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Hijab Shaming: A Favourite New Hobby For The Haram Police

Image credit: Dina Tokio YouTube

Oh, to be a Muslim woman in 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Saira Mirza

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


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Love Love Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aamna Khokhar

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

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

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

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

Image taken by Akeela Ahmed


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A New Year a New You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To achieve what we want we must clearly define it.

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

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

By Aamna Khokhar

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

To contact Aamna please email on info@leafcoaching.com

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

Image taken by Akeela Ahmed


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What’s going on in France? A 7-point myth busting guide to the Yellow-Vest protests

Yellow-Vest protestors in France

As the Yellow-Vest protests rage on in France, Brussels and Amsterdam, Toulouse based Human Rights expert Rim-Sarah Alouane, provides some much needed myth-busting about the protests and insights into what it’s like in France at the moment. 

I am here, in Toulouse, France, witnessing first hand the Yellow-Vests protests and I have been hearing some misconceptions/fake news. Please, let me go through them, I hope this will help you understand the situation a bit better (even though there is no way I can sum up a very complex situation in a single post).

  1. Whereas what 45 (President Trump) has been tweeting, French Yellow Vests protesters are not chanting “We Want Trump”. The French could not care less about Trump or even the United States. 
  2. No, the French are not protesting about anything Trump mentions in his tweets. Again, the French are protesting against inequality, unfair tax system, poverty, cost of living, the collapse of our public services and how the current government (and their predecessors) are dismantling our welfare state. Also, is there anybody who can control anything Trump is about to tweet? 
  3. No, the Muslim Brotherhood did not start the protests. I must admit, this one was funny. The rumor started in the Middle-East, then was imported in France.
  4. No, despite what Russian media claimed, Americans did not start the protests. Also, why are they still people reading Russian state sponsored media outlets Sputnik and RT?
  5. The French are perfectly capable of organizing their own protests. Heck, we transformed the concept of protesting into an art form; trust me we don’t need any foreign nations to help us organizing a protest, also our protesting songs are superior to yours.
  6. No, Macron isn’t going to sell France to the UN. The UN Migration Pact that will be signed in Marrakesh is a non binding document aimed to to set out “a common understanding, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose regarding migration.”. The Pact affirms to be rooted in a shared understanding that better international cooperation is needed to handle migration in a way that’s fair to states, but protects the human rights of migrants and refugees. A draft of the pact was agreed upon by UN members except for… yes you guessed right, the United States. Except that the far-right across the world – and Marine le Pen in France- has been spreading misinformation about that pact, how migrants will invade the West and take over and how the West will be undergoing a Great Replacement (racist theory developed by Renaud Camus); unfortunately, the misinformation process has continued through some Yellow Vests folks on social media who forwarded the Far Right’s claims.
  7. Protests have been extremely violent so far: I have seen hundreds of protests in my life in France, but this is the most violent I am witnessing. My city has been entirely destroyed, my heart is broken. Mobs smashed everything they found on their way, schools has been put on fire, stores were sacked, and riot cops’ behavior towards peaceful protesters has been disgraceful & despicable (it was reported that in Paris, riot cops even shot rubber balls at journalists). 

Anyway like I predicted, protests are growing even bigger and the Government better do something ASAP because things will not slow down and will only get worse.

Stay tuned.

By Rim-Sarah Alouane

Rim-Sarah Alouane is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Law at the University Toulouse-Capitole in France. Her research focuses on religious freedom, civil liberties, constitutional law and human rights in Europe and North America. She tweets @rimsarah

Image credit: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/egypt-restricts-yellow-vests-sales-avoid-copycat-protests-59730135

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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Burning of Grenfell Tower effigy reveals why Islamophobia is everyone’s problem

grenfell heart

The video of a group of people burning an effigy of the Grenfell Tower and its occupants on bonfire night went viral in November. It was condemned widely with many rightly expressing outrage. I was furious. I was so angry I couldn’t even begin to put into words how appalled and outraged I was. 

The video was utterly disgusting. Not only did the people involved gleefully burn the effigy, they had also gone to great pains to draw miniature people and children, stuck on the sides of the mock tower. They mimicked cries for help, whilst simultaneously taunting the mock-up victims. In one instance, a participant can be heard referring to “little ninjas” and telling the mock victims goodbye.

It is unfathomable what type of people could plan and orchestrate such a despicable act. Seventy-two people died in the Grenfell fire tragedy, and many more were deeply impacted, through no fault of their own. The victims of the Grenfell tragedy are still waiting for justice. Their lives have been wrecked, as they literally watched their loved ones burn alive. Many are still waiting for homes. 

And now the victims and everyone affected by Grenfell have to endure this disgusting video, re-living that awful night. There is some but little solace in the fact that Scotland Yard have confirmed the suspects presented themselves to a south London police station over the shocking incident, and are being questioned.

Since this video surfaced online, another video surfaced of two women who filmed themselves laughing whilst placing bacon on the door of a Mosque in Oldham, whilst worshippers were inside. 

Both videos emerge from the backdrop of a record number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported over the last year, and Home Office statistics showing that more than half of religiously-motivated attacks in 2017-18 were directed at Muslims. The next most commonly targeted group are Jewish people. 

The video of the burning of the Grenfell Tower effigy contained Islamophobic undertones. In particular, the reference to “little ninjas” in the video is an Islamophobic slur used to refer to women who wear the niqab, which covers their faces. These slurs echoed former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s ‘letterbox’ and ‘bank robbers’ comments about women who wear a niqab or burka. Following these comments, British Muslim women – who are most likely to be targets of Islamophobic hate crime – experienced an increase in hate incidents: one woman told me she got on the bus in her local area and was repeatedly called a ‘letterbox’ by young men.  

Upon reflection, then, it is not surprising that this video contained a dimension of anti-Muslim hatred, given the backdrop of increasing hatred fuelled by lies spread by the likes of far right  extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka ‘Tommy Robinson’. After the Grenfell fire tragedy, Robinson filmed himself stating that most victims were illegal immigrants who died due to overpopulation in the Grenfell Tower, and that these “facts” had been covered-up by the government and mainstream media.

The truth is that the Grenfell fire took place because of systemic failures. As a society we failed the residents of Grenfell. We are still failing them, if this type of hatred is allowed to fester and grow. By turning a blind eye every time we see hate online or on the streets. By being unbothered by the constant demonisation of women who wear the niqab, because it is something that we disagree with,and covering the face makes us feel uncomfortable. Now more than ever it is important to not let silence become complicity in hatred towards people, who do not suffer the same oppression as you. 

With the refresh of its Hate Crime Action Plan, the Home Office has launched a new public awareness campaign to educate the general public on what a hate crime is. It is a much needed campaign which will help to increase awareness and understanding of what constitutes a hate crime. However, policy level solutions cannot alone tackle increasing societal polarisation and extreme hatred on both ends of the political spectrum. This type of work needs to be done at a grassroots community-led level. 

Widespread condemnation and outrage at the burning of the Grenfell Tower effigy, from the Prime Minister to firemen who responded on that tragic night, has been welcome. But we need to do more. It’s time to realise that it’s in our hands. We can come together and say hatred will not win. We can stop being silent. We can create a society in which far right and far left bigots do not fester but are challenged, educated and ultimately silenced by the majority of society being intolerant of their divisive and hateful views.

By Akeela Ahmed MBE

Founder and Editor in Chief

Akeela Ahmed has been an equalities activist and campaigner for nearly nearly 20 years. On Muslim Women’s Day, she was listed in Nylon magazine as an activist that is ‘making a difference’. In 2014 she founded ‘She Speaks We Hear’ which gives unfiltered women’s voice a platform. Akeela advises and works with government in tackling anti-Muslim hatred, sitting on the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. She is also a social entrepreneur within the social housing sector. Akeela is co-organiser of the Women’s March on London and in January 2017, she spoke to over one hundred thousand people at the Women’s March on London. For her work with WML she was listed as one of Stylist’s Women of the Year 2017.

Image credit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/GreenForGrenfellOfficial/posts/

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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Remembrance Sunday

landscape red field flowers

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On Remembrance Sunday, I stood alongside my friend Julie and at one
point looked up into the blue-sky and sighed. I sighed noticing the
lack of diversity and the failure to recognize the contributions of
our armed forces by my community that included 1.5 million Muslims
contributing to the Allied cause in WW1.

It had me wondering about the number of Muslims who knew the history
of WW1 and so I reflected back to my history lessons. Our history
curriculum never taught us about the contributions of our Commonwealth
soldiers and if we want young Muslims to connect, we need to talk more
about the sacrifices the Indian Army made. This year marking the
centenary, British Future have been fantastic at doing just this –
running a campaign called Remember Together working with MINAB and
schools to raise awareness of the contributions of Muslim soldiers.

Flip the coin, we as a community also have a duty to see past current
conflicts and recognize that without Great Britain and the soldiers
who fought, we may not even be here today and should learn to separate
the words of politicians and those who serve our country in the armed
forces.

A touching moment was noticing the beauty & strength in uniting with
members of the Church congregation who welcomed and looked after us
with open arms. At the end of the service, a member of the
congregation turned around and apologized for the Christian service
and spoke of his ‘embarrassment’ that the service did not make more
mention of the diversity of soldiers who fought. We thanked him and
reassured him that he shouldn’t feel embarrassed and that education is
key going forward.

In a dark world where Christians, Muslims, Jewish & other faiths were
rehearsed in the rituals of burial for the inevitable, it is important
to recognize the values they lived by – respect, tolerance, humanity,
integrity, friendship, courage and love – values we should all live
by.

The contributions of the Commonwealth should matter to everyone in a
time of where Islamophobia and far-right extremism is on the rise. We
all share a common history and one we should remember together to
bring us together. We all need to build on the work British Future
have done and be committed to sharing the stories of Commonwealth
contributions to ensure all young people of all backgrounds understand
why Remembrance Sunday is important.

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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Deluded Defenders of God II

When news of Asia Bibi’s aquittal disseminated across the world, there was largely a sense of relief. Some rejoiced, others wondered if the Naya (new) Pakistan Imran Khan had promised was finally coming to fruition. However few were reluctant in celebrating this monumental victory against Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, it seemed too good to be true.

For those who haven’t been following the trail of blood left by these laws let me briefly summarise it for you;

Religion related offences were codified by the British Raj in 1860, at the time Pakistan didn’t exist, so it inherited that legislation upon indpendence from India in 1947. The laws have been modified over the years . So for example, in 1982, a clause ordered life imprisonment for ‘wilful’ desecration of the Quran. And in 1986 a seperate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, the penalty recommended ‘death or imprisonment of life.’

Since the 1990s at least 65 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered.

But it was the murder of Salman Taseer in 2011 that drew my attention to the treatment of minorities and the oppressive nature of these laws. Taseer was a revolutionary , a politician who served as the Governor of Punjab. During his career, he became an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws and called for the pardon of Asia Bibi. For this he was murdered by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri who vehemently disagreed with him.

Qadri was hailed a hero, he was showered with rose petals and over 500 clerics pledged support to him and urged others to boycott Taseer’s funeral. Even after his execution, Qadri’s poisonous message lives on, in March 2016, Tanveer Ahmed from Bradford travelled to Glasgow and murdered shop keeper Asad Shah. His motivation was fuelled by a hatred towards Shah’s faith, he was an Ahmedi. It later transpired that Tanveer was influenced by the actions of Qadri.

The murder of Salman Taseer was described by The Guardian as ‘one of the most traumatic events in recent Pakistani history.’ It was an event that drew significant attention to the country. Back in 2011 I wrote a blog titled ‘Deluded Defenders of God.’ I was horrrified by what I was seeing on the news, hearing from family and friends in the country and couldn’t believe the murder of an individual was being celebrated.

My disbelief stemmed from my faith, the very faith these men were using to justifiy the killing of an innocent man. As Muslims we are taught that if you take the life of one person it is akin to taking the lives of all humanity. Such is the value of the sanctity of life.

Then last year we heard of the murder of Mashal Khan, a student accused of blasphemy, but in reality he was like any normal uni student, using his new founded knowledge to critically think in a society which suffocates those that dare to. He was using social media to share his humanist views, to connect with like minded individuals and to find his place in the world.

He soon found himself at the centre of a deadly attack. Stripped, beaten and executed. His lifeless body thrown from the second floor and beaten with wooden planks. A hundred people gathered to watch this brutal theatre of death and depravity. Over 20 policemen were present, they intervened only when the mob was about to set fire to Mashal’s dead body. Arrests were made and it emerged that some of the University officials where Mashal had studied had also taken part in his gruesome murder.

So here we are again, November 2018, a mother of five, a Christian, Asia Bibi has spent eight years on death row after she drank from the same cup as a Muslim. She was falsely accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Note the word false. Rumours spread of her alleged crimes.

On 31st october she was aquitted, but for Asia Bibi, freedom is still beyond reach. Following her aquittal, hysteria erupted across the country.

Protests were called for Bibi to be put to death, to pacify their opposers, Pakistans ruling party, PTI signed an agreement with the anti blasphemy faction on Friday night giving in to most of their demands. Worryingly, Bibi will be placed on the exit control list which will prevent her from leaving the country. It is certain that if she does not leave the country her life is at stake. The woman who was on death row for eight years, protected only by the four walls in which she was imprisoned, continues to fear for her life, this time without much protection.

Yesterday I struggled to keep up with the news from Pakistan, news of buildings burnt, stalls looted and crowds proclaiming they would die to protect the honour of the Prophet. News that Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul Mulook has fled the country in fear for his life. News that a woman falsley accused of insulting the prophet and imprisoned for eight years for drinking out of the same vessel of a Muslim still remains in a prison cell.

And as the tweets were flocking in, I found myself thinking i cannot relate to this hysteria, I do not ascribe to this interpretation of Islam, I find it alien, insulting and a distorted representation of a faith that for me and so many others is rooted in compassion and empathy.

I am second generation British Pakistani, I was brought up with the teachings that God mentions His compassion and Mercy more than His wrath. I grew up with stories of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, stories of him suffering persecution, fleeing from one town to the next, being pelted with stones but instead of punishing the people responsible, he prayed for God to have mercy on them. I was taught that actions speak louder then words, that the way you behave, speak and conduct yourself is the most important attribute of a Muslim. I was taught that if you are a person of faith it should manifest itself in the love and compassion you have for others. I was taught that it is incumbent upon us to look after the weak, disadavantaged and minority communities.

So to the clerics and mobs on the streets of Pakistan, I ask, whose religion are you defending? Whose honour are you protecting? Ask yourselves, is this what your religion wants from you? Will the death of a mother truly satisfy your lust for blood? If so it won’t be long before there are rivers of blood flowing through Pakistan.

Let me remind you of the principles upon which Pakistan was founded;

‘I assure you Pakistan means to stand by its oft repeated promises of according equal rights to all its nationals irrespective of their caste or creed….In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state, to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Parsis- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen.’ Muhammad Ali Jinnah

By Sabbiyah Pervez

Sabbiyah Pervez is a journalist.

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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Roundtable on Islamophobia and Hate Crime during National Hate Crime Awareness Week

8f7bfed4-7a7d-494e-a186-689dc45c60da

National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2018 took place from 13th – 20th October 2018. Organised by It marks an annual week of action, with the aims to bring people together, to stand with those affected by hate crime, to remember those  lost, and support those who need ongoing support. Local authorities (Police and Councils) are encouraged to work alongside key partners, and communities affected by hate crime to tackle local hate crime issues.

The week is used to spread a message of H.O.P.E. Raise awareness of Hate crime and empower communities to report hate crime and work together. All with the ultimate goal of preventing hate crime where possible.

Recent Home Office figures released show that hate crime against Muslims in the UK is rising. It is widely accepted that most victims of Islamophobic hate crime are women, and most of these women are identifiably Muslim. It is against this backdrop that during National Hate Crime Awareness Week, we, She Speaks We Hear held a Roundtable with the Secretary of State Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, hosted by Al-Khoei Foundation, on British Muslim Women’s experiences of Islamophobia and hate crime. The aim of the Roundtable was to provide a space in which government could listen to British Muslim Women, which would then feed into decision making and policy on hate crime.  Sixteen diverse women, from a  wide range of backgrounds attended the Roundtable, and shared their shocking experiences of Islamophobia and hate crime.

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One woman described how she was spat on following the London Bridge Terror attack in 2017. This incident had made her feel scared but also confused, she was not identifiably Muslim, so why was she targeted? Another woman described how, on the tube she sat next to a man who had been reading an incendiary article in The Times, about Muslims. The man then turned round to the Muslim woman and asked her “what was wrong with Muslims and you?”.  After enduring a tirade against her, the woman decided to leave the tube carriage, as she did the man shouted “go back to to where you came from” and she responded “where exactly would you have me go, I was born here”.

One participant broke down in tears as she described how her hijab had been  pulled off in the North Eastern City in which she lived. Others described women they worked with who had bacon and alcohol thrown at them, because they were Muslim women who wore either a hijab or the face veil (niqab).

Nearly all of the women had an experience of hate crime to share. Some women described experiencing other forms of Islamophobia, such as in the work place or being asked during recruitment interviews questions about Muslims and the Middle East, both irrelevant to the job they were applying to. So the conversations were heartfelt, passionate and at times difficult to listen to.

The Secretary of State James Brokenshire was unequivocal in stating that no one should have to live in fear or experience hate crime, and that the burden for dealing with Islamophobia and hate crime should not rest solely on Muslim women. He provided clear and powerful assurances that no form of hatred or bigotry would be tolerated.

The discussions, however also focussed on some of the good work being done across communities to tackle negative attitudes towards Muslims, break down myths and bring women from all backgrounds together through business and skills building. We were fortunate to hear from The Khayaal Theatre  and their groundbreaking work using theatre to educate young people about Islam and Muslims. We also heard about the work of UpLift Connections, which brings together women who are passionate about business to nurture and empower them financially. Mentoring organisation Muslim Women Connect also spoke about their work in developing young British Muslim women to be confident and further their careers – providing much needed support for women in the workplace, to overcome barriers such as discrimination.

Vlogger and comedian Nabila Pathan aka NabzPat also attended the Roundtable and spoke eloquently about the power of humour to humanise minorities and clap back (sometimes literally!) at offensive stereotypes. She produced a vlog about the event with the help of her trusted characters Aunty Shagufta and Abdul, injecting some humour into an otherwise very serious subject. You can watch the video below.

Speaking up about hatred is not easy, and more so doing something about it, whether it is reporting a hate crime or doing something to prevent further hate crime from happening. However all of the attendees of the Roundtable, demonstrated powerfully how important it is to raise awareness of the experiences of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. They also showed what amazing, resilient and empowered women they are, that despite their experiences they persevered to tackle and address negative attitudes and stereotypes of Muslims.


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The Brett Kavanaugh case shows why women must be believed and not blamed

Today (27 September 2018), around the world, women will be calling for action in support of survivors like Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who have been silenced. Women’s March movements across the globe will hold a minutes silence in solidarity with Dr Ford, wear black and white, and write “I BELIEVE” on their hands to highlight the routine silencing of female victim survivors of sexual violence.

Dr Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh have garnered global attention with President Trump himself tweeting about the allegations. As to be expected, Trump’s controversial intervention was at best biased towards Kavanaugh, whom he tweeted was a “fine man” however in reality it constituted the worst form of victim blaming, casting doubt over Dr Ford’s allegations. Trump went onto write further tweets stating that “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” charges would have been filed. In a later tweet, Trump said, “Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?”

With these tweets Trump did not only attack Dr Ford, he also cast doubt on the credibility of the thousands of women who report historical sexual violence and abuse, each year.

There are many varied and complex reasons why a victim survivor may not report the sexual harassment, violence, abuse or rape that they suffered, till years or decades later. At the heart of these reasons are twofold central themes, the first being that women are often too traumatised from their experiences and are in a process (if they’re fortunate enough to receive help and support) of dealing with the aftermath on a continuous journey of recovery. Women who have been sexually assaulted report suffering from PTSD, suicidal ideation, severe mental health illnesses such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder, weight loss or gain, and in some cases it severely impacts on their life expectancy. The aftermath also includes the incredibly challenging impact the sexual violence will have on the relationships of the women with those around them such as partners, parents and families. A revelation of historic sexual abuse or rape, can destroy families.

The other central reason is fear of being disbelieved and vilified. The appalling victim blaming, reaction to the allegations against Kavanaugh, whereby the lives of his accusers have been scrutinised, shamed and the women themselves smeared, has shown exactly why women are reluctant to come forward and report their perpetrators of sexual assault. Dr Ford has said that since going public with her testimony, she has received death threats, her email has been hacked and she was told to leave her home.

Harassment and targeting of women and girls who speak up about their experiences of sexual assault is very common. A member of the She Speaks We Hear team who wrote about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child by someone close to her family, has recently been subjected to a targeted campaign of harassment. Messages on social media platforms have circulated questioning her narrative, shaming her and her mother, as well blaming them for the abuse she endured.

Under no circumstances is it ok for a woman to be targeted in this way. It is an attempt to silence her. Shut her down and stop her from speaking up and standing up to the person who abused her. More often than not this form of silencing is conducted by people close to the perpetrators or in high profile cases by their supporters. Often women will withdraw their complaints against perpetrators, as a result of the harassment which, let’s be clear on this, is another form of violence they have had to endure.

Women I have worked with very rarely report their experiences to authorities or even to their families, they stay silence because ultimately speaking up can be just as traumatic as experiencing the sexual violence in the first instance. There are cases of young girls and women who have taken their own lives after disclosing sexual abuse or assault, as a result of being disbelieved.

We live in a society in which women are less likely to be believed, rape prosecutions and then convictions are disproportionately low compared to the number of women reporting rape. Myths about the number of fake reports of sexual violence are regularly circulated to perpetuate a culture of rape denial, when in reality statistics show these are very few and far between.

Questioning victim survivors narratives, poking holes in their stories, pointing out inconsistencies, and labelling them as women who desire attention or having some ulterior political agenda, is potentially fatal.

Victim blaming is still very much the default position when a woman reports sexual assault or historic abuse. That is why women across the globe today are coming together to say “I BELIEVE” and stand in solidarity with the hundreds and thousands of women and girls that suffer sexual violence year on year.

To all women victim survivors, I believe you, stand by you and will not tolerate those who wish to silence you. To those who perpetuate a culture of rape denial and victim blaming, your targeting and harassment will not be tolerated, you will be called out on it.

By Akeela Ahmed MBE

Akeela Ahmed has been an equalities activist and campaigner for nearly nearly 20 years. On Muslim Women’s Day, she was listed in Nylon magazine as an activist that is ‘making a difference’. In 2014 she founded ‘She Speaks We Hear’ which gives unfiltered women’s voice a platform. Akeela advises and works with government in tackling anti-Muslim hatred, sitting on the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. She is also a social entrepreneur within the social housing sector. Akeela is co-organiser of the Women’s March on London and in January 2017, she spoke to over one hundred thousand people at the Women’s March on London. For her work with WML she was listed as one of Stylist’s Women of the Year 2017.

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 review of Emilia at The Globe

I don’t suppose I was unique in having only heard of Emilia Lanier in passing. Although it is a little embarrassing for me, an English literature graduate and a feminist activist not to be familiar with the work of one of the first English women to be published as a poet. In my defense, by the time I was likely to learn about Emilia, her male contemporaries had already put me off renaissance poetry entirely. I remember male lecturers shaking their heads when I said I found John Donne boring, as if my failure to connect with a genre that could only ever see me as an object was some deep deficiency in me as a scholar of literature.

So I went into Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s “Emilia” relatively blind.

Of course nobody knows much about Lanier. One of the great injustices that this play seeks to redress is that this woman did something incredible, and most of what we know about her comes from the diary of a man she wouldn’t sleep with. History, they say, is written by the victors. It’s more than that. Just the power to write history is a victory. It is rarely one that women win.

The historical Emilia was of Italian descent, probably had Jewish heritage and maybe North African. The decision to portray her as black was a political one. The play deals with ideas of intersectionality with a level of explicitness that could have come off as heavy handed. Emilia, however, brings its audience with it so that lines such as “no. where are you really from?” and “you’d be pretty if you smiled” evoked rounds of applause and a tangible sense of solidarity.

The fictionalised Emilia follows a path that will be familiar to many, including myself. From a girl who struggled to fit into a world that sees her as less than, through a journey of trauma and constant frustration to a community organiser and writer of subversive literature. The three actresses who portray Emilia at different ages are nearly always all on stage, evoking the image of the triple goddess even as the story subverts it. A maiden who is known as an adulterer, a mother who most values the fertility of her mind, a crone who is far from finished.

The decision to invert shakespearean casting convention and have actresses portray both male and female characters moves focus from the society in which the show takes place to the women who navigate it. When placed in direct conflict with women, the men move, their constant motion betraying a weakness of intellectual position which contrasts with the calm dignity of their adversaries’ stillness.

Female relationships are explored with an affectionate yet critical eye. The mistress who teaches Emilia that her sexuality is her meal ticket, the mother who declares pride in her unruly daughter even as she tries to subdue her, the serpentine Mary Sidney whose encouragement of the poet is secondary to her desire to seduce this “exotic” young woman. The show never shies away from portraying the duality of female relationships under the patriarchy. There is solidarity but there is also fierce competition for whatever scraps of space there might be to be occupied. These relationships can be as toxic as they are empowering. The relationship between privileged and unprivileged women is frequently explored. We see Emilia’s experiences as a woman of colour dismissed by her white contemporaries and her dawning realisation of her own class privilege. These conflicts are never excused but they are overcome and Emilia’s book is imagined here as the ultimate victory of a female solidarity that transcends divides of race and class but which, crucially, does not ignore them.

It’s interesting to speculate what the real Emilia would have made of this play. Would she have loved the passionate, political heroine it made her into, or was she enough a product of her time as to be offended by it’s radical message? Maybe she would have just been thrilled that a play written, directed and performed by women could even see the light of day. Of course the play was never just for her. It is, explicitly and unapologetically, for all the women who came before her and all those who came after. Still, you have to hope that the historical woman would take hope from her counterpart’s final words – “Look how far we’ve come. We can’t stop now.”

I recognised so many parts of this story. For all my privilege, I am a woman with an intersectional identity who has been talked over by sisters who were more palatable to the patriarchy too many times to count. When I entered the theatre I was teetering on the brink of a severe case of activist burnout. A couple of particularly bad experiences had left me about ready to leave the organising to those who would not have to fight so hard to be heard. I left the theatre determined to keep fighting.

We can’t stop now, because sisters, look how far we’ve come.

By Rachel Krengel

Rachel is a co-organiser of Women’s March on London. She is a dedicated activist and campaigner, with years of experience in creating grassroots movements and change. A vocal advocate on the government’s two child policy, period poverty and women’s including trans women’s rights she has worked tirelessly to further intersectional causes.

Please note Emilia was performing between 10 August – 1 September 2018 at The Globe.

All views expressed in this post are that of the author and do not reflect those of She Speaks We Hear.