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Book review: The Celox and The Clot — The debut collection of poems by Hafsah Aneela Bashir.

Aneela’s words are fierce, raw and compelling and urge us to find our voice within and use it to for the voiceless.

The Celox and the Clot  presents a myriad of emotions and tremors  with words, crafted into a living tapestry of truths, experiences and political injustice which have affected us all in some shape or form, especially those of us of colour.

Heritage and impacts of post colonialism are explored, through striking imagery and hard hitting metaphors which are hard to be dismissed or forgotten. 

We are compelled to confront the stark reality of terrorism very early on in the collection as we are reminded in the poem titled ‘Gulshan -i- Iqbal Park’ that the price of terrorism is that of innocent blood and we are left with heart wrenching images of murdered children.

Aneela’s words are fierce, raw and compelling and urge us to find our voice within and use it to for the voiceless. We are taken on a literary journey of tragedy, triumph and are left questioning the fragility of the human psyche, our identities and the politics of our modern world.

Aneela’s debut poetry lifts and inspires with the desire to acknowledge our wounds and sooth our scars both on the political and domestic front. The collection is a raw and poignant account on how to save the world and yourself. It leaves us with knowing that our vulnerabilities are our strength and despite the challenges we face we must rise above, lift others and find power in humility. 

Review by Soleha Khawar 

Soleha Khawar is founder of Street Hands a London based organisation driven by strong humanitarian values, our primary objective is to provide a voice for children trapped in the cycle of domestic violence hence the service model is based on prevention and intervention.

The Celox and the Clot 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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THANK YOU MR. TANMANJEET SINGH DHESI

Today I want to talk about the Labour MP for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. Because he deserves all the praise he has got, and more. It’s not often a Sikh man stands up on behalf of Muslim women. Hell, it’s not often anyone stands up for Muslim women.

Tan Dhesi MP

“I was so blown away by Tanmanjeet because he spoke with conviction and sincerity.”

But what a breath of fresh air he was. His question in the only PMQ’s of this new Parliamentary session went viral with over 1.7 million views on Twitter alone.

I want to thank Mr Dhesi because he’s done something that not many MP’s have done. He’s done something that Muslim MP’s have not done, and that is to hold Boris Johnson accountable. And whether you might think this wasn’t the time or the place, I think it was perfect because it’s sending a message to not only Boris but to the whole country. There is no room for racism or anti-muslim rhetoric in Britain in 2019 and it will not be tolerated. It will not be tolerated by MPs and it will not be tolerated by minorities.

The reason why I was so blown away by Tanmanjeet is because he spoke with conviction and sincerity. He genuinely cares about religious minorities and Muslim women especially. The ridiculing of certain Islamic attire that a very small number of women within the Muslim community wear, is so damaging because these are the women that are already portrayed as being ‘oppressed’.

The ‘oppressed Muslim woman’ narrative is so prevalent that instead of trying to understand these women Boris Johnson thought it’s acceptable to liken them to bank robbers and letterboxes, and perpetuate this stereotype further. (I’m not going to link to THAT Telegraph article but that’s basically what he called women in niqab.) And yes I know he was writing about defending our choice to wear what we want but if you ridicule and belittle the same people whose choices you’re defending then your point becomes insignificant.

The fact that this MP is a Sikh, warms my heart. I have the utmost respect for anybody that stands up for an already marginalised section of society. Mr Dhesi’s call felt like a call for solidarity, a call for unity which is just what we need in this time of division.

With recent tension between Indians and Pakistanis because of Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi’s brutal action in Kashmir, it seems like a slight division has been born amongst these communities in the UK. Occasionally in the past there has been a bit of tension from time to time but generally the South Asian communities live harmoniously in the UK and have done so since the 60’s. 

Growing up, for us Asians, any other brown person was seen as a friend and someone to cling on to. Somebody who would understand your culture, pressures and restrictions the way your white peers wouldn’t. Religion didn’t play a part, we were all in the same bracket as ‘the other’. 

Religion is playing a bigger part in South Asian communities in recent years where religious symbols are more common place like a Sikh turban or a Muslim women’s hijab or a Hindu’s forehead marking. This has made our communities more distinguishable from each other but we sometimes forget that all brown people are immigrants or children/grandchildren of immigrants. If we can’t stand up for each other’s values than who will? The combined communities of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the UK have far more in common with each other than what drives them apart. There’s always safety in numbers and the South-Asian community should be able to look to each other for support despite what might be going on in our homelands thousands of miles away.

And when it comes to Britain, the combined voting power of Asian communities is phenomenal. It would serve the Conservative party well to attempt to eradicate racism from their party and launch an investigation into Islamophobia like Sajid Javaid promised on national television not so long ago. In a bid to appease right wing voters and the far right, Boris seems to have forgotten about all the ethnic minority voters he’s angered in the process. A price he might have to pay sooner than he thinks.

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

She is passionate about politics and faith and you can find her tweeting about these things @britpakgirl.

This post has been modified and originally appeared on Britpakgirl.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: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-islamophobia-pmqs-tanmanjeet-singh-dhesi-muslim-letterbox-racist-a9091506.html


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Bol: South Asian survivors of sexual abuse speak up

When South Asian communities discuss sexual violence it is more often than not discussed behind closed doors in hushed voices. I have often taken part in these conversations, as the overwhelming fear of someone hearing you is enough to make you feel like you have committed a major sin. The sin in this instance is discussing something as taboo as rape or sexual assault.

Laila is a Pakistani Muslim, just like her abusers, who forced into a life of rape and emotional abuse. As an adolescent within the care system she was vulnerable and became an easy target.

It was during one of these conversations that my campaign Bol was born. Bol is a Punjabi/Urdu term meaning speak. My friend and co-founder Laila (name has been changed) became my motivation to speak out against sexual violence within the community.

At age fourteen Laila was targeted by a grooming gang. Laila is a Pakistani Muslim, just like her abusers, who forced into a life of rape and emotional abuse. As an adolescent within the care system she was vulnerable and became an easy target. The men around her used her and threatened her until she became a shell of a person of who she once was. Throughout many of our conversations Laila has always stressed that she wishes she was able to speak but the fear being further ostracised by her community, and the chances of her being the only young girl to have experienced this type of sexual exploitation stopped her from speaking out.

When the Rochdale grooming cases came to light there was nation wide condemnation and rightly so, however the stories and experiences of Laila and many other South Asian girls like her, remain hidden. The number of South Asian victims, remains unknown, because the victims have not come forward for fear of losing their families izzat – honour – a culture which is embedded into our communities. 

It is a widely accepted fact that perpetrators of sexual violence can have close links to the families of their victims, they can also be someone that has the respect of the community around them. They can be a family member, a family friend or even a religious priest. Perpetrators know that the person they abuse will be silenced; not only out of fear of being ostracised for saying such “dirty” things but because at a young age in South Asian communities we are taught that that we hold a family’s “Izzat” in our hands.

Imagine having that pressure on you after going through such a physical heartbreaking trauma. As a survivor you have to make sure your Izzat remains intact otherwise the repercussions can be damaging and your family life will be destroyed. The community will gossip and one way or another word will get out, which will ultimately mean years on from now it can affect your chances of marrying a suitable spouse. Perpetrators feed off of these fears and further encourages them to continue with impunity, silencing their victims.

Sexual violence hangs over our communities like a dark cloud. However this is where our campaign Bol comes in. We aim to educate the wider community on sexual violence, on how to spot the signs of children and young people that are being exploited, and we aim to educate young teens on how grooming gangs work and what to do if you feel you are being targeted. Reporting a crime committed against them is always up to the survivor however being available to offer support is something that is important to us so this is also what we are working to do. 

We want to rain down on this cloud that hangs over us and show perpetrators that their time really is up! For too long survivors of sexual violence have been forced into silence for fear of losing their Izzat. Now we say it is time for perpetrators to be afraid to commit these atrocities because now it is their beloved Izzat and community standing at risk. 

By Hafsa Malik

Hafsa Malik is the founder of Bol. She is passionate about helping survivors of sexual violence speak out against the injustices they have seen. She is also a mental health advocate and aspiring social worker. Follow the Bol Instagram page.

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

Images credit: Marco Verch, European Parliament


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5 reasons why Copenhagen should be your next family holiday

Nyhavn
Candy-coloured houses in Nyhavn

If you’re a parent of young children, you know the struggle is real when looking for a great holiday destination. It has to be easy to get to; it has to be child-friendly; most importantly, it has to have a good selection of halal food. While Denmark might not be the most obvious destination for Muslim families, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be surprised, but Copenhagen ticks all the boxes when it comes to a great child-friendly city break.

Here are 5 reasons why you need to make Copenhagen your next destination for a fantastic, family trip that both adults and children will love, and will create magical memories that last a lifetime.

1. You don’t have to worry about entertaining the kids.

As a family with two young children, entertaining the kids is the number one priority when looking for a holiday. After all, happy kids = happy parents. Copenhagen has a huge amount of sights that will keep both kids and parents happy. Here’s a list of places we managed to visit in our short (six day) break:

Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen is home to the second oldest amusement park in the world, the world-famous Tivoli Gardens. Rides, entertainment, gardens, lights; Tivoli has it all and more.

The Experimentarium – probably one of the most fun places on Earth.

The Experimentarium. This is a world-class science centre with four floors of hands-on science experiments for kids. This was honestly one of the most fun museums I’ve ever been to, and you could easily spend five to six hours just here alone.

Den Blå Planet. Denmark’s national aquarium, and one of the largest in Europe with interactive exhibits and touch pools, which kids will love.

The Children’s Museum at the National Museum. I loved this and so did the kids, as the museum had a whole room dedicated to Pakistani heritage and culture. Nothing is off bounds at the Children’s Museum; there are no “Do Not Touch Signs”, and lots for little ones and older children to explore and play with.

Exploring early paintings.

Copenhagen Zoo. This was one of the best zoos I’ve been to, with all the “fun” animals (and let’s be honest – none of the boring ones – haha).

Tycho Brahe Planetarium. With lots of interactive exhibits exploring our fascination with the stars, there’s lots to learn here for young and older children.

If we had more time, we could have also gone a little further out of Copenhagen and visited the Viking Ship Museum as my eldest is currently fascinated by the Vikings. In any case, there’s lots to see and do, and plenty of indoor activities too in case of the occasional rain shower.

2. It’s only a 2 hour flight from London.

The Children’s Museum has an entire room dedicated to Pakistani culture.

The short flight time is definitely a plus point when you have young children in tow, although notably, on short-haul European flights, you won’t get in-flight entertainment. But it is hard to believe there is so much on our doorstep, only a couple of hours away from London. Can someone remind me why we’re doing that Brexit thing again??

3. There is halal food everywhere (and not just kebab shops).

Once we started doing a little research, we found that there is good-quality halal food to be found in every street corner in Copenhagen. Even in the Tivoli Gardens, we ate delicious shawarma, and as you walk around the city, you easily spot halal restaurants. More than that, you’re simply spoilt for choice. Here are some of the (halal) restaurants we ate at:

  • Burgerklubben (Fredriksberg) – this is 100% halal, no alcohol served gourmet burger restaurant, with a choice of different buns and sauces, so you can eat your burger customised to your taste-buds. Separate kids menu, and colouring pencils provided. And, there’s even a Muslim shower in the toilets… I mean if you know, you know!
  • Original Shawarma (Tivoli Gardens) – I was surprised to find halal food even available in touristy spots such as the Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli has at least four halal restaurants as well as other street food such as pastries, churros and ice-cream, so plenty of choice.
  • Stefanos Pizza (Nørrebro) – a good gourmet pizza place is definitely something London is missing, and this was simply one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. We had the pollo pizza, which is loaded with pulled chicken, and the bresaola, or salted beef pizza. Again, 100% halal, no alcohol served. The line was out of the door, and it’s not hard to see why.
  • Restaurant Zafran (Nørrebro) – delicious Persian food. This was a spontaneous visit as we were walking along the road, and it definitely wasn’t the only halal restaurant on our way. Again easy food for the kids, friendly staff and pens provided to draw on paper table cloths.
  • Shawarma Grill House (Strøget) – super fast service, delicious shawarmas, (scores of people waiting outside) and you know it’s got to be good if Dubai-based paper, The National calls it “The World’s Best Shawarma“.
  • Cafe le Perr (Kastrup) – a good tip at every restaurant is to ask if the food is halal or not. Although I didn’t expect food at this cafe to be halal, it turns out it was, even though it wasn’t advertised as such. My other half had an amazing club sandwich with juicy chicken and steak and homemade chips, while I had a classic Danish smørrebrød or open sandwich, one with salmon / avo, and one with egg / avo.

Apart from all the delicious halal food, let’s not forget Denmark is the home of some of the world’s best bakeries and pastries. Delicious rye bread, warm chocolate cinnamon rolls and freshly-baked cakes and desserts are just some of the sweet treats waiting for you in this foodies’ dream city.

4. Copenhagen houses an amazing collection of Islamic art and history.

The David Collection is a museum of fine and applied art. The Islamic art collection is one of the most awe-inspiring I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. It explores Islamic history from its inception, starting with the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and then looks at how Islam expanded across the world.

From Moorish Spain, to India and China, as well as the history of the Mamluks, this is one of the most fascinating in-depth explorations of Islam in Europe and definitely not to be missed. Even if you have to resort to a bit of Netflix to keep your children entertained while you explore the collection (as we did!), it’s definitely worth it.

5. The culture is completely child-friendly.

The Danes love children. Not only are the locals super-friendly, it’s easy to get around because the culture is really centred around family values.

Every Metro station has a lift (or elevator), so taking a pushchair will not be a problem; you can also easily get around on buses. One good tip is to avoid taxis; not only are they hard to find, but they are also very expensive (around £30 or 250 DKK for a 15 minute journey).

Most of the restaurants also had a separate children’s menu, but in general, with good quality pizzas, burgers and sandwiches on offer, food will not be a problem for families with young children. Beware of the tunas sandwiches if your kids don’t like chilli though; it seems the Danes enjoy tuna with tabasco, which means your kids might be in for a spicy surprise at lunchtime.

I also have to mention the weather: it’s all well and good in theory visiting a tropical location, until your children are hot and bothered, and complaining about the intense heat. Give me the Scandi climate any day; sunny, warm with a strong Nordic breeze. You might have to battle the occasional rain shower, but there are plenty of fun, indoor activities you can do on the days that the skies decide to open up.

6. It has one of Europe’s most beautiful mosques.

Minaret of the Imam Ali Mosque, Copenhagen

Okay, so I said five reasons, but I couldn’t leave this post without mentioning that we visited one of the most beautiful mosques, in one of the most unexpected locations.

The Imam Ali Mosque in the Nordvest district is designed with neo-Iranian architecture, and was opened to the public in 2015.

As we approached, we were greeted by the sight of beautiful turquoise-blue minarets towering over the city, and a gorgeous dome. It truly has to be seen to be believed.

What else do you need to know?

In general, Copenhagen is an expensive city, but then again, as it’s close to London, the flights and hotel may not be as expensive as other locations. We stayed at the Tivoli Hotel (close to Central Copenhagen station). As the hotel is themed around Tivoli Gardens, it’s really fun and quirky for children. Did I also mention the chicken and turkey is halal? Be sure to check, as we did.

If you’re planning to visit a number of locations, it is absolutely essential to buy a Copenhagen Card, which is a no-brainer. This is a city pass that includes entry to most of the key sites (bear in mind, entry to each attraction means once only) and free travel on all buses, trains and Metro.

We got a card for 120 hours, which covered the five days we were in Copenhagen, and it’s well worth it as it means you can travel around without thinking too much.

If you want to see more of my holiday snaps, check out my Copenhagen highlights on Instagram.

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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Achieving Balance – A Practical Guide

 The phone pings, the washing machine completes a load and the postman arrives with the bills. There is always something external vying for your attention. Do you ever get the feeling that you are being taken away from where you are and being sent far into the past with some worry about what has been? Or that of being propelled into the future with a hope about what will be? 

If this sounds familiar, then let’s stop and take a moment. Breathe in deeply and notice that little pause before you breathe out again, repeat. 

It is often hard to remember to stay present whilst your brain is flitting between the present the past and the future. By staying present we mean being aware of what is happening right now without any interruptions about either the past or the future. This practice of being present and being focused on the here and now, particularly in times of stress, can be a wonderful way of finding oneself in the hubbub of daily life. 

I’ll share a story with you that I hope inspires you as much as it did me, and demonstrates a great example of presence. A friend messaged me, telling me he had fallen and broken his back. Shocked and concerned I jumped in to my car panicking all the way to the hospital about what will happen to him now and what it will mean for him. As I rushed down the hospital corridor I thought of funny anecdotes and jokes to tell him that may distract him. I approached his bed armed and ready to clown my way into seeing him smile I was greeted by someone in rather good spirits. Confused and delighted I took a deep breath and sat to listen to his story unfold. Inspired I spent the next few days piecing together in my head how this wonderful human being came to be. 

This is what I found. Just as with all people there are external forces that pull us, there are trials and tribulations and then there are the highs that are all designed to distract us. We also have internal incidents such as my friend’s predicament. Often we become completely distracted by these things and we are not present to who we are and what is important to us. We start to believe that all the pulls are all that matters and it is often not so. My friend was in good spirits because he knew himself well, he was aware of the things he loved to do and he did them. He was satisfied and content in the life that he was living, at that moment in time. 

As my friend did we too must come to know our true selves better and live in line with what we value and love to do. It is with this awareness and clarity that we can be in a hospital bed with a broken back and still be smiling and thankful for the love that we receive from well-wishers. 

So how do we find the answers to who we truly are and what we truly value? I’d like to invite you to try this technique.

Consider this diagram the plate of your life. ◊ It is divided into eight slices; each slice represents an area of your life that is important to you.

◊ Consider with complete clarity what is important to you, not because anyone says but because you choose it.

◊ When you are ready label each slice with the important aspects of your life.

◊ When you are done use the rings within to shade in your level of satisfaction i.e. you might have health as a slice and your level of satisfaction might be 4 so shade in 4 rings.

◊ Do this for all the slices.

◊ When you have finished take a moment and look at your plate. Is it round? Is it balanced? Have you been looking after what is important to you?

◊ What do you notice?

◊ Now shade in where you would like the level of satisfaction for each slice to be, you might be happy with health being 4 or you might want health to be 9.

◊ When you have finished take a moment and look at your plate. ◊ What do you notice?

You can use this tool to reflect on what is truly important to you and get real clarity on what you value. If you ever find yourself out of balance you can choose to come back to it. 

As for my friend, with his positive attitude and magnetic personality he is making a speedy recovery. He valued the love and regard that his friends and family had for him and when the trials came he held on to that knowledge even tighter and worried less about the new job and the mortgage. 

Sometimes amidst all the chaos we have to find our way, ground ourselves and trust our ability to handle life. Knowing that we are safe and capable. A quote comes to mind which seems befitting – a bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking. Her trust is not in the branch but rather her ability to fly. Wearemomo.com

By Aamna Khokhar

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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Why I’m rooting for Boris

Boris Johnson MP. Image from https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/645695/Boris-Johnson-never-be-Prime-Minister-David-Cameron-EU-renegotiation-Brexit-Nigel-Farage

The hottest topic in politics at the moment is the Conservative party leadership contest. And why shouldn’t it be as this will decide who succeeds Theresa May in the premiership. The future of the United Kingdom is at stake and we are at risk of having Boris Johnson as our leader. How did we get here? 

The last three years since the Brexit vote has turned our parliament upside down. The 2016 referendum result has divided the county and the main priority, other than Brexit, is uniting the country. 

It seems every election in the last ten years or so, the same thought process comes to mind for the a lot of the electorate, that is we are voting for the lesser of two evils. The same has happened this time where Boris Johnson, former Foreign Secretary and Jeremy Hunt current Foreign Secretary have somehow ended up as the last men standing. Now obviously we the commoners cannot vote, that entitlement is given to Tory party members only. But it’s really the Tory MP’s that have got us into this mess. Firstly by holding a questionable referendum motivated by selfish reasons, then with their total incompetency in delivering Brexit, and now by voting and leaving us with either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt as our prime minister. In less than one month, on the 22nd July 2019, one of these two will be our prime minister. That is a scary thought, but personally I’m hoping for a Boris victory.

Why I hear you say! Because if he becomes prime minister then a general election is on the cards pretty imminently. And that’s because everybody knows Boris will be hopeless and there are also rumours that votes of no confidence will be put forward as soon as he takes office.

As the candidate with the highest public profile, we know Boris Johnson’s history of blunders. There was the purchasing of water canons at a cost of over 350 thousand pounds to the taxpayer, which were actually banned from being used. The Garden Bridge vanity project where over 50 million pounds was gratuitously spent on the bridge that never got made. Let’s not forget the incident with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe whilst he was Foreign Secretary where he pretty much told the Iranians she was guilty. Currently her and her husband are on a hunger strike. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Image from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48721239

This is all before delving into his private life which is tarnished with affairs and secret, illegitimate children, not to mention the recent fiasco of his neighbours calling the police after hearing him fight with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds. Following that it’s now come to light the photograph of him looking lovey-dovey with his girlfriend was not only taken weeks ago but was most likely given to the press by his PR team and is not even copyrighted. 

Before this recent kerfuffle, Boris’s PR team were using the strategy of damage limitation, meaning the less he speaks in public the better it is for him. So if Boris doesn’t make many appearances, then the less goof ups he’ll make. This is working against him as the public naturally want a potential prime ministerial candidate to be put under scrutiny. If he can’t handle questions from the public and media now, how will he cope in the top job? Answer is, he won’t. Evidence of this is in this morning’s remarkable interview on LBC with Nick Ferrari. It was the exact reason his PR team don’t want him doing any interviews. Support is falling amongst Conservatives for Boris according to polls but all the MPs who supported him at the last vote know his weaknesses. The only reason they’re backing him is because they think he’ll be able to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is like Kryptonite for the Tory party. They are so scared of him they will do anything to make sure he doesn’t become the next prime minister even if the alternative is Boris Johnson. Surely MPs don’t really think he will make a competent leader? Yes he’s funny (both in a haha and  strange way) but let’s face it, he’s not honest with the public and he’s only ever put his own ambitions first. I’d put money on the fact that him becoming prime minister is a long standing bet he made with David Cameron in their Bullingdon days. 

But what’s really worrying is that the poll of Conservative party members that was published on Monday showed alarmingly worrying signs of Islamophobia. 45% of those asked believe the myth that, “There are areas in Britain in which non-Muslims are not able to enter.” 43% of Conservative Party members, “Would prefer to not have the country led by a Muslim.” There goes Sajid Javid’s chances (he is from a Muslim background, his name and brown skin are enough of a deterrent though).

With such suspicion and hostility, voting in a leader who is known for his controversial anti-Muslim comments whether likening Muslim women to bank robbers and letterboxes or those comments about removing children from potential Muslim ‘extremists’, is a prospect which doesn’t fill me with joy nor does it make me want to vote for the Conservative party in the next general election.

The fact that neither of the candidates have addressed this poll is disconcerting. The one good thing that has come out of this leadership contest is that last week, during a debate Sajid Javid made the other four candidates agree to an inquiry into Islamophobia live on television. Whether this will happen remains to be seen but it’s a start.

As for Boris’s opponent Jeremy Hunt, whose name is synonymous with the NHS for all the wrong reasons, I think of how NHS workers despise him after his stint as Health Secretary. I remember how he falsely promised 10 billion to the NHS and who can forget junior doctors striking for the first time in this country because of the new contracts he made up? I think of how he wanted to privatise the NHS,moving towards an American style model. This is laughable, as one of the worst things about living in America is their healthcare system and how it’s grossly unfair to anyone who can’t afford private health insurance. That’s not the country we live in and I’m pretty sure most Brits hold the NHS very dear to their heart. It’s the one thing that we have which is unique and has outdone any other healthcare system in the world. How can we let Jeremy Hunt or Donald Trump meddle with it?

Despite this, Jeremy Hunt is known as the ‘sensible’ candidate but he is a Remainer and is going to be no different to Theresa May. Whatever deal he brings to the table is still going to be rejected by the vehement Brexiteers. Jeremy Hunt is dangerous as he would go the distance, but would champion all the policies like austerity that have helped made the Tory party referred to as the nasty party.

One thing is clear though, who ever wins this contest has no mandate from the public. Firstly by virtue of being the leader of a ruling party that didn’t win with a majority back in 2017 and is only in power because of the DUP, and of course down to the fact that the public does not get to choose which of the two should be prime minister But hey who am I to question British democracy? And that’s why folks, Boris is the best option as he will accelerate the downfall of the Tory party much faster than any other man.

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

She is passionate about politics and faith and you can find her tweeting about these things @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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What Transformation Do We See When Hearts Meet In Crisis?

We are extremeley fortunate to platform a three part series focussing on ‘Women in the Refugee Crisis’ by Tazeen Ahmad the founder of  Humanity’s Heart , an organisation that was born following a volunteering trip by a small group of people to Calais (The Jungle) in June 2016. Travelling through Calais, Lebanon and Greece, Humanity’s Heart witnesses and shares the experiences of refugees, volunteers, spiritual leaders, politicians and local citizens in what is the biggest challenge the world has faced for over 60 yearsThe first part in the series reflected on why women turn up to volunteer through a series of short films. The second part in the series, below focusses on the transformation refugees and volunteers alike, undergo after meeting during the crisis, and highlights the importance of Refugee week.

Resilience Met With Support

Image courtesy of Tazeen Ahmad, Humanity’s Heart

Meet Syrian born Rahaf Sallouta. She arrived in the UK when she was 27 with her husband and 2 kids. Rahaf  has enormous gratitude to women such as Maria Wilby and Iman Mortagy  from Refugee Action Colchester for their service and support. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

Through her we learn the counter narrative to mainstream rhetoric on immigration. Rahaf, shares the importance of the events held by Refugee Action Colchester and the opportunities they present to help dispel the perceptions towards Syrian refugees/migrants. She reminds us all how refugees want to contribute towards society not hinder it.  Rahaf’s example of resilience is phenomenal as she climbed a mountain of cultural shock and language differences on top of the upheavel of having to leave a home and country destroyed by war. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

In fact, Rahaf’s experience and hardship has fuelled her desire to want to help other Syrians and refugees who have gone through similar experiences. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart

Today her husband and her run a café in Colchester providing falafels and other Syrian delights to the local community. (see the image above)

What is also beautiful to witness is the counter narrative of deep friendship and love that develops between citizens of host nations and the refugees coming to seek refuge. 

Video copyright of Humanity’s Heart
Image courtesy of Tazeen Ahmad, Humanity’s Heart

Aleppo stands destroyed (the photo in the background above the couple’s heads), however I couldn’t help but wonder could this crisis be what 13th – century Persian poet Rumi means when he says, “the wound is where the light enters?”

By Tazeen Ahmad

Tazeen is founder and producer of Humanity’s Heart. She is a daughter of a migrant, a British Citizen, a mother of two and a believer in the power of humanity. In June 2016, she traveled to Calais. The trip confirmed for her that we have far more in common than which divides us.

It also raised in her a deep curiosity about ‘what motivates others to turn up and serve?’. And ‘what spiritual lessons to humanity are emerging in the largest crisis since WWII?’ It was at that moment, she realised her background in broadcast journalism and finance, fundraising and philanthropy could be put to use. So humanity’s heart was born. She will be running a “How to make a documentary film workshop in June here is the link for the documentary workshop https://www.tazeendhunna.com/media-consultancy/howtomakeadocumentary

Videos and images are the copyright of Humanity’s Heart  follow them on Twitter

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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A Brief Summary To The Process Of Letting Go

What are some of the experiences, emotions and painful memories that we need to let go? They range from thwarted intentions, lost lovers, anger and being wronged, to humiliation, shame, greed, and regret. There are, so to speak, innumerous traps to navigate whilst walking the path to freedom.

So how do we ‘let go’? Well, first we must understand the mechanism of entrapment. David Hawkins, a pioneering researcher in the field of consciousness, has written a highly acclaimed book called ‘Letting Go’ within which he describes our emotional responses to experience. He suggests that our responses usually end with suppression, expression or escape. When a crisis occurs, we may suppress our feelings consciously or subconsciously, thereby confining our feelings to the recesses of our mind. This may be because we don’t know what to do with them, however, we try to carry on our lives like normal. Unfortunately, this response causes maturational blocks and creates a life where we are caught up in an endless cycle of projection, denial and other defence mechanisms. This is the antithesis of letting go and if we cannot accept ourselves as a whole, we cannot begin to let go.

“We must stop resisting the love that is underlying the pain and take action that brings out the best in us.”

An alternative response is to express ourselves and our pain, in the hope that we may expunge, release and ultimately let go. In our technologically advanced age, with easy access to a multitude of micro-publishing tools such as social media channels, we may be seduced into thinking that if we continue to ‘release’ our feelings on these platforms then we are in fact ‘letting go’. However, the process of release has to be authentic. When we vent through filters of ‘looking good’ or ‘being politically correct’ or even ‘being vexatious’ there may be many distortions that occur in what we choose to ultimately communicate and this, in turn, results in the release of some of those feelings and the suppression of much of the rest. 

In the wake of the Christchurch shooting many had a strong emotional response to the loss of innocent lives and we have the freedom to express that in whatever legitimate way we choose. If we take a moment and consider how we might be able to ultimately let go is to consider how we might be able to let those feelings drive positive action. We must stop resisting the love that is underlying the pain and take action that brings out the best in us.

We might also turn to some form of escapism, by which we mean the complete denial of all feelings related to the subject at hand. We may get busy, or smoke, or go shopping, or even binge watch some series on Nexflix. Anything to avoid the silence and the loneliness. As we avoid, avoid, avoid we become like a balloon full of air until we are ready to burst. The moment we stop to face the feelings and stop fighting them, we begin to experience release and we can begin to feel better.

When there is a crisis we might start to look for what is wrong and who is to blame, who is the victim (usually ourselves) and who is the perpetrator, we are quick to develop a narrative that describes why we have been wronged. We build up stories to support our view that we are not responsible, that we don’t need to apologise, and that we have suffered that an injustice that is not fair. There’s a pay off to holding on and this pay off is what keeps us stuck. Accepting our role, making changes, knowing that s/he just wasn’t right for us, being ok with being someone who makes mistakes, knowing that death happens, and getting perspective on the problem, these can all be messages that help us let go and to release. We are able to step into the light and life is able to take us on a more beautiful journey.

These sticking points are the very things that make us human, these are the aspects of ourselves that we hide whilst seeking peace and enlightenment and therein lies the irony. To truly discover ourselves and to truly reach the pinnacle of human existence and freedom we must first accept ourselves including the darkness as well as the shadows. We must let go of our mistaken belief that we were meant to be perfect, for it is this fear, that keeps us stuck. As travellers on this earth, ultimate freedom lies in accepting the world and all that is in it as a game. We are at the centre of it all, and we are the ones who can let go. In the silence of that moment and in the quiet of our minds when there is nothing left to do except letting go we have hope of reaching the peace and freedom we so desire. 

By Aamna Khokhar

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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Dehumanising sex and stereotyping Women

It’s odd how a piece in the Metro makes me think of Qutb and of his views of American women in the 1940’s. 

Sadia Azmat on the face of it appears a million miles and years away from Qutb but she pretty much rehashes the same ideas but in a different order to Sayyid Qutb  in his observations of American society, particularly cultural attitudes and behaviours around women sex and sexuality in public. For Azmat  is endeavoring to be the  American woman that Qutb creates in his work, America and by extension the west being a place with ‘liberated’ sexuality where there are no prohibitions like religion and no consequences. 

“Both views, those of Qutb, and of Azmat only work on the level of dehumanising sex generally and perpetuating stereotypes of women that are used globally to diminish and dismiss the concerns and experiences of women, the reality of women’s lives. “

This grass is greener on the other side of the fence is a dangerous approach as primarily it dehumanises western sexuality from being to do with people – which all sex is, everywhere. Sex becomes nothing more than acts performed like commodities to be obtained as signifiers of how liberated or how privileged the person is.  American women are to Qutb biological, primitive and primal and Azmat describes herself in similar language having primal urges, preferring semen to a sandwich and states that the conservative aspect of Azmats particular corner of the Muslim community has forced her to take on these tropes that are ascribed to the western female, the  ‘other’  bad women, liberated women, that she has held up to her as the antithesis of the good Muslim woman. 

Both views, those of Qutb, and of Azmat only work on the level of dehumanising sex generally and perpetuating stereotypes of women that are used globally to diminish and dismiss the concerns and experiences of women, the reality of women’s lives. There are only constrained modest women who do the right thing and who will be mockingly thought of as missing out and sexually repressed in comparison to ‘liberated’ women who have sex whenever with whoever (the liberation only ever goes as far as sex) who will in turn be denigrated. Regardless of what you do as a woman it is never right as both constructs  serve to keep women constantly in a state of anxiety in their attempt to interpret and enact these ideals in their lives as Azmat says,’ I actually haven’t had very many sexual partners and have lost out on a whole host of experiences as a result. I don’t want to be that person looking back on my life, boasting that at least I never committed haram. Our mistakes make us who we are – human.’ 

It is the last sentence which chilled me the most, indeed it is our mistakes that make us human, but for women particularly the myth of western sexual culture, the horny sexualised female animal has led to untold misery and abuse of women on a global scale. Azmat cashes in on this, Pornhub has terabytes filled with hijab porn and a hijabi Muslim woman will certainly get an audience when they are talking explicitly about their sex life or talking dirty, depending on how you look at it.

Qutb wrote in the 1940 of a society in many ways different from today, but in many ways not for women. The commodification of women either as religious relics in hijab, representing modesty and goodness liberated by Islam or oppressed by religion in need of liberating or the secular westernised woman sexually voracious – liberated in stilettos and coifed coloured hair – reduced to nothing other than a feeling. Also oppressed and in need of liberating. Ultimately there hasn’t been that much movement away from these stereotypes by either camp.

What would really be liberating is the discussion outside from these camps. That’s stand-up I would would really like to see.

By Mrs Rumiyya

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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Launch of Generation Y book; young people remixing faith

Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, by  Justine Afra Huxley is a collection of stories and interviews with young adults who are redefining spirituality for a modern age, to solve some of the most pressing problems and crises of our time. 

Launched on 7th March at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace (London), the book highlights the way millennials are trailblazing new paths to connect with the sacred and to bring spirituality together with social change, especially at a time of growing disconnection with traditional religion. Aamna went along to the launch and spoke with the editor of the book Justine, on the day.

Can the sacred feminine change our collective consciousness and lead us on a path of healing? St Ethelburga’s is a 12th Century church set in the heart of London. For hundreds of years, it has been an open place of worship and recently was the venue for Dr.  Justine Huxley’s first book launch. Justine is the Director of St. Etheburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, and she was launching her book, ‘Generation Y, spirituality and social change’. Working alongside Clare Martin, Justine has conducted a series of interviews with millennial leaders to explore their vision of spirituality, social change, and the sacred feminine. 

Justine describes young people as having an unstoppable impulse to lead and take action, and her debut book is intended as a platform for showcasing this leadership and action.”
In it, she reminds us that humans are synthesising, and that we no longer have fixed identities. Justine argues that we are moving away from dualities, traditional categories, and labels, and that we are now on a very clear path to oneness – and it is this development that she wishes to nurture and support. Justine talks about the role and passion of the millennials to dissolve the binaries of sex and gender. She explains that there is a call for a new way of practicing faiths that eventually changes the face of the political and economic world. Generation Y wants to take faith out of institutions and into the world where we can all exists harmoniously as one.

Justine maintains that as religion vacates faith institutions and enters the world around it, this is how the feminine is reclaimed by Generation Y. Clare elaborates,  “Gen Y has done a lot of work to liberate itself from outdated concepts of gender, but as part of that I see them also reclaiming something very ancient.” She sees young women looking to indigenous wisdom traditions for example, where the feminine has been revered in a particular way, and that reverence has been held for millennia. Whether they are looking to restore that feminine consciousness in their own faith traditions, or are forging new ways of living outside of a tradition, it is through being connected to one’s own emotions that feminine consciousness can be understood.  Justine sees a lot of courage in how they open themselves to other ways of thinking but what gives hope is seeing so many young women refusing to disown their own natural strengths for the sake of a masculine paradigm of leadership.

The rise of the sacred feminine is the change that the world has been waiting for.  When men are uncompromisingly masculine this is when destruction can occur, and it is when men are in touch with their feminine side, just like Justin Trudeau, they become beacons of hope in an otherwise topsy turvy world. Jacinda Ardern stands before us setting an example to countless others. In an interview she describes her actions after the Christchurch shooting as ‘very little of what I have done has been deliberate. It’s intuitive’. It is clear that it is time for the feminine to wear her crown of glory. 

Clare in her own words says that what she sees is a “return to an original, raw spirituality that is freed of a lot of the baggage of religion, and it has this incredible directness about it. And this directness, this way of instantly seeing through things and going to the heart of what’s needed, does have something to do with an awakening of the feminine consciousness.” Because the feminine is linked to emotions, with all the knowledge that comes from intuition. It’s very immediate and raw. 

There is hope that this agenda will bring healing for the human race and planet earth. Sukina Pilgrim reminds us that being broken before God contains immense beauty and is where change begins. James Adams speaks from experience when he says that social action is more impactful when it is ingrained in faith which becomes the greater driving force. Camille Barton guides us to the healing power of mother nature and being in touch with our bodies. She reminds us that the ecological crisis is giving us a unique opportunity to take responsibility for the earth itself. Amrita Bhohi who describes the sacred feminine as something we need to celebrate, that if we connect with the sacred feminine as a human race then we could live in a more just world. 

Justine Huxley, Clare Martin and Generation Y leaders describe the birth of something new and for that to be possible, the feminine must rise. The change is evident and as we reach the end of an era there is hope that the dawn will bring with it oneness and harmony. 

Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change is available to buy from Amazon.

By Aamna Khokhar

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