She Speaks We Hear

Bringing women's voices together, unaltered, unadulterated


2 Comments

Muslim women MPs winning nation-wide is the best response to UKIP lies

UKIP peddled lies about Muslim women during their election campaign, yet Muslim women won 8 times more seats than them – becoming a Muslim Women’s Powerhouse.

On 23rd April 2017 Paul Nuttal, UKIP leader (at the time) told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that “58 per cent of Muslim women are economically inactive”. He then went on to link this to these Muslim women supposedly wearing face veils, adding: “If you’re not showing your face it precludes you from a lot of jobs”.*

The problem with this statement (and many others that he made) is that Paul Nuttal wasn’t just misleading people about Muslim women in the UK, he was practically lying about them and getting away with it.

Being ‘economically inactive’ isn’t the same as being ‘unemployed’. The UKIP leader was deliberately conflating the two terms, vilifying Muslim women and presenting them as an unnecessary burden on society. (After all they could be out working if it wasn’t for their supposed face veils).

As some have already pointed out, ‘economically inactive’ people are either retired, in education, looking after their children or families, or have a long-term illness or disability.

The truth is that most Muslim women who are ‘economically inactive’ are carers for other family members (44%) e.g. caring for children, the elderly, relatives with a disability etc. Or they are in further or higher education (21.3%). Not because they’re ‘unemployed’ as UKIP say, and certainly NOT because they wear a face veil ‘precluding them from employment’ as was claimed.

Put simply the UKIP campaign lied, because the number of unemployed Muslim women in 2015 was actually 16%.

This is deeply damaging for our society as these lies went unchallenged and potentially were aired to millions of viewers. Furthermore, it furthers misogynistic attitudes about women who take on caregiving roles; it is often an unrecognised and undervalued labour, which actually contributes to society in many ways both short and long-term.

Since then Paul Nuttal suffered a devastating defeat in his constituency by the Conservatives. He polled 3,308 votes to their 27,271. UKIP in general underwent huge losses in this general election and failed at securing any constituency seats, proof that basing a campaign on attacking Muslim women doesn’t actually pay off.

In the end, the British people voted that UKIPs policies were generally irrelevant to them.

Moreover, the biggest win – given the lies Mr Nuttal pushed, had to be the amount of Muslim women MPs that soared through their election campaigns with massive voter majorities.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate what Muslim women leaders, elected to be our MPs nation-wide, are doing for our country. (Notice the pitiful number of votes UKIP got on each graphic).

In no particular order, I present to you:

Naz Shah MP

IMG_0127

Congrats to @NazShahBfd, she had a huge win in  Bradford West despite having to overcome what some have called a misogynistic campaign against her. She has campaigned fearlessly to raise the profile of issues around domestic violence against women. She received 22k majority votes.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP

IMG_0128

Representing what I love about London: @DrRosena a Muslim, female, NHS A&E doctor of half-Pakistani half-Polish heritage is MP for Tooting. She received a 15k majority.

Rupa Huq MP

IMG_0130

@RupaHuq (sister of TV presenter Konnie Huq) is another Muslim female elected to be MP of Ealing and Acton, almost 14k majority.

Nus Ghani MP

IMG_0131

@Nus_Ghani, a Muslim woman elected to be MP for Wealden. She used to work in the charity sector & won with a 23k majority vote.

Tulip Siddiq MP

IMG_0129

@TulipSiddiq a Muslim woman elected as MP for Hampstead & Kilburn, she does a lot of interfaith campaigning and won with a 15.5k majority

Shabana Mahmood MP

IMG_0132

@ShabanaMahmood, a Muslim female elected as MP for Birmingham Ladywood. She was one of the UKs first Muslim female MPs to be elected (in 2010). Nearly a 29k majority. Wow.

Rushanara Ali MP

IMG_0133

@rushanaraali, a Muslim woman elected again to be MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. She’s also the UKs trade envoy for Bangladesh. She achieved a whopping 35k majority. That’s literally one of the most popular constituency MPs in UK history!

Yasmin Qureshi MP

IMG_0134

@YasminQureshiMP, another Muslim woman MP, elected for Bolton South East. She’s a barrister in criminal law and received a 13k majority.

The lesson here is that UKIP really needed to do some proper research on Muslim women rather than peddle out misogynistic myths. Instead of falsifying stats about a group of women in the UK who already receive so much abuse and disproportionately face violent public attacks, UKIP should learn from the many examples of Muslim women in education and should go educate themselves about how these women contribute to our society.

In our ever increasing post-truth culture, such publicly broadcasted false facts indicate a worrying trend; one where Muslim women may be seen as easy targets, not just by the thugs on the street or within communities, but clearly also by would-be politicians vying for influence and votes.

But, as they say, what goes around comes around and ironically enough Paul Nuttal has since resigned as UKIP leader. Now it is he who is ‘unemployed’.

Or maybe that’s ‘economically inactive’?

By Mariam Hakim

*Read the full transcript of the Paul Nuttal interview here.

Mariam Hakim is a communications professional who regularly writes about faith, gender and parenting issues. Follow @MariamKSHakim

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: https://www.longroom.com/discussion/456827/how-dare-you-tell-muslim-women-what-to-wear-hijab-wearing-woman-storms-ukips-general-election-accusing-paul-nuttall-of-racism-after-he-promises-to-ban-the-burka
Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Irony of Oppression

According to Google, the definition of oppression is the prolonged, cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority. And according to UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, the burqa is a symbol of oppression and is the latest headline act (so to speak) of the party’s attempt to gain favour. Politicians have used Muslim women as targets for criticism as well as scapegoats for a few years now, however Nuttall’s main points (in his thoroughly inaccurate and logic-deprived argument) are that the burqa poses a security risk, prevents integration and is oppressive against women.
Has Paul Nuttall or indeed anyone else for that matter harboring these views on a public platform ever considered having a normal conversation with a woman who wears a burqa? One tired rhetoric that has been regurgitated constantly is that this garment denies women a voice because their faces are fully covered and it therefore has no place in modern British society. In actual fact, what denies Muslim women in Britain a voice is not providing them with a public platform to verbally discuss their thoughts, concerns and opinions. Faces may be covered, but I’m pretty sure that vocal chords are not. Yet, there are people who make those decisions for us every day and decide that because of the way we choose to express our faith we’re automatically oppressed, repressed…any other form of “essed”.

A classic example? David Cameron. He wasn’t talking about the burqa specifically however there was the classic “Muslim women are traditionally subservient” – I’d love to know how many of us told him that in order for him to reach that conclusion.
It’s the same notion of a decision being made for us without a) our consent or input and b) the most BASIC forms of research. By basic research I mean a conversation, a real, human conversation. A great portion of society love to talk about Muslim women in Britain, but not talk with Muslim women in Britain.

This stems back to an equally infuriating trend where as Muslim women, our bodies and choices are constantly used as political canvases without us having any say in how the picture is painted.

That’s the first step in bringing people together, actually sitting down and being willing to find out about what you don’t know. As far as I’m aware there haven’t been any conversations between Muslim women and Paul Nuttal but somehow he has given multiple TV interviews and stated that the burqa hinders integration, which made me think of visibility and the fear of the unknown. The general consensus is that we’re afraid of what we do not know and what we cannot see, with the burqa it’s a case of “I can’t see your face, therefore I can’t make an instant summation of your identity but I’m not sure about saying hello either”. At the same time, there’s also this constant need to know why Muslim women in Britain do (insert anything here).

And funnily enough, “because it’s my own personal choice and how I choose to express myself as a Muslim and connect to my faith” hasn’t been deemed acceptable. This deepens the irony even further due to ignorant press publications (yes The Sun, I mean you) constantly demanding us to answer for our choices as individuals.
If we choose to wear the hijab or burqa, it becomes everything that defines us and we’re ‘victims of oppression’. If we don’t, we become examples of women who have ‘broken barriers’ and have opted for a more modern way of life. If we wear make-up, we’re not modest enough. If we don’t wear make-up, we don’t make enough of an effort to present ourselves. If we’re practising Muslims, we apparently don’t integrate with society. If we speak out against prejudice, injustice and stereotypes we’re told to calm down and not be so opinionated. If we choose not to because we know that we will receive verbal backlash, we then become mere doormats who have been silenced by the ‘archaic’ rules of our religion.
Damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Second question: has any harm ever come to anyone in the UK (this article is strictly about the issue in the UK and is not speaking on behalf of other countries) due to a woman wearing a burqa or hijab?
This stems back to an equally infuriating trend where as Muslim women, our bodies and choices are constantly used as political canvases without us having any say in how the picture is painted.
In the aftermath of the attack in Nice last year, The Sun published a column written by Kelvin Mackenzie with the headline “Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice?”. To quote the article, he pointed out that the journalist covering the attack “…was not one of the regulars – but a young lady wearing a hijab. Her name is Fatima Manji and she has been with the station (Channel 4 news) for four years. Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”
The full article is attached below, but let’s delve into exactly how McKenzie’s words exemplify Muslim women being used as political canvases:

“Not one of the regulars-but a young lady wearing a hijab” – So according to Mackenzie a Muslim woman wearing the hijab is not to be considered as regular, but something that unequivocally removes her from the rest of society.
“Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” – So just because Fatima Manji is a reporter who identifies as a Muslim, that automatically puts her in the same category as a terrorist who carried out the attack. Right. Got it.

And then there’s this: “Who was in the studio representing our fears?”
This is probably the most dangerous and divisive phrase in the entire piece. Why would the fears of a Muslim for the safety of fellow human beings be any different to the fears of the general British public? Or do we not count as being part of the general public? All of this this was pinned on just one individual who was doing her job like everyone else.
Despite this, a journalist found herself questioned, scrutinised and placed next to those terrorists simply because of the fact that she was wearing a hijab.
Muslim women in Britain did not have anything to do with these so-called categories or separations being created. Too often do we have parts of our identities be it our faith or the way we choose to live as women taken away from us, then thrown back in our faces as the reason for why there’s ill in the world today or why we can’t achieve our goals.
We do not need to be told by the likes of Paul Nuttall and his ilk that our ways of life or a garment expressing devotion to faith are symbols of oppression.
Because like the very definition of oppression, this constant exercising of so-called political authority on behalf of Muslim women living in Britain today without listening to what we have to say has been prolonged, cruel and above all, unjust.

by Raisa Butt

Raisa is a London born -Hong Kong raised – Pakistani currently working as a secondary English teacher but her love for writing both creatively and academically has never wavered. Her particular interests lie in exploring concepts of gender, feminism and multiculturalism in works of fiction, non-fiction and in the pieces she writes about wider societal issues which affect young Muslim women today.

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


Leave a comment

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.