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Why are you crying, Mama?

I glance in the rear-view mirror and see your face.  “Why are you crying, Mama?”  You look to me for an answer to what you perceive is a perfectly sensible question; one that requires an answer straight away.  An answer that fits with your world-view.  I sigh and choke back a sob, trying not to look at you while you peer at me, searchingly.

I’m crying because I’m so mind-achingly exhausted.  You haven’t slept before nine or ten o’clock at night for such a long time that I feel like I’ve never been without you.  I do all the right things: take you up early, do an established routine, do everything I’m supposed to.  Nothing.  I can’t put you to sleep.  That’s why I’m crying.  I’m crying because I hear about friends and their children, the same age as you, sleeping through the night, from seven until seven the next morning, in their own rooms, while their mothers enjoy child-free time in the living room, their bedroom, everywhere.  I’m not crying because I’m jealous; I’m crying because, when I hear about them, I feel lacking and inadequate, like I’ve done something wrong to make you this way.  You came to me as a tabula rasa, someone to teach and I can’t teach you how to sleep; how to stay in your own bed; how to stay asleep all night. I can’t.

I’m crying because I’m wracked with guilt all the time.  I feel guilty for wanting time apart from you; for not wanting to play with you; for wondering why you can’t sometimes just leave me alone.  There are women, aching for children, and here I am complaining that you want me to read to you, again and again.  It’s selfish and ungrateful.  I’ve been given a gift that, if I’m honest, I sometimes want to return.  Just writing this, just thinking this sends waves of guilt washing over me and I double over.  But it’s true.  I’m just not fit enough to be your mother.  Emotionally or physically.

I’m crying because I’m in pain all the time.  My legs, my back, my hip all ache.  No matter what I do.  No matter who I talk to or turn to for help.  No one can help me.  It feels like it’ll always be like this.  Throwing painkillers at it barely masks the problem, it doesn’t treat the root cause.  But no one wants to treat the root cause.  There isn’t the time or the money or the resources.  I shouldn’t be complaining.  People are waiting patiently for cancer treatment, and I’m complaining about a bit of pain.  Perspective.  But I can’t sit on the floor and play with you.  Or run after you in the park.  Or do other active things with you.  You sense this.  You know this.  And that’s why you want books all the time.  Relentlessly want books.

Why am I crying?  I’m crying because the house is always a mess.  I am never on top of anything.  Endless piles of bags, boxes and stuff just accumulate everywhere.  I never put things away, never have enough space to put it in, no matter how much I get rid of.  There is always something somewhere.  I know it makes sense to sell larger items, I just don’t have the patience to do it and want to throw everything away.  Even then I know the house will never look like other houses, and I just don’t know why.  I visit other mothers with immaculate rooms and wonder how they do it.  Three, four, five children and their living rooms are spotless.  I’m not crying because I’m jealous, but because I will never be as good as them.  I will never measure up.  I don’t work, so why is our house always such a dirty, cluttered mess?  We went on holiday in December and a number of months later, my hand luggage is still not unpacked.  If I’m honest, I still haven’t unpacked fully from our trip to Pakistan in November.  A bag still sits there; accusing and awkward, reminding me of my inadequacies.

I’m crying because I should be using the time you nap to work on my Masters dissertation, but I don’t.  I can’t concentrate and, using lack of sleep as my excuse, a blanket with which to shroud the body of my sins, I look at websites.  I’ll never finish this Masters I started in 2011 and the feeling of failure sends fresh tears to stain my already tear-stained face.  I swipe up and down on the screen, barely acknowledging what I’m looking at until everything becomes a blur.  Maybe you need some new clothes?  Perhaps I should buy you some?

I’m crying because I’m so bad with money.  I have no idea where it goes.  I try to save, but I always fail.  So I’m forever transferring money from my savings to cover the wretchedness of my over-spending.  Sometimes it’s nice to buy something.  But that’s just shallow and materialistic and then I feel guilty.  For not teaching you responsibility, for extravagance, for self-indulgence.  There are people scraping together every penny they have and I’m contemplating which organic, handmade vest to buy you next.  I’m crying because I should just donate that money to a more worthy cause.  I did that last week; this week I want to buy something.  But that’s selfish isn’t it?

I’m crying because there will never be enough of me.  I’ll never be able to do enough for you because you always want more.  Today you wanted to walk to the car in your socks, though it had rained.  I didn’t have the energy to argue so I let you.  Your socks got wet and I didn’t have anymore.  I hadn’t planned ahead and brought you some when we left the house.  I see people with two, three, four, five children, holding it together, houses immaculate, routines in place, able to love their children and then I see me: falling apart at every hurdle and wondering if there was another one of you would I be able to divide myself emotionally and physically to care for both of you?

I’m crying because I have nothing else to give.  I am spent up and used up.  I’m crying because I can’t wait for your Dad to come home and take over so I don’t have to hold it together anymore.  I’m crying because we went out today, and the sheer effort of holding myself together and pretending in front of others has exploded inside me and spilled out over the top of me.  I’m crying because I should have held it together until you napped, but I didn’t.  Instead I cried in front of you and your tiny face saw my tears; reflected back in your eyes, I saw myself: pathetic, broken, whimpering – an example of everything I don’t want you to be.

I don’t want you to be anything like me; the thought of it wracks my body with waves of emotion. I want you to be strong and resilient and calm.  I want you to be able to face the world without hesitation, not stumbling through life and always thinking: I’ll be better later.  Not like me.  I’m crying because I ache for you to be different.  To be everything I’m not.  But I don’t know how to teach you something I can’t live myself.

As I write this, I’m crying because I know you’ve had an hour’s nap and I should wake you up, but I don’t, because I’m selfish and I haven’t drunk my tea yet.  I’m crying because I realise, I didn’t have the foresight to use the comforting blanket of anonymity: everyone knows this is me, your mother.  Putting this out there means I’m vulnerable, exposed and open. I’m torn: I want to be honest, yet I don’t want to give people ammunition to use.  And believe me, darling, they will use it – you’ll see soon enough.  I’m crying because I’m not strong, not strong enough to defend myself against people who would use my vulnerabilities to hurt me, not strong enough to ever be enough for you and your Dad.   I’m crying because there is always something to do and I can’t face doing it. I’m crying because I want to be so much more.  But I’m not.

But it isn’t fair to tell you all this.  You wouldn’t understand.  Why should you have to deal with it?  You’re only two-years-old, nearly three.  You’ve had to be so emotionally mature and wise beyond your years because you’ve ended up being born to me.  But you shouldn’t have to deal with this; it is not your fault you ended up with this mother: damaged, emotionally unstable, ungrateful.  

So instead, when you ask me, “Why are you crying, Mama?”  I say, “Because I don’t feel well, darling.  I just don’t feel…well.”

Image credit: Rach

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Wise Women in The 99 Names of God

I co-founded Chickpea Press, a multi-faith children’s publisher, after working in mainstream publishing for over a decade. One of our core aims is to cultivate an awareness of the equality of women and men in faith. After a lifetime of struggling to find a voice within a faith setting, thinking that my religion didn’t allow it, it was a shock, as an adult, to discover Muslim women throughout history who not only had voices, but profound wisdom to share about God, life and religion.

The 99 Names of God is an illustrated guide to the Divine attributes of God within Islam, written and illustrated by Daniel Thomas Dyer. Designed for young and old, the book shows how compassion and peace are at the heart of Islam, and how the faith celebrates social diversity, recognizes the validity of other religions, promotes social equality and justice, abhors violence, values self-expression and the arts, and encourages responsible custodianship of the natural world.

One of the key features is a quote for each Name from a prophet or holy person of faith. It was very important that we try to have an equal balance of female and male voices in the book. This was a challenge from the start. Whilst we are aware of many women of faith, finding actual records of their words is a lot harder. There may be lots of reasons for this: historically women seemed more busy in the actual process of communing with God than writing down their experiences; women who had learned men-folk in their life (husbands, fathers) might be mentioned in their writings but without direct quotes; for women who did keep a record of their life and work, the sources may not have survived – or may have been destroyed over time in a patriarchal system.

One of the most important books to collect their voices, however, is Women of Sufism by Camille Adams Helminski. This treasury of female Muslim saints was a guiding light in our work for the book, unveiling women from across cultures and social classes, and providing more sources that we could explore. For many women, we were only able to source one referenced saying.

This being an illustrated guide, Daniel spent a lot of time working on appropriate and sensitive visual representations of all the key figures quoted. One of my favourite images is of Khadijah with Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both, illustrating the attribute of al-Mumin, the Inspirer of Faith. The image illustrates the time when Muhammad, on first receiving his prophethood, rushed to Khadijah who comforted and reassured him that he was not mad and had truly been chosen as a messenger of the Almighty. Khadijah’s strength and faith are beautifully encapsulated in this Name and the accompanying words she is believed to have said:

khadijah

Another favourite is Rabiah of Basra, the great mystic who was renowned for sincerely loving God for God’s sake alone. Daniel’s illustration is based on her famous saying, used for al-Khafid, the Abaser, and ar-Rafi, the Exalter:

rabiah

The book also contains sayings from Hagar, Mary, Aishah, and Fatimah, as well as introducing lesser known figures such as Shawana, renowned for weeping out of love and awe of God; Lady Nafisah of Cairo, known as ‘the Jewel of Knowledge’; Fatimah al-Bardaiyyah of Iran, who was renowned for speaking words of ecstasy; and Unayzah, a witty and spirited mystic from Baghdad.

This book is offered as a guide to help us witness the Divine Majesty and Beauty. For children it is a rich treasury of wonder that will reveal greater depths as they grow and mature, whilst for parents and teachers it will offer much to inspire, inform, and remind. Each name is accompanied by engaging reflections and activities, with signs to highlight the Name both within our hearts and outside in nature.

I wonder how I would have been affected if I had been given access to an education that offered me a deeper understanding and awareness of my mothers and sisters of Islam at a younger age. It is my fervent hope that we can create quality resources that give a new generation what so many of us missed out on.

We are launching The 99 Names of God in London on February 6th at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. Daniel will speak more about his personal journey with the Names, and we will be joined by Azim Rehmatdin who penned the original calligraphy for the book, and Julia Katarina from Music With Refugees who will be singing Qawwali and Nasheeds on the Divine Names.

You can book your ticket for the launch, see more about the book and get your copy here: chickpeapress.co.uk

By Saimma Dyer

Saimma Dyer is the Managing Director of Chickpea Press and Co-founder of Rumi’s Circle. When not busy publishing or organising interfaith events, she can be found exploring the Divine Feminine and how to be a Sufi Feminist. Follow her @SaimmaDyer

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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Women are tearing down the walls that divide us

2016 was unfortunately marked by dog whistle politics, the rise of the Far Right, and an increase in hate crimes against women and minorities. We are living in increasingly challenging times, and when I speak to everyday grassroots women, they often tell me about their fears for their safety, anxieties about what the future holds, and report a sense that the most divisive elements of society have been emboldened on the back of political campaigns which have been dogged by xenophobic rhetoric. I was keen to participate in the Women’s March, so that I could mark the beginning of 2017 with positive action, which would unify and bring people together, irrespective of their background or views.

The Women’s March is taking place in many cities all over the world, on the 21st of January 2017, the day after President-elect Trump’s inauguration, and will be a global show of strength and solidarity of diverse communities marching for equality and the protection of fundamental rights for all.  As a passionate believer in listening to and promoting diverse women’s voices, I couldn’t wait to get involved with and support a global movement for everyone, organised and led by women.  Women’s voices are fiercely needed now more than ever before, as during the US elections we have seen how women have been demeaned, patronised and are expected to put up with routine sexual harassment.  Moreover, we are now living in a world in which for many women of colour and especially Muslim women,  physical assault, verbal abuse and anti-Muslim hate attacks, are not only on the increase but have become a daily norm. Thus it is vital that women’s voices of all backgrounds, including minority groups, are meaningfully heard, and their experiences which are often intersectional in nature – that is they face multiple challenges such as racism, misogyny and ablism – are acknowledged and amplified.

We may not all agree on all issues, but when faced overwhelmingly with the prospect that our fundamental rights to exist are being threatened, it does not matter. Critically, many unified voices will be much more effective and powerful in sending a message to those who would seek to divide, that we will not allow a climate of fear and hatred to overcome us.  And our message is clear: walls will not be built to separate us from our neighbours, Muslims are equal citizens and justice (social/political/economic) is a fundamental right for all.

It would be too easy to focus on the negative consequences of the new era of divisive politics that we now find ourselves in. This would however, only lead to despair and hopelessness, which in turn leads to fear, and this fear is exploited by the far right and other xenophobes.

It is my hope that by coming together in solidarity, across all boundaries of sexuality, ethnicity, race and religion, we will demonstrate that a united and just society is not a far away dream but a very real and tangible possibility. Change will happen when we join together to stand up to and fight for justice against misogyny, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred, taking our negative feelings of despondency and channeling them into positive affirmative action. So let’s come together to march on London, not in protest but in celebration of diversity, equality and peace.

By Akeela Ahmed

Founder & Editor

@AkeelaAhmed

 

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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Religion and Faith: Important Allies in the fight against Gender- Based Violence?

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UK Faith leaders call for Istanbul Convention

“You cannot be a feminist and believe in religion”, a respected colleague who works with women from Middle Eastern and Afghani backgrounds, declared to me two weeks ago, a statement that hurt me a little but wasn’t surprised by as I have often heard it before. The following week I chaired a conference on intersectionality as part of the Strategic Partnership between the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls. The conference discussed the importance of taking account of the differing facets of our identities, and where they intersect as a starting point of the support and service survivors of domestic and other forms of gendered abuse, receive from specialist organisations and charities.

“You cannot be a feminist and believe in religion”

It therefore follows that tackling any form of violence and abuse requires a nuanced and holistic approach that should be led by the needs and safety of survivors. Many of whom identify and align themselves with faith and spirituality.

Historically the women’s sector and those who work in supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse or so called honour-based violence have been, at best and with good reason, ambivalent to engaging with religious and faith actors and or institutions that are part of a survivor’s social network and form and support a component of their sense of self. This failure, I believe, is leaving an unmet or misunderstood gap in supporting women who may view their faith or spirituality as a source of empowerment.

Conversely there is a sense of confusion and a real lack of awareness about the forms of support and practical help available to women experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence, which can lead to suspicion and mistrust from community groups, community advocates and faith leaders that women turn to for help and advice. Often these women come from ‘hard to hear’ communities that experience multiple barriers such as gender and or racial discrimination, disability, poverty and ill health. Therefore, their local Imam or Pastor is the only source of support, who are unlikely to be the most qualified or knowledgeable about risk or appropriate and safe support for women and their children. On many occasions religious and faith leaders can knowingly or inadvertently collude with the abuse or abuser(s) and provide the veneer of religious justification for abuse.

“…those advocating for equality and an end to gender based violence can make faith and religious institutions relevant and important allies in the fight against violence against women and girls. “

It was therefore a welcome and important step for the campaign group ICChange to host ( along with Faith Action and Restored) and secure the support of UK Faith leaders in the call for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention which was launched at the House of Lords on 5 December. It brought together Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu faith leaders to call on the UK government to ratify the Convention on violence against women and for MPs to support the Private Member’s Bill by voting for it on 16 December. The launch is a great example of how those advocating for equality and an end to gender based violence can make faith and religious institutions relevant and important allies in the fight against violence against women and girls.

The Istanbul Convention, described as ‘the best thing you’ve never heard of’ is a set of life-saving minimum standards on tacking violence against women and girls that states should ensure when tackling this widespread phenomenon. If the UK government ratifies the convention it will enable a root and branch change in its response to support and protect women suffering violence and abuse. It will also be duty bound to prevent and tackle the root causes of violence as well as hold perpetrators to account through the criminal justice system. Four and a half years on from the government’s promise to make the Convention law we are still waiting for this to be realised.

Here at Standing Together Against Domestic Violence, we have long advocated for a more coordinated community response to gender based violence and domestic abuse in particular. The most effective and lasting solution is one that brings together as many agencies, services and civil society groups including community and the family to support the needs of survivors; puts them at the centre of the response to abuse and holds perpetrators to account.

Through our Safety Across Faith and Ethnic Communities programme (SAFE) we aim to address a gap in the response to domestic abuse. We know that most survivors of abuse will likely reach out to friends, family and community networks for help in the earliest stages of abuse.  The SAFE Communities project will ensure that domestic abuse and violence against women and girls are tackled holistically by targeting support to those who will be most likely to be the first approached by survivors for help. We believe that working with and empowering communities to understand, recognise and address domestic abuse is essential. Grassroots communities and faith groups have the power and potential to make a real difference in the lives of survivors and hold perpetrators to account.

Looking at the wider context, the current political climate promises long and protracted negotiations over our divorce from Europe and the rise of nationalist right wing politics across Western nations in America and Europe, the Private Members Bill which calls for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, presents an important and narrow window of opportunity to safeguard more than thirty- years’ worth of advocacy, activism and hard fought battles to get us to the very lacking and imperfect state we are in today.

It is precisely when the perfect storm of fear, economic and social instability, and the rise in regressive politics that the threat of hijacking faith for intolerant or oppressive rhetoric and purposes must be repelled by all people of faith and non.

*If you would like to see the U.K. government ratify the Istanbul Convention, then contact your MP now and ask them to support it by attending the debate on Friday 16 December, and voting for it – details here. And you can sign this petition.*

By Huda Jawad

Huda has worked for over 21 years in the Third Sector. She has held various positions in local government, national and international NGOs and charities tackling a wide range of issues relating to social exclusion, justice, equality and conflict resolution.  Huda currently works as a Domestic Violence Housing Coordinator at Standing Together Against Domestic Violence. Read more about her work and achievements on her website.

Image courtesy of IC Change
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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Religious Concepts Reexamined: Why Do We Continue Using Religious Teachings To Justify Domestic Violence?

“You just have to be patient – things will improve over time.”

“Some men are a little hot-headed.  Don’t provoke him, and just do whatever you can to be a good wife and please him.”

“Let’s all sit down together and work out the problems in your marriage – we’ll find a solution that will make you both happy.  You know, Islam encourages mediation in times of disagreement.  It’s just a question of compromise.”

“Surely you’re not thinking of leaving him?  Don’t you know that divorce is hated by Allah?  What about the children – they need their father.”

These are a few of the platitudes often directed at Muslim women who are experiencing domestic violence (DV). While well-intentioned and borne of a genuine desire to help a DV survivor, such approaches can, at best, be impractical and unhelpful and, at worst, pose a threat to the safety of the woman and her children. More fundamentally, the use of religious concepts to justify abuse, or to coerce women into accepting it, is a gross misapplication of Islamic teachings.

Advising a woman to be “patient” in the face of abuse minimizes her experience, and may prevent her from seeking further assistance. In reality, the concept of patience in Islam refers not to a state of stagnation, but rather towards progression, albeit under difficult circumstances. Rather than shutting down a survivor’s attempt at seeking help, a more useful approach would be to hear her story, support her in her choices, and be a resource (rather than a roadblock) for her. Furthermore, the reassurance that her situation will improve over time is factually incorrect. Research suggests that the severity of DV escalates over time, and that what may start as emotional abuse may well develop into sexual or verbal abuse, or serious physical assault. Therefore, those who encourage a woman to “put up with it” may unwittingly place her in a situation of increasing danger.

Another common response is to excuse the behavior of the abuser, often based on the idea that the husband is the head of the household and can behave as he wishes without being called to account. In addition, women are often told that, after Allah, their obedience is due to their husband. These claims have little basis in Islamic theology or the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). There are numerous hadith which elevate the status of women and emphasise the importance of kindness towards one’s wife and family. There are no recorded narratives of the prophet using violence or misconduct towards his female family members, so why do we think that it’s acceptable for the men in our communities to do so? While Islam promotes co-operation with and loyalty towards one’s husband, it does not sanction relationships in which one partner exerts coercive control over the other. Indeed, Islam states that partners are equals and that loyalty and kindness should be mutually expressed, and that both parties are accountable for their actions.

In many communities, DV survivors are encouraged to participate in family mediation, in the hope that the matter can be resolved. Whilst the Quran does provide a detailed process for mediation between family members in times of dispute, such a model is designed to serve those in non-abusive situations. In cases of DV, suggesting any type of therapy, mediation or counseling where both spouses are present, can be very unhelpful for survivors, and can serve to traumatise them further. This type of scenario provides ample opportunity for the abuser to manipulate facts in his own favour, to discredit his wife, and to use charisma to appear likeable – a far cry from the traditional image of an abuser. In turn, the wife will, almost certainly, fear revealing the truth about the extent of the DV in the presence of her husband. In effect, the partner who has experienced the abuse is likely to benefit least from the mediation process. A more helpful approach would be for well-meaning community members to stand up for the oppressed party against the transgressor – a concept upheld numerous times within the Quran.

In cases where a survivor of DV may be considering terminating her marriage (a decision which, by no means, would she have arrived at lightly), she is likely to be met with disapproval from her community, together with the rather tired adage that divorce is the most frowned-upon permissible act in Islam. Whilst the sanctity of family life cannot be debated per se, it is important to realise that Islam promotes healthy families which are modeled upon Quranic values. Where there is an imbalance of power between the parties, attempts by one spouse to control the other (both classic features of a DV situation), and the presence of abuse in any of its ugly forms, such a relationship cannot be considered within the range of normal or healthy. It is for situations of this type that divorce is permitted in Islam.

As for the impact on children, research indicates that merely witnessing violence against their mother by their father can have a lasting and harmful effect on them. So whilst children may need their father, what they do not need is to see him abusing their mother, at whose feet lies paradise. Thus, to bully a survivor into staying within a harmful marriage, and questioning her piety at the same time, will do absolutely nothing to help her – on the contrary, such advice may further alienate her (once again, playing into the hands of the abuser – isolating a survivor from family, friends and community members is a well-used strategy amongst perpetrators of DV) from what may already be a limited resource bank. Studies show that a DV survivor is at her most vulnerable when attempting to escape her situation, and communities should be aware that at such times, women need support, understanding and, in certain cases, protection.

This year, DV Awareness Month coincides with the beginning of the month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. For hundreds of years, Muslims and non-Muslims alike have commemorated the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as), grandson of the Hoy Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). In a beautiful irony, the tears shed by the lovers of Hussain in memory of his struggle against tyranny, are paralleled by those of DV survivors as they navigate their lives within the confines of an oppressive marriage. Let’s be clear – domestic violence is not a normal part of marriage (no matter how comfortable that narrative may appear to be). In reality, DV is evidence of an abusive man who is transgressing the bounds of respect, compassion and the autonomy of his spouse. It is an abhorrent form of oppression, and one that communities should work to eliminate at all levels. In the words of Imam Hussain, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.”

By Neelam Khaki

Neelam Khaki is the Peaceful Families Taskforce Coordinator at API Chaya, an organization serving South Asian, Middle Eastern, and API women, who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.  Her work within the PFT involves working with local Muslim communities to create peaceful families, by using the Qur’anic model of family, through training, education, and community engagement.

Neelam is a graduate in LLB Laws from the London School of Economics.  Prior to moving to the U.S, she was employed at a London City law firm.  Her interest in social justice began in a voluntary capacity, whilst working for The Samaritans, a UK based organization supporting suicidal clients.  She subsequently worked with Lifewire as a helpline volunteer, supporting survivors in domestic violence situations, and later as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.  Neelam also has a strong interest in community work.  She is involved in the PTA at both elementary and middle school level, and also volunteers as the administrator for a local Sunday School.

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:  Refuge

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About that Hijabi in Playboy

Imagine Hijabi Pillow Talk

Nothing quite signals a Twitter storm than Muslims parading with swagger to a Jay-Z soundtrack, Muslims dancing and singing to the Happy tune and now, Noor Tagouri appearing on Playboy.

Fear of “compromising” ourselves in the journey of integration whilst straddling Islamic values is a real-life daily phenomenon for many of us.

But do you spot anything in common with the outbursts against these three popular culture moments? Or is it a Where’s Wally moment?

Some of the loudest criticism has been levelled at the female participation in these events by both men and women. And I can’t say that any particular criticism hailing from a particular gender has been any more annoying than the other.

For those of you who often find feminist viewpoints unpalatable, but on this occasion have allowed yourselves free reign onto the pick and mix counter, are heading straight for the sour cherries. Using feminism to mask, what in reality is your own discomfort at seeing a Muslim woman as bold, sassy and confident and even at times, God forbid, having sex appeal, whilst wearing the hijab.

For those of you consistent in your outrage against the Playboy brand representing the objectification of women, fair enough. But let’s be clear, she appears in a context that represents the evolution of the brand into arena of challenging the status quo. So the irony, as Playboy explores the hip and happening modesty symbol of the hijab, many Muslims are objecting that it represents the very erosion of it.

But if you are still intent on your outrage, then by your standards be outraged at Ibthihaj Muhammad appearing on Rolling Stones, and it’s connotations to an era of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Actually, by your standards, just boycott life.

I’m not going to bore you with spinning the usual yarn of how Muslims need to be represented in all spaces to humanise us in an era of Donald Trump and “Muslims are terrorists”. The likes of Nadiya Hussain and Zayn Malik are leading the unspoken charge on this front. But imagine if Nadiya Hussain was to take to the stage and sing “Pillow Talk”?

And perhaps that is one aspect of our rage in this saga that we need to confront a little bit more. Many of us can’t seem to palate a Muslim woman, who wears a symbol that is often associated with breaking free of material vanity, vainly celebrating her modesty, and in some eyes, departing from God.

And here we find our Wally… Hussain Makke.

You see, this is the fallacy of what we ourselves think of the hijab wearing Muslimah. Of course, the desire for beauty, competing with floral patterns, blinging hemlines never crossed the minds of our “modest” hijabis?

Hijab as a political or religious outfit was never devoid of vanity. To think otherwise is to be an unrealistic purist. And Noor’s celebration of “modest fashion” on Playboy is not hypocritical of this.

And this is where some of our discomfort begins but should really be the end.

The end.

By Nabila Pathan

Nabila Pathan is the founder/director of the London-based Full Picture Club and an arts and culture writer focusing on diaspora Muslim communities. She also writes for Al Arabiya news. You can follow her on Twitter @nabilampathan

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

Image taken from Noor Tagouri’s Twitter


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Purple Flowers

imag1142Purple flowers,

Stand to the hours

Of the “No”s ­

And the fear.

 

Purple flowers

Acknowledge the loss,

From the unexpected 

Battle of nightmares.

 

Purple flowers 

Speak in colour, 

Out of the silence 

In monochrome.

 

They do not apologise 

For falling

Where no place to fall 

Should have been.

 

Purple flowers 

Rise in celebration 

Of my victory 

Within this story.

 

They lay unashamed 

Of vulnerability,

With both ability

To break

And to heal.

 

Purple flowers speak

Of the scars that remain, 

And the path that has led 

To the person I became.

 

Purple flowers

Stand to the day, 

When I realised

This was not the end.

 

By Chloe Knibbs

@ChloeKnibbs1

Since Chloe was little she has always loved words and stories, and has written poems since she can remember! She is also a composer and singer-songwriter, and loves using music to help and inspire people.