Thursday 20 September 2012

Sticks & Stones

 Comment: I really felt for sister Sabiyyah and I really agree with all the points she makes here.

This post, is one that I have repeatedly considered writing since March of this year, following all the harassment I received following the airing of Make Bradford British. At first, I left it because I didn’t want it to seem like I was crying out for sympathy & secondly I didn’t want the trolls/bullies who were hating on me to know the extent of their damage. The second time I considered writing this post was after the Shafilea Ahmed case, and my very public acknowledgement and approval of the sentence given to her parents, again i was subjected to more abuse, and again I left it. The most recent events that have prompted me to actually sit down and write this, is the response that I received after writing my post re the comments Galloway made on rape. To be honest with you, the abuse and insults no longer affect me, in fact I read them, hear them and turn a blind eye or deaf ear to them. I guess some would say that it is sad that I’ve gotten so used to it now that mentally when i read something i just shut it out and carry on as i was, but for me its a great progression. And I am going to describe how i got to this stage to you in this post. I have to warn you, this is my longest post, simply because I am going to break down a lot of the misconceptions directed towards me.
Before Make Bradford British was aired, I was prepared for a backlash from certain members of the Muslim community, I was prepared because I knew that firstly a lot of people wouldn’t have been comfortable watching me in the situations i was placed in, most prominently the pub, but secondly and most importantly i knew that some would not be happy with the things that I said in the programme. I thought i was prepared, i really did. And I’m no wallflower, throughout my life I’ve dealt with crap and I’ve come out of it always more tougher and always more positive. So i kept thinking to myself, you’ve been through worse, you’ll be fine.
Then came the aftermath of MBB, and no amount of experience could have prepared me for it. You see for so long I held the view that I was in a majority, i.e. that my views were views that were held within a majority of Muslims, i guess the reason behind that was because my friends are a good mix of egalitarians, liberals and humanists of every religion and race. I really honestly naively believed that i was a part of a majority. That bubble was burst as soon as the first episode of MBB was aired. It was then that i realised that in fact i was part of a minority, a minority of muslims who applauded and craved critical thinking, who despised mob mentality and who urged the use of rationality & intellect. We are a minority. I guess the biggest issue people had was when I told Rashid that he didn’t need to pray in a mosque & that the Lord didn’t need his prayers, many took this as me saying that he shouldn’t pray, but what i was in effect saying to him was that if he was letting down his community, he was doing God a huge dis-service, because his insistence to pray in a mosque meant that religion was preventing integration in the house, and religion DOES NOT prevent social cohesion, in fact it aids it.
The criticism and abuse I received for this was hideous, i had people telling me to hang myself, that i would burn to death, that they wanted to kill me, i was branded a “hoejabi”, a ‘slut’ and much worse. People simply couldn’t understand why I challenged him, and a part of me realised after as well that one factor was the fact that I am a woman. Seriously i know for a fact if  i was a guy and had said what i had said, i would have got away with it a lot easier, in fact so many women came to me after and said the same thing to me. The fact that i was a woman, wearing a hijab and challenging a man who appeared to be so devout made me look like Satan’s advocate. And boy was i treated like Satans advocate.
You can hear the tone of hostility and resentment towards my comments on MBB on Inspire Fm, this was by far the WORST interview i have ever ever ever given. It was hostile, cold and very unwelcoming. So have a listen
I reckon the reason why I am the target of criticism especially when i make a statement condemning something publicly is because of the fact i overtly dress like a muslim woman, yet to the majority i don’t act in the way they expect me to. Maybe their conception of a hijab wearing woman is to be meek and conformative and i am neither, in fact i resist conformity.But this issue of me wearing a hijab and not acting accordingly has come up time and time again, most recently with the Galloway drama, 
the tweet by Said Omar Muhammad says “You obviously are wearing hijab as a fashion statement” I am sorry Said Omar, but when did you look into my head, read my intentions and decide that yes it is a fashion statement?
In fact i wear my hijab as a badge, as a symbol of identification of being a proud Muslim woman, a liberated and equal Muslim woman who has been given rights by GOD to speak as i wish, and to practice equality and tolerance. I do not wear my hijab out of religious requirement, I believe that to wear a hijab is a matter of choice, and the hijab wearer is no superior to the woman who doesn’t wear one. So don’t say to me i wear it as a fashion choice or that if i wear it i should wear it ‘properly’ I dictate how i wear it, i decide how i act and i am ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD NOT YOU!!!
Another misconception a lot of people, especially ignorant women, hold is that I claim to represent Muslim women. Let me put this straight once and for all. I DO NOT wish to represent Muslim women, in fact after studying the dynamics of the Muslim community, we are no way homogenous, I couldn’t represent anyone but myself because each individual has his/her opinions. Yet for some bizarre reason, I still get attacked for misrepresenting hijabis, or misrepresenting women. Here is a tweet by a rather crude and nasty individual who perpetuates a lot of hate on twitter.

Now lets move on to the Galloway saga, and this has been the most surprising attack for me. When I wrote my blog post condemning Galloway’s comment, I honestly did not expect abuse, especially from leading Respect Party Members. I mean i was of the view that rape is rape is rape. end of. clearly its not as black as white as that. Galloway’s die hard fanatical fans, didn’t care about his comments about rape, in fact i don’t think they care much for politics, nor do they understand it. Rather they are fuelled by a mob mentality that is rife in Bradford. And i can say this confidently because I’ve been a victim of it ever since MBB. Mob mentality strips you of your rational and intellect and Gods most precious gift to you, free will. It strips you of that and essentially transforms you into an animal who follows the pack. And this is the only way i can describe the onslaught following my post re Galloway.
What scared me the most about the reaction, was the fact that it was coming from leading members of a political party that i had defended and supported. A party that i had once seen as a viable alternative and one that could lead Bradford to positive change. Now i want them out of bradford, i want them out of power and i want them stripped of their egos. Power in the hands of the ignorant and foolish is dangerous. And this exactly what is happening in the Respect party in Bradford. I spoke to a Respect party member who described horrifically to me, the corruption that exists within this party. If he had told me a year ago I would have been shocked, but after the Galloway drama, to be honest i was unsurprised and in fact i was expecting it. What frustrates me the most is the lack of critical thinking which exists in them, and its not just members of the Respect party, its within all those who have criticised me. Don’t get me wrong its not that I’m saying don’t criticise me, i welcome constructive criticism, but theres a distinct difference between criticism and bullying. e.g. below
It’s like seriously!?!? are you seriously tweeting this crap to me? Do you blame me for blocking you? I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with stupidity. I only engage in debate when I think it will be constructive and progressive. Otherwise I will ignore you.
I was reading today about the controversy that the comedy show Citizen Khan has provoked. And it made me laugh, you see as Muslims we are so defensive and emotional. We get so caught up in reacting but not being proactive. Its happened every time from the Salman Rushdie affair, to the Cartoons in Holland, to documentaries to comedy shows. By reacting so emotionally, we prove that we are a weak community, we have no self esteem and that we have no other method of intelligently responding. I was told today by countless people that they were being bullied on twitter for defending Citizen Khan, seriously its ridiculous. Why do we crave conformity? Why do we coerce people into conformity? Individuality and difference of opinion is what strengthens a community! If your so bothered, approach Adil Ray with an email, send him a message, I’m sure he’d appreciate that more then you absolutely slating all his and the teams effort. But thats hard work so instead, you just shout out the abuse and everybody else just joins in.
You see, its gotten to a point with me, unfortunately  where i don’t expect support for what i say. I don’t expect support from the Muslim community or leading Muslim organisations or groups or leaders. Because i have learnt the very very hard way, that the majority of Muslims that are in positions of power, avoid controversy. They will entertain you for a while but when it comes to the crunch, your on your own. Nobody likes to admit that spousal rape happens within Muslim marriages you just need to listen to the BBC asian network to get that confirmed, people will say to you forced marriage is wrong Islamically, it is abhorred by the Lord, yet nobody will applaud the criminalisation of it and the active crackdown. And I know i’ll get abuse following this post, but frankly I no longer care. Because you see what i do care about and its the only thing i care about, is the women who have so much potential in my community who are being disempowered everyday, by idiots like the ones that exist in the Respect Party. I care about those women who can deliver change and who will deliver change. I worry that they are not strong enough to deal with the criticism and the bullying, I worry that they will remain silenced due to their fear of speaking out. And you know what, I wouldn’t blame them, its taken me a long time to develop my thick skin and no shit attitude. Some people just don’t want it, and thats what worries me, that our own community is leading itself to destruction by stifling critical thinking and freedom of expression.
People worry about Islamaphobia, and we have writers like Mehdi Hasan who are fighting it, and i really feel for them. For me, I’m fighting phobia amongst my own, and i guess thats what makes it harder. You expect support but you just get stabbed in the back.

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