Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Shaykh Qaradawi to his imprisoned daughter: A year has passed and I haven’t forgotten you

Egyptian born and Qatar-based Shaykh, Prof Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi who is the Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars wrote a letter to his daughter Ola, who has spent an entire year imprisoned in solitary confinement in Egypt. In his letter he protested the injustice that she has been suffering, and how his heart burns at her being subjected to a “deliberately slow execution”.
Al-Qaradawi said: “For an entire year in solitary confinement, in one of the world’s worst prisons, my daughter Ola al-Qaradawi has been subjected to terrible treatment in her tragic imprisonment. This unceasing abuse and humiliation is a deprivation of her most basic rights.”
He continued in his letter:
“A year has passed and we still wait for the consciousness of the people to move, for the asleep to wake up, and for the imprisoned to become free, and the dead hearts to regain their life.”
He added: “A year ago she was taken away from her home, her children, her grandchildren, her father, and from her brothers and sisters, to be put in solitary confinement that strips the individual of any rights and stops them from doing anything. Why? Simply because she is the daughter of al-Qaradawi, and she has Qatari citizenship. There’s no doubt that they (the Egyptian state) subjected a weak individual to this punishment to get back at Qatar and al-Qaradawi”.
The authorities arrested Ola al-Qaradawi and her husband Hossam Khalaf in early July 2017. She has since been held in solitary confinement in al-Qanaater Women’s Prison. Human rights organisation, Amnesty International has already concluded that the way the Egyptian state has dealt with her case amounts to torture by international standards.

Friday, 13 July 2018

French Muslim families who lost loved ones in the Nice truck attack struggle with bereavement and Islamophobia.

One of Bouhlel's first victims was Fatima Charrihi, a Moroccan woman wearing a headscarf. In fact a third of the victims that day were Muslim men, women and children - including four year-old Kylan al-Majri who had come out to enjoy the fireworks with his family.
Truck Attack in Nice looks at the event through the eyes of three Muslim families who lost two young sons and a wife and mother. They re-tell their own versions of their ordeals on an evening that started with celebration and ended in violent tragedy, as they all struggle to come to terms with a loss that they simply cannot comprehend.
The relatively high numbers of Muslim victims in Nice and in the similar Barcelona attacks a year later, challenge the common perception that this type of violence is somehow an expression of Islamic teaching or values.
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been radicalised quickly through ISIL propaganda a few weeks before Bastille Day. He was known to French police for threatening behaviour, violence and petty theft but did not figure on the "Fiche S", or France's high-security watch list. He was a loner whose neighbours said smelled of alcohol and behaved strangely.
The 2016 attack in Nice followed those in 2015 on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and Bataclan nightclub and neighbouring restaurants in Paris. Each incident turned up the heat in the debate about the relationship between Islam and violence in French politics and society.
In the months following Nice, politicians were campaigning for the French presidency.
Marine Le Pen seized the opportunity to make political capital out what she and her party call "the Islamisation of France", and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon spoke of what he called a new type of fear running through some parts of French society.
"This radical Islam is plaguing some of our fellow citizens. It challenges our common values. I won't allow this. I want strict administrative control of the Muslim religion before it takes root within the Republic," he said.
But the French Muslims families in this film see things quite differently. For them, it's not about Islam at all.
"Don't involve Islam in this issue," said Tahar al-Majri, who lost his ex-wife and four-year-old son Kylan in the Nice attack. "He ran down people aged four to 80. You can't kill people and say, 'God is Great'. God never tells us to kill people."

Slam from Sudan: how Emtithal Mahmoud shook the world

Emtithal Mahmoud was brimming with rage and misery when she sat down to write her poem Mama. Her grandmother had just died in Sudan, her mother was on a plane to the funeral and she felt consumed by anger.
“I wrote it in one of the darkest times of my life,” she says. “It felt like my grandmother had survived everything, the war, famine, and in the end it was not just cancer, it was lack of access to proper medical research. It was a very dark time. And that poem helped me get through it.”
Hours after writing Mama, Mahmoud – also known as Emi, who was born in Darfur but moved to the US from Yemen as a four-year-old – performed it at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship in Washington DC – and won the competition. Full of fury, Mama opens as a man asks Mahmoud: “Hey yo sistah, you from the motherland? … ’cause you got a little bit of flavor in you, / I’m just admiring what your mama gave you.” It becomes a paean to Mahmoud’s mother, who “can reduce a man to tattered flesh without so much as blinking”, who “walks into a war zone and has warriors cowering at her feet”.
Mahmoud will return to Sudan in July, where she has big plans for more community groups and workshops around the country. Mostly she is volunteering, saving the money she makes from events “run by magazines or businesses that pay very well … to do the kind of work you can’t get funding for.”
Mahmoud writes to explore her feelings; she performs, she says, because she has somehow found herself this platform. “A lot of things are said about people like me - young people, black people, Muslim people, women,” she says. “The reason I perform is to answer those things, to be a voice I didn’t really have growing up.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The story of Aitzaz Hasan

Aitzaz Hasan (15) was on his way to school when he and his friends spotted a man wearing a suicide vest. Intercepting the bomber, Aitzaz saved his friends but lost his life in the process. Based on true events this film highlights the heroic efforts of a young boy who sought to stand up to intolerance and violence, to protect those he loved.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Gaza family mourns slain son, 11: 'Not last child to be killed'

On Friday afternoon, as Israeli soldiers from the other side of the fence were firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition, Yaser Abu al-Naja and a few friends took cover behind a waste container away from the front lines of a protest in the Gaza Strip.
As Yaser briefly peeked out from behind the bin, an explosive bullet hit him in the head. His skull was shattered, resulting a bloody pulp in one side, eye-witnesses said.
Yaser was 11 years old.
His killing on Friday made him the 16th Palestinian child to be shot dead by Israeli forces since the launch on March 30 of the Great March of Return protests calling for the right of refugees and their descendants to return to the homes and lands from which they were violently expelled from in 1948.
A few hours later, at sundown, Yaser's mother Samah Abu al-Naja was browsing through Facebook on her mobile phone when she came upon a photo of an "unidentified boy" with his head blurred and bloodied clothes. 
"His face was not showing, but I recognised him as my son from the clothes he was wearing," the 30-year-old told Al Jazeera from her home east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
"My neighbour and one of my daughters were sitting with me," she added. "I turned to them with the phone in my hand and said: 'This is my son.'"

Monday, 9 July 2018

The Chinese government is rounding up Muslims and throwing them in camps

The camps started appearing over the past few years, but details are scarce. Reporting on the region is tightly constricted, and Beijing has made a habit of arresting and disappearing the family members of American reporters who have attempted to cover the topic.
“We heard at the beginning of this year that more than one million Uyghurs are currently in the camps,” Dolkun Isa, the president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, told ThinkProgress. “But it’s already been six months, and we’ve never heard of anyone being released… [There] may be 1.5 million, maybe 2 million, in the camps. We don’t know.”
Given that there are approximately 8 million Uyghurs in the region, that would mean over 10 percent — and potentially as many as 25 percent — of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs are currently housed in these camps.
These camps have rapidly formed the backbone of China’s broader “assimilation” effort: a set of policies aimed at banning Uyghurs’ religious education, language, and broader culture.
Following a 2009 protest-turned-massacre in Xinjiang, China’s deadliest domestic event in decades, Beijing accelerated its policy of forced assimilation — actions ranging from banning the teaching of the Uyghur language to barring certain Islamic names, all while installing one of the most stifling security regimes this side of North Korea.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Need-to-Have-a-Son-Syndrome

Not so very long ago, in a Midlands town: a woman climbed the stairs, flight by flight, all the way to the hospital roof. And threw herself off. She had just given birth to a third daughter.
No, we’re not in some dystopian world, or some strange twist of the Handmaid’s Tale, but in modern day England. Where the Punjabi community, much of it originating from India, has made its home, and is now into its third and fourth generation.
Well educated and hard-working, a high proportion of Punjabi women are in professional jobs, contributing economically and intellectually. And yet … when it comes to these women giving birth … the family expectations are as old as the ancestral lands back home, and the ambition to continue the family name as entrenched as the deepest of cultural roots. What their in-laws want, what they really really want, are sons and more sons.
As a Punjabi woman myself, it’s the community I know best, but the desire for sons cuts across cultures and is particularly endemic in the British-Asian community as a whole.
When I was having my second child, I made sure to tell everyone it was going to be a girl – because my first child was a girl too and I was aware of expectations. So I was determined to prepare the ground. I was in a position where I could do so, but the majority of Punjabi and Asian women aren’t.
In one way or another, I’m sure every Punjabi and British-Asian woman has been affected by this syndrome: as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife and mother. Leading to women feeling unworthy, guilty, inadequate, insecure or even suicidal.
The tragic suicide of Navjeet Sidhuin 2006, who jumped in front of an express train with her two young children was said to have been caused by depression, originating from her first-born not having been a son.
Many of us heard about the Asian couple who quietly walked out of a hospital, abandoning their newly-born twin daughters. I’ve been told about the harrowing case of a mother, arriving back from the hospital, whose baby daughter was taken by the mother-in-law but who herself was thrown out. After all, it’s the woman’s fault for giving birth to a daughter isn’t it.
The sex of a baby may be determined by the father’s sperm, but try telling that to the mothers-in-law and elders of a community fixated on blaming the woman.
‘The pressure can be intense,’ Dr. Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, told me, ‘even with younger women, feminists, educated women. It can affect their mind-set, make them waver, feel guilty, wear them down. Some mothers don’t express their unhappiness – which can lead to depression and self-harming – often on parts of the body that can’t be seen. Mothers need to be able to say they need help in strict privacy.’
The toxic ‘sympathy’ of relatives and acquaintances, who glibly repeat ‘Never mind, next time you’ll have a son,’ can pile on the agony. Jagbir revealed how a mother of three daughters, said such comments ‘pierced her heart.’
In this day and age, it’s absurd that women who give birth to sons gain ‘honour’ and status, whereas women who have daughters often find their position becoming insecure. They can be haunted by the spectre of the husband re-marrying. And can find themselves denied a share of the family inheritance.
Financial discrimination can start before marriage. Many daughters, when they turn eighteen, are asked to sign a document, relinquishing their claim to the family land in India, and many don’t inherit a share of family property in England.
The campaigns around mental health have brought those issues into the open. We also need to recognise and highlight the suffering and long term effects caused by the need-to-have-a-son-syndrome. It harms the mother-daughter relationship; impacts the self-esteem of thousands of young women who grow up hearing laments about their very existence; who learn their grandmother cried at their birth; who see themselves devalued when they hear their elders telling their mother to seek sex-selection in India.
Dr. Jhutti-Johal also commented that the desire for sons isn’t only for passing on family name and land, but also to provide care for the parents in their old age. Unfortunately, such tidy arrangements no longer exist in the Punjab or in the UK. It’s very evident here that more and more daughters are having to look after their parents, and their in-laws.
Let’s also talk about Punjabi Male Privilege and Asian Male Privilege, which goes hand-in-hand with the need-to-have-a-son syndrome. The phrase ‘White Privilege’ has entered the social vocabulary; we understand it’s about the ‘invisible systems conferring dominance…’. Dr. Peggy McIntosh says ‘I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.’
It’s time that Punjabi Male Privilege and Asian Male Privilege was recognized and checked out by the men who enjoy it, the harm it causes to their daughters and wives, and fully and publicly rejected by them.
The Pink Ladoo Project  is one of the few movements aiming to change attitudes to the birth of daughters, but the need-to-have-a-son-syndrome is so pervasive we need a powerful #MeToo movement to challenge it. Punjabi and Asian men need to join the voices of women and put an end to this unfair and harmful practice. Every new-born daughter is entitled to an equal welcome and celebration from her family and society. Bring out the pink ladoos.