same boat. Men and women all experience the same emotions in relationships, we are often so focused on the differences between us that we forget how similar we are. The key is to transformation is to understand yourself first and then to share that with others around identifying commonalities. Most importantly to share what you find with a spouse and find your way together.

We often think that love comes from our partner, in the way they treat us. We begin to believe that if a partner is treating us well then there is love, in the absence of that there is no love. If we shift our focus and for a moment, see that love actually lies in each of us. We are the ones who have the power to generate love in our lives. When we feel unloved and disconnected it is something that Is happening within us and not outside in the other, so to feel love and connection we must be brave and turn that on within ourselves. The love that we get from others is a bonus, the real work is to be someone who generates loves for yourself first and then also for others.

We often feel that if we give away too much love we will have less love and therefore we have a fearful response to love. However this could not be farther from the truth. Love has no measurable end, there is no way of running out of love. The universe has an amazing way of looking after us, when you give in abundance you also receive in abundance. The love we give away comes back to find us. The more love you choose to give away the more love you will have. When you begin to withhold love is often also when you feel unloved. So give away your love and watch it return manifold.

Some practical tips to implement these ideas in your life are as follows:

  1. Show interest – If your partner is telling you something they are interested in be interested even if it is not your thing. Encourage your partner to discuss the things they find interesting this will make them feel loved and regarded for who they are. Extend this across their joys as well as their sorrows and do this from the get go.
  2. Be the person you wish to see in a relationship – Ask your partner what you can do to make them happy instead of looking at what they do for you. Assess your effectiveness as a partner as opposed to assessing theirs.
  3. Be happy for your partner – If your partner has an outstanding success be happy for them. Be a sponsor for their growth and development. It’s better to have two people bettering each other than two people tearing each other down due to insecurities.
  4. Be open and honest about all things – Talk to your partner about the things you think and feel, sharing vulnerabilities and asking your partner to do the same will build trust and honesty in your relationship.
  5. ‘Fight’ kindly – If you do disagree on something be mindful that the intention of the fight is not to hurt the other person but just to share your concern. Manipulating your partner through guilt/anger or stories from the past is likely to lead into a power struggle which no one ever wins. Be honest about what hurts and be responsible for your own feelings.
  6. Touch often – hold hands and welcome each other into your space, it builds affection. A practical exercise for you to try with your partner. Look into your partner’s eyes for three minutes without looking away or giggling. See yourself in their eyes, see their vulnerability and see their love.

“Be the love you wish to see in this world” Angela Gwinner

By Aamna Khokhar

For more information and to access e-learning modules or book a one-to-one please visit leafcoaching.com

Aamna Khokhar is determined to equip people with the tools to strengthen communication, regard and love within their relationships. She helps people overcome destructive thought patterns, obstructive emotional responses and manage stress and anxiety. She believes that the management of these can help people heal their relationships and reclaim their self-worth and improve their lives. With a background in Psychology spanning 20 years and a qualification in life coaching Aamna has chosen to specialise in Relationship Coaching. She works with individuals as well as in groups and runs workshops on self-development and the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships, including finding love. She has recently begun creating e-learning modules allowing individuals to work at their own pace and leisure to ensure that self-development is a pleasurable part of their everyday lives. 

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image taken by Akeela Ahmed


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A New Year a New You

7 top tips to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions!

What would it be like to be able to create a new you? On any day of your choosing, at any point in time you can choose again who you want to be. You can make resolutions, change your habits or simply rewrite the script to old relationships. You can surprise yourself and others with a brand new you! That’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about!

The creation of a new and reenergised life lies in understanding the inter-relationship between our unexamined thoughts, words and actions, and how through a structured and consistent critical evaluation of these three key areas – we can come to create ourselves anew. We create our context through our words and action, and these in turn come from the beliefs we have. The beliefs we have come from many places, but how often do we take stock and think about whether these beliefs are really from our own making, or have they been handed down to us – or even worse – have we just been conditioned into them. 

“Focused on the intention it’s easier to create a desired outcome”

One way of reflecting and evaluating is to go deep into your thoughts and think about who you want to be and what you would like to create in your life. Be free in your consideration of the different areas in your life and when choosing, pick something you really want to be working on, don’t be afraid of being confronted by it. It helps to be totally honest with yourself and remember that you are doing this just for yourself and no one else. 

There are many reasons why people don’t stick to New Year’s resolutions or attempts to change different habits but let’s focus on making them work. To stick to the changes you want to make you must consider your intention to create and not the result you are trying to achieve. Let’s take weight loss as an example; instead of saying ‘I want to lose 5kg’ which will have you focusing on the result you can focus instead on why you want to do that. The reason might be that you want to be healthier and revitalised. So a more effective intention is ‘To be healthy and full of vitality’. With the former scenario you are actually focused on the very thing you don’t want which by law of attraction will bring you more of what you don’t want, alternatively the latter has you attracting the very thing you do want. 

Focused on the intention it’s easier to create a desired outcome ‘I want to weigh 11 stones and be able to run a mile with ease’. From such an outcome you will create better actions, you are more likely to find out what it takes to live a healthier lifestyle, eating the right kinds of foods and engaging in the right kinds of exercises and that in turn will cause the weight to drop off and stay off. 

To achieve what we want we must clearly define it.

  1. Create an intention that is in alignment with your values and the kind of life you would like to live. Be inspired by it. 
  2. Define what you want as an outcome, remember this is not about stating what you don’t want but rather shaping what it is that you do want. This should be what you would get if you fulfilled your intention. 
  3. Create an action plan with actions that will bring you to your desired outcomes. 
  4. Create a timetable where you map the things that you are doing on a day-to-day basis, look at those activities and decide which of those are serving you and which do not. Those that are superfluous, ineffective or not part of a greater purpose can be removed. 
  5. In the same timetable add your new activities that serve the greater purpose which is a new. 
  6. Create rewards for yourself when you fulfil your intentions through your chosen activities and enjoy your transformation. 
  7. If things don’t go per plan don’t give up on all your efforts. Just take stock to work out why it didn’t work and then start again. 

At any point in your life you can make new decisions about who you are and who you want to be, it doesn’t matter who you have been, it’s never too late. Be true to yourself and create a you that lives a life out of the ordinary. You deserve it. 

By Aamna Khokhar

Aamna Khokhar is determined to equip people with the tools to strengthen communication, regard and love within their relationships. She helps people overcome destructive thought patterns, obstructive emotional responses and manage stress and anxiety. She believes that the management of these can help people heal their relationships and reclaim their self-worth and improve their lives. With a background in Psychology spanning 20 years and a qualification in life coaching Aamna has chosen to specialise in Relationship Coaching. She works with individuals as well as in groups and runs workshops on self-development and the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships, including finding love. She has recently begun creating e-learning modules allowing individuals to work at their own pace and leisure to ensure that self-development is a pleasurable part of their everyday lives. 

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image taken by Akeela Ahmed