She Speaks We Hear

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I am who I am because I was abused

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(Content warning: this post contains content which some may find triggering)

My labels: troublemaker, Paki-basher, coconut, besharam and the list goes on – all for speaking up against injustice and cultural issues but I am who I am today because I was sexually abused and I now simply refuse to comply with a culture that is complicit.

The first time, you always think, it’s an accident. Then it all changes when you realise what is happening. I remember the first time like it was yesterday. Our house newly decorated, the cricket on and the men of the family all congregated. I was coming down the stairs and there it happened. I brushed it off but that was the start of it all.

Now if you were like me back then, quiet, scared and lacking confidence you were stuck. Who can you speak to? If I speak to my mum, I will be at fault but I’m too ashamed to speak to anyone else about it. So it becomes your secret. The problem with secrets, that it causes long-term pain.

The abuse carried on for years, and although school life wasn’t kind to me it was an escape and I seeked refuge from people I came to trust. As Asian mothers do in their gangs, this gave my abuser the perfect oppportunity to pop round and do what he did. Things went as far coming through the (unfortunately) unlocked garage, coming in through the back garden through the conservatory to upstairs. These are the lengths abusers go to, they don’t care who you are, they have one sick goal in mind.

I will fight like hell to challenge patriarchy, to continue speaking up to help others and to fight for a much needed change.

Fast forward a few years, I begin to rebel. I begin to challenge and I finally refuse to come home from Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in London until my mum tells my brother and my dad. Few days, few weeks pass and my uncles rock up. They cry, they apologise, I’m asked to forget and then they leave. Few more days pass and it’s suggested I travel to Pakistan to get married. Have these people lost their minds? Marriage does not solve the mental torture a survivor goes through. Marriage is not the answer.

Today in 2018, I am married – two and half years at the time of writing this but I’m a staunch feminist. I refuse to be dictated to, I refuse to be told what I can and can’t do and I refuse to participate in culture. I am this person because my culture made me one. I refuse to be a woman who should agree with everything a man says, I refuse to see Mosques as community providers as they’re just as complicit, I refuse to be told I can’t take part in sport because I am a woman, I refuse to be a ‘housewife’ because it’s what is expected, I refuse to sit in silence in shame because I’m not ashamed. Not anymore. I am who I am because I was abused and because my culture failed to protect me. So if speaking out against culture makes me a besharam, a coconut, a Paki-basher then ladies and gentlemen, carry on calling me those names but I did nothing wrong. And I will fight like hell to challenge patriarchy, to continue speaking up to help others and to fight for a much needed change.

By Tameena Hussain
Tameena is an IT engineer by profession but her passion lies in advocating for gender equality and  human rights all whilst being actively involved in her community, having sat on the TVP Independent Advisory Group and the One Borough Council Panel to campaigning on local issues that affect residents. A Pakistani Muslim who is breaking cultural barriers by playing amateur cricket and going against cultural norms to speak out on a number of issues that affect British Pakistanis. She has encountered her fair share of challenges along the way, and as a survivor of child sexual abuse, her experiences have made her determined to challenge the patriarchy and injustice faced by females, particularly within the Pakistani community.
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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Finding the spirit of Ramadan

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Ramadan brings to mind an array of sights in the mind’s eye – eager faces turned up to the sky as they wait to witness the beauty of a slight crescent moon which signals the start of a month filled with peace, serenity and forgiveness; laden iftaar tables just waiting to be set upon by hungry worshippers; masjids filled to the brim with Muslims eager to pray in congregation and benefit from the added reward of it. Ramadan is so filled with community, what then happens when that community can no longer be accessed? Is it still Ramadan without all the traditions that have come to be associated with it?

When I was eighteen, I experienced my first few fasts living apart from family and community. I’d travelled several thousand kilometres away to study and, as it happened, Ramadan began whilst I was still writing exams. That year, I’d chosen to live in a dorm and due to both the less than convenient system for applying for some sort of packed meal that I could eat at sehri and iftaar time combined with the fact that I would only be spending a few days of Ramadan away at university meant that I elected to simply eat snacks in my bedroom.

It was the first time that I spent iftaar all alone and I can’t deny that it did feel strange. Something was missing – more than just the obvious food and family, that is. When I look back on that year, it still feels as though I was in some weird kind of limbo where Ramadan hadn’t truly started yet. Getting back home a few days in, it felt like the month only truly began when I woke up for sehri alongside my mother the morning after I arrived.

Fasting is so much more than the physical abstaining from food and drink but I can’t deny that a lot of emphasis is put on it in my community. From weeks in advance when the preparation of savouries begins to gathering together around a table to eat after a long day of fasting, food plays a great role in the fasting that I grew up with.

My second year at university, I spent all of Ramadan away from home. I’d moved into an apartment with a friend that year and we spent a lot of that Ramadan together. That year felt a little closer to the traditional Ramadan I’d grown to expect after so many years of traditions. We cooked together, ate together and made some very special memories. After she’d left to go back home however, I was left alone once again. I still had access to a full kitchen and still made myself some great meals. I should have had all the same atmosphere that I’d had whilst with my flatmate. But something was missing.

“…many of us find ourselves without companions to share this holy month with. As a result, we find ourself searching for the heart of Ramadan…”

Up until then, I’d thought the food was what had been missing. Not so. Company and community are what make Ramadan for a lot of people and back then, that was what made it for me. The atmosphere was only there when I had someone to experience it with. Alone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

Last year, I spent several fasts alone again. But this time, something was different. I no longer felt a loss when I sat down to break my fast alone. I was different. I’d been gifted with the realization that Ramadan is a month to grow closer not only to one’s community and close ones but also to one’s Creator.

Through a variety of circumstances, many of us find ourselves without companions to share this holy month with. As a result, we find ourself searching for the heart of Ramadan, for the spirit that seems to be an almost tangible presence in the room at times when we’re particularly fortunate. Alone, that spirit seems unreachable and many feel disappointed by the loss.

The truth is that the spirit of Ramadan is found in many things – in the masjid when people gather to pray to Allah, at the iftaar table when family and friends sit down to enjoy a meal together, and within you as you allow the peace and serenity that are poured down from the heavens to reach your heart and draw you still closer to Allah.

If you can’t find it in the external world, look for it internally. You might have to look a little harder but sooner or later In Shaa Allah, it’ll come to you.

By Neymat Raboobee
Author, Blogger, Social Media Manager, follow her on the platforms below.
Image credit: Omar Chatriwala on Flickr
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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Benefits of Fasting

90146ca782bdaec7d6aea24e6eab1b0fShiza Khan is back with the second part of her Ramadan preparation series. In part 2 she details the benefits of fasting, so just in case you’re finding the fasts difficult, this is a timely reminder! 

May is already here, and we’re just a few days into oRamadan!  And today, I want to discuss The BENEFITS OF FASTING, mainly on the body, as the benefits on the body will extend to the mind and soul too.

The benefits of fasting are only effective for longer fasting periods, (no, a break between lunch and dinner doesn’t count) , this is because the body needs time before it can break down it’s waste and wash out the toxins, which can only happen in longer periods of fasting. During Ramadan, Muslims fast for a period of at least 14-17 hours, depending on their geography.

Some of the researched benefits of fasting include –

1. RESTING THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

We in our everyday lives, overuse and exploit our digestive system more than we admit. Being the single most overused system in our body, it hardly gets a break or time to rest. Fasting helps achieve this seemingly Herculean task. By providing a break in our digestion we give it and our bodies time to recover. This enables the system to work better when provided with food and absorb nutrients better. Also in the general absence of food, the body is able to clear itself of toxins and breakdown unwanted cells to provide energy. This process helps the body eliminate diseased cells and thereby maintain optimum health.

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2. IMPROVED INSULIN RESISTANCE

All those who have a predisposition to developing diabetes (are more likely due to heredity or other conditions) or have diabetes* have more chances of improving their insulin resistance by fasting. Researches have shown that even an 8 hour fast improves insulin action on glucose. This action is also useful for those who simply desire to lose weight, or women who have PCOS, as insulin action is impaired.

3. IMPROVED IMMUNE SYSTEM

Fasting has recently shown to cause a significant improvement in Immune system regeneration. In the process of consuming diseases cells, WBC’s are utilized for energy production. This causes the body to produce new WBC cells and improving immunity. Fasting is also said to reduce hormones that are linked with ageing.

Most people personally experience these changes and improvements, other benefits however are still under research. It however in no way implies that you should doubt for a second before fasting. These are some medically researched benefits that have been proved only recently when in Islam these had been sated 1400 years ago.

So this Ramadan fast your day away consciously keeping in mind that Allah has deemed what is best for you. Peace! stay Healthy, Stay Happy!

*Always seek advice from your doctor or physician before embarking on fasting, if you have any health conditions such as diabetes.

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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Preparing for Ramadan

 

Shiza Khan is back with more advice on how to do your Ramadan prep like a boss! In part 1 of this series she advises that you keep up with your workout routine whilst introducing nutritious foods! Watch out for part 2.

Ramadan is the month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims all over the world, fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting during this month not only entails abstaining from food for the prescribed time, but having control over one’s thoughts, actions, and words. It teaches us not only the obvious, which is the value of food and water, but also tolerance and patience. It makes us sensitive to the issues of hunger, unavailability of clean water, and other blessings we take for granted and waste just because. Ramadan teaches us gratefulness, not only to towards God Almighty but also towards other people.

Fasting for a period of 17-19 hours, 30 days in a row however, is no child’s play. Add to the mix going to school, colleges or work makes it even more challenging. And it’s not only because fasting  in this heat wears you out,but also because the body now has to follow a renewed time-table which it isn’t used to and affects all your day’s activities. In my quest to adjusting in another country, along with making sure I do not fail in my duties as a Muslim or as a student, I juggled through many schedules, trying to make one that fit best and eventually I found one. As a college student then, I found that it worked for me incredibly well, and I was able to use my available time to its maximum capacity. Life after all, is all about balance, isn’t it? And that was exactly why I started this series, where I shall try to dish out tips that will help maximize our time to do all that Ramadan seeks from us in addition to doing the chores that well, must be done.

1. PREPARE YOUR BODY PHYSICALLY

From eating 3 main meals and maybe 2 smaller ones in a day to 2 meals considerably smaller in portion, is a transition that our body needs time adjusting to. Which is why some people get comfortable with fasting only halfway through the month, and that makes it increasingly necessary to train our bodies so as to ease it into the transition. I find the best time to begin is at least a week before Ramadan starts if not more. Reducing the portion size is a very effective method to achieve this. It is a durable way to train the body instead of  just cutting down an entire meal as the body recognizes meal timings more efficiently as opposed to size. As the days go by, the body starts to use the available quantity of food for maximum energy release.

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2. CHANGE THE INGREDIENTS

Opt for lighter ingredients in your meals that won’t cause Gastric issues like heartburn, acidity or reflux conditions. Decreasing the amount of spices used is a very effective way of making meals lighter.  Add plenty of vegetables and fruits to your diet and choose high fibre whole cereals wherever possible. Gradually start decrease the sugar content in your meals, as this is the most easy source of energy, and during abstinence of food, the body’s demand for an easy and quick energy source may cause lack of concentration and will leave you craving sugar the entire day.

3. DON’T FORGET THE WATER

Or any other fluid for that matter. Staying hydrated is the key. Make sure you get in a minimum of 8 glasses of water in you through out the day. Your body needs that water to clean itself of the toxic metabolites and to keep functioning efficiently. Also the heat is going nowhere and will only increase as the days pass, increasing the body’s demand for water as losses occur in the form of sweat.

4. KEEP THE WORKOUT ON

Lastly, there is no need for you to stop you fitness routine if you are on one, definitely not during the preparatory stage. If you eat well and drink plenty water, your body will be able to carry out its regular functions with ease.

**DISCLAIMERS**

Readers with any medical condition that need constant medication are to refer to their doctors before making any changes in their diets and routines. Please DO NOT on any account stop medications on your own accord. Introduction of any new ingredient must be done keeping in mind allergic and clinical conditions, if any.

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With that said, I shall also add that this practice worked pretty well for me personally, and as a nutritionist I shall recommend it for healthy individuals, who find it difficult to change their routines. You are however free to mix and match and create your own way that you may find useful, as these are just guidelines. Remember, if you have a control over your diet, you have a control over your life, and it becomes much easier than to concentrate  on praying, study, work or any other job that you do.

I hope this helps, and hope you come back to check the part 2. Till then Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!!

By Shiza Khan

Shiza Khan is an Indian Muslim Clinical Dietitian with a penchant for health foods, I believe the right food can heal the body, mind and the soul. On a mission to making holistic health a possibility, I can be found devouring books in my free time and sharing my ideas on a little corner of the internet. If you want to read more of her ideas and recipes, visit her blog and follow her on Instagram @cal.conn 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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Muslim Women: Enslaved or Empowered?

Women in Islam, often synonymous to the Asian concept of ‘purdah’, have been unveiled, ironically, by nearly every media house and spokesperson. Even laymen, with little to zero knowledge of Islam, claim with confidence that only a specialist would have, that Islam oppresses its women. In the vexations that surround topics such as these, Muslims often forget why they need to be discussed, in first place.

With the realization of feminism as an idea (realization because it actually always existed) things have gotten a little out of hand, a little misunderstood, as we know them. Every person who supports equality is a feminist, every man who is a feminist is scoffed at, and every other man thinks feminism is just a nice way of saying, “Men suck”.

This is where most ‘liberal’ minded people, without even understanding what the term actually means, declare that religion is anti-feminist. Simply because it dictates how women should behave and live their lives. What they don’t understand is that firstly, being a liberal automatically implies that you are at the very least, tolerant towards religion, and that religion by itself, usually dictates how BOTH men and women live their lives.

And because our existence solely depends on whether or not Islam is oppressive to women, it would be best to just move on to that part.

HIJAB

To be fair, behind every stereotype, there is a story. And behind this one, is the fact that millions of Muslim women choose to dress differently. Or, are forced to. Majority of the Islamic preachers and haters claim, that covering the head is mandatory in Islam. And yet, a large percentage of Muslim women, walk around with none. Why is the claim so strong? Why indeed do some women cover their hair ? A simple reason would be because there is mention of it in the Quran.

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There are various interpretations of this verse, several being that this is proof enough for the requirement of a head covering. A more interesting interpretation of this verse , is that in 600 AD Arabia, there was a requirement to cover the head for either sexes, not because of religion, but climatic conditions. Sandstorms are a common feature within a desert, and what do we know about the geography of Saudi Arabia ? Nevertheless, some schools of thought are that the verses were revealed in relevance to the people of the time and the headscarf was a common accessory not just for Arab women but for women everywhere. The major emphasis though, lies with modesty.

Wearing a hijab does not guarantee you a space in Jannah and not wearing one, does not guarantee a space in Hell. It would be irresponsible on our part as Muslims, to say that. Another interesting fact is that the requirement of “hijab” is mentioned within the Quran for BOTH men and women, and for men BEFORE the women.

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TALAQ/DIVORCE

An additional form of oppression, people claim Islam preaches, comes in the form of  the more commonly known “Triple Talaq”. Though this is something most muslims outside of the Indian subcontinent do not recognize, it remains a problem, because 10% of the world’s muslims come from here (172 million). In a nutshell, your husband, for some reason calls you up, texts you, or verbally says “Talaq. Talaq. Talaq !” and it is to be assumed that you and him are no longer together, therefore freeing him of any restrictions he could have had on your account. This leaves the woman stranded and detained from the man’s wealth, in a poorly state. This form of divorce amongst Muslims is popular ONLY in India now, being termed “Talaq e Biddat” in the rest of the world – (Biddah meaning innovation), and thus proving to be unislamic at the core, in that it just does not exist within Islamic Law.

The topic of Divorce in the Quran, has been spoken about in four different chapters, with the most basic statement being –

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It would help to know that Islam came as a reformation for Pre-Islamic times, when women did not have the right to divorce, and were granted it by Islam. The concept of Khula is still much debated upon, and remains almost unknown to a large percentage of the world. Islam allows women to file for divorce, in lieu of some compensation (monetary), on several grounds, that are further classified into valid and unvalid. Impotence, cruelty, non provision and even sexual non satisfaction are some of the major valid grounds for seeking Khula.

SEX AND MARITAL RAPE

Speaking of sexual satisfaction, A Muslim woman is entitled to sex and completion by her husband, so much so, that if he is unable to satisfy her, she may file for divorce. Islam addresses sexual desires of women, just the same as those of men – stating that men should first ensure their women reach completion, before attaining climax themselves. Contrary to the depiction of sex as primarily a means of reproduction in the pre Islamic era, Islam acknowledges the body’s desire for sexual pleasure – for BOTH man and woman. Prophet Mohammad often emphasized on the importance of foreplay, and it is regarded an important Sunnah by several scholars.

This also negates the debate about marital rape, being that it is not counted as a sin in Islam. Despite what most of the Islamic preachers from the Asian continent claim, marital rape counts as a sin and act of violence towards the wife. A common verse used by these preachers and people wishing to discredit Islam is 2:223.

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With regards to marital rape; emotional, physical and psychological abuse to your wife is forbidden. As per the marriage contract, neither husband nor wife can deny sex to the other, without reason. This being said, they are both to consider reasons for why the other denies sex. Since women are generically the more adaptive of the two genders, a majority of the guidelines issued in the Quran and Hadith, were addressed to men. One such being that if your wife refuses sex, ask her what her reasons are, and be kind to her, so that she may develop affection for you. A woman can demand her rights be granted to her at an Islamic court of Law, and even compensation with regards to marital rape.

PROPERTY INHERITANCE

This is by far, one of the most confusing rulings I have seen in the Quran. I stress this because I am a Muslim, and if I can get confused, I understand how a non muslim could.

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This verse was significant in differentiating between women of faith and the disbelievers of Islam. Before Islam, Arab women did not receive any of the wealth their fathers left behind and so this caused a monumental change in the laws of inheritance – another reason for the men of Makkah to oppose Islam.

To further demean Islam, another verse from the same chapter of the Quran is used to cite how it downgrades women –

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So the son’s share is equal to that of two daughters, which means that a woman only gets HALF of what a man does. Sounds unfair.

Let’s begin by observing how a man has to pay bride money to his wife to be. A previously agreed upon sum of money is paid to the bride (not her father) before signing the marriage contract. This money/land (any form of wealth) is to be used by the bride, however she wishes, and without considering any other person. She can use it as personal savings, or spend it all in one go. She can donate it to charity or invest it in a business, however she wants to.

A wife who inherits wealth from her father, is not liable to share it with her husband. And if said wife has an income independent of her husband, he has no right over her acquired wealth. A muslim woman is not responsible to provide for her husband, her parents and even her children. With rights such as refusing to breast feed her children, she also retains the right to receiving childcare from an ex husband (post divorce).

These provisions of division of property seem to favor a man, because they are meant to ease his burden, of being financially responsible for his wife, mother, daughter and sister.  Which is why the verse ;

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The degree of advantage that is being referred to here is that of responsibility. In that men have more responsibilities as compared to women. A woman is allowed to be independent in Islam, and even THEN her father, husband or son are to provide for her. Not providing for her, despite all her wealth is a grave sin. Which is why a man receives double the share of a woman, to make it easy for him to deal justly with all of his affairs. It also helps to understand that a translation can only do so much to convey the actual message, a lot of the meaning gets lost in translation.

TESTIMONY IN THE COURT OF LAW

In 600 AD, Arab women were taught to believe that their existence was solely to obey men and submit to them. They were taught to serve men by means of food, clothing and care, along with sex, of course. Islam brought along rights for women, the likes of which had never been seen before. Some of them included the right to education, right to employment and business, right to own property and wealth, right to divorce and the right to appear in court.

The last one mentioned, became reason for widespread protest because up until then, women had never appeared in court. And to let them do so now, would mean a complete slippage of power from the hands of men. It was for these reasons that Islam took a gradual course to change things around.

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This verse, if you haven’t heard of before, has been used on multiple occasions as yet another example proving islam as an anti feminist religion. After all, a man’s testimony is termed equal to that of two women’s.

The verse speaks with regards to Loans. Taking, lending and repayment of loans. At the time of this verse, women were not as financially evolved as the men, and so it is an interpretation that this ruling came to encourage more women to take part in financial affairs. And since they were new to handling money matters, two women were better than one, so there would be less of a chance to make mistakes.

Another interpretation of this verse is, that it is easier to manipulate a woman, by means of threatening her, which could also be a reason for encouraging two women, instead of just one.

A third interpretation is that women are generally more emotional than men, and so they possess the ability to sway a judge, by means of emotional coercion. Therefore, if one woman does so, the other would help rectify her error. This in no way means that the status of a woman is less than that of a man.

If we were to look at the Quran in entirety, we would surely observe how Islam has uplifted the status of women, equal to that of men (in pre islamic times) and in some cases even higher.

Paradise rests under her feet when she is a mother. And she becomes the key to Heaven for her father, when she is a daughter.

SOURCES

Islam HelplineIslam Online ArchivesHadith of theDay, DawnNewsabuaminaelias.comIslam.orgislamweb.comIslam.orgMuslim VillageTaha TestimonyMisconceptions about Islam. 

Author’s disclaimer – This post is my production after days of research. I do not claim to be 100% correct and humbly accept any faults in my interpretations of the above verses. Only Allah knows best. 

By Sharmeen Kidwai

Sharmeen is a 25 year old medical graduate, which makes her a doctor. She graduated in 2016 and has since moved to India, with her husband (2017). She is a Canadian by nationality, but was raised in the middle east for most of her life. She has always loved to write. Only recently though she has realised she can make a difference by choosing her words just right. She says she is “trying to do my bit for the world and those in it, little by little!” 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.
If you would like to submit a blog post, sharing your experiences or perspectives, then please email us on shespeakswehear@gmail.com. You can submit poems, short stories or any other type of post! You can also submit anonymously too.


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A note from the Editor on Child Sexual Abuse

Following the publication of Tameena Hussain’s post on her experience of child sexual abuse, we have decided to write a short note on the issue of sexual violence within Muslim and South Asian communities, in the UK.

Our heartfelt thanks to Tameena for writing this post on her experiences of childhood sexual abuse, and raising much needed awareness of a very difficult issue. Talking about sex is still very much taboo within most parts of the South Asian Muslim communities, and very little is done to raise awareness of sexual abuse and violence. Child sexual abuse has affected many of the women, we have had the privilege of working with at SSWH. These women are more than victim survivors, they are amazingly resilient and strong women who have had their lives forever impacted by sexual violence, some of them often dealing with lifelong consequences on their health and relationships.

Unfortunately for various complex reasons such as stigma, shame, and lack of education, despite this prevalence,  we rarely hear the words “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”, within community settings and spaces. More often than not victim survivors are victim blamed by family, friends or community members. To compound this victim blaming, with recent high profile child sexual exploitation cases, the discourse on sexual violence has become so toxic that many Muslim women feel scared to reveal or speak up about their experiences, for fear that their experiences and stories will be hijacked.  And used as a tool to further demonise Muslims.

This fear arises from mainstream public discourse within media which portrays sexual violence as a phenomenon that is conducted mostly by Muslim men of South Asian or Pakistani heritage, against young white women and children. The experiences of young South Asian and/or Muslim girls and children is completely erased. As are the violent sexual crimes of perpetrators who are white or European. This perception also exists within political circles and Westminster, as one former government official relayed to us.

So not only are Muslim women being silenced by specific harmful cultural practices within their own communities, they are also being systematically silenced by pervasive public discourse which dehumanises Muslims, and paints them as perpetrators only. This discourse leaks into the psyche of teachers, social workers and mental health practitioners, albeit mostly unconsciously, creating  a bias  that impacts in the way they detect, and respond to victim survivors who are from a Muslim and/or South Asian background. Meaning Muslim girls and young women victims,  remain largely undetected.  And Muslim women who experience PTSD as a result of sexual violence, are often misdiagnosed, with a psychotic disorder or personality disorder.

We all need to do more to break down the taboo around talking  about sex and relationships, and raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse violence within minority and faith communities. Despite the #MeToo and #TimesUP campaigns, media organisations and politicians still have a greater responsibility to discuss this specific type of sexual violence, responsibly, without demonising entire faith/minority groups. Practitioners need to be mindful of stereotypes whilst dealing with South Asian and Muslim communities. A first step to doing this is to step back and listen meaningfully to the stories and experiences of young women like Tameena. Muslim women’s voices should be put at heart and forefront of discussions and debates on sexual violence within Muslim communities.

If you or anyone you know, has experienced or been impacted by any of the issues identified in this blog post please get help by contacting any of the organisations below.

Childline: 0800 1111
Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247


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Ofsted, hijabs and the hypocrisy of British values.

 

Apparently, many faith schools do not adhere to British values, states Ofsted in their annual report and little girls wearing hijab are rejecting British values and on the top rung of the ladder down to violent extremism with nebulous references to sexualisation.  Acres of space both in print and on line will be given over to debating Ofsted’s crusade to protect British values.

The Ofsted report is vague about what British values are until this paragraph; ‘Tensions between belief systems and British values create a motivation for some communities to try avoiding the educational and safeguarding standards that are expected of schools. While this manifest itself in different ways, the root cause is the same. This matters, because the British values of democracy, tolerance, individual liberty, mutual respect and the rule of law are the principles that keep society free from the radical and extreme views that can often lead to violence. (16 Annual Report 2016/17: Education, children’s services and skills).

As a parent carer of a disabled child I am more than aware of educational and safeguarding standards that are expected of schools especially in relation to children with disabilities. There are lots of them, The Children Act, Equality Act just two not to mention all the codes of conduct for schools and LEA’s. One thing that has become clear to me over the years and no doubt to hundreds if not thousands of parent/carers is that the education system, many schools, LEA’s and teaching staff have little or no idea about any of this legislation or of their legal responsibilities to disabled children and there is no motivation for them to do so. SENCO’s are supposed to have some training but I have met quite a few who have no idea at all. Even if they have and they are sympathetic this doesn’t mean that head teachers, teachers or governors are. Ofsted’s remit for SEN inspection lacks any real substance or backbone. Schools know they can easily evade their responsibilities.

“They are illegal, but there is little or no redress for parents or children”

The impact on the wellbeing and education of disabled children is of course immense. The abuse of disabled children is a common occurrence in state schools from the denial of an assessment that would enable access to support  right through to children with documented disabilities with EHCP’s/statements  being denied their  needs; children being actively prevented  from accessing medication and apparatus for breathing difficulties for chronic lung conditions, children with physical disabilities being made to take part in activities that will cause them pain, humiliation and make them physically unsafe. The teacher who decides that they know better than the EHCP/Statement and prevents the child with the bladder problems, well documented and advised to have access to a toilet, from accessing the toilet as what they really need is to learn is discipline and being made to wet themselves in class will teach them. The teacher who refuses to implement specialist interventions and strategies simply because they don’t do that. These scenarios, and worse, are played out up and down the UK day in day out. They are illegal, but there is little or no redress for parents or children.

The educational establishment is actively geared up to not respecting the rule of law and indeed to evading it at every available opportunity. LEA’s  employ solicitors  at some considerable cost deliberately to enable them to do so and schools and LEA’s refuse to assess children on a regular basis  or even to implement the  EHC plan a legal document that LEA’s are obliged by law to do. Parents do not get Legal Aid, they are forced to defend their children themselves against these  state institutions with the inevitable impact on family life and the child.  Which brings me onto the Equalities Act (Education). Designed to protect disabled children (and others) from discrimination and promote inclusion; as yet I haven’t found one teacher who had any knowledge of the Equality Act or that it applied in schools. Oddly teacher training does not seem to include knowledge of the Equality Act which is baffling given as teachers and schools have a legal obligation to enact it. Values enshrined in the act such as tolerance, mutual respect and inclusion which are part of the law and British values apparently, are curiously absent from many state schools .

Toby Youngs comments on disabled children from a Spectator article in 2012 went unnoticed until the recent furore over his appointment  to a HE watchdog and the exposing of numerous tweets and articles, in this instance  his opinions on inclusion and describing SEN children as troglodytes. It is difficult not to highlight the fact that if comments like these had been made about children based on their skin colour or gender Toby’s comments would have been picked up on far earlier. The sad fact is many teachers, parents and wider society will tacitly agree with his sentiments; you might even call this a belief system.

It is hardly surprising  that the United Nations has roundly criticised the UK for its failure to uphold it’s own laws. As for tolerance and respect children with disabilities are far more likely to be the victims of persistent bullying in school  and hate crime. But why should children respect or tolerate disabled children when the adults and the state institutions that they represent don’t? Children of course learn from adult role models around them.  The belief systems around disabled children that dominate education provision and indeed government and wider society are as equally insidious as those referred to by Ofsted, as beliefs about disabled children have in the past lead to horrific violence  toward disabled people and it is relevant to note that this abuse was perpetrated by the state even in the UK .

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Ofsted’s head scarf and British values remit is selective and divisive and says as much about the government ‘s agenda toward disabled children as it does about its agenda regarding Muslims, about who it exemplifies as a community incompatible with British values or who at least need educating in them and  a community who is simply excluded from consideration.    It has been widely reported that the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights based on British values – we are seeing evidence already of what this would look like. This dynamic should be ringing alarm bells, it is one that we have seen before in Europe.

Many parents of disabled children now live with constant anxiety and fear for their children’s safety and future at the hands of the state, I like many other parents will wonder when taking their child to school – how will they be treated today, will they be safe? Should I even have them in school any longer?  And if not, then what?

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.