World Hijab Day…2017

Happy World Hijab day everyone, whether you wear hijab or not, and whether you are Muslim or not.

I think it’s pretty apt that it’s World Hijab Day today after so many troubling recent events – whether it is events in America such as the new legislations being put in by Trump, the devastating shooting in Quebec at a mosque or whether it is the general spotlight on Muslims, the attitudes of people around us and even the growing Islamophobia a lot of us have begun to come across.

In the midst of all this, there are so many reports of solidarity, beautiful, moving protests, rallies and speeches which celebrate the beautiful in Islam and helps women be confident in their religion and hijab. I read yesterday a comment from someone on a social media forum who said he was glad Trump was elected, even if he did vote for him – his being elected led to the outpouring of support, the solidarity and the show of friendships being shown from across the world have served to unite us and give us hope that there are people out there who support other religions.

So in that way, at the risk of sounding like an epic fantasy movie, I will say this – in dark times, there is light. I have seen so many examples of the very best of humanity in their celebration of not just the right to wear hijab, but the right to practise our religion. These days, hijab is so much more than the right to cover and be modest – it is our way of life, our right to be Muslims and a representation of women who, amidst struggle and discrimination, show their very best in themselves.

There are some who have criticised World Hijab Day, saying it is too politicised and has been made into an agenda to make money, or even push a non-related feminist idea. I say this is silly, because for ordinary women this is a chance to express their love for hijab, set an example to their families and friends and also show non-Muslims the beauty of hijab. There is also the criticism that celebrating hijab inevitably suggests that non-hijabis or ‘exposed’ women have something to be ashamed of, or that they are doing something wrong. It is very difficult to wear a hijab and be confident with it – yet including myself, most women I know who wear hijab really aren’t trying to make a statement or make anyone feel inferior or less. It is never okay to harass a women just because she chooses not to cover, just as it is not okay to bully and harass a woman for wearing a hijab. It is also not okay to assume that wear a hijab automatically makes you better, more blessed or more privileged than anyone else, just as it is not okay to assume women are oppressed because they choose to wear hijab.

I have been very lucky to be surrounded by friends, work colleagues and family who are very supporting of my choice to wear hijab, and been sheltered from a lot of negativity and abuse from people who don’t understand Islam or our reasons for hijab. It has become so much more normal, acceptable and even fashionable to wear a hijab – just look at any London street and you’ll see plenty of us walking around and leading our lives.

World Hijab Day is not just about  the act of wearing hijab as a human right, but actually protecting the right of an individual to safely make that choice. With hijab comes a lot of responsibilities and rights, and it is great to have a day to celebrate wearing it openly, whether you choose to or not.

In that spirit, I’ll leave you with an image I saw yesterday which I loved – a Jewish father and son allying with a Muslim parent and his veiled daughter. It’s such a simple picture, but beautiful – this is how it should be, united. I have read a few complaints online and from Jewish friends about the concerns of anti-Semitism, particularly from Muslims. I would like to say that this is not all of us, our religion teaches us to respect others’ faith and unite over our similarities rather than fight over differences.

Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah (May Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon You.)

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Carnaby Street Eat

I was lucky enough to be around central London last weekend with a friend, so that we could make the most of the annual Carnaby Street Eat – a mini food festival perfect for foodies like us!

I love hearing about events like this around London, especially since it’s such a diverse, busy place with plenty happening (like my favourite event from this year, Lumiere London) – and the the best thing is that a lot of these are free (if you hear about them in time and know where to find them!) and usually involve wandering around discovering London!

My friend and I headed down to Carnaby Street and found plenty of food stalls, which was perfect with the summer weather and the beautiful surroundings. I didn’t take as many pictures as I wanted to, but here’s a few pictures from my Snapchat app!

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One of the things I love about Carnaby Street is the decor – there’s plenty of colour all year around and the shops regularly have funky decor to match. Carnaby Street had some added decor around the street, with plenty of food trucks, DJ decks for music and even a long strip of (false!) grass patch for people to sit and relax in.

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The food, of course looked amazing – most of them were from restaurants and bars nearby, so it was nice to see that you can sample food from new places. Unfortunately not a lot of these places had halal food, but there were a few vegetarian options, and we did manage to find an Indian restaurant selling burgers! As well as savoury food, there were plenty of desserts – rainbow meringues, cupcakes and biscuits, as well as free lemonade and ice-cream sandwiches being handed out.

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My friend and I managed to find a spot on the grass to sit and relax (and also manage to snag a huge floor cushion to sit and relax in!) and we enjoyed the beautiful sun and sights. We also stopped for desserts and plenty of drinks!

 

I like that there were things around all of Carnaby Street to catch your eye and add a little colour – from silly signboards and beautifully decorated walls to foosball table games and deckchairs – something for everyone. It’s not often an event like this comes to London, and it was great to see everyone come out to enjoy themselves.

We had a great time at Carnaby Street Eat, and manage to catch a little suntan as well – although I don’t think my tan lasted too long! I’ll be keeping an eye out for more events like this in London, especially as summer as finally arrived and there’s plenty of sun to enjoy!

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The Mad Hatter’s Tea at Valentines Mansion

I recently posted about some upcoming events happening in London as part of Find your London Festival, so made sure I  kept an eye out for local events that I could attend. This weekend saw the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Valentines Mansion and Garden, which was a really fun even put together for the kids to enjoy (and the adults!).

I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (you can see the pictures from my own tea party for evidence!) and I always love seeing different takes on the idea of a quirky tea party. I love the idea of doing a tea party in the park, and what better time than spring?

My sisters and I took along my nieces and nephews to enjoy the fun, and were able to walk around inside the mansions and have a look at the historical site inside. The Tea Party was organised next to the mansion in the gardens  which had plenty of games, activities and equipment for the children, which we all managed to make good use of – I also loved the fact that there were plenty of people in costume!

One of the highlights of the Tea Party was the entrance of the Queen of Hearts, who told us we were very lucky to see her and that everything was “Marvellous!”, following with a parade with the White Rabbit and the Card Men, complete with pink flamingos!

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My favourite thing was probably this oversized Mad Hatter’s Top Hat, which we all took turns to sit on (and which didn’t collapse surprisingly), which was laid out for us to look at next to a giant plate of (foam) biscuits and some giant playing cards scattered around, as well as some very misleading direction signs!

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There were plenty of games which my younger nieces ran off to enjoy, which I thought were a great idea for kids to do in a park – I especially liked the fact that there was a croquet set!

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I also loved the random small touches laid out – oversized teacups, several top hats, a few Alices wandering around and plenty of flowers, cards and Chesire Cats, which really made the whole thing feel much more fun.

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The Mad Hatter’s Party was a fun day out (including the bit where the Queen made all of the children hold hands to make ‘hoop’s while the smaller children were hedgehogs who ran through them, croquet-style!) and it’s great to see something like this organised for free somewhere local. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more things like this for the Easter Holidays which make a great distraction and let us enjoy the local park.

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Find Your London Festival 2016

I’ve been keeping an eye out for events in London after the wonderful Lumiere London event a couple of months ago, so I was pretty glad to see posters and programmes for Find Your Festival in London, which are a group of free events over two weeks from 18th March until 28th March this month, which I wanted to blog about quickly as a lot of people weren’t aware of the Lumiere London one when it happened.

I’ll definitely be attending some of these events and keeping an eye out for what’s on, and it doesn’t end there either, there’s also a few other events coming on in April too!

You can download the full programme here to see what’s on in the area – perfect for the Easter holidays!

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A Grand Entrance

Its not often I get a chance to stop at beautiful gates like this, but naturally when they come on a beautifully grand scale like this, a picture must be taken. It brings me to mind stories that I’ve read in the past where the hero (or heroine) has to reach the gates fast enough to get their happy ending – or even Greek Tragedies like Orpheus and Eurydice‘s tale of lost love. Inspiring enough to try my own hand at a fable like this, if I manage to finish it, I’ll post my story!

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Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Monkey

Gong Hey Fat Choy!

I wanted to visit the parades and shows at China Town today, but it’s been far too windy and rainy to be able to enjoy anything outside, so here’s a picture of one of the last time I visited the colourful town.

I’ve promised myself that I’ll try and find new places in London to discover, especially after having so much fun with Lumiere London, so China Town is definitely on the list again to try!

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Terry Pratchett, Magic Man

It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done – A Hat Full of Sky

Fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett passed away yesterday, leaving a legacy which has touched people all over the world, whether it was for his novels and comic books, his famous Discworld series or his quirky sense of humour. His fan-base was one which was world-spread, and whose tributes, accolades and petitions have all been pouring in for a man whose writing appealed to everyone, and who taught the power of imagination, on how to upset and rouse people, and that cats are devilish things that know who’s boss.

Below is a guide by Jacob Oleksow for anyone who wants to start reading the Discworld series and want to know which order to read the books in, or what categories they come in.

It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it

Thank you Terry Pratchett for sharing your quirky tales, your magical stories, the witty humour and a whole different world for us to explore – I’m sure that there’s someone out there about to discover your novels and series, and discover a love for your characters.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Gong Hey Fat Choy!

I love keeping aware of events from other cultures and religions, and I’ve always loved the celebrations of Chinese New Year. It’s the Year of the Sheep this year, so look out for tender, polite, sensitive, clever, and kind-hearted babies this year! I’m hoping to pop by China Town and Soho this weekend to see the celebrations, I’ll be sure to post pictures if I do!

( And Here’s a fortune cookie I got today, which I loved because it was better than the ones everyone else got!)

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World Hijab Day 2015

February 1st marks the annual World Hijab Day, which celebrates not just the cloth which covers women’s faces or hair, but the idea of modesty, and the concept of liberation through covering yourself.

You can read my hijab story here, but I love that hijab is becoming more and more prominent in today’s times, and that women are feeling more confident in expressing not only what it means, but how it can influence others positively. I also love the fact that it encourages non-Muslims to experience hijab for a day and see what it means.

Since recent events such as the Paris attacks, the Sydney attacks and the Peshawar school attacks, it is hard to show Islam being portrayed as a peaceful religion, and I feel more wary that there is more hostility towards the hijab and what it symbolises. Echoing my sister’s words, this is not my faith, it is hard to separate some people’s perceptions of hijab, modesty and Islam and equating them with violence and terrorism.

Having said that, just as we do not want all Muslims to be tarred with the ‘terrorist’ brush, nor do we want all speakers to be considered as ‘ignorance’ or ‘bigoted’. I have heard the views from a few Jewish friends that they have started to feel that there is some anti-Semitism being directed towards them, that Britain is becoming less tolerant to non-secular faiths, and that they don’t feel entirely comfortable with how they are being portrayed. I can understand the feeling, it is easy to be prejudiced without knowing both parts of the story, and I feel that there is an increasing amount of censorship in the media which doesn’t help.

There have been some beautiful stories, however, which shows that there’s plenty of hope yet. After the Sydney attacks, for example, the trending hashtag #Illridewithyou has started a beautiful series of gestures from non-Muslims who have offered to accompany hijabi women and prevent attacks. I’ve seen it since, being used in various countries, tweeted out, shared on Instagram, Facebook, and showing a united front and understanding for women in hijab. It gives me a huge smile, to see that there are plenty of people out there who don’t judge a woman for her beliefs or what’s on her head.

If all else fails, here’s understanding Hijab for Dummies, although I’m sure you just need to look outside the window and see a passing Muslimah in hijab. If you do see one, give her a smile and look past the cloth, underneath will be a beautiful woman whose biggest attribute will be her modesty and her kind heart.

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Containers: Not just about food.

I thought I’d contribute to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, which I thought was a good one, about Containers. It gives me a chance to reflect on the idea of the sort of containers I’ve been seeing lately, which is of food. Ramadan time for us is usually symbolised (among a lot of other things) by the samosas in my mum’s famous hot-pot container – the smell of samosas instantly brings back memories of early mornings with parathas (buttered chapattis) and iftars spent hovering over my mum’s shoulders while she fried delicacies which we usually see at Ramadan times; afternoons spent salivating over plates of watermelons and strawberries, and waiting for tall glass of cool water.

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Not everyone has the luxury of containers of food that we have though. The whole point of Ramadan, as well as getting close to our spiritual side, is to empathise with those who don’t have the abundance of food that we do, and those who don’t get to end their starving days with a feast. It is easy to forget your hunger when you are biting into a juicy fruit chaat or some hot pakoras, measuring your fasts by the clock instead of by experiences.

Not everyone in the world has the luxury of making everyone wait to eat while they take a picture (yes I’m one of those), while everyone sits back amused, because they know they’ll get their food once that picture is taken. Some parts of the world do not have food to Instagram/Facebook/Tweet the way we do, and do not have the choice of beautiful food.

Not everyone has the luxury of loving making their food, taking their time to eat and savouring their meal. I’m sure you have seen plenty of images and heard news about the horrific things which are happening in Gaza, as well as Palestine right now. There is growing unrest about this, not just the heartbreaking violence, but the lack of action from the Western world, the lack of reportage and the outright refusal to acknowledge events by the major powers – the Western media, the politicians and prime ministers, and those who do have a voice. We have seen protests, rallies and several movements, which are not just online but on the streets all over the world, and which are fighting to give these people a voice, to make change. I can’t help but think about these people who have lived their lives in fear, worrying about whether they will ever eat their meals in peace, whether the roofs over their heads will stay in one place, whether they can let their children sleep in homes without worry. I can’t imagine what Ramadan must feel like to the Palestinians right now – whether it is something they can experience without fearing whether they will see the end of it.

It is apt that it is Ramadan right now. It is the best time for us to truly reflect, think about what we can do to help the disadvantaged. If there is one thing I have learned it is that there is no point in bettering yourself, reflecting spiritually and empathising with the poor by feeling hungry if you don’t use those lessons learned to help others and to further the messages learned.

It is a container of samosas, yes. But it is also so much more – it represents all the luxuries we have which we can so easily forget in our sheltered lives and take for granted. I don’t mean to belittle the lives of our #FirstWorldProblems#, it is easy to be cynical and undermine the efforts of those who actually have tried to make a difference – the things I have seen recently makes me proud of so many of my brothers and sisters. But perhaps, this is a gentle reminder, to appreciate what we have – look at things from a different angle.