Hi

6 Jan

It’s been five months since I’ve updated this blog which is quite frankly disgusting. To be fair, half of that was working on my masters dissertation and the other half I really was/am writing, just not in blog-post format.

Because the thought of even writing a blog post on current events makes me wince. I just feel desperately bored by the topics I’m supposed to be writing about, yet I can’t seem think beyond it either. Anyway, I was looking at a couple of my older blog posts and felt inspired to turn them into longer pieces. Also other pieces too, but I want to wait until I have a whole lot before I get them out and I have to think about how because I’m getting a bit carried away with them and they’re longer than expected. Still good though. May I suggest you subscribe as I’m not sure when this will be, but soon, and I think we’ve established the fact that I’m clearly not one to spam. Will be back on it soon iA!

 

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Muslims DO need to reach out to Britain, and stop stifling my voice.

23 Jul

Hello all!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am in wonderfully high spirits because Eid and David Cameron’s speech all came at once, him echoing my sentiments exactly this past wonderful Eid weekend. And to happen coincidently!  Now David Cameron is being a given a hard time by many British Muslims about his speech on extremism. But I am here to offer my voice that is so often, as he helpfully pointed out, is so stifled by other Muslims.

Now again David C made a strong link between extremism and integration. So why not begin with the fundamental problem, why can’t we integrate?  I have noticed it with my own family. This deliberate disregard of all things British. This is coming from us. Yes, it is muslims who must reach out to Britain.  How, you may ask, can we reach out to Britain if we are already physically in Britain? To you naysayers, I say try harder. And here is my Eid diary to show you how.

This Eid was again, in Swansea where my aunt and her family lives. It is here where my enlightenment truly begun. And so how fitting, how wonderful, that this place should set the scene for my commitment to reach out to Britain again, finally, to integrate. I must warn you in advance that my family are way, way, behind me in progress. But this journey isn’t just about me, its about all of us raising our aspirations and pulling ourselves up.

MY EID ENLIGHTENMENT DIARY

One the first day of Eid, we went to a Middle Eastern restaurant. I had no say in the matter.

On the second day of Eid. we went to the beach. I was ready bright and early, but of course, the family.  When we arrived, the British were leaving.

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No matter, I brushed it off. I popped into the beachside cafe with my uncle. I went to order our drinks but looked over to find him sitting on the floor. I scanned the room and took my cue from the men sitting on the chairs. “No uncle” I hissed, pulling him up by the lapels of his shirt. He learned soon enough, and even imitated the way they crossed their legs.

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Uncle M then changed his order to a mug of tea and my heart swelled with pride. Of course we marked the occasion with a selfie.

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I shouldn’t say this, but honestly, having a quick learner makes my task just so much more rewarding, especially when you have to deal with the difficult and slow ones, which, its fair to say, constitutes the rest of my family.

However, I really want to make clear that I’m still a work in progress too. I think its important to acknowledge this, and if you take away anything from this post, it’s this. Pretending that this has all come to me naturally might demotivate those that are struggling and that would be a real shame. Though, I do pride myself on being one of the best, we’re all in this journey together. So I want to share with you this deeply personal story, and I ask you to respect and celebrate my vulnerability. Ok here goes.

I wore these flipflops to the beach.

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I was pretty sure that’s what the British do. But then I start to doubt myself. Dangerous thoughts ran through my mind. You see it was a long internet research very late at night on types of shoes and when they should be worn. My anxiety started to rise. Was it flip-flops at the beach, or brogues and boots? I started to wheeze with worry and so had to sit down.

And then lo and behold, I notice this family in front of me and their footwear.

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Just rest assured, signs will be sent to you.

I carried on merrily to the beach, and came across this Muslim man sunbathing. It was cold and the skies were grey. Doin’ it right.

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And for those, who still don’t think we’re doing enough, I agree. In the meantime, please accept this literal olive branch below as an olive branch in the symbolic sense.

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Ok fine it’s a bit of seaweed. But here are some more pics to reflect my sincerity.

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Ok fine, its the same pic.

We went home for dinner, and finally!! A good old fashioned BBQ under grey skies! Can’t get more British than that!

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Hang on an a second, is the guy at the bbq wearing a skirt????????????????????

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What the hell, I’m pretty sure you’re not suppose to have fish at a bbq??????????????????

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RICE??????????????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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`For heaven’s sake, can’t these savages do anything right?

Concerns, Worries, Yemen

22 May

I caught up with a lovely friend this week over tea and cake. I asked the lady if the Mille-feuille was nice, she said it was her favourite cake of them so of course I was obliged to get it. It wasn’t great but every time she came over I had to eat it. It was so sweet my teeth hurt and I had to eat it. My indecisiveness will one day kill me. One day I will ask someone, because I am this indecisive, whether I should buy the nice new luxury car or the faulty car with oil running out the back and one tyre missing, even though they are the same price. He will say “oh I’d go for faulty car if I were you” and then I will be obliged to go for the faulty car and this is how my indecisiveness may literally kill me.

This is one of minor worries. I have bigger worries too, of course, like anyone, there are lots of personal things that I am concerned about and thus spoke to my friend about (I am NOT good company). But everyone time I’d end a thought, I’d return to the thought of Yemenis and of my family who are going through much much much worse. I felt, still do, this immense guilt, this feeling I was being incredibly self-indulgent in my own concerns, when they had whole other scales of worry, whole other realms of dark possibilities. And of course, their worries are my worries. It is an endless pit in my stomach and heart dropping state that I return to. But really, it cannot be the same, I feel embarrassed even at the implication that it is similar.

My friend articulated so wisely just how lucky we were that these were our worries. And I had always thought that this should mean I should ignore them. Focus on the important. No doubt to put them into perspective is important, but to dismiss our own concerns and personal troubles too far is not, I think, the way to go either. Our personal troubles is one of our ways of returning to God, of building our relationship and of seeking His help. I don’t want to lose that, I want to build on that.

Let’s conclude: I know that I should count my blessings and be grateful. Now I know what it means to count my worries and feel sheer gratefulness for them too. Not only because they are small, but because they exist. They are part of the human experience-we need them and yet I know I can only say this because they are small. It feels like a whole new understanding has opened up for me that complements, and is not in opposition to, everything else that is going on. So Alhamdilah, Jummah Mubaraka and may our duas be accepted in these last few hours of Friday. May Allah alleviate your worries and concerns, whether small or big.

Things that have changed my life in 2014

18 Jan

In the past year, I think I truly understood that it’s the small things in life that really make a difference. Here is my list:

1.Buying a backpack
Oh.my. Backpacks. They really have been created for a reason. For years I’ve been carrying around a normal handbag, no matter my load, creating a deep ridge on my shoulder and walking lopsided, no more! Now I have a backpack and can even carry my laptop in it without sobbing, And every time I wear it I’m astounded at the difference it has made, I feel like I’m floating. Sometime this has led to me being a bit overconfident about the amount of weight I can carry and I’ve toppled over like a chess piece but apart from that I’ve really no complaints. Though I do also admit that sometimes the straps dig in but that’s because they’re thin. It’s one of those leather fashionable backpacks and not those bulky sports backpack that give proper support. I haven’t completely let myself go.
On that note, I have a friend who wears one of those bulky sports backpack who may read this. If you are reading this: I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell you to your face but how on earth are you supposed to find a husband with that thing on your back? It is just unfathomable, some girls and their priorities.

2.Learning how to pack a suitcase.
This Christmas period I had a long trip booked, first a trip with friends then elsewhere, all with different climates and different stuff needing to go into a suitcase. I was being so minimal with what I was taking and still it wouldn’t fit. It was so annoying because I bought a lovely purple suitcase with four wheels and I had to shift all my stuff to an ugly black one with two wheels, and we all know now how I feel about ugly bags. At the end of the first phase of the holiday, Shams, who was with me, offered to help me pack because she said I clearly wasn’t packing properly. I was terribly hurt. People really don’t understand the weight of their words. But that hurt melted away when she began. It was like seeing the ballet for the first time. She took all my clothes out and instructed me to fold. Then her hands started to work, the nimble fingers of a workman, the craft of an artist. Stuffing things here and there, creating these perfect layers of clothes with great efficiency but with great beauty too. I was in love. With her, with the suitcase, with the moment. So when I had to pack again a few more times during that trip, I did so with a light in my heart and a beat in my soul, knowing that what I usually find so stressful, I could now look forward to. I’m not ashamed. Let me remind you it’s the simple things that matter in life and all your cool things will eventually go but suitcases will always need to be packed.

Things that would have changed my life in 2014 if I’d bought one:

1.A travel pillow.
So I had to get on a number of flights this period, and I hate flying. Most of them had pretty rubbish departure times and I was already running low on sleep so I’d often just doze off. I’d wake up with my head dangling at 90 degrees, so painful that I’d be convinced I’d broken my neck. I didn’t thankfully, but I’m not young anymore. One day, it will. So I’ve decided, for my 25th Birthday this year all I want it a travel pillow.
To be honest I’ve kind of now frightened myself with this thought so I may need several. I’ve broken bones very easily in the past so walking around in a travel pillow on an everyday basis seems a pretty reasonable safeguard. For all my friends who are reading this and now feel they would be too embarrassed to hang out with me, how on earth can you be so selfish? This is my life we’re talking about. You know I really feel like these small changes in my life show I need a whole new overhaul of friends. Apart from Shams. She’s useful.

The Charlie Ebdo affair and the Rise&fall of empires

13 Jan

There is an issue I am having with myself when it comes to writing about current affairs when it involves Muslims. Things like Charlie Ebdo are so big that as a blog person (I can’t bring myself to call myself a blogger yet) to not comment is blog suicide. Going by this, my months of silence when there has been much material to write about is something that needs to be addressed.

Of course part of this is just that people are great at writing brilliant articles that make me feel no need to add to the debate when I feel they’ve got it down. Another thing though. I’ve said it before and it hasn’t gone away: This resentment at having to react to these events, often awful, always on the defensive. There are plenty of muslims and non-muslims who bring real thoughtfullness to the debate, in this case, realising that there is enough nuance in language for one to utterly condemn the murders while also not aligning themselves with a rascist publication for the sake of a hashtag. We need these thoughtful voices and more power to them. But still I resent it. It is constant and never-ending. The calls for Muslims to condemn, take responsibilty explict or implicitly become stronger everytime. It marks our social media and  our discussions and the way we engage with the world. It marks our lives. These are no longer one-offs, this is a theme, a thread becoming more and more exposed.

This is probably the only time in my life I can pretend to be highbrow, but I found my solution to this problem in philosophy. I came across a brief description of Ibn Khaldun’s changing fate of kingdoms, an explanation on why empires rise and fall. To summarise: All civilisations go through a cycle of conquest, decay and reconquest. They arise frome a simple and forceful beginning, develop to an optimal point, and then corrode and decline.This is categerised by five stages: 1. Establishement: group solidarity based on ties of religion and family, 2. The ruler of the group monopolises power and can build a well-ordered state,  3. Luxury and leisure, economic prosperity where men enjoy the comfort and pleasures of the world, self-indulgence, 4. The stage of contentment, satiation, and complacency, and so the state already starts to decline and disintegrate, and finally 5. The last stage of wasteful extravagance and decline. The habits of comfort and luxury have resulted in weakness and vice, and they can no longer defend themselves from a new young healthy group still in stage 1 and so the cycle begins again. This is history: Cyclical development. I really recommend you read up on it. I realise you will then discover I summarised it terribly but I accept this painful sacrifice for your noble pursuit of knowledge.

All societies, states, cities, economies and cultural endevours are caught in this cycle. I find comfort in this. We muslims, as a religion or a culture or a society, just happen to be in this state of disintegration. This is why everything seems to be going wrong for us. That doesn’t sound terribly comforting I know. But it is, because at least I can accept it. I can stop asking why and stop feeling so resentful. Life is ebbs and flows, and we are in the ebb. I can stop wondering why the incredible efforts by those who are wise seem to rarely be making a difference to the discourse or to reality. We are just in the ebb but an ebb will eventually turn into a flow. Maybe knowing this, we can stop being so disappointed when we do not see immediate changes and we are having the same conversations over and over again. Maybe also, it’s a reassurance that we don’t always need to be so anxious, like there is something that we’ve forgotten to say that will make everything better. Why do we need to when this is just a reflection of the times we are in rather than any real reflection of who we are in essence? I think, for me at least, being able to separate reality and truth to discourse and culture, is fundemental. I seek truth and reality, which discourse and culture may not hold. Perhaps this is obvious but its easy to get caught up, your environment can easily become your reality. So let me be free of it and let it not waste my time. I am talking of it here in terms of the cultural discourse but this is in terms of everything, development, politics, life. Know history, the reality we are living in now has not been our reality forever, and therefore it will not be our reality forever. Things change, sometimes not for a while, but then they do.

In conclusion: Do not bore me by telling me Muslims will never change or the Middle East will always be marred by conflict and war or you’ve given up hope. You are not dealing with permanence, you are dealing with stages. Your efforts today will make a difference soon.  Hopefully in your lifetime, though probably not if you’re over 40.

*I got my nice little summary from this nice short lecture: http://dergiler.ankara.edu.tr/dergiler/42/448/5039.pdf

Blogging.

7 Dec

So my little cousin has joined a writing collective thing where he has to write one article a week. He is not at all daunted by this fact and I had to bite my tongue from expressing my disbelief at him being able to this, like some deadbeat dad. Many a times on this blog I have vowed to write one post a week, failing miserably. Yes I am aware that people write everyday. But seriously, one article a week by a 10 year old?? Isn’t that a crazy amount of work? I’m not sure if the problem is with them or me, and the fact that I am struggling with the workload of a child. So I will try to let go and write more once again.

Another thing: A few lovely people have told me in real life that they read my blog and it makes me very happy. If you are around, reading, please do comment or email me, as it sure does get lonely out here in cyberspace, I won’t bite. (I actually can’t bite. Not any more. You see I had a bit of problem when I was younger, I used to bite whatever and whoever I came across. My parents had no choice but to pull out my molars and my canines, leaving me with only my two front teeth. It’s ok though, I don’t blame them. They bought me a squirrel so I could learn how to eat like them and at least I can be around people now.)

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London. Where whipped cream on your hot chocolate costs 65p.

5 Dec

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Yemen: The Escape (Part 2)

15 Oct

Chapter 5:
I persuade baba that we should go to the Emirates office so we can sort this all out and he eventually relents. We go there and sit in front of the man. I want a ticket out of here I say. He nods. It’s fully booked he says. I expect that he must be tired of everyone else trying to leave because of the situation.
Please, I plead.
He looks at baba and baba nods at him. The man taps fast on the keyboard but it is clear he’s not pressing on any buttons. I grow impatient.
“Look, I know there’s a war going on but is there no way you can check?” I ask.
“What war?” he asks.
Baba clears his throat.
“Oh right that war” the man says nervously.
There’s nothing he can do he says. It’s fully booked. The next flight won’t be in two months. I look at baba in despair and realise it is baba that is mouthing the words for him to say.

Chapter 6:
We get back in the car.
“There isn’t really a war going on, is there baba?” I say sadly
“No”, he admits
“But what about all the family acting so frightened?”
“I told them it was for a greater good”
“And the news channels reporting on Yemen?”
“I set up a fake studio”
“And the explosions I’ve been hearing?”
“I had your uncle bang on a drum outside”.

Chapter 7:
My mother, silent as always, finally intervenes, and one day I wake up to find our tickets have been booked. A Yemenia flight to Dubai then we go on the Emirates from there.
“He only agreed after I said we would both return with you” she whispered. She always whispers. I can barely hear her most days. I have such communication problems with my parents. But I heard her loudly that day. I was going home.

I started to pack, frantically and with reckless abandon, stopping only to dance around my room to forbidden western songs. My mum gives me cigerettes to pack for my great uncle. T-shirts and socks for my cousin studying in London.
“I wont have any space for my stuff “ I complain.
“That’s ok, you’ll be back soon enough”, she whispers.
“What?” I ask.
“What?” she says.

Chapter 8:
We arrive at Sana’a airport. It is madness. Not as mad as Heathrow when a bit of snow has fallen but here their queues are messy, not single form like the British. I accuse the man in front of me of pushing in. Turns out he’s been there all along. Two other people push in and I keep quiet. I start to wonder what is worse; to stay silent in the face of injustice or to shout at someone who did nothing wrong? I stand there for a while, musing. And then it hits me. Has Yemen changed me? Or have I always been this deep?

Chapter 9:
We reach Dubai airport by midday. When we go to the transfer desk, we find a disturbance between other fellow Yemeni transit passengers and the Emirates airline employees. There is an elderly Yemeni lady who has 15kg extra baggage. The employees are demanding that she pay £350 for this extra luggage even though it is already on the plane and the lady had paid at Sana’a airport. She has no money and no place to stay in Dubai. The employee offers to send her back to Sana’a because he needs a receipt as evidence. I tell them the evidence was in the fact that Yemenia had loaded the luggage. Other people made good points too, but mine was the best so I kept repeating it.

An epiphany, I had. An old lady was being made anxious and ill for £350 though Emirates was one of the most profitable airlines in the world. They lost their humanity and gained the mentality of a massive corporation, though with no clear benefit to themselves.

“This is capitalism”, I educate my parents, “This is what capitalism does to you”.*

*So other parts of this book are obviously embellished but this story really did happen… I am being so confusing by mixing fact and fiction I know. Bear with me, I’m finding my writing style. I’m on a journey. Travel with me.

Chapter 10
On the plane from Dubai to London I watch Frank and I watch Maleficent. Both good films. But in between, I reflect deeply on my experiences in Yemen and Dubai. I have changed. Things feel differently when I touch them. I feel the air, it is cool. I feel the plastic of my chair, from within. It sends ripples through me. I realise that in a way, being stuck in Yemen is my trip to South America, this blog, my motorcycle diaries. In a way, I am the new Che Guvaura. A changed person, belonging nowhere, existing nowhere. An idea.

Don’t search for me, I’m already gone.

Yemen: The escape

24 Sep

Guys you have to help me, I think my parents are trying to trap me in Yemen. They lured me into coming here on the pretence that it would only be for a few weeks, a little holiday before you have to be back for September, they said. Relax and get away from London, they said.

It’s been over a month, I am still here. When my dad booked my return tickets he made it a really late return date. I have to be back before then, he was informed. Its OK, he said. I’ll change it, he said.

Everyday I am here, I tell him baba please. Book my flight back. Just so I know, just so I am reassured. Ok, he said. Don’ worry.

Chapter two:

Baba comes homes. “No booking he says, flights full”. He shrugs his shoulders and sits on the sofa.
“Bring Coca cola” he shouts at me. In his thick Arabic accent, I don’t understand him. It’s been a thorn in our relationship for years.
Baba how, I plead. Political situation, people leaving, September busy. We’ll see. He always talks like this in English, two word sentences.

Chapter 3:

In the darkness of the electricity cuts, I think every night of how I got here. I think back on my life, the signs I missed. They treated me well my whole life to lull me into a fall sense of security I realise. I cry silently so as not to wake them, the tears forming puddles around my ankles. I get into my bed and imagine the tears forming a sea beneath me, the bed acting as my ship as I float back to London.

Chapter 4:

My father relents and I am very happy. He books my flight for Monday. But Monday was two days ago and I am still here. It is the month September of the year 2014 and war has broken out in Yemen (Almost. Its more of a coup/not really a coup thing going on but here’s not the place to discuss, this is about me). Conveniently. My dad hands me the phone smiling. I answer. The flight is cancelled they say. Who are you?? I yell. They hang up. And my dad laughs and laughs as I scream and scream. I turn to poetry.

I am still here,
But I don’t want to be here.
I want to be home but I am trapped.
Trapped like a DVD in a DVD player with the electricity off so I can’t press the eject button (This has happened).
Trapped like a bee in a flower with no pollen but with some honey that the previous bee lef t behind so now I (the bee) am stuck to the honey.
Etc. etc.

….

Guys do you think this is enough to get a book deal??? Plenty of Muslim women have made careers out of far smaller tragedies, and everything I’ve said here is the truth, if a little embellished. I know the language isn’t great but I’m really going for the whole emotional trauma affecting my language capabilities vibe. I spoke to a friend about this and she reckons I should stay here for at least 6 months for this story to sell but I really do want to come home plus there’s already a book about a British Yemeni girl who gets trapped in Yemen (it just happens so often) so I’m thinking of a new angle, Yemen: The escape. Either Emirates airline resumes in the next few days, which I know isn’t very exciting but I can massage this, or I book a flight on one of the airlines that is available or I travel down to the port city of Aden, get on a boat and sail to Djibouti and take a flight from there. My dad suggested all of these helpfully, but obviously I’ll omit that these were his suggestions, he won’t mind. Yes, this will be a story of female empowerment. How I used my western upbringing and feminine wiles to escape and come back home to the UK, where I belong, kind of.

Do I really have a responsibility to condemn ISIS?

14 Sep

By writing about this topic, I am breaking this blog’s cardinal rule of not being relevant in the slightest but this is just a note to politically incorrectly say that I am finding this continuous condemnation of ISIS by Muslims absolutely exhausting.

Forget ISIS as an entity for a moment, its barbarity and that it needs to be tackled. This is stating the obvious. Specifically, let us focus on the act of condemnation. If Muslim institutions/individuals want to condemn and highlight as a means of warning the foolish, or as a means of being educational or of all the horrors of the world, this is the topic that has caught their attention, then that’s wonderful. But Muslims, really, you should not feel compelled to condemn ISIS continuously and constantly to show that this isn’t the real Islam. Sometimes, condemning simply becomes apologising.

This ‘responsibility for Muslims to condemn’ is part of a narrative, where once a month some story comes out about the niqab, or gender segregation or halal meat being served in restaurants, or like now, our position in relation to a political crisis happening on the side of the world. It’s this horrible trap where we’re always having to react from a position of defence, our lives defined by these things that we have to think about and talk about and state our position on, when some of us just came for the food. When this happens as often as it does, we end up creating a conception of our Islam and the meaning of our lives in relation to these things. But I want to create my own conception of Islam and the meaning of my life using my own impulses and sources and ideas, free of all this pressure of what I am supposed to say to be one of the O.K Muslims.

I know the argument is that we have a responsibility to condemn because ISIS are using the language of our religion but, in the words of Mark Regev: let’s be clear now. The language of all religions and righteousness has been used in the perpetration of horror and violence since forever. Sure, it is necessary to have a counter response but I dislike this idea that its a duty incumbent on every Muslim. ISIS is a part of a huge geopolitical crisis spanning since the First World War in the Middle East, and I owe no personal individual responsibility to what is happening over there. How can I? I’m actually, quite literally, just sitting here on my grandma’s sofa keeping my hands to myself. If a madman says they represent me, the onus is not on me to prove that they do not. The onus is on you realise that mad and evil men say mad and evil things.

If you, Muslim or non-Muslim, are imposing this responsibility to condemn, understand the reality of what you are saying in terms of the individual and the imposition of an unfair burden. I, like you, have finite time in my life that I want to spend fully and well on my own concerns and priorities. After finally sitting down to watch the Dark Knight the other night, I realise ¾ of the way through that it’s a bloody sequel. I wanted to scream. Watching sequels without watching the previous films is my worst nightmare; I always feel like I’m missing out on some depth and I just end up sighing sorrowfully throughout the film. Do you understand my point? I am a simple girl with simple wants and a life I deserve to live. All I want to do is watch my films in order, read the books on my reading list and collect my stamps. It’s probably not the life you’d choose for yourself but it makes me happy. And while I admit that I am still deliberating over my whole argument, for now, I also admit that I’m caring more about sourcing the first Batman film while I’m still in Yemen.