#IAM: islamophobia awareness month 

As I waited for the train this morning I felt disturbingly aware of my surroundings. Did that man just glare at me? Is that women charging towards me? Why do those group of kids keep looking at my direction?

I felt genuine fear. I didn’t know if I should call someone or if getting my phone out would make me more vulnerable. Islamophobia is making me paranoid.
And I know it’s not just me. A good friend has asked her mum to not go out for a few weeks. She chooses to wear the face veil and had a man attack her. Can you imagine, being trapped in your own home. I would not know how I would cope if anything happened to my mum. Heartbreaking. Another friend of mine was spat at in the street as he walked home. Imagine people who think of you as such subpar and with such disgust that they can spit at you. Revolting. A woman was bottled in the street a few days ago just because she was visibly Muslim – choosing to wrap a scarf around her head. Terrifying.

This month is Islamophobia Awareness Month. The point of it is just make people aware just how real islamophobia is. It is not people playing the race card or making a big deal out of nothing. It is heartbreaking, revolting and terrifying. And it is the reality of Muslims all around the world.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9YX_yxylZqc

Write a status, blog or tweet about how islamophobia has affected you with the hashtag #IAM. Let’s share our stories, they’re real and should be heard.
And for those of you who has not experienced islamophobia yourself, ask your Muslim friends how their journey home was recently, offer to hear their fears, be a good friend.

If you’d like to find out more, check out these events FOISIS (below) and MEND (their website) have organised.  

No justice, no peace

A popular mantra repeated again and again by those facing injustice.

After the state kills yet another person with no one held to blame. No justice. When whole communities are obliterated for the hunt of one man. No justice. When people running away from said bombs are denied safety. No justice. When yet another loved one is brutalised but it takes more than 5 years of fighting for an inquest to take place and an eternity to find out what actually happened. No justice. When women and children seeking asylum because they are escaping trauma are locked up as criminals. No justice. When a woman finds the courage to stand up in court and name her abuser but is not believed. No justice. When our academics and mentors are fired for speaking out and demanding change so we don’t become another statistic: 80% unable to complete PHDs, 20% less likely to get a 1st or 2:1 (needed for most graduate schemes) – in both cases coming in with the same grades as our white-counterparts. No justice. When politicians you vote in on a mandate are able to break promises. No justice. When fascists can march in our streets, threaten our lives, because it is their right but we are arrested and spied on for even believing in the same rights. No justice.

No justice. No justice. No justice.

No peace. No peace. No peace.

And this is seen as a demand – a threat. No, it is simply a matter of fact.

How can there be any peace without justice? Would you feel peace if you were wronged? Would you feel peace if your family, your friend, your people were wronged? Their rights denied? Their lives seen as collateral? So why do they expect anything else?

For there to be peace there needs to be the acceptance of this statement. There needs to be accountability. Accountability of the state when it kills another person, when they go to war despite strong opposition from the people and guidance against it. Accountability of the media for spreading hate and lies which lead to women getting bottled in the street, granddads getting murdered on their walks home, women getting pushed onto moving trains.

There needs to be naming, shaming and learning. And then, and only then, will there be peace.

This eye for an eye merry-go-round that the imperialistic states are implementing is not going to get us anywhere. We all prayed for Paris. Who is praying for Syria?

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom – Malcolm X

On the Paris Bombings: pray for the world

What happened in Paris last night was awful. I stayed up late following the news in disbelief and I am so sorry to anyone who has been affected by thee horrible attacks. The international community has responded, as predicted, by showing their unwavering solidarity with Paris.

The night before that, a bomb went off in my country, Lebanon, killing 43 people. No one prayed for us. No one kept us in their thoughts. No world leaders made late-night statements about us. No one changed their profile pictures. There was no hashtag. No option to be “marked as safe” by Facebook. Just silence.

Syria has suffered more than can be quantified in words and distilled into a Facebook status. They get nothing. Just more silence.

73 Palestinians were killed by Israel in October alone. Silence.

Nearly 100 people were killed by explosions at a peace rally in Ankara last month. Just silence.

At least 3,500 people have been killed in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger in conflict this year. Silence.

I’m not even angry at this point, just tired. Exhausted. Exhausted that an assault on an open air prison like Gaza which leaves 2300 people dead gets little to no attention but the minute something happens in Europe, something happens to white people, everyone is so (I think quite genuinely) broken up about it.

I’m not saying don’t be. I’m not saying that the people who lost their lives last night do not deserve to be mourned because of course they do. They were innocent and now they are dead. As an Arab, we know better than anyone how it hurts and we should all continue to keep them in our thoughts. But what about us? Don’t we deserve to be mourned? Are we not human enough? Are we too Arab for you? Too black for you? Too Other for you? Do you find it impossible to empathise with us because of the colour of our skin? There’s a word for that.

And then, after all of this, after all is said and done. After it hits us, just how little we matter. Just how insignificant and inferior we are as human beings. That’s when the best part comes. My favourite part.

Apologise. We are told to apologise. It is demanded of us. WE need to apologise for the actions of barbarians who have been doing their worst to us for so long now. We are the victims. What you experience at the hands of these extremists is a fraction of what Syria experiences. Of what Lebanon experiences. We put up with it every single day. And now, in some kind of sick, twisted joke, we are asked to apologise. We are to be held accountable. The main victims and refugees of this tragedy must pay. As if we have not yet paid enough in blood and land and dignity.

Sorry. We’re sorry that you have occupied our lands, pillaged them, divvied them up between you like gold. We’re sorry that you’ve robbed us of our wealth, dignity and freedom. We’re sorry that you’ve left nothing in your wake except rubble and anger. We’re sorry that those disillusioned and disenfranchised people you left in your wake hurtle into extremism. We’re sorry that you benefit from their barbarity. We’re sorry that you allow them to do these things to us, that you encourage them and provide them with the resources they need to do us harm. We’re sorry they turn against you in the end. We’re sorry they come back for you. We’re sorry. We hope you can find it in you to forgive us. – Roua Naboulsi, Lebanese student 

On the Paris bombings: the terror

My heart is heavy mourning the 158 lives lost so far and the many more lives shattered. The families and friends, the communities, the businesses and livelihoods. I remember the 7/7 bombings here in London – the absolute shock that rippled through and tore away so much.

And I am terrified for my brothers and sisters living in France, and to be honest – the rest of Europe. Paris is already a difficult place to be visibily Muslim and I can only imagine how much worse it can get. When you had a man pushing a women dressed in hijab onto a moving tube a few days ago in London and none of the mainstream newspapers reporting it, it makes you wonder what else will happen now. And at a time with so many Muslim refugees stranded in the jungle, what will happen to them?

How has this become so common that after such a tragedy which should consume all my thoughts, I think of the terror that will come after it? Waves and waves of terror – children bullied, women attacked, people who will be unable to get jobs.

And once again I am terrified at the capacity of humans to hurt other humans. I do wonder if the mental health of the men were intact. And I pray it wasn’t. For to think someone with good mental health could plan and execute a massacre on innocent humans does not bare thinking about.

I pray you all stay safe and those affected will have their faith restored.  

Being a Suspect

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.
But I do worry. Those believing we live in a completely unbiased world are ignorant or plain wrong.

If we were, there would not be 1518 deaths in the hands of the police in the UK (mental health hospitals, back of their vans, in their stations) in just the last 25 years with 0 convictions – of mostly black and brown bodies. Think about this for a second. More than a 1000 people murdered – no one charged for it. If this was any other group we would call them what they are – corrupt and a terrorist organisation.

If we were it would not be only Muslim men who are extradited without trial or charge – even when white men accused of the same crimes are not. A white women being islamophobic would get just as much response as when a black women was – same story: different outcome.

There is a climate of fear, created by the media and politicians. A fear of loosing something that cannot really be lost. Loosing British values – even though no one seems to really know what that is. Democracy? Britain is ruled by a family who are born into that position and our laws get decided by people who are born into or given that privilege. The rule of law? When the police themselves are not held accountable and the law is so subjective and changes with time how can this be an accurate measure of values? Homosexual relationships were outlawed just a few years ago and same-sex marriage was made legal in my own lifetime (with our current Equalities Minister voting against it). Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs? When the reports of islamophia has doubled – and let’s be honest, how many of us bother to even report when the police don’t care, when the media are allowed to be islamophobic – what is so mutual about it?

I don’t trust the state to listen and understand.

If you’re arrested under terrorism law, the courts do not even tell you what you’ve been accused of. How is your lawyer meant to fight your case? Imagine a taxi driver reported to the police because he had a little Quran hanging from his window in his car. His house raided at 5 in the morning. Him having to go through deradicalisation training. True story. Imagine a student who downloads a copy of a book on terrorism that the library already owns. He gets reported and his university do nothing to support him. True story. Imagine a man doing community work in Afghanistan, arrested and detained in a maximum security prison known to do torture for 13 years without a trial or charge. True story.

Find out about more true stories here.

I don’t have anything to hide but I am Muslim so I do have something to worry about. I am a suspect and will not even be given a chance to prove my innocence.

Black History Month

Black History Month is here! As a non-black person of colour, BHM is not something I paid very much attention to ’till last year. Before then, my school didn’t focus on it at all, I was taught MLK was the good revolutionist and Malcolm X was the bad revolutionist, I thought BHM was a time to be sad about the trans Atlantic slave trade, and that was the only history black people had.

Last year I was introduced to a whole new world of activist, I was taught what euro-centrism is, what solidarity means, what liberation feels like, how political Blackness unites us. I went to a variety of events – from panels to performances. The veils around my eyes blew off and the glass of false pretence teaching us all that the world is fine and everything horrible happened many moons ago shattered. I was empowered.

And that is what BHM is to me. A time where we can focus our energies in teaching ourselves – about our heritages and strengths and struggles. And of the heritages and strengths and struggles of our brothers and sisters across the globe. And we can be empowered to not sit back and let the glass continue to encapsulate the many of our brothers and sisters who still sleep.

Yes our heroes should be remembered but our struggles are more than three (MLK, Rosa Parks and Ghandi) people – with even their struggles being summarised to being passive. Black History is so much richer than that – in all areas of the world, in all fields, in all cultures. Black history is world history, and until it is recognised as such – BHM is vital in empowering us to at least remember so.

BHM for me is a start, a reenergiser, a reminder. When we can come together and celebrate. We are here. And then we can plan and organise. We can organise against racist laws such as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. We can organise against Apartheid Israel. We can organise against the White curriculum. It is not just a month, but more like a start of the year.

Even if your experience of BHM has not been brilliant – even if you don’t see the point of it – do check out the events your local area are organising. Whether that be in your university or community. Don’t limit yourself.

“We should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” – Carter Woodson

Be successful – but not too successful: every women’s challenge 

On my way to the train station, I was chatting to my taxi driver – as you do. He was lovely, telling me about his family and such – as they do. The conversation was going great until he said “Women are not made to be earning too much money. They can’t handle it. When they become too successful they change.”

Now my company have been drilling professionalism into me over the last two weeks. So surprisingly my first reaction was not to go off on one. Instead I forced a chuckle and said “let’s agree to disagree” and gently got him to understand that it most probably the man who is seeing things that are not there, feeling insecure and how this is all part of patriarchal society which forces men to believe that a women’s success is a sign of their own weakness.
This whole topic came up because we were talking about how the more and more successful a women gets, the harder it is to find a viable partner. Men feel very threatened by successful women. At 23, with a Masters from a globally leading university, and on a very cosy salary (thanks to my employment in a corporate company – leading in it’s field, alhamdulliah), I know I’m very much more successful than many men my age – or even a few years older than me.

And that’s terrifying.

Just because I am smart and determined, I’ve already knocked out a whole section of men who won’t even consider me. The already small pool of men already shrinking. And to be honest, I know that’s a blessing because who wants to be with someone who’s manhood is that fickle.

But it’s still terrifying. I am very comfortable being independent and even though I’d like a partner, marriage is something I aspire to because I know if I don’t then my mum and siblings will face a load of crap. And so I worry about growing old and being single.

I wonder how I would grow my daughter up. At what age would you remind your daughter that setting her up not to fail may be the very thing that makes her fail? Fail in finding a partner that is – which apparently is the only sign of success. Because you could have stopped studying after GCSEs and got married and never worked a day of your life (and good for you if that’s what makes you happy) – and in many people’s eyes you’ll be more successful than I am. You’re a mother, a wife – a proper women. And then you get the super women, those who have studied – even become a doctor perhaps – but have now given that up to look after their husband and children (and again, good for you if that makes you happy). She maintains the house and her husband, and that makes her a success. Look at what she sacrificed to be a proper women! 

We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

JezWeCan

I have always voted Labour. Even before I could vote – I knew would vote Labour. I am the daughter of immigrants, live in a council estate and have strong social politics – Labour should be the party for me.

Except it hasn’t been. And unlike my parents who will vote Labour no matter what they do, second generation voters are likely to vote differently. I even know some who vote Conservative (*boo hiss*). Point being, they can’t get away with their so centre Left – almost going Right politics.

The introduction of tuition fees. The Iraq war. The War or Terror and PREVENT. All of these things happened under a Labour government.

And now I find myself resenting the party. Me – someone who is politically active and happy to sign up as a member – reluctant because none of them come close to my views.

But today is different. I sit here holding my breath waiting for Jeremy Corbyn to be announced as the new Labour Leader.

The media have had a lot of fun, making him sound ridiculous and the unserious candidate. But what they have actively ignored is the tide change. People are waking up to these MPs who talk the talk to get voted in yet then go and vote in the opposite way or abstain. Who say they stand for anti-austerity but then vote for cuts. Who vote through racist laws. Who clearly care more about their career than the lives of the most vulnerable in this Great Kingdom.

People who never would have gone out to a protest have taken to the streets. People who didn’t even know parties had leader elections are paying out of their own pocket to join the party so they can vote. People who said they’d never come back to Labour are giving them another chance.

And this brings us to Jeremy – the only candidate who can keep the momentum going. Being consistent, voting in the ways he says his beliefs are, right from the beginning of his career.


People say he is the candidate for the rich, those who can afford to be idealistic. I can afford no such luxuries and neither can the bubble of activists I surround myself with.

What we can’t afford is another 8 years of more cuts, more wars, more bullying. What we can’t afford is a party who is meant to be opposing but agrees even when the bills are against their core values. We need hope, we need action and we need change. And Jeremy is the only chance of that.

So I sit here holding my breath.

Let’s get talking: Sexual Harrassment

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and rape

My sister messaged me yesterday. She’s currently away visiting some family for the holidays. She messaged me to ask “did mama [what we call mum’s brothers] touch you when you visited?” And I immediately knew what she was referring to. Yes, yes he did. He would rub my back, touching my bra strap and once “accidentally” groped my breast. I thanked my lucky stars that my sister felt comfortable enough to ask me. When this happened to me, I did not feel like anyone would believe me so kept it to myself. I encouraged her to tell my mum and she did. And now she’s safe.

I couldn’t help but cry. Cry in relief that she had someone she could come to. Cry in anger that I didn’t have anyone – not just in this case but for the duration of eleven years I endured sexual assault from someone else because I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.  Continue reading