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Launch of Generation Y book; young people remixing faith

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

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

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

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

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how the feminine is reclaimed by Generation Y. Clare elaborates,  “Gen Y has done a lot of work to liberate itself from outdated concepts of gender, but as part of that I see them also reclaiming something very ancient.”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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aamna Khokhar

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Aisha Ali-Khan

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

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

 

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

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Anna Hussain

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

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


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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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The Colour of Love #NotGrey

by Sabrina Mahmood

@sabrina01m

Did I really just read that? That was my initial reaction after I read the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ series. Everybody was talking about it, it was trending in all the charts, and I just had to know what the fascination was. And we all love a good love story right? As I began reading, I immediately took to Ana, a student like me I at once understood her naivety. She was intrigued by this mystery man and of course so was every avid reader on the planet. But as the book, and eventually the series continued, I was deeply troubled by many of the not so blatant undertones in the book.

“…we have been fighting to stop women from being ‘under the thumb’ so to speak. Behaviour like this is now associated with religious oppression and yet this book was glamourising these facets of what essentially is an abusive relationship.”

Image by Jeffery: https://flic.kr/p/q5W7s8Image by Jeffery: https://flic.kr/p/q5W7s8

The whole idea that a man was able to dictate the way a woman dresses, eats and spends her free time really stuck with me. As a society, we have been fighting to stop women from being ‘under the thumb’ so to speak. Behaviour like this is now associated with religious oppression and yet this book was glamourising these facets of what essentially is an abusive relationship. I had many discussions about the book and people always said “but she has a choice!”

'Fifty Shades of Grey' book cover

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book cover

Do you really believe that any woman would choose to be treated in such a way? Yes, everybody has their preferences but when you take away all the superficial aspects, and look just at Ana, can you relate to her on a human aspect? She wants to be loved, and she will do anything she can to try and make this man love her. Clearly, she doesn’t realise what she is in for, and is hurt physically and emotionally through the course of the story. I felt that E L James created a very stereotypical idea of Ana, whereby she becomes dependant on a man’s love, even when she leaves him she cannot stay away, she is clumsy and needs’ to be ‘looked after’. When I read it, I was willing Ana to be stronger, to leave him, but of course that never happened.

And if you look at real life abusive relationships, women often believe that the man loves them, despite years of suffering abuse. In the end his character does change, but the fact remains that he is still a controlling man that clearly has issues. It is my personal belief that if any person loves another, they would not do anything to harm them. In the first book towards the end, there is a belt whipping scene which epitomises the abusive nature of this relationship, and highlights the growing concern that  Ana has for her wellbeing. Every woman deserves to feel safe, without concerns for her own safety when she is in a relationship, and that is the message that James should have been promoting.

The most shocking aspect of the whole thing was the way the 50 shades phenomenon took off in the media, it fast became a trend. Everybody wanted to have a man like ‘Christian’, and although a huge part of the story is about sex, the things that really troubled me was the ongoing lack of freedom and choices that Ana had. People wanted to be ‘dominated’.  And in a world where freedom of expression is celebrated, I really don’t think we should be accepting a book that promotes anything less.

“As a society we have to show people what love really looks like, and love most definitely does not look grey.”

Christian had a troubled past, and the cause for his control issues stems from a neighbour having a relationship with him when he was a young teen. If we read a news article of a 15/16 year old boy engaging in a sexual relationship with an older neighbour we would immediately think grooming or sexual abuse. Yet, at no point in the trilogy, does James suggest anything of the sort. And for me, that is deeply worrying. In real life, a man with such high levels of emotional trauma would need psychological help and counselling. And if James wanted to write a book about a troubled man she should have done it responsibly, rather than making him take out his aggression and problems on vulnerable young women. As a society we have to show people what love really looks like, and love most definitely does not look grey.

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

Images credit: Jeffery and Wikipedia