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Ten questions with Zohra Khaku from the BBC’s Muslims Like Us

zohra-khaku

What is it really like be a modern-day British Muslim? The BBC’s Muslims Like Us, broadcast at the end of 2016, sought to find an answer to this question, by making ten Muslims of different backgrounds share a house with each other. There was conflict, there was controversy, but there was also connection.

We caught up with Zohra Khaku, one of the housemates to find out more about the programme and her experience of sharing a house with ten complete strangers.

1. What made you want to appear on a programme like Muslims Like Us?

When talking to the producers of the show, I had been emphasising how strongly I feel about standing up and taking responsibility for our narrative as Muslims in the UK. When she asked if I’d come on the show, I couldn’t really say no!

2. What was it like staying in a house with ten random people?

At times it was brilliant – meeting new people, getting to know them better and experiencing the beginning of new relationships. We had some really fun moments including playing charades and staying up late talking through the night. Some bits were difficult – sharing a room with someone I didn’t know was hard, and the mess in the kitchen really bothered me!

3. Was there anyone you particularly got along with?

Mehreen! We got on really well, and are still in touch almost every day.

4. Was there anyone in particular you clashed with?

I found Abdul Haq’s views really hard to deal with. As you saw on episode two, it was particularly difficult for me when talking about coming from a Shia background. His views on it being okay to harm people who he deems to be ‘outside the fold of Islam’ really disturbed me, and I decided to challenge him. For the rest of my time in the house, every time Abdul talked about prejudice, I pointed out his cognitive dissonance and just couldn’t bear to listen to him any more.

5. Did you find there were a lot of differing views?

So many differing views! People came from such different backgrounds and life experiences, so as expected there were lots of opinions. Eventually we found a way to be functional, although many discussions were difficult and make for difficult viewing.

6. What would you say were the main points of discussion that you all agreed upon?

Nabil’s ‘Feed the Homeless’ activity was such a uniting time for the housemates. We all loved the values that the afternoon represented, and worked together as a team without any issues at all.

7. What were your main concerns going into the house, and how did the reality of the experience match with your initial expectations?

I decided to go in with a really open mind, so I didn’t really have many concerns. I told myself I’d be myself and go with the flow, and that’s what I did. The experience was intense, with some fantastic and some horrible moments.

8. What were your main takeaways from this experience, or what did you learn?

I learned a few things about myself. It seems that I cry when I’m angry and upset! And I learned that there are circumstances under which I would call the anti-terrorism police.

9. Do you feel the programme will help to change the image of British Muslims (either in a positive or negative way)?

I hope so! From some of the posts I’ve seen online and messages I’ve received already, a lots of people seem to have learned some things about Muslims, even if it’s just realising that Muslims are not a monolithic community.
Within the Muslim community I hope it causes some debate, but most of all, I hope that the idea that we need to stop judging each other spreads a bit more widely. I’ve seen comments already calling the group horrible names. At the end of the day, we’re taught to have good akhlaq (manners) and I think some of the comments online could do with a bit of that.

10. Did the experience change your perceptions of what it means to be a British Muslim?

I think I learned some things from the other housemates. Hearing their experiences around issues they deal with in their daily lives was as fascinating as ever. Peoples lives are interesting, and the housemates were no different. My own perception of what it’s like to be a British Muslim hasn’t changed.

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War And Peace

by Anjum Peerbacos

@mamaanji

'War & Peace'; BBC Drama aired 2016. Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_%26_Peace_(2016_TV_series)

‘War & Peace’; BBC Drama aired 2016. Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_%26_Peace_(2016_TV_series)

Nothing I like more than a period drama especially one that is steeped in history and facts and eras. Great! If you loved Downton then ‘War and Peace’ has nicely fills that Sunday evening void. The BBC knows exactly what it is doing – plugging a gap.

Of course it’s based during the time of the Napoleonic wars, and of course with that comes all the bloodiness of war, which was particularly apparent during certain episodes. I did have to turn away at the point Anatole was having his leg brutally chopped, hacked- away -at, because it was incredibly lifelike realistic and extremely gory.

And then the vast landscape that was littered with corpses; bodies all left for dead.

The irony is of course that the brutality and underlying hostility and animosity that comes with war still exists today. 250 years later it doesn’t seem to have changed much. As a race, the human race we’ve not moved on at all.

Syrian Refugee Children

Syrian Refugee Children

What’s amazing about a period drama like ‘War and Peace’ is that you build up an affinity with these characters, with their feelings, their emotions and experiences? You feel what they feel and experience; however why is this not the case for the people that we are currently bombing in Syria?

Peoples’ homes are destroyed, they lose family and loved ones. And soldiers that have been lost in battles and in wars over the ages, they all had mothers they all had family ties and connections. They had feelings and emotions and experiences. Do we not feel towards them as we do towards the characters on our screens; is it because they’re far away that we don’t feel for them? Because there isn’t a close-up shots of their face as a loved one departs?

I don’t know if in conclusion I can say honestly as a human race we have really moved on. Have we made progress if people are still dying? If people are still being killed and persecuted and annihilated, and we don’t feel what they feel, we don’t experience what they experience. How can we say we have progressed? How can we say we are a civilised society?

Is it because we managed to dehumanise the other?  They ‘bunch’, the ‘swarm’? Is it because it doesn’t happen right in front of us ? Is it because we don’t make eye contact as we kill them anymore.

We just fight now because we’re not killing people and we like to think we are not killing people. We say we’re using drones, we don’t even have to see the end result. We just have to know where they are. Does that make it okay?

 

Anjum Perrbacos is a mother writer living, teaching and learning, in 21st century London. Of Asian origin (beige- ish), wearing a hijab – not a terrorist! A Londoner through and through and proud to be so. Currently Vice Chair of local Constituency Labour Party. Promoting Political engagement within diverse communities. You can follow her on Twitter @Mammaanji or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IAmLondonToo/
Image credits: ‘War and Peace’ courtesy of Wikipedia; Syrian refugee children courtesy of IHH on Flickr 
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


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10 Reasons Why We Want Nadiya To Win

Only if you have been living on another planet would you have not heard about the Great British Bake Off, the television show which has the taken the UK by a storm.

Ahead of tonight’s final, we thought we would list ten reasons why we think finalist Nadiya Hussain is awesome and should win!

  1. She is the only woman in the final
    Image courtesy of Nadia Hussain @BegumNadiya

    Image courtesy of Nadia Hussain @BegumNadiya

    Being a platform that brings together women’s voices, we love the fact that Nadiya is a woman in the final of the highly competitive contest! Especially as the other two finalists are male. And we are all about supporting women.

  2. She is awesome (and doesn’t know it) 

    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @BegumNadiya

    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @BegumNadiya

  3. She is an inspiration to young girls everywhere
    Image courtesy of CBBC Newsround and Jimmy Tam @Jimjamtam

    Image courtesy of CBBC Newsround and Jimmy Tam @Jimjamtam

    Young girls need role models they can look up to and identify with. Nadiya has become an iconic role model for young girls everywhere.

  4. She comes from Luton
    Image courtesy of Luton on Sunday @LutonOnSunday

    Image courtesy of Luton on Sunday @LutonOnSunday

    The beleaguered town of Luton is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. But this town famous for its hat-making, has not only produced the gifted Nadiya but also the brilliant food entrepreneur Shazia Saleem of ‘ieat foods’.

  5. She is super talented, and hasn’t quite realised it yet Nadiya Hussain
  6. She has a great sense of humour and is funny without meaning to be! 

    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @BegumNadiya

    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @BegumNadiya

  7. She has the best facial expressions 

    Image courtesy of @zoe_bro

    Image courtesy of @zoe_bro

  8. She is a mother of three
    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @ BegumNadiya

    Image courtesy of Nadiya Hussain @ BegumNadiya

    And an inspiration for mothers, women and parents who feel that parenthood means the end of achieving their dreams. Goes to show, it doesn’t have to be that way – you can be a parent and achieve amazing things!

  9. She creates amazing bakes
    Image courtesy of Shibbir Ali @Shibbir1

    Image courtesy of Shibbir Ali @Shibbir1

    Her wonderful creations demonstrate how intelligent she is, with her meticulous planning and eye for detail.

  10. We simply love her along with millions of other Britons #TeamNadiya

    Image courtesy of House of Sharkey @HouseOfSharkey

    Image courtesy of House of Sharkey @HouseOfSharkey