She Speaks We Hear

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Women’s Peace Tribute following London Bridge and Borough Market Attacks

She Speaks We Hear organised a Women’s Peace Tribute with Women’s March on London, following the brutal atrocity in Manchester, in which twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena. We never expected to also be paying tribute to victims of two further attacks, that took place on Saturday night,  4 June 2017, on London Bridge and Borough Market. Julie Siddiqi reflects on the tribute:

On Sunday evening a few women got together to meet, to share, to listen, to connect. The same women who came together on Westminster Bridge met this time at the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park (no idea why I have never been before, it’s so nice!). It was a lovely couple of hours with old friends and some new. I was completely oblivious to the photographer most of the time but she captured some lovely moments as you can see here. I cried that evening when I tried to speak. We had originally arranged the small gathering post Manchester. Then the London attack happened and we decided to still carry on the next day. It felt raw, still does. Sometimes it is so important to meet and be with others, good people. I was grateful that evening to have that opportunity and it helped to laugh and to cry with good people around. I post it not so you can see my crying face necessarily but I hope people reading this will consider and find chances to do something similar, when you feel you need it, whatever works for you, because it really can be a great help 

By Julie Siddiqi

Julie Siddiqi is a mentor, consultant and activist with a focus on gender issues, Jewish-Muslim relations and social action. Julie was the Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Britain from 2010-2014, Founder and Director of Sadaqa Day, a one day Muslim-led focus on social action, and is co-chair of Jewish and Muslims women’s network, Nisa-Nashim.

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Three Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Married

Sabrina Mahmood pens her top three tips on getting married.

1. Compromise forms part of daily life

Getting used to living with a new person is difficult, you each have your own way of doing things and have to get used to living around someone new. This can be especially difficult if living with in-laws because the initial few months do take work from both of you, and you need to devote plenty of time to this. Before you get married it’s so important to think about whether you are prepared to compromise. Will your potential partner accept that you wish to work, study, meet friends. Will you be able to share the household tasks, or is all this expected to be your responsibility. It’s all well and good before you get married, but once the Nikah is signed, the responsibilities become real. Are you ready to handle this?

Luckily for me, my husband and I share much of the tasks. As I am still studying, I often come home late. On these days my husband will prepare meals, and vice versa when he works and comes back late. Small things like this are so important, not only does it show an immense love and respect, it just makes life that bit easier when you are both making the effort to take care of each other.

2. Are we really compatible?

At the beginning, it can be really hard to determine this, because human nature means that once we like somebody or are interested in them, it can be easy to overlook their flaws. We can accept aspects of their personality which once you are married might become a lot more difficult to handle. I hear a lot of, once we get married ‘he will change’ but the best way to think is that the person you marry will be the same person before and after marriage, so don’t expect any major changes.

I’ll use an example to illustrate what I mean; if the potential partner likes to meet friends out a lot, at first this might seem insignificant. However, if you live with family (or even alone) after marriage, it is hard enough to find time to spend together. So, if the other person spends most of their free time out, how will this affect you? Will you mind spending many evenings/week-ends alone? It might seem a small thing, but later it can become much more troublesome, so it’s best to iron out these things before making any big decisions.

Another important thing here is whether you have the same inherent values. Does the other person believe in the same things as you. To me education is important, and female empowerment. My husband has always been supportive of these things, so when life sometimes gets tough I always feel supported and as if my opinions are valued. This is really important to build a strong relationship. If he thought the work I did to support women’s casues was pointless or insignificant, this would put a strain on our relationship. Is your potential partner mature enough to understand your needs and support you?

Remember, once you are a married you start to rely on each other and emotional support becomes really important. 

3. Communication is key

One of the key things in marriage is effective communication. We all know this but how does it work in practice? Are you a person that needs constant love and affection or do you need more of your own space. I’m the first of these, and I’ve had to communicate to my husband that a text or a small gesture goes a long way. Do you think you will be able to communicate your feelings to your potential husband?

What about the more serious things, like when you feel down or stressed. Will the other person be able to guide you and support you through these times, or are they more of a silent person who doesn’t tend to offer advice. Remember, once you are a married you start to rely on each other and emotional support becomes really important.

Lastly, and probably very important, how do you both react when you are angry. Luckily for me, my husband’s gentle nature will always diffuse my anger. But if you are hot headed and the other person is too, it can become quite difficult when you argue and say things in the moment you don’t mean. You have to be able to communicate through these times, talk through problems and come out stronger. If you know the other person gets angry easily, or likes to avoid dispute resolution, think about whether you can really live with them, because arguments between people that live together, even family, is inevitable!

By Sabrina Mahmood

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

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Altmuslimah (David Campbell)


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General Election 2017 – To Vote or not To Vote – That is the Question!

I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t politically active.

In my house, not voting was never an option. The one phrase guaranteed to infuriate my late father was “I can’t be bothered to vote”. My family came to the United Kingdom in 1965 and I cannot recall a local or general election taking place in which my father didn’t vote. He would say that if you cannot be bothered to vote, you do not have the right to complain about anything, whether that’s the state of the roads or how often your bins are emptied. He would remind us of how, in countries across the world, people are prepared to give their lives in order to have a say in how they are governed.

I was reminded of this particular comment of his when, many years later, I was waiting for children to arrive at a session I was running for Muslim youth. One of the parents, an Iraqi mum, came bounding towards me on her arrival and as she got closer, I noticed she was shaking her finger at me. As she got closer, I noticed the beaming smile on her face and that her finger was purple. In between her excited exclamations of “sister Hifsa” she explained she had just returned home having been to London. For the first time in her life she had been able to vote in the Iraqi elections to determine who would govern her country. Her delight was infectious. A middle aged woman overjoyed at finally having the right to have a say in her country’s governance. A right that,  in our democratic nation, every single British citizen over the age of eighteen has, regardless of gender, colour, race or religion. But a right that is only taken up by 2/3rd of the eligible population with over 13 million “not bothering”.

Yesterday our Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election on what would have been my fathers 101st birthday, 8th June. And a number of thoughts immediately went through my mind, including that we now have 7 weeks of election preparation and social media posts in which every single person will want to have a say no matter how much of what they have to say might very well be “utter bollocks”. Aah the joys of living in a democracy!

One particular issue however is going to cause me particular angst over the next few weeks. And that is the anti-voting Muslim campaigners that will be trying to prevent Muslims from taking part in the General Election because they regard voting as being “haraam” (forbidden/unlawful). No doubt they will be using the usual scare tactics, telling adherents they’re condemning themselves to the hellfire if they vote,  by leafleting outside mosques on Fridays, running poster campaigns and producing the dreaded memes as their backup.

Is Voting Haram?

As a Muslim, I have grown up with an understanding of a principle that exists within Islam called “Shura” meaning consultation. This in its simplest form, is a way to harness the views and opinions of those individuals most affected by any decisions that may be made. The Prophet Muhammad would, as instructed by God in the Quran, consult his companions;  “And consult them in the affairs and when you have taken a decision, put your trust in God, certainly, God loves those who put their trust in Him” [Aal-’Imran, 159]

By voting in the election, you are being given a stake in the decision making processes around every aspect of how your country will be run. Every single vote counts and it is imperative that any government that is elected has the backing of the majority of the population that they are serving. There is almost a level of dishonesty that exists amongst those individuals who want to live in Britain, enjoy the freedoms and benefits that being British citizens affords them, but not being prepared to fulfil their own obligations to the nation. For those individuals who argue that the electoral choices presented to them do  not represent the ideals of their faith in its purest form, there are always alternatives available. I can think of several theocratic dictatorships that they may like to consider as places of residency. For the rest of us, let’s make the most of the democratic freedoms afforded to us as British citizens. By voting we are not violating any Islamic laws. We are making a decision as to who we feel is the best to govern the country we call home – our country. And we should make our decision based on those things that matter the most to use. Education, healthcare, housing, environment, foreign policy or social inequalities; make the decision about who you will vote for based on which party has the best interests of the things that matter to you, your family and your local community at the very epicentre of their manifesto.

This the Islamic thing to do. It is not unIslamic to vote, it is unIslamic not to.

By Hifsa Haroon Iqbal

This blog first appeared on Hifsa’s personal blog

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 credite: Daily Express website


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The Conscientious Muslim Voter – British Elections 8 June 2017

It is perhaps fortuitous that the forthcoming British elections on 8 June are in Ramadan. Why? Because our annual period of introspection, purging of accumulated vices and good intentions for a more conscientious future should, at least in principle, ensure that during this state of elevated awareness we also vote accordingly. I say this in full appreciation that there is no such thing as a ‘single Muslim perspective’ or even a ‘single principled position’ but there is such a thing as ‘Islamic-centric ethics’ regarding some of our most fundamental values.

I was asked by several people to put some thoughts on paper so here is a quick, brainstorming of ideas. Done in a rush, as there is so little time before these elections! Best to do your own research and be prepared to make your prospective parliamentarian accountable – elections are our only real opportunity to do this! While I do think Muslim prospective parliamentarians should be given particularly rigorous scrutiny on key issues, in the end the issues of concern are the same for all and therefore no differentiation really required.

It is not for me to impose on fellow Muslims where to vote but I do feel we all have to think good and hard about the responsibilities involved in being a Conscientious Muslim Voter. From this perspective I would argue we have to consider who is best placed to safeguard our planet, who is concerned about our shared humanity and who is concerned about the weak and vulnerable – all core Islamic ethical principles.

Islam does not define a specific political system but it gives guidance on the ethical behaviour that should be behind political governance. The Conscientious Muslim Voter concerned about the world around them should at least have some consistency on the issues that concern them.

This link from SoundVision gives a good overview of some of our social responsibilities:

https://www.soundvision.com/article/quran-and-ahadith-on-the-poor-and-needy

The Quran advises the following which is not exclusive to Muslim context but for all of humanity:

1. Do not exploit the earth

2. Do not exploit economically – do not give false measure

3. Feed the hungry

4. Care for the orphan

5. Do not harm people by your actions

6. Forgive people

7. Support people to get an honest livelihood

8. Do not squander your wealth

9. Reconcile hearts

10. Free those in bondage

11. Help those in debt

12. Help the wayfarer

Overarching all of this is the establishment of ‘justice’.

“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (4:135)

Engaging within a democracy

As British Muslims we live in a democracy and the way we engage with this democracy is through voting in elections (register to vote) – to choose public figures that can best implement what we consider to be our shared social values. So with the above in mind how do we draw from our Islamic ethics when considering whom to vote for?

In an election there are two key things that needs to be taken into consideration:

1) We need to think what we believe is best for the country as a whole and who can best deliver this, and

2) We need to see what is best for ourselves and who can best deliver it.

The two work alongside each other and are not mutually exclusive. The following are some bullet points when considering national, local and personal issues. The links are some of the discussions around the issues.

The British political system

https://www.gov.uk/government/how-government-works

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/BritishPoliticalSystem

http://votingcounts.org.uk/why-should-you-vote-html

Issues of national concern

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/should-not-vote-conservative-29-10303180#ICID=sharebar_twitter

https://tompride.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/theresa-mays-secret-plans-to-replace-nhs-england-with-private-us-healthcare-system-kaiser-permanente/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-new…

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/11/virgin-care-700m-contract-200-nhs-social-care-services-bath-somerset

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1017247831743470&set=a.860559804078941.1073741828.100003747887645&type=3&theater

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/12/british-muslims-facts_n_6670234.html

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/11788756.46__Muslims_live_in_top_10__most_deprived_areas_in_UK/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11409181/British-Muslims-integration-and-segregation-are-about-economics-not-values.html

Don’t have time to go into all these issues but a simple search on the internet provide you with key issues, here are my top twelve. 

  1. Austerity
  2. The environment
  3. Prevent
  4. NHS
  5. Education
  6. Housing
  7. Chilcot
  8. Brexit
  9. Human rights
  10. Xenophobia
  11. Diversity
  12. Election fraud

Issues to consider that directly affect Muslims:

Just adding a few potential questions but there are no limit to questions that needs to be addressed so the more you research these issues the more in-depth question and response you can give.

In my view there are four key issues of concern specific to British Muslims:

  1. Prevent
  2. Institutional Islamophobia, Racism and Hate Crimes
  3. Foreign policy
  4. Refugee crisis

The following are questions, you can put to your local PPC:

1. What is your position on Prevent? 

Question: Prevent has tarred the entire Muslim community as potential terrorists – how would you address this?

Question: Would you vote to repeal the Prevent Strategy?

Question: The Prevent Strategy is denying Muslims in the education system freedom to express their views without being labeled as a potential terrorist – they are choosing to keep quiet due to fear of anything they say being misconstrued – how would you address this?

https://muslimyouthskills.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/pve__prevent_-__a_muslim_response.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/Monitoring-Prevent-in-Brent-480753328751815/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39398548

http://discoversociety.org/2017/02/01/how-preventing-terror-is-promoting-violence/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-muslim-racism-hate-crime-islamophobia-eu-referendum-leave-latest-a7106326.html

2. Institutional Islamophobia, Racism and Hate Crimes

Question: I am really concerned that according to the Census British Muslims are over represented in all areas of social deprivation. Current legislation on welfare cuts is impacting disproportionately on Muslim families. What are your thoughts on this and how would you address this issue as far as government policies are concerned?

Question: Many Muslims fear engaging with the statutory sector due to discrimination, prejudice and exclusion – what do you plan to do to address this?

http://www.runnymedetrust.org/uploads/publications/pdfs/islamophobia.pdf

http://www.insted.co.uk/islambook.pdf

http://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/anti-muslim-attacks-surge-in-britain

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/618662/Attacks-Muslims-on-rise-report-Islamic-Human-Rights-Commission

3. Foreign Policy

Question: What was your position on Britain going to war in Iraq and the devastating consequences to the Iraqi people?

Question: What is your position on the failure of Britain to act decisively on the Syrian crisis and the ongoing tragedy there?

Question: Will your party stop the human devastation being caused by drone bombs?

Question: What are you doing to support the rights of Palestinians and to ensure that UN Resolutions are adhered to by Israel?

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/06/chilcot-report-crushing-verdict-tony-blair-iraq-war

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/america-dropped-26171-bombs-2016-obama-legacy

https://www.ft.com/content/a501be1c-dc0f-11e6-86ac-f253db7791c6

4. Refugees

Question: What was your position on Britain’s limiting and then closing the doors to Refugees?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/08/dubs-scheme-lone-child-refugees-uk-closed-down

In conclusion, my vote will go to the person who represents and will actively pursue policies that reflect as much as possible Islamic-centric ethics. They would need to be concerned about the planet, the proliferation of greed and the human devastation caused by wars. This person also needs to show they have a consistent track record of standing for justice and speaking truth to power. They would also need to be concerned about rights of those who are vulnerable in society and those that are easy to exploit. In order to do even just a little of the above they will need to be a different kind of leader from what we have known in recent times as turning the tide on fizzy popularism will not be easy. For me this person is Jeremy Corbyn – as if you hadn’t guessed already!

http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/10-pledges

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jul/15/jeremy-corbyn-announces-10bn-plan-to-scrap-university-tuition-fees?CMP=share_btn_fb

https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-david-cameron-libya-labour

I am sooooo looking forward to party representatives knocking on my door because I am fully prepared to have my say!

By Humera Khan

Humera Khan is a freelance consultant and researcher on Muslim Affairs. She is one of the founder members and currently a trustee of An-Nisa Society founded in 1985. With the organisation she has been involved in setting up many projects and working with families, providing support and counselling on a broad range of issues. This has included developing the first accredited Islamic Counselling Course, producing a series of books on sexual health from an Islamic perspective and producing resources on Muslim fatherhood.

Humera is currently the coordinator for An-Nisa Society’s Supplementary Muslim School (SMS) which was set up in 1986 and through the school has developed work around Islamic education and also facilitated numerous youth projects. 

Currently Humera is working on a Jewish Muslim dialogue initiative with young people aged 14-15 in partnership with partnership with West London Synagogue which includes a 5 day trip to Morocco to learn about Jewish and Muslim history and culture.

Most recently Humera has been involved in the setting up of the Faith and Khidmah Campaign – a partnership between An-Nisa Society and the Radical Middle Way. This Campaign seeks to promote and develop the ideas of pastoral care and philanthropy with the British Muslim communities and to encourage the investment in a Muslim voluntary sector able to respond to the needs of the community.

Image credit: Al Jazeera News
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 Snap Election Is Just What We Need For Our Democracy

Brenda from Bristol doesn’t want to hear this question, but  I will ask it anyway. Is the snap election a good thing or not? In short, I think it’s good and just what we need now for our democracy. Here’s why:

First of all, I think the UK has been in a sort of twilight zone since June 23rd last year. A range of epoch defining changes have taken place in the last 12 months. Many political and economic assumptions have been upturned and people are more engaged with politics than they have been for quite sometime. Yet, until today there was no prospect of us having the chance to express our views on any of the issues that are splitting us down the middle. Is immigration more important than single market access in Brexit? How should funding for the NHS and social care be found? Are more Grammar schools the way forward? Is the economy working for everyone? Should we be allied to Trump at all costs post Brexit? All these issues can now be debated and people can vote accordingly. This can only be a good thing for our democracy.

Secondly, the U.K. desperately needs an effective Opposition to whichever Government is elected on June 8th. Without a dramatic change in Labour’s leadership, there is nothing to mitigate against the worst instincts of the Brexiteers, the right wing press and the other extremists (yes, they are!) who currently drive Tory policy. On the issue of the job of the Opposition, the Labour Party fairly and squarely must bear the responsibility for simply not showing up for work. So many bad Government policy decisions have gone unchecked by Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs. There is no need to go into the why’s here, but Corbyn is just not able to convince enough voters that his Labour Party is ‘The Government In Waiting’.

Nevertheless, many people remain committed fans of Jeremy Corbyn. They feel he envisages something they believe in and I respect that. However, leadership is about having a vision as well as delivering on it. There is no point in having nice ideas if you cannot motivate people to vote for you. If I may, I would ask supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to quit complaining about the Blairites/media/any external factors causing him to be 20 points behind in the polls and to put their time and energy into where they say their heart is. Because Jeremy Corbyn needs all the help he can get to get out the vote. A good start would be for Labour spokespeople and supporters to stop moaning about the Prime Minister and internal critics being ‘too opportunistic’! Since when was politics not precisely about being just that? Instead, to inspire people to vote for them, they need to start talking about what alternative vision they can offer the country. Then target that message effectively.

Looking then to the potential make up of a new Government, will a bigger Tory majority or even a coalition (remember that?) be better? To Tory haters, this may seem anathema. However, due to it’s small majority, the current Tory government is simply too beholden to a few extremists on the right (yep, I said extremists, again!). Hence the Prime Minister’s current focus on a ‘hard’ Brexit, leaving the single market, leaving the EU with no trade deal at all if we don’t like the outcome of negotiations etc. This is just one form of Brexit. Only some of the 52% of people who voted Brexit last year might have been looking for that option, we can’t know as it wasn’t on the ballot paper. I think the hard Brexit idea currently discussed is an untested, narrow niche Brexit. That is why a lot of Remainers are still angry and even some Brexiteers are annoyed at this style of Brexit being driven through. A larger Government majority will allow the Prime Minister to push back on the niche ‘Brexit at all costs’ policy. No one apart from the ‘MP free’ UKIP and the ‘MP free but direct line to the Prime Minister’ Murdoch/Daily Mail press argue that the narrow niche Brexit policy has a democratic mandate. No matter all the slurs thrown at Remain voters, to effectively lead and deliver Brexit, the Prime Minister has to bring along with her a sizeable number of the 14.8 million people who voted Remain. She knows this which is probably a large part of why she’s called this election now.

Is this election good for the other political parties? I think it is. Brexit has changed the rules of right versus left as both Labour and the Tory party are pro Brexit. Only the Lib Dems are unequivocally in favour of a second referendum on Brexit. So where do you go if you want to express your key concerns? This is where votes for the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP and the Women’s Equality Party could be key. Tactical voting in seats has always been possible. But in the past they’ve been set along simpler party lines eg. vote Green to reduce the Tory/Labour incumbent’s majority. Now these ‘alternative’ votes warrant more detailed consideration. It’s not straight forward by any means. Does your MP represent the party you vote for but as an individual they did not reflect your Brexit preferences? If they did vote the way you wanted on Brexit, are you unhappy about their party leader’s policy on Brexit? So for example, many London MPs voted Remain as individuals and defied the party whips to vote against Brexit in Parliament. They also work hard on other policies their constituents care about.

But is caveated support for the two main parties enough for you in this moment? Do Londoners need to send as clear a message as the Scots have about their views on Brexit? Should they punish mainstream party MPs by voting Lib Dem? Is the Lib Dem option clear enough given they won’t rule out a coalition with the Tories again? Should Londoners be more adventurous and vote for the Women’s Equality Party to amplify the interests of women and minorities in Brexit policy? Or is the Green Party better to support for campaigning on employment and maternity rights, the environment? Is ‘any old candidate except Labour or Conservative’ the simplest route for Remain voters? Again, as the two main parties offer little to choose between them on Brexit, this moment offers other voices the opportunity to represent diverse interests. This again can only be good for our democracy.

Is this election good or bad for the union? I think it’s unclear for now. It might be bad if you think an election now gives momentum to calls for Scottish independence. On the other hand, there is a possibility that a less niche Brexit policy dampens enthusiasm for Scotland walking away from the UK in 2019. Similar arguments could hold for Northern Ireland if less ‘hard’ Brexit options enable more flexibility on the border with the Republic etc. So retaining the union of nations and the interplay with what Brexit is offered up is still all to play for.

In the round then, if you’re a fan of democratic processes and don’t like the ‘extreme’ hard Brexit talk, I think you should be pleased. You finally get a chance to make your voice heard on the detail of these historic issues. 

In the round then, if you’re a fan of democratic processes and don’t like the ‘extreme’ hard Brexit talk, I think you should be pleased. You finally get a chance to make your voice heard on the detail of these historic issues. We will shortly see some manifestos and hopefully have more context for the diverse choices on offer. Whatever the Prime Minister’s motives for calling the vote, we are all free to exercise our views at the ballot box. Instead of endless circular rants on social media, radio phone ins and the press, we can use the election to take some of the heat out of the division and confusion on where we’re headed now by drawing a line in the sand.

Once we’ve had the election, some of the questions we are struggling with, should be eliminated. The room for ‘whataboutery’ on Brexit will of course never expire (unfortunately). But at least the policy options will be narrowed down. If you’re fed up with all the options, then get up to speed now on party manifestos, join a political party and if you want to shape their debate, go and campaign for them. By that I mean for real by knocking on people’s doors, because most of the electorate are not in your social media bubble! At the very least, get in touch with your MP to find out what they’ve been doing on Brexit and things that matter to you and give them your views. Then obviously on the day, you need to get out and vote!

It should be obvious by now that in today’s politics, nothing is a foregone conclusion. Pollsters get it wrong. Simple ideas, well explained and well targeted can be extremely influential. Anything can happen and you can be a part of making ‘change’ moments happen in our politics if you want to. (I am not talking to you Vladimir Putin, but I know you totally got this point during the Brexit campaign, but that’s another story). So, please, everyone who can, no matter what your views on Brexit or otherwise, quit complaining and go out and start listening to people, including people who disagree with you. This alone will make a world of difference. See you at the polling station on June 8th everyone, #bringiton!

By Lorraine Hamid

Lorraine is a born and bred Londoner, a former senior civil servant Economist in Whitehall. Currently a mother of one working in the property sector. Surprisingly finding herself returning to the community activism that she threw herself into as a young idealist, Lorraine is currently Co-Chair of the West London Nisa-Nisham group and a voluntary worker for homeless charity StreetLytes.

Image credit: ABC news
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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Praying For Syria

With the news that the USA has launched its first direct military action against Assad, Komal Rasheed has penned her initial thoughts and reaction.

Prayers for the civilians, the innocents in Syria who continue to suffer…from all sides!!
A few thoughts….still coming together.

1.) The US informed Russia before air strikes and Russia no doubt informed Assad.

2.) Assad is a bastard and a component of an ugly multi head monster that is plaguing Syria…if one of the other heads cut him off…it doesn’t kill the monster and make things better…it just grows a different head tied to the same monster. Regardless I can see the appeal when no other solution comes to mind.

3.) Direct military involvement in Syria by a country that continues to not want to talk about Syrian refugees…seems slightly disingenuous or rather really disingenuous.

4.) The timing of our stand against Russia on the Syrian conflict seems to benefit an administration plagued with Russian controversy, related perjury and abysmal Presidential approval ratings. To reference Dug from the movie Up, this is a mighty squirrel much like the Muslim ban (still wrong) that allows the administration to do a bunch of shady shit while the country looks elsewhere and focuses on something else. Ahem and queue …the nuclear option on the SCOTUS nominee, and Nunes.

5.) America has done this same dance before during WWII. A crazy regime was wiping out an entire ethnicity of people for several years while the US was watching from the sidelines….not caring about the human carnage that lay on the other side of the Atlantic because it wasn’t our problem….until of course it personally touched us and our interests. 6 million Jews died across Europe between 1933 and 1945. 400,000 Syrians are already dead, with 2.1 million of them as refugees. WWII was 70 years ago, when the world sacrificed, learned and pledged never again…so here we are..again….teetering in the verge with better weapons that allow us to kill remotely so we are even less sensitive to the loss of human life.

6.) I am not saying something didn’t need to happen…watching those videos break my heart…but I can’t help and think…or try to think of a time when Western military (emphasis on the military) involvement in the Middle East has yielded positive results, abroad or at home for anyone besides the war machine. I haven’t been able to come up with an example yet.

7.) Did you say we need jobs?! are you a veteran who can’t find a job, or an disenfranchised American looking to be gainfully employed?! Have you realized that factory jobs will never return to the US the way they were before? Are you an American who wants to show they care the only way that really counts? Well …WAR, huh, good God, what is it good for?! Absolutely nothing you say…nah…it’s a great way to fulfill a campaign promise, risk the lives of our finest and their families by capitalizing on their love of country, and falsely and temporarily boost the economy…win win win right? (Btw total praise for the men and women who serve our country and do so bravely and genuinely.. hats off).

After all this thinking tonight…what I can praise even if I can’t trust it’s genuineness …is the need to act…I just can’t say the act itself will yield positive results for those suffering in Syria and across the world as refugees. I can assume it will yield positive results for this administration much like a well rehearsed State of the Union speech given not too long ago by our president, that duped people and critics on a man who hadn’t changed his message but just his tone to “sound presidential”.

Duas and love ❤️ to my Syrian brothers and sisters. Remain resolute! #PrayingForSyria

By Komal Rasheed

Komal has dedicated her career to public service. She currently serves as an advisor and director at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) where she leads a team of analysts focused on driving efficiency within the federal government. Under the Obama Administration, Komal was part of a small team of experts responsible for the Top to Bottom reviews of the agency, which saved the taxpayer approximately $31 million annually. She was also a contributor to President Obama’s second term Presidential Management Agenda (PMA) and worked on proposals for a more effective and efficient government. In 2015, Komal was asked to come to the U.S. Department of State for a year to advise on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategies and public diplomacy efforts in South and Central Asia. During her time, Komal worked on the State Department’s preparation and positions for United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA); supported Secretary Kerry’s historic trip with all five Central Asian countries; evaluated educational, public diplomacy, CVE, and democracy, human rights and labor programming; and served as the Deputy Director of Community Engagement at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad among other contributions. Follow her @TheKRasheed

Image credit: Christiaan Triebert
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 and Jewish Women come together for International Women’s Day

On the grey morning of Sunday 5th March 2017 I left my family still snuggled in their beds to attend the inaugural Nisa-Nashim Muslim Jewish Women’s Network event at the university of Westminster. I made the solitary walk up to the station in the drizzling rain and wondered whether this was a conference relevant to me. Did I belong amongst this group of women? What would the day entail? I went with no expectations other than the hope it would be a valuable experience for me. I felt the desire to be surprised, to be challenged, to gain an insight into the flowering of a movement of diverse individuals uniting to develop a positive narrative for their communities in Britain.

I arrived and found myself drawn to the beaming faces of the attendees lining up to register for the day’s activities. I instantly felt this was going to be a day of welcome from all the women attending towards one another. Over a quick coffee I saw the room fill with women of both faiths engaged in conversations – a loud gathering of passionate women ready for a day of interfaith engagement.

The Nisa-Nashim network was created by Laura Marks and Julie Siddiqi with the aim of promoting dialogue between the British Jewish and Muslim communities. The emphasis is on Muslim and Jewish women coming to the forefront of their communities and bridging divisions armed with friendship. It was a pleasure and inspiring to listen to the personal stories of both Julie and Laura. We were urged to think of the 2017 international women’s day motto “be bold for change” as we seek to break the mistrust perpetuated by an often negative cycle of information spread across the general media landscape permeating into our daily lives. The words of Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin were a great addition and uplifting “…my story is your story…and your story is mine…”.

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We heard from the representatives of CST and Tell MAMA who illustrated the increasing level of hate crimes and the often debilitating impact on the victims. The discussion highlighted interesting points such as the majority of hate crimes seem to be committed by white males which opens up many more questions and concerns. The message of “be upstanders not bystanders” was a very powerful and emotive one. This was a sobering and serious discussion about the challenges to personal security Jewish, Muslim and many other fellow minority communities face.

A host of talented women and organisations had put together a diverse programme of workshops such as community organising, yoga/self awareness, and faith in the media. I chose the workshop about interfaith marriage and human sexuality. A lively, illuminating, strong discussion occurred in which I found myself opening up and sharing my experiences too. This was a brilliant workshop and I am grateful to the stories, wisdom shared by women of both faiths. I was intrigued by the title ‘Scriptural Reasoning’ and found myself reading through corresponding passages from the Torah and the Quran with instructors to guide us along. It was fascinating finding the Jewish perspective enhancing the Islamic perspective of the story of Prophet Moses and vice versa. An interest in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic religions was rekindled for me and I look forward to meeting up for further reflections.

I went to the Nisa-Nashim inaugural event not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a revelatory experience. I was inspired by the passion the speakers displayed for the work they do in their communities to promote peace. I was delighted by the strength of the friendships that exist between the women who are behind the project but also the new relationships that were forged that day. Many like me went with tentative, shy voices but left further  emboldened to believe in a vision of strength in solidarity between our communities.

By Nazia

@25Nazia

Nazia is  a mother of three children. She has a degree in History (focus on modern Europe, Russia, Ottoman Empire, Origins of Islam, Mughal Empire, Middle East) from School of Oriental and African Studies London.

Image courtesy of @NisaNashim

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