I Will Write.

I’m writing for the thousands who cant, who are not allowed, whose voices are silenced, whose rights have been stolen. I want to write for them, though a million words wont do justice to them. I will try. Be it one or two words.

I will write. 

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TAKING CONTROL OF OUR NARRATIVE

Communication is key – and the most rebellious form of communication is art.

Colourful, beautiful, and recklessly powerful, it comes in many forms including poetry, sculpture, music, and film. Art has long been regarded a potential threat to the stability of a society because too often, the art produced has been used as a form of peaceful protest, a revolt against the injustices experienced by its audience.

Because of its attractiveness, it has the potential to draw people in and connect them during turbulent political times, and force society to look at itself, and question what is going on around them. Art may reflect the opinions and feelings of its creator, but it is capable of revealing the reality experienced by many, it is able to say what many are afraid to say, as such, it can be used as a very important tool for social advocacy.

Britain has been known to be one of the most diverse and culturally accepting countries in the world, and this is nowhere better illustrated than in London. Here, a group of friends is rarely ever made up of a single ethnicity or religion. It’s an expensive, overcrowded and fast-paced city, however, we cannot deny that it’s also one of the most multi-cultural and tolerant places in the world.

A concept that many fail to understand is that diversity and cohesion isn’t about clumped, pocketed communities made up of just one ethnic group, a particular race, or religion being “allowed” to exist as a separate branch of society. Diversity and cohesion aren’t about people assimilating to the native customs and traditions of a place and in the process losing their own culture.

Diversity and cohesion are about integration, it involves accepting all the differences that make people who they are without anybody having to constrain themselves in fear of being rejected.

Enjoying each other’s company without restrictions standing in the way is what we need. But unfortunately, finding a place where differences are appreciated and celebrated and most importantly, spoken of and heard, is rare.

Located in Kilburn, Rumi’s Cave aspires to be such a place. The cultural arts and events space are welcome to all and have been working to connect minds, heart, and communities. They pride themselves in operating around the influence of the famous thirteenth-century Persian poet, Jalaluddin Rumi.

Existing at a time where the media is dominating all aspects of life, often with a language that attempts to divide and demonise sections of society, many feel the need to stand and speak for themselves. One way to do so is through spoken word poetry.

Isa Noorudeen, 26, a member of the production staff at Rumi’s Cave, stresses theimScreen Shot 2018-01-19 at 13.48.12portance of taking control of your own narrative, particularly if your identity is constantly portrayed in a negative light.

“Art and culture is essentially our narrative on our story”, he explains, “without us claiming that narrative, other people will claim it. And that’s what the media does a lot, so art and culture is an essential part of how to keep our story ours, as opposed to letting other people talk about us. And I don’t even have to say the sort of stories people tell about us.”

He explained the objectives of the Rumi’s Cave, comparing its purpose to that of mosques; a setting not designed for young people to hang out but a place of worship, “We’re trying to be a third space that’s serving the community, a place where anyone can turn up from any sort of denomination and just chill. So, one of the things about poetry evenings like the open mic nights is that it allows amateurs to express themselves, whatever’s on their mind to come and say it – unite people. This isn’t a ‘Muslim event’ even though Muslims organised it.

“A lot of non-Muslims come here regularly, and there’s a lot of common grounds we have, so it really brings the community together.”

The institution is dedicated to nurturing everyone, regardless of age, race or religious background. As you go in, you are instantly overcome by a familiar feeling, that of returning home after a long day outside in the cold. Embroidered cushions are scattered across the carpeted floor, the room rinsed in purple and pink lights, helping to set a serene, intimate atmosphere.

There is no theatrical stage, just a simple section at the front stripped off any fancy carpet with a large, bold canvas set behind. It is the only wall that demands attention, the rest of the room is minimally decorated, featuring only a few small framed paintings. All the while, the atmosphere draws you into its indigo haze with calming music playing in the background.

Shaking the stage that night, with his powerful, poetic words was the host himself, Rakin Niass:

What is truth?

Is it what is spoken from the mouth, or is it much deeper than that?

Is it what comes from the heart, or is that just part of it?

Is it what your parents say, or is it what the eyes see, or can that be manipulated too easily?

Is it what is said on the news, or is it darker than that?

Everyone is looking for the truth…

(Excerpt from the piece Rakin Niass performed, The Idea of Truth.)

To read the rest of my article below: http://www.artefactmagazine.com/2018/01/16/taking-control-of-our-narrative/

 

MUSLIM ROHINGYANS: SYSTEMATIC SLAUGHTER

With more than 600,000 Rohingyans forced to cross into Bangladesh and seek refuge, the statistics on brutal attacks and aggression are outrageously increasing day by day, all due to the inter-communal violence, and extreme radicalisation inflicted by the Burmese army.

This has resulted in the crisis becoming the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world. It is no surprise they are described as “the world’s most persecuted minority”. They are an oppressed ethnic minority who have been revoked of their equal citizenship rights by the Buddhist-majority Burma (Myanmar), who regard the Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

It’s an urgent humanitarian crisis as the Muslim population in the state of Rakhine continues to be denied access to basic human rights and the lack of international action is simply a disgrace.

On Friday, November 10, within minutes of reaching the borders of Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf, and witnessing first-hand, the state of the refugee camp, it was too much of a tragic scene to be prepared for.

Overwhelmed, an RY volunteer member impulsively made a direct call to one the founders Nazmin Chowdhury, “You won’t believe what we’re seeing here, they’re begging and pleading for just a bottle of water.”

The team were ready to distribute aid and food packs, which included basic meals and water which he described as ‘a tiny drop in the ocean’.

The founder emphasised the urgency to Artefact: “You see, it’s a desperate situation. Two months ago, when the crisis was at its peak, the demand for food was so extreme, that any clothes that were given, they were just chucking it away. It was for food they begged for. They wanted food, they needed food.”

The UK based charity, Rafeequl Yateem, were one of the very first charities who responded to the major fundraising appeal to help the thousands of people fleeing violence in Burma. In collaboration with another non-profit organisation, UHTH (Ummah Helping the Ummah), they aim to raise awareness of the plight of the Rohingya people.

A report released by The International Rescue Committee exposed an estimation of 75,000 people to have  suffered from gender-based violence, 45 per cent of the Rohingya women have reported of such attacks from which Unicef have recorded, and there are 50,000 arriving pregnant everyday to the camp.

Hasina Begum, 26, arrived traumatised bearing horrific accounts of massacre and assault at the hands of the Burmese soldiers during her escape from her village Korma.

“There used to be a house we would take cover in when it was night time, but even there, the Burma Army used to give us problems. They used to bring us out of the house and torture the boys and then separate the girls to rape them up in the hills – the young, the unmarried, everyone. When anyone would try and protect the girls they would shoot them.”

To read the rest of the article, click this link: http://www.artefactmagazine.com/2017/11/28/muslim-rohingyans-systematic-slaughter/

 

PALESTINE: REMEMBER, REMEMBER, THE 4TH OF NOVEMBER

Just another week in Palestine:

  • October 22: Israeli soldiers execute a 17-year-old Palestinian girl in the Old City of Hebron.
  • October 23: Israeli naval forces open fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
  • October 24: Israeli colonists flood dozens of Palestinian olive trees with sewage water, near the West Bank city of Nablus.
  • October 25: Israeli settlers attack Palestinian farmers while they are harvesting near the West Bank district of Ramallah.
  • October 26: The Israeli army invades the village of Khirbit Yanoun, demolishing a home, during a training drill.
  • October 27: Israeli soldiers abduct a young man near the city of Ramallah, after opening fire on his car.
  • October 28: Israeli soldiers break into the homes of Yassin Bassam, and abduct him and his brother Ghanem, after conducting a violent search of their homes and interrogating several family members.

All in one week, in one country, against one identity. Because being a Palestinian is a crime.

It is the world’s most controversial conflict yet, as it disgracefully proceeds with more bloodshed and massacres, a shameful silence also grows towards the contentious issue.

November 2, 2017, will mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. But do you hear a moment of silence? No.

Theresa May invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to commemorate the anniversary of the occasion, a celebration generously hosted by the Lords Balfour and Rothschild which Jeremy Corbyn refused to attend.

The 67 word proclamation issued by then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, is said to have led to the formation of the state of Israel, sparked the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the ceaseless ‘Nakba’ – the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

The controversial pledge included “a national home for the Jewish people” stated in the document, which was seen as the long-awaited permission for the Zionists to create a Jewish state, even though Britain bore no legal rights nor any moral grounds to promise one people’s land to another.

In other words, explicit as it may be and whether it was knowingly or unknowingly, the blood-drenched letter which foreordained the history of the Middle East was a form of British colonisation.

Rest of the article is posted on the Artefact Magazine: http://www.artefactmagazine.com/2017/11/09/palestine-remember-remember-the-4th-of-november/

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTH ASIAN, MUSLIM & GAY

Existence of discrimination is all around us and manifests in many ways, especially racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, and ageism.

Although it’s the most colourful community to the eyes of the world, the persistence of racism and Islamophobia also lurks amongst the mainstream LGBT community against Muslim, queer, minority ethnic people.

The sooner this problem is acknowledged, the sooner it can be dealt with. There’s a minority within a minority constituting a marginalised group into further sub-groups of their own community.

Already ostracised within their religious communities, many are also exiled from their homes and rejected from the Asian community as a result of internalised racism.

So the one place they rightfully feel the most comfort in should be their safe space – the LGBT community; amongst the people who are meant to be sharing and advocating the same values and where they feel most appreciated and not judged of their identity. People they are, ultimately, meant to share a kinship with.

However, it doesn’t seem to be that simple…

Rest of the article published on Artefact Magazine here:http://www.artefactmagazine.com/2017/10/27/south-asian-muslim-gay-a-triple-terror-threat/

 

Appreciating the Hijaabi Fashion

Fashion comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. But not rules. For many, fashion is the most visual way for all to express themselves, it’s been used as a form of language to translates one’s faith, beliefs, culture and interests. We can see through history how people use fashion as a tool to make statements. This was certainly noticeable during the period leading up the recent American election, influential figures like Rhianna and other celebrities and models were actively posting selfies in t-shirts showing their support for Clinton. Nonetheless, Trump won.
Hence why, it is the most crucial time to be showing solidarity in diversity now more than ever. And this includes the hijaabis.
Fashion is evolving faster and louder than ever right now. We can confidently acknowledge it has been the most diverse the industry has ever been in history.
Fashion companies and designers are producing more products appreciating different kinds of cultures and considering factors that have been ignored for far too long. These advancements have risen since the public is becoming more involved by responding be it praises or criticisms to the latest fashion movements through social media like twitter and instagram. There have been significant shifts and changes since the rise of social media forcing a different approach to fashion, and as a positive result, for diversity to expand and flourish. But is it diverse enough?
Along with the many advancements of diversity in fashion such as more plus size clothing being available, spotting more black models on the catwalk and having all types of genders being featured and celebrated etc, we can also observe how hijaabis have also been causing a ground breaking effect in the fashion industry. We can find countless number of hijaabis using social media, in particularly youtube as a platform to showcase their talent with makeup and modest fashion and being incredibly successful with more than thousands of subscribers.
A major breakthrough was Mariah Idrissi, a Moroccan hijabi who modeled for H&M as part of a campaign ‘Close the loop’ -encouraging to recycle clothes in 2015. Not long after in 2016, Dolce & Gabanna released their abayah collection after other major labels DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger etc produced a clothing line contributing to the Muslim market. Last week, the Indonesian fashion designer , Anniessa Hasibuan rocked the stage with models in elegant hijaabs in the New York fashion week and hitting the headlines. There is no denying the Muslim market is indeed expanding but there is also no denying, there is a negative stigma attached like a gum on this cloth and Muslim women are continuously chewed out on it. Following the global changing events such as the Brexit and American election, hate crimes have risen exceptionally with hijaabis being the targets in particular. Majority of the times, hijaab is portrayed as a threat on media, it’s become an automatic response to have a negative impression towards women in the hijaab. It is a cloth causing an eerie stir wherever one chooses to wear it. Clearly, a stigma has been imposed on the application of the hijaab.
Although it is a scarf that empowers women; part of freedom of choice of theirs, majority do not see it that way. More than being a symbol of beauty and choice, it is seen as an interrogation and oppression. And to eradicate this stereotype, is to simply welcome it, as a society – understand it and embrace it. And supporting them in the fashion industry will contribute to the eradication of this stigma.
What makes the hijaab different is the modesty it reinforces in the person’s appearance and character. The idea of beauty has become a matter defined by how much it satisfies others instead of oneself. The hijaab defies this. Women in hijaab don’t put others first or themselves – but God. Modest fashion is something on the rise in the fashion world and the hijab is the peak of it all. It is a side of beauty which has become foreign and this is what Mariah Idrissi had shown in the H&M advert. This is what makes her different. Not only does she model, this hijaabi talks. When asked about her idea of beauty she answered,

“”Beauty is subjective and so there is no right answer except having a beautiful character. The hijab is a major part of my identity but not the only thing that defines me. My hijab represents a lifestyle I have chosen to live and liberates me as a woman as someone can choose to cover up and still feel beautiful.””

In response to the negative media on hijaabis, she states “ I avoid dwelling into negative media on Muslim women and so I naturally find myself proud with all the success stories that are being shown about hijab wearing women. The mainstream media may not be portraying this as much however other medias certainly do. “
She agrees she sees an interest in modest fashion increasing in several fashion industries and explains how she uses her career to prove the application of the hijaab doesnt limit her, she says since the H&M campaign, the resistance in the fashion industry to opening its doors to muslim hijaabis has slightly decreased however, it is a very new industry to many in the mainstream fashion world and so its a journey which she is undertaking in hope there will be a time there will be many more doors opening! She further explained, “ to be able to pursue a career as a model wearing hijab is from my understanding a positive step forward to show young girls if you can’t find opportunities that suit you, create them for yourself.” And indeed there are active supporters who promote that.

Ruqsana Begum, a Muslim, British national champion kick-boxer recognised this issue when a hijaabi athlete was stopped for her hijaab during the olympics, to avoid a similar situation to arise again, she was inspired to launch a sports friendly hijaab made out of Lycra, a popular sportswear material.
“ “I wanted to create something to empower women, my intentions in designing them were to break barriers and give my Muslim sisters self-confidence and not worry about safety-pins or it being too tight and just give their hundred percent in what they’re doing.””
Her aim was successful in allowing the sports hijaab to be available for all Muslim girls, and not just exclusive for athletes. She has recently been invited to work on a shoot for Adidas who plan on catering sportswear for the Muslim women. Ruqsana Begum explained how a stuntwoman modeled in one of her hijaabs and felt impressed witnessing the second biggest sportswear manufacturer embrace this diversity and encourage Muslim individuals to surpass their fears of limits and judgments and work towards their dreams.
She acknowledged, “ It is much more difficult for hijaabis to enter certain fields because of false judgments. It’s sad because we’re being judgmental as a society, people should be judged based on who they are and their strength rather than their dress code. We all know the saying – ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ rather it should be based on their character and values and the strength that they bring. That’s what we should celebrate rather than stereotype.’
What people are failing to understand in this society is that ,as daring it is to undress, same level of courage is needed for covering up in this day and age. Let’s learn to appreciate all fashion and stop putting rules on it.

http://sportshijab.co.uk/

(It was amazing having the chance to interview such role-models: Mariah Idrissi & Ruqsana Begum)

Black, Muslim and Female – A Triple Threat

Racism is rising faster than ever right now following the world changing events such as the EU referendum and the US presidential election. Having the drastic changes following one after the other, each a symptom promoting racism in society, it has given the chance for closet racists, xenophobes to publicly express their hate towards anyone who looks even slightly foreign.

   Living in the post- referendum and American election, it has become quite the claustrophobic  atmosphere for many. Walking down the streets of Britain, racial and religious motivated crimes are now only expected, proven by the stats recorded by The Independent, just after Brexit , there was an upsurge of 42% hate crimes which included 289 incidents on the very next day after Brexit announcement – 25th June.  A high target for the xenophobes reported by the police are the Muslims, in particular, the females who wear the  hijabs (headscarves).

  A recent news which made headlines was the Tottenham attack where a hijab was pulled off a young woman by two men in broad daylight. Aware of these increasing violations, it has resulted  many Muslim women to think  twice about covering their head. It has effected in either a stronger determination on applying the head cover, or some removing it for safety to avoid any chance of harassment.

  Moreover, looking into the situation of racism more deeply, it is an infection found even amongst the cultural and religious settings. Familiar with this disturbing issue, Aalisha Green, 20, a Goldsmith literature student reveals, “ It’s sad because a lot of Islam is  about peace, love and acceptance and I think now Islam has morphed into a cultural thing instead of a religious thing and being affected by that, it’s really sad”.

 Ostracised even within religious communities; amongst the very people who should be sharing and advocating the same values and feel most appreciated and unjudged, Despite the famous hadith, a religious saying of the prophet:

An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any “superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white’,

the ignorance of following even what the religion commands just proves how racism is clearly at its peak. Aalishas parents were both converts to Islam, her Jamaican father, an ex-christian and Indian mother, an ex-hindu. She describes her family as staunch believers of Islam but personally for her, expressing it through her hijab was a very difficult task as she felt it was the cause of her being ‘singled out’ while involved in activities she engages in regularly like ice-skating, drama and singing. Not only was she the only black, but also the only one covered from head to toe.  She states, ‘Now that i no longer wear a hijab i don’t feel so out of place like i did usually when i attend my gymnastic sessions’.

  A fear foreseen by many, the Brexit  and American election proved to have many ramifications, and therefore, some were indeed prepared.  Ruqayyah Fombo,21,  a secondary maths teacher, is active in advocating to her students on being proud of their identity. She believes there is an absence of black staff in comparison to there are of whites. She explained in response to the attacks,‘‘ I just think that unfortunately, I see at as something that as a long time coming.’ She also responded to the to the results of the global changes “… now it’s  become the norm for you to be able to express your hatred towards certain minority groups within society, and muslims are part of that and there’s a constant media backlash towards Muslim, and the bias is getting stronger and stronger.”

 

5th July 2016.

As it gently struck midnight

In the city of Marrakech.  

It wasn’t a glass slipper I had lost –

But something far more fragile.

How to exactly word it …  

Let’s say – a sense of control?

Yes -yes!

A very fine slice of my sound – my sanity.

It was shattered.

It was stolen.

Though, would I want it returned?

No.

Why?

Well ..

 

‘Twas the night before Eid, 5th July 2016.

I witnessed , for the first time –

Magic.

It was neither bewitchment or possession,

No curse like those.  

Though that night, indeed –

a silent spell had enchanted me.

‘Twas all in the mystical market –

Jma Al Fna.

 

That night,

I saw it all. Felt it all. Heard it all.

Never had I known the sound of fire flaring so dangerously close-

could be so …

thrilling.

For all around me flames were dancing.

Roaring a magnetizing melody as I envied its movements

How they effortless played –

Raged recklessly in its cages –

And mercilessly consumed –

Engulfing all that came in its way.

 

Yet the most spell-binding symphony,

came from the Bedouin playing a flute –

Entranced.

He sung the snakes awake but me to sleep.

He played and watched.

Watched me fall asleep.

Watched the whole market –

fall dead asleep.

 

Beneath the starry nights of Marrakesh.

Amongst all the lanterns and laughter,

mingled with the seducing smell of Bakhoor,

my soundness was shaken, stolen.

And memories set alight.

All by magic.

On  5th July 2016.

In Jma Al Fna.

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