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.

Ramadan Mubarak…!

Wishing you all a blessed month of Ramadan, full of good deeds, delicious food and a IMG_20170325_190102417memorable month of fasting, prayers and charity.

I’m still debating whether I should take part in the yearly Ramadan Journal challenge held by the wonderful Neelu who initially started a lot of bloggers doing this. I’ve taken part in previous years, but am still in two minds about whether to do this, mainly because I want to make sure I can spend enough time on this, and also because I have been a little lax with my blogging lately. I’ll make my mind up soon and decide, but in the meantimer my elder sister will be taking part in the challenge so please do follow her progress!

I’m hoping to do something different this Ramadan for my blog – post some inspirational content or a series of Ramadan-related photos and art – let me know if you have any ideas!

Ramadan Mubarak and may all of your duas be granted x

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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Bridging the Gap

It used to be the case that there was a conflict, a ‘us v them’ relationship with our parents and us – they, the first generation who settled here in the 70s and 80s, and us, the second generation who were British-born and Asian who had to balance religion and culture with being in the West. I know of course that everyone’s experiences are different, and as a child of first-generation immigrant parents, I have certainly had my own experiences and conflicts with my parents. I do find it interesting that my elder sisters’ and brother’s experiences in the 90s slightly differs from mine – they were the earlier, ‘first’ generation who forged the way, while we followed behind. I also have a lot of friends who are in fact third-generation children, whose experiences are certainly very different although not without their own struggles.

These days it feels like the balance has shifted – our parents have mellowed out and are trying to be more understanding. I won’t say the days of emotional blackmail, culture clashing and Asian dramas (wedding traditions, anyone?) are over but this has definitely changed and evolved over the last decade or so. I think that a lot of the first-generation parents are beginning to understand that they cannot just force their children to follow a route that they think if right for them, especially as we are becoming more independent, more integrated and as we settle into our marriages, careers and parenthoods.201503141663531835

As these second-generations (and even some third-generations!) are beginning to or already have become parents themselves, I think a lot of them understand better the struggles that come with being a Muslim parent, especially when you have your own culture, British culture, religion and your own personal values to add to the mix. Ironically, I feel like there is beginning to be a gap between these parents and their children, who are definitely becoming part of the emerging middle-class Muslims, whose parents are determined to make the most of their education, lifestyle and social opportunities.

As someone who isn’t a parent yet, I was a little hesitant about adding my piece to this. But then I realised that my view, while it may not be the same as everyone’s, is still a voice to add to the conversation about the generation gap. I’ve been thinking about this for a while for several reasons – partly because a lot of friends and sisters of mine who are parents, have noted that bringing up their own children is a huge difference compared to their own upbringing, which has naturally brought to mind my own values and plans for bringing up children, as well as my own relationship with my parents.

I come across it every now and then – in my nieces and nephews, in my friend’s and sister’s children, and even when I meet young girls, younger bloggers and even younger people in my job who have a different mind-set to the ones we had as we had at their age. Those kids are fully immersed in society, with less identity conflicts about whether they’re from the West or the East, confident in their religion rather than being hindered by culture, with the knowledge that they have every right to education and a career. In contrast, it feels a little like my generation precariously fumbled our way through into jobs we weren’t sure of, studying as far as we could afford – I myself have always wanted to do a Masters and Doctorate, but couldn’t afford to after I finished university and went straight into work.

It brings me to mind a book I read when I was younger by one of my favourite authors – one of the things the young hero in the tale bemoans is the fact that all the adults he comes across constantly expect him to be grateful, that he is should know how lucky he is, but instead feels like the emotion is being forced on him. I think of this because sometimes when I speak to the younger generation in my family, or when I speak to younger girls who complain about the banes of their lives, I try to explain to them that they don’t realise how lucky they are, that it could be worse, and that we older generations did in fact have it worse. Unfortunately, most of them don’t seem very impressed when I tell them that and usually retort that actually, they have it worse because they have XYZ problems that we never did.

And you know what? They’re right, in a way. They do have problems that we never did – I’m constantly thankful that social media, makeup, designer brands and technology weren’t a big thing when I was a teenager the way it is now, the constant influence and distractions it would have had on my education, my social life and definitely my self-image, which means I would be a different person with Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Periscope at 13. There’s so many things that children these days, and young adults too, have to learn which we didn’t. My generation raves over Panda Pops, 5p ice-poles and 1p pick-n-mix sweets, Friends on Channel 4 on Friday nights, brown lipstick (with the dark brown lip liner outline) and family holidays ‘back home’. Meanwhile the newer generation have smartphones, iPads, Adventure Time, holidays in Dubai and Morrocco, global warning awareness, and River Island handbags and sushi for lunch. It’s easy to call them spoiled, and it is the case that they may have more opportunities, but they also have just as many challenges which are easier to ignore by us.

Just as our parents needled us about being grateful for opportunities (studying further in school, having a job, buying a new pair of shoes), it seems like the younger generation sometimes get the same thing from us. While my parents drilled into us the importance of marriage, good jobs and keeping good relations with our relatives both in Britain and back home, the younger generations have their own issues too – balancing friends and social lives with building careers, education, social media issues, even spending on luxuries. That’s not to say we didn’t do the same thing, looking back, it feels like everything was less overwhelming and busy – to sound like an old fogey, things just seemed simpler back then.

I‘ve also noticed a big difference when we had to deal with, and when the younger generations have had to deal with and differentiate between following religion and culture. My siblings and I were lucky enough to have parents who didn’t force too much culture down our throats, or follow traditions which didn’t align with our religion. A lot of the silly things that come with culture I was pretty unaware of until I got older, because my father emphasised the importance of religion with us, and my mother never forced us to do anything we didn’t want to do because she always wanted her children to be happy. This meant that while we have the still had pressure on us to study until a certain age, marry ‘suitable’ people and follow certain social guidelines (eg. curfew and going out), we still didn’t have it as bad as a lot of others that we know.

I think because of this, the British-Asian parents of today have recognised the importance of having awareness and choices in their children’s lives – such as choosing a partner, jobs, and following religion without all the hindrances of culture. We know the right things to do to help our children and push them, and we also get to choose the good parts about culture – knowing our roots and traditions without letting these dictate our lives. The younger generation now are able to understand current affairs, be more involved with their society and communities, and look towards bigger things even if their parents couldn’t.

I don’t think there is a real right or wrong way to deal with the conflicts with our parents – as I have gotten older I have appreciated more the things my own parents have taught me, and really am grateful. I was fairly lucky because I was pretty sheltered as a child, so I didn’t have a lot of the problems that some of my friends had, although I will admit, I did resent feeling that I also missed out on things, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m sure it’s pretty universal that parents always want for their children what they never had, our parents wanted success, happy marriages and financial stability for us where it was a struggle for them, and we want happy lives, careers and identities for our own children. I don’t mean to belittle the struggle our parents had – they came to Britain as youngsters themselves and struggled to maintain their culture, faith and way of living, and they constantly worried that their children would lose their roots. Meanwhile, although the later generations have less of guilt about being Westernised, there’s still that worry that they may be too influenced by things which their parents disagree with – whether it’s being a One Direction fan or being okay with belly button piercings.

I guess we can only do what we can, which is our very best. Most of the friends, sisters and brothers I know are excellent role models, and although they may find it difficult sometimes, they are able to encourage their children without pushing them, praise them and give them the knowledge and confidence to go out and do their best.
I only hope that I can do as well as that : )

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Blogger’s Enui

Enui
[On-wee] = a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

I’ve been putting off writing a blog post like this, because I wasn’t sure how to articulate the way I’ve been feeling the last few months, particularly in respect to the idea of writing, blogging and the idea of how I see myself as a social presence, compared to how I actually do come across. It’s not exactly a confidence issue I’m having, but more a sense of question of wanting more satisfaction – can I do more with my blogging (especially since it was always meant to be a stepping stone to kickstart me into writing novels some day) and how do I change my feelings of boredom?

Part of the problem feels like there is too much time-wasting on social media – as much as I love Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and random other apps, they seem to over-expose us to the random, everyday things which feels like it’s okay to celebrate and accept the mediocre. So I guess that it’s led to me feeling a little complacent – wanting to do more yet being lazy and not pushing myself enough.

Another part is that I am my own worst critic – I hate everything I write, or I have lots of ideas which turn into something else when I finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) which can be off-putting. I can certainly think of several blog posts, short stories and even a novel idea I have abandoned because I didn’t know where to continue them or wasn’t happy with them.

In contrast though, when I don’t blog or write, I feel a little guilty. I know I’m not the only one, my sister has said she shares the same feeling as me sometimes – it feels like I should be utilising my free time and doing something productive such as blogging, crafting or doing something creative when in reality I end up doing something menial. I think part of this comes from my life-long ambition to be a writer, which I have wanted to be since I was a child, so it feels like I’m not doing the best I could be.

I’ve spoken to my husband about this a few times – how I used to blog nearly every day about very random things in the past because it felt like I had more time and ideas (and enthusiasm), and in comparison now, it feels like I don’t have anything interesting to write about, or I just can’t be bothered. His suggestion was take a break and look back at why I started blogging, immerse myself in the things I love and perhaps go back to basics. I can definitely see this as a place to start, but I don’t think I could go back to the style I have stuck to in the last few years – it’s boring, random and not necessarily engaging in the way I want it to be. Perhaps it is that as I get older my priorities and interests have evolved, and also the fact that I feel that I have become more sensitive and aware as I go along – I pay attention to more politics and current events than I used to, my job has more of an impact on my personal life, and the things I look for when reading online and looking for ideas are now different.

I thought I’d approach this one step at a time – write down ideas and see where they go. One thing which I have started doing which has helped so far, is writing down ideas as I get them and then stewing on them – it means that I don’t forget interesting ideas which come to me and also gives me a chance to think about how to follow the idea, where it will take me and even if it’s worth spending my time on.

I’m still re-examining what I want to prioritise and I’d like to do when I do blog – in the past I’ve put random visual pictures every day which I love, but over time I am beginning to appreciate quality over quantity. I’d also appreciate advice given – especially if it’s something you can relate to (I’m aware #bloggerproblems is such a first-world superficial problem, but we all have our issues!)

I’m hoping that in the run up to the end of the year and New Years holidays, I’ll have more time to spend on these things (plus more on drawing!) which I can develop – hopefully as I progress it’ll show : )

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Ramadan Mubarak…!

I’m a bit late in posting this (only a couple of days late!) but I’d like to wish everyone a blessed month of Ramadan, full of good deeds, delicious food and a memorable month of fasting, prayers and charity.

I debated whether I should take part in the yearly Ramadan Journal challenge held by the wonderful Neelu who initially started a lot of bloggers doing this. I’ve taken part in previous years, but decided not to this year to focus on ibadah (prayer) and spending more time at home to make the most of the month rather than stressing about posting every day. As much as I always enjoy the challenge, I’ll be taking a break this year, although I will be continuing to post where I can!
However my elder sister will be taking part in the challenge so please do follow her progress!

In the meantime, here’s an idea of the beautiful sunsets we’ve been seeing lately. the sunshine has finally hit London and it’s made our skies all pastelly pink and blue. I’m off to break my fast soon, which we’ve been busying ourselves in the kitchen with, so enjoy the lovely summer that’s finally reached us and I’ll be posting again soon! : )

Ramadan Mubarak and may all of your duas be granted x

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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