She Speaks We Hear

Bringing women's voices together, unaltered, unadulterated


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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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Muslim & Jewish Women are going above and beyond to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’

The power of going beyond our limited thinking to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’. Mehatma Gandhi

At this time of uncertainty it’s easy to take our fearful thinking seriously and not question it. We can either retreat into ourselves and/or become more fearful of others. 

We may not realise it but our thoughts create our experience of life whether consciously (like when we are thinking about what we are going to say to someone) or unconsciously (like when we automatically make a cup of tea and are not aware of the thoughts that instruct us to do it).

But since thoughts are constantly flowing through us, often at great speed and ever changing, how trustworthy are they? 

When our thoughts look real, we live in a world of suffering. When they look subjective, we live in a world of choice. When they look arbitrary, we live in a world of possibility. And when we see them as illusory, we wake up inside a world of dreams.” – Michael Neill (2013), taken from ‘The Inside-out Revolution: The Only Thing You Need to Know to Change Your Life Forever.’

We are constantly, and innocently, making judgements about other people then acting out of that thinking; often without even realising we are doing this. It’s easy to make judgements about people but what are these judgements based on? How reliable are they? How much do we really know about the people we are judging? 

I was reminded of this recently when I had dealings with someone who I judged unfairly. I later found out that what I had interpreted as being pushy was in fact a passion for what they do as a result of them personally overcoming adversity that had a profound impact on them. Until I understood this I had interpreted their enthusiasm as something quite different. Needless to say I felt very remorseful but glad to have been retaught this lesson. 

We often think that our experience of life comes from what other people do and our circumstances rather than how we are viewing those other people and our circumstances in any given moment, a view that can change with our mood, how we are feeling, fresh thinking we have etc.

An example of this was when I was contracting at work and my contract was coming up for renewal.  I came into work one day feeling a bit insecure and no one spoke to me. I started to think maybe I had done something wrong and maybe my contract wouldn’t get renewed, so I started to feel even more insecure. Then I noticed that everyone was just working really hard and were up against it because of a deadline they had to meet and I realised they weren’t talking to me because they were busy and it had nothing to do with me. In that moment of realisation that my insecurity was coming from me and not from them it disappeared just like that. If I hadn’t noticed this I could have innocently acted out of my insecurity and done something that could have put me in not such a good light. 

Sometimes in life we need to step outside our comfort zone and go beyond the limitations that we and what we perceive others think is possible. A few months ago I did just that by passing my driving test at the age of 44. Something I and I everyone else I knew never thought I could do. How was I able to do this I hear you ask? Well partly I had a good reason that helped to motivate me beyond my fearful and self limiting beliefs (that I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t have good spatial awareness, that all other drivers were scary etc.). But also I had the understanding that fearful and self limiting beliefs were just thoughts like any other that ebb and flow. So when this thinking crept up on me, which it often did when I was attempting to drive, for the most part I was able to see beyond them and concentrate on the here and now of driving rather than the noise in my head. 

What I’m learning is that when see our thinking for what it is we start to see our thoughts as arbitrary which liberates us to go beyond their limitations and opens us up to people and possibilities in the world far beyond what we would have thought possible. 

In less than a month’s time an organisation that I am very passionate about – Nisa Nashim, the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network – will bring together Muslim and Jewish women from around the UK, who are bucking the trend of fear and separation and what they think is possible to come together for a one day conference on “Faith and Friendship: Shaping the future together”. We’ll explore what it means to view cross-community friendship as an engine of social transformation. We’ll ask, what does it mean to practice friendship as a form of social action? What role does friendship play in unlocking women’s leadership? What can our faith traditions teach us about being better friends and changemakers?

As Jo Cox so poignantly said in her maiden speech to parliament “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” The programme for the day reflects this with a wide range of sessions on issues that affect both Muslim and Jewish women such as Islamophobia and Antisemitism, campaigning and advocacy, and caring from the environment. It features a range of high profile women each courageous in their own way, including Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick, MP Naz Shah, Countdown presenter Rachel Riley, Deputy Mayor Debbie Weekes-Bernard and Annette Lawson OBE, the all-female team from Solutions Not Sides.  

So why not go beyond what you see is possible, “be the change you want to see in the world” and join us on Sunday 7 April

By George Halfin

George Halfin is on the steering committee for the Nisa Nashim Conference. She is an Innate Health coach and author of the blog Confessions of An Overthinker. She is also a Project Manager for Terrence Higgins Trust where she is currently working on a series of interactive films called ‘Their Story, Your Choice’ that aims to challenge people’s views and perceptions about HIV. 

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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Accepting your dark side

We are told at a very young age how to behave. The social parameters of ‘normal’ thoughts and behaviour are clearly set out for us and stepping out of those boundaries can have grave consequences. So, it’s no wonder that we find it hard to accept in ourselves those characteristics that are classified as socially unacceptable and could lead to a painful rejection.

Throughout history we have been taught that we must ‘kill’ the dark-side, those negative characteristics and weaknesses within us. But is that even possible? And if so, is it even healthy? What we resist persists, so if we spend all our time killing and eradicating a side of us, are we at risk of doing more harm than good?

As human beings, we were created with a full range of emotional responses and desires, classified as good and bad, and this is universal. So what we do know is that we are not responsible for the creation of these, they are natural and they have a function. So why do we need to hide the ‘bad’ ones and pretend they are not there. Sheryl Lee said, “the more we deny that we have a dark–side, the more power it has over us”.

“Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people.”

The healthiest way to live is to accept the beast within us, that way we can keep it in check. If we deny it and ignore it, it tends to slowly get out of control and in time much difficult to harness. It’s hard to accept the dark-side because we often feel afraid of the rejection that will follow if anyone finds out about that side of us. We get busy creating a world where we are ‘fine’ and the problem is out there.

Avoiding our dark side can rob us of happiness, it can lead to depression and addictions because we are not truly connecting with ourselves or with other people. If we continue to live a picture-perfect life, denying a part of ourselves we can become exhausted and lonely. When we accept the dark-side it lives in harmony with the light and we lead much more authentic and healthy lives.

Fully accepting ourselves as people with dark and light sets us free, we become a more whole and complete person. The pressure to lead a ‘perfect’ life is gone and we are free to accept what’s really there for us. Once we are able to accept ourselves as whole, complete and perfect as we are and as we are not, we are able to do the same for others. The feeling of fully knowing ourselves and another and being able to share that is true intimacy and connection.

How do we know what our own personal dark side is? So, we need to listen carefully to the judgements we make about others, these are often the same judgements we make about ourselves. If we find fragility in someone annoying, then chances are that we find the same thing in ourselves annoying too and will probably go to great lengths to hide it from others. In such circumstances, we may openly judge others and gossip about them to deflect the same weakness in ourselves.

We may suffer jealousy, ignoring or denying this feeling can lead to dysfunctional behaviours however, if we are willing to accept that such feelings exist within us and that they are natural then we are free to deal with them. If jealousy is the overriding feeling, then we have to identify the reasons behind it. If for example, we are feeling jealous of a friend who has had a great holiday with her dream partner then the reasons why we are triggered is because we want the same. Instead of wishing it away from our friend it’s healthier to wish the same for ourselves and then establish ways to have the same possibly even by asking our friend for advice on how.

Once we begin to treat ourselves with such compassion and not judge reactions within us that are normal and there to be understood, we are able to harness that side of us. We become more authentic in our relationships. We are better able to allow that authenticity to show in others without judgement. We no longer fear rejection because we fully accept and respect ourselves for all that we are and all that we are not. Fortunately, we are not just dark, or light, and our real beauty lies in the harmony of both.

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 credit: Akeela Ahmed


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It’s time to stand up to and call out anti-Muslim rhetoric

And treat it in the same manner as any other type of hate speech

The events of 15th March 2019, where 50 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Like all terrorist attacks of this calibre we go through extreme emotions of shock, anger, sadness and grief. Overwhelming grief. Yes we are a community in mourning. Why has this particular terrorist attack shaken us to our core? Let me explain.

It is little known that Muslims around the world are mistreated and killed day in, day out because of war and terrorism. Whether in Kashmir, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, or China  , Muslims are victims of complex conflicts and terrorism. In fact more Muslims have been killed by Daesh compared with other groups. Targeting Muslims in Mosques is not new – past atrocities have involved Muslims being killed in mosques.

After these horrendous events, we feel sadness, we may donate money or sign a few petitions. We say prayers for the victims. We do what we can sitting in lands far away. But this grief, following the horrific attacks on Mosques in New Zealand, a Western country, is new and it’s raw and I’m trying to work out why.

“Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.”

It seems to me, that my fellow non-Muslims on Facebook and Instagram are not affected by it, in the way Muslims are. This may seem unfair but the fact that very, very few non-Muslims in the public eye and just regular people in Britain have shared anything about the New Zealand terror attack, really hurts. Words matter, and support through a difficult time is always appreciated. The notion that ‘now they know how we feel’ which I’ve seen in comments under many posts is not as hurtful as those people simply not acknowledging it. Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks.

Please don’t think for a minute that Muslims are immune to terror attacks. Don’t for a minute think this is a first for the Muslim community. Don’t for a minute think that the ‘shoe is on the other foot’. No. According to the Stop the War coalition, the US led war on terror has killed two million Muslims since 9/11. That’s right two million, so don’t for one moment think that Muslims don’t know about death.

When 7/7 happened and 52 people were killed and many more injured on the London Underground we were upset and angry as much as anybody else. Remember Muslims die in Islamist inspired terror attacks too. We are not exempt. We go to concerts, we use public transport so we are a targets too. But in this case we were targeted exclusively. Like the nine black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, these people were murdered whilst praying. When we’re praying we are vulnerable and detached from our surroundings. To target a group of worshippers is so cowardly and so personal to me. My husband and son go to Friday prayers. It’s such a normal thing to do. One of the victims, fourteen year old Sayyed even looks like my son. So yes it’s personal and yes I feel it. And I know the majority of Muslims who live outside of Muslim countries feel the same.

The truth is Muslims are battered from every angle. Whether it’s from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or from white supremacists, we are in the firing line every time. And if not a target for violence we are spoken about on social media like a worthless community. Too long the media with their inflammatory headlines have gotten away with demonising an entire religion and it’s followers.

Many young Muslims, born in the era of post 9/11 have felt victimised, experienced racism and anti-muslim hatred all their lives. With headlines like ‘Muslim schools ban our culture’ to ‘Muslim plot to kill the pope’, is there any wonder why some of the general public fear and dislike Muslims? These headlines are fuelling white supremacists and legitimising Islamophobia. According to the Cambridge University Press “For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press”.

Says it all really, and if you want to see the hatred from the comfort of your home then you just have to go on to a tabloid newspaper’s Facebook page under any article to do with Muslims and you will see it clearly. You only have to go on Twitter to see how many proud ‘Islamophobes’ there are who put in their bio that they are Islamophobic, and this is their main purpose, indeed their tweets are mainly about bashing and demonising Muslims.

Thankfully I’ve also found solitude in Twitter where so many tweets from non-Muslims have shown me that people do care and there are many who realise the subliminal anti-Muslim sentiment that some of the press has been espousing. Whilst it is being acknowledged, things need to change. It’s time that not just Muslims, but for others too, to call out the anti-Muslim sentiment that is present in our society today. Because there hasn’t been the Facebook and Instagram outcry that usually follows a large-scale terror attack. Extremists have now been inspired to attack Muslims in London, and one has already taken place outside a mosque. It’s time to stand up to anti-Muslim rhetoric and treat it in the same manner as other types of hate speech. Don’t let it go unquestioned, don’t ignore it, because people need to be held accountable for their words.

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

Sharmeen Ziauddin is a journalist and blogger who blogs at britpakgirl.com. You can find her tweeting @britpakgirl

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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We Need To Stop Being Mean Girls.

“She got that promotion? Ugh, how did she get it with the amount of slap on her face? “

“She’s going back to Uni? Surely she’s a bit past it now.”

“She should not be wearing those shorts, sorry but her legs just are not made for ripped denim.”

“She’s going out with HIM? She’s got the personality of a wet blanket.”

Do these statements sound familiar?

As in do they sound like the misogynistic comments that people write they heard men say in the workplace as well as the comments that women have been calling out in recent years?

Yes.

But were they said by men?

No.

All the above statements have been said by women, about women.

A common misconception about today’s brand of feminism is that all women have banded together to take on the patriarchy. But the sad truth is that we haven’t. Not yet anyways.

The irony of all this is that we regularly hear/see/read about how men who have made these comments and have been called out on their mistakes and engrained sexism, so why is it that we are still spontaneously combusting from within?

I believe a large part of this has do with how for generations and even now, we as women are still made to feel as if there isn’t a large enough platform for all of us to flourish career-wise, that there aren’t enough spaces for us. As a result, we have been raised to compete over everything; from makeup to marriage and we tear at each other mercilessly over the same aspects that we lambast men for even daring to criticise:

1. Physical appearance

2. Choice of clothing

3. Personality aspects (too loud, too quiet, too ‘in your face’, too anything really)

4. Sexual history

Another reason I believe this takes place is because quite simply, we get envious from time to time and therefore we regress back into what the patriarchy have thrived on for so long: women fighting amongst women without realising the power and potential we have as a collective.

We’re only human and when we see other people around us doing well we want the same kind of recognition and reward. I’ve even had to check myself a few times in the past when I’ve seen other women around me absolutely smashing it at work or within the media. I’d find myself falling into that toxic trap of finding something to nit pick about that woman all the while secretly wishing I’d achieved the same thing she had in the same amount of time.

But that was me projecting my own insecurities on to this woman, that was MY problem….not hers.

Today, I now maintain the notion that we as women have enough to deal with from those still upholding backward and misogynistic views in the workplace without self-destructing from within the ranks.

So if a woman in your workplace/college/university circle does well, just keep these things in mind:

1. She probably worked damn hard for whatever reward she got

2. If she’s earned a leadership or management position, that’s AMAZING!! We need more women in higher roles which make a difference.

3. She wasn’t being “loud” or “rude” in that meeting, she was speaking honestly and firmly about issues that she believed

4. Her choice of clothing, makeup or hairstyle have no bearing on her abilities or intelligence.

5. Neither does whoever she’s dating or not dating.

Above all else she should know and feel confident that in a world where the fight for gender equality is more vocal than ever, the women around her aren’t looking to secretly stab her in the back.

Instead, we’ve got her back.

By Raisa Shaikh

Raisa Shaikh currently works as a Secondary English Teacher in the UK but spent the first 16 years of her life in Hong Kong and Singapore. When she’s not teaching, she’s avidly reading or writing on her blog about her passions: intersectional feminism, world history and everything in between! She’s also a self-confessed “Shakespeare Nerd”.

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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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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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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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

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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.