Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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Pink Blossoms and Floral Dresses

My sister and I made the most of the 25° scorching sun yesterday and took a trip to the local park (it was packed, so clearly we weren’t the only one with this idea), and both of us being photography enthusiasts, took the opportunity to take pictures of the beautiful scenes. I managed to get a few pretty photos (some of them were a bit bright from the sun!) and also took a good walk around to soak up the scenery.

It was a pretty lovely afternoon out, the park we went to is a pretty huge one with plenty of gardens with flowers, a lake with boats, a play ground area, and also leads to the local mansion if you walk far enough!

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We also found some small hidden areas sectioned around the lake which looked beautiful, especially when we were walking through them which had a very private, ethereal feel to them.

One of the things I love seeing in spring are blossoms, it feels like they all fall off too quickly! I’ve been seeing lots of these this spring, thankfully, and love how pretty they look.

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We also saw lots of people hiring boats to paddle on the lake, which looked pretty fun, and made for a nice adventure for a lot of the families – I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this over summer, especially if the weather stays this nice!

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All in all, it was a really lovely day out to the park, finished off with yummy cold slushies. I even managed to wear my pretty floral dressed which I had tailored for summer – perfect for matching with blossom trees!

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We Are London

I have written before on my thoughts on the senselessness of violence against innocent citizens, and it’s pretty upsetting that nothing seems to have changed since then – the horrible attacks on people in London has led to an emotional couple of days – anger, worry, heartbreak and fear. I really hate that as soon as something like this happens, so many of my friends, family and I all brace for the inevitable backlash against Muslims, the same fear that we will be grouped with this tragic violence and that we tarred with same the same brush that puts us with something that we don’t believe in.

So this is me, saying this is not my faith. We have said this before and we’ll say it again. Islam doesn’t work like this and we don’t believe or condone any form of terror attacks like this. We are with London, and will remain strong, united and unafraid. London is our home. This is the city where I have had the honour to meet the most diverse and vibrant people from all walks of life and communities, and have found that unity is always better despite coming from different backgrounds.

So I say it is  now, more than every that it’s the time to stand up and speak out against the hate, ignorance and violence perpetuated by some groups, and that to isolate ourselves is not the answer. It is only this which will get us through bad times and remain strong – standing together as friends, a people and as a beautiful nation.

My prayers are with all those who have lost their loved ones: may Allah (SWT) give them the strength to bear what he has tested them with, shower them with his mercy and let their hearts find peace. May Allah (SWT) bring peace and safety to us all.

“…if any one killed a soul, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” – The Holy Quran (Chapter Five, Verse 32).

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King

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Weekend Pretty…Easter Sunday Trees

The weather has been slightly more schizo than lately, but we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the rain (and hailstones!) from inside with this lovely long bank holiday weekend! I’m sure you know I have an obsession with trees (and chocolate) so naturally I took the chance to take a picture of these today when rushing out to the shops to buy snacks for a lazy Sunday!

Enjoy the weekend all!

xxx

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One minute’s silence

Today we had a minute’s silence at work for the attacks in Brussels, which was a horrible, unjustified event only a few days ago. It made me feel sad and a little pessimistic because we did the same thing in the office after the attacks in Paris not so long ago – a minute to reflect on events and pray for the lost victims, and hope that world events get better, that there are no more attacks, no more anger and no more twisting of beliefs to perpetuate more unreasonable violence.

It also made me sad, however, because there was no minute silence for Palestine, Turkey, Syria or various parts of Africa. You may think I am biased because many of these are Muslim countries, and this is why I feel affinity to them, and of course there is a part of me which does. There have been several attacks in Turkey in recent weeks, air strikes in Syria and on-going violence in parts of Africa such as Nigeria quite recently which have been ignored or sidelined, and which is pretty upsetting. But having grown up in a Western society, I also feel an affinity to Europe, to Britain, and it is more than my Muslim heritage speaking here. One of the things Islam teaches us is kindness to everyone, empathy and respect for all others, and as a human being it is natural to feel compassion whenever there are attacks on fellow people in any country. Naturally, the spotlight right now is being turned on refugees who are arriving all over Europe and who are homeless, scared and trying to protect themselves and their families. While there has been a lot of welcome for them, there is also a lot of resentment about whether they should be entitled to help and whether they are simply bringing the ‘enemy’ with then,

I’m sure I am not the first one to point out that all of the refugees arriving around Europe will be tarred with the same brush – when in fact it is these mindsets and violent groups that the fleeing refugees are trying to get away from. It makes me think back to my parent’s generation who arrived in the 70s and 80s, and even that ‘Windrush generation’ of the 50s, who came from across the world to Europe (and Britain) to make a new life and were treated with contempt and hostility by those who didn’t understand them, or those who believed the worst and didn’t trust them. It has taken a long time for these generations of incomers to build lives, trust and a place within this society, and it is attacks like this which can make immigrant groups feel unwelcome and undermined.

It is easy to be afraid. It is harder to stand up for what you believe in even when you are afraid, yet you stand up anyway. A part of me wonders whether there will be a time when we don’t have to worry about attacks like these. Maybe I’m naive, living in a modern age such as we do now, the horrors of war, hate and anger seem far away because we think we have evolved our minds and relationships since the World Wars, Civil Wars and battles for Independence which have taken place all over the world.

I do not mean to belittle the victims of Brussels or Paris, nor imply that what has happened is not a serious issue, because it is. I’m hoping we can learn from these to understand the hate behind these attacks and make sense of the senseless violence, so that it makes it easier for us to deal with. I am a strong believer of the idea that we can show Islam is not a hateful religion, and that those who twist it for their own agendas are not acting on our behalf. My point here, I suppose is the idea of fairness, while we are devastated by what has happened in Brussels recently, we should be equally outraged by the events in the Eastern countries. At the risk of making this a slightly hippy-fied post, in the end we are all people and we should share our prayers and compassion with everyone.

Journal Your Ramadan – Day #21: U is for Ummah

After watching the wonderful Snapchat Mecca story yesterday which has gotten Muslims and non-Muslims talking, I was so pleased to see such an amazing reaction to the snapshots and videos sent in by worshippers in Mecca performing Umrah on the holiest night of Ramadan – the 27th night known as Lailat as-Qadr, or the Night of Power – showing images of the Kaaba, the night prayers and the millions of dishes handed out for iftar to everyone.

It made me think of how far-reaching we have become, and what a wonderful opportunity there is to unite Muslims, as well as informing non-Muslims of the beauty of Islam.

So today’s post is one of the ones taken from the Snapchat video showing a packed full scene of people – all there for one reason, and all appreciating the beauty of Mecca and Islam : )

Journal Your Ramadan – Day #16: P is for Prayer

As we enter the last ten days of Ramadan, the focus is on prayer, and how we can best make the most of our time to focus and show appreciation for what we have. The last ten days of Ramadan are even more blessed because its marks the time that the Qu’ran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) on the night of ‘Laylat Al Qadr‘, also known as the ‘Night of Power’ – it’s also an amazing time to prayer, make requests and reflect.

So here’s a prayer for you all who are fasting these last ten days – I hope you make the most of it and that your prayers are answered.

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #5: E is for Equality

…or Empathy.

…or Existence.

…or Egalitarianism.

…or Equality.

I didn’t get a chance to take a photo today, but today’s letter got me thinking about what we see as Ego, and how we can let it get in our own way. I’ll be the first to admit I can have pride at times, which can stop us seeing the other person’s view. It made me realise how important Ramadan is in this context, letting us see from the point of view of those less advantaged than us.

Hunger makes us all equals, whether we are rich or poor, and regardless of colour – and it is amazing to see how it humbles us and makes us appreciate our lives.

Islam fundamentally promotes the idea of equality among mankind – what better time than Ramadan to see this in evidence?

Source: here
Source: here

A Day Out at Willen Lake

We decided to have a day out this weekend, making the most of the Bank Holiday and not having to go work the next day (yaay!) by taking a picnic and surprising my sister with a day out at Willen Lake.

So we took the kids, made some snacks and nibbles, took some badminton rackets, balls and a cricket bat, and headed up to the park and hid. Meanwhile, my sister’s husband dragged her to to the park with their little daughter and went around in circles in the same part of the park, to her bafflement, while we all hid (I came late so didn’t hide) behind bushes and shushed the kids.

Finally she spotted us and the look of disbelief on her face was something to see – although it was less of a surprise after the toddlers ran towards her instead of hiding!

We had a great day though, and managed to take in the sights (and the kids managed to hijack the children’s play area which made their day). My husband and I wanted to try some boating, but it as too cold and windy so we promised to come back in the summer when it’s hotter to give it a try (that way he won’t mind when I push him in the water!)

Here’s a few snaps of the day, I didn’t take many photos as we were too busy playing games and eating, or chasing little toddlers around – but I do love these shots. The ones of the swans are one of my favourite, there’s something dreamy about them all gathering together : )

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