Seed Literacy Not Insecurity. Tom (Education), Dick (Tuition mafia) and Harry (Parents)

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Children who are read to at an early age enter school with a vocabulary of 12,000 words, whereas those who are not read to at an early age enter school with a vocabulary of only 3000 words.

It is unfortunate that society ignores the age when a child’s personality and brain develops the most. Instead, the majority of parents leave their children at the mercy of technology or, in countries like Pakistan, at the mercy of underage or untrained maids.

Can technology equipped with audio and video replace books and parents?

It is very unfortunate to see that parents have already given up their responsibility by paying hefty fees for schools and home tutors. The former kills the meaning of education and the latter the concept of schools.

Our children enter school with the knowledge of incidental learning of 3,000 words and are given uncomprehended knowledge to memorise at home for getting a promotion to the next grade. Parents further hand them over to the tutors to fulfill school requirements . Being unaware of what they both are turning their kids into, parents have made their children a pawn in their lives. The bigger game of saving face in society is played by parents by using the result (report) cards of their children as the certificate of accomplished parents.  

Pakistani parents are not paying for the education and personality development of their children. Instead, they  pay money to make sure their children get good marks, the topper in the class the better. So they can either inflate their magnificent child grooming or snub down someone else. In their struggle for marks, they create a sort of negative competition among the children for marks, instead of instilling the spirit of cooperation among them.

Recently the results of secondary school certificate of multiple boards were declared. I have not gotten a chance to come across a single parent whose child has scored less than 90 per cent of the total. The most interesting part is parents saying that their child is very up set for not scoring 100  or even 101 marks of 100.

When you come across the same talent in person and ask about their hobbies, they don’t have any. They eat, sleep and study exams. Their tuition starts at 5am. From the tuition centre, they directly go to schools which starts at 8am and then in afternoons they take another round of tuition. What they are studying in all this time is simple: rote learning the books and doing the questions of past years. And they appear in exam as machines who can produce the photocopies of what they have fed with for more than 12 hours a day.

Sad part is if you throw a twisted question to them, they are blank. After getting an education in English medium for 10 years they cannot speak and write ex tempore. And the large number of toppers fail professional institute entry exams.

Our society instead of considering their faults come out on roads to demand the dismissal of such exams which toppers of boards at times can’t pass. Why don’t parents and teachers face the reality that marks of toppers are actually an inflation. It neither flourishes the skills of brainstorming and critical thinking nor reflects the intellect level of the student. It is high time the concept of tuition academy be killed and schools once again revive their actual role of educating students with the art of rhetoric,  brainstorming and critical thinking. Before we get lost in the history of dumps.

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A Day in the Life of a Sinner

By Naureen A

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A good Muslim wakes up early in the morning and says her prayers. Well, I wake up and look at social media. One day I am dismayed to read that according to a Muslim scholar I have sinned all night by sleeping on my stomach. Now I don’t claim to be a paragon of virtue, but to think that I have spent the last eight hours (involuntarily) sinning is a little depressing. That’s in addition to missing morning prayers. Am I just living my life one sin to another? I decide to take a mental inventory today.

I get up and throw my gown over my tank top. No one here except for my (female) cat to witness my bare arms - except of course, I suddenly remember that scholars say the perverted jinns (genies) can watch you. Ugh!

I go downstairs and grab a glass of water. I realize that I am using my left hand instead of my right and not sitting while drinking – both of which are apparently frowned upon by scholars. I switch hands and try doing an air squat and almost fall and give up. Never mind. I feed my cat who purrs in delight at her favorite non-halal (non-permissible) morsels. I love my cat whom I rescued a few years ago and today I am glad it’s a cat and not a dog. Apparently having a pet dog is also a grave sin.

I make my kids breakfast. Eggs -as halal as you can get, and get the kids off to school.

I get ready and wear my dress with opaque tights. No skin is showing, but my head is uncovered.

Sin or no sin? It’s controversial, I remind myself and that God is all forgiving – I hope.

As I drive to work, I recall another article on Facebook where scholars are worried that vibrating cars could “excite” women. I laugh and feel sorry that my car runs too smoothly.

I see an elderly woman trying to cross the street. I brake to let her pass and immediately get honked at from behind. In a moment of rage I let out a string of curses. Ooops! Sin.

I arrive at work and find thank you cards in my inbox from the secretaries whom I gave Christmas gifts to. I have given a lot of Christmas gifts this year. From the office staff to the mailman, from my cleaning lady to the woman who delivers the newspapers.

I have been told by good Muslims a “holiday gift” is fine, but that “Christmas gifts” make me an apostate. I decide if it’s a sin it must be low on the totem pole. I try and forget what apostate means and am easily distracted by a familiar song and start singing the lyrics. The secretaries laugh and I enhance  my performance with a little dance. Haram! Haram! A voice rings in my ear and I stop abruptly.

The day goes by in a whirlwind. I am a psychiatrist. I listen and prescribe meds. But mostly I listen.

At lunchtime, I get the broccoli cheddar soup. It’s vegetarian, aka halal. Except for the cheddar cheese in it, which is probably not halal. I forgive myself as the soup is delicious and I am hungry. Later in the afternoon, I speak to an insurance agent who does not want to cover a medication I have prescribed. He is giving me a hard time, citing other cheaper alternatives. I exaggerate a little and say that the patient is suicidal. Is an exaggeration a lie? Probably, but it’s for a good cause, I console myself. The lie has worked and in a few minutes later I get a faxed approval for the medication. I do a fist pump and stop myself. Is there some decree about fist pumps too? Very likely. I am sure some scholar thinks this is a sin. I should Google this in my free time, I remind myself.

When I get home there is no time to do my sin inventory. I am in mom mode, making dinner and helping my kids with homework. We watch CNN together and discuss LGBTQ rights. I feel proud that my kids are good human beings and morally- and socially-conscious. I feel that I must be doing something right. Although I realize many Muslims would think I’m not teaching my kids good values. We clean up and my daughter affectionately calls me a recycle Nazi as I admonish her for throwing paper in the trash. I compost and recycle. That must be good. Right?

As I lie in bed, after a long day, I try to recount my sins and feel the heat of hell fire. Too many.

Some are grave, like not saying my prayers and others less so but probably just as bad if you think about the quantity. I thought I was a good person but according to what I read nowadays, apparently, I am sinning every second that I breathe. What happened to the religion not being a difficult decree?

Anyway, I hope Allah forgives my transgressions. I will try and do better tomorrow, I swear. But right now I need distraction from these disturbing visions of hell. I scroll through various Facebook posts and find one that has gone viral about Elizabeth Hurley dancing in a bikini. I ignore the post and do a mental flip-off to shaytan (the devil) who was trying to lead me astray. Then I remember flipping off anyone, even shaytan, is also probably a sin.

Oh well, at least I recycle.

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Capturing the spirit of London’s young Muslim women - The sisterhood

Photographer Lamisa Khan teams up with artists Zeinab Saleh and Sara Gulamali to show off the everyday lives of London’s ‘Muslim Sisterhood.’

Photographer Lamisa Khan teams up with artists Zeinab Saleh and Sara Gulamali to show off the everyday lives of London’s ‘Muslim Sisterhood.’

It’s never been a more exciting time for Muslim women. From the likes of OOMK, Amaliah to Azeema, London collectives are finally reclaiming and reflecting the lived experiences of Muslim women.

While all have made much-needed strides in transforming the narrative, mainstream media representations of Muslim women still more often than not oscillate from one extreme to the other. On one hand, they have to contend with accusations of self-segregating themselves or being traditionally submissive, as former PM David Cameron suggested back in 2016. The only time these women can escape these tropes if they’re lauded as “stereotype breakers” – be it posing for Playboy wearing a hijab or winning The Great British Bake Off. There’s rarely an in-between.

It’s this lack of representation of “normal” Muslim women in the mainstream that led photographer Lamisa Khan and artists Zeinab Saleh and Sara Gulamali to co-found Muslim Sisterhood, the first photo series of its kind to capture young Muslim womanhood in London. Or as Lamisa says, “capturing normal Muslim girls who aren’t bloggers, fashionistas or ‘stereotype breakers’.”

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While the project does seek to challenge preconceived notions of what it means to be a modern Muslim woman – “we’re reclaiming ownership over images of ourselves and how people perceive us,” Zeinab says – that’s not entirely Muslim Sisterhood’s aim. “Rectifying stereotypes is a lot of emotional labour that we shouldn’t have to do. Our intention is to celebrate the multiplicities of Muslim women,” she adds.

For Sara, the project is an opportunity to celebrate Muslim women unapologetically. “This isn’t for people who maintain misconceptions about us,” she affirms. “This project is for the sisterhood.”

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Shot in Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Brixton, the portraits juxtapose their subjects’ rich ethnic heritage with contemporary London life. “I was fed up of middle-class kids appropriating working-class culture,” Lamisa says. “A lot of young Muslims that come from the global majority and end up growing up in the poorest parts of London. It was about reclaiming that aesthetic.”

The project also celebrates PoC-owned businesses in the process. “It’s important to support the business of people from our communities,” she adds.

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Salma Haidrani

This article was originally published on Huck.

To read the rest of the article please click here.

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Bookay Column- Hunooz Dilli Duur Ast!

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The office timings had since long ended but the meeting continued. Now it was 10PM and hunooz dilli duur ast!
Year review meetings are often long, no denying that. But in that case you're supposed to begin them early in the day, and not in the second half after lunch.

Khair ... this is how things work in seth organizations, i.e. without any order. Chaos is, usually, the only language we speak here. And just in case you aren't familiar with the seth organization culture in Lahore, please read that 'chaos' a little louder.

Mian sahab, the CEO, went on and on and kept losing track of the agenda (and sense) all too often. Oh, and did I mention this meeting (which was supposed to last till Mian sahab willed) was without any dinner break as well. My head had begun to spin by now and the shoe bite hurt like a bitch. During the day I already had it tough dealing with the two foreign delegates from Italy and China, both with unenviable prowess in English.

"... We beat them all. Our ship of success is sailing like the Titanic," Mian Sahab repeated at least 8th time this evening. Someone clapped. A few "alhamdolillah ... MashaAllah!" echoed in chorus.

"Haey Allah ji!" I groaned silently. "Kal ka tou Saturday bhi off nahi hai." The thought came to my mind and hit me straight in the gut.
Pained at the realization, I shifted in my seat a little and caught a glimpse of my face in the glass surface of the conference table. The face seemed to belong to a prisoner who had just been sentenced for life. Being the only female in that meeting room, I moved my gaze discreetly to look around and realized we all wore the same expression: Doom and gloom. The marketing team, the sales team, the creative department ... All of us, except, of course the Mian sahab himself ... oh ... and the GM Merchandising, Tirmazi sahab!

Wow ... Infact, Tirmazi sahab was almost animated.

Just in case you're not acquainted with the gentleman, in his late 50's Tirmazi sahab is quite a character. From a meaningful clearing of the throat whenever you've just passed him by, to an unnecessary, sneering interest in female staff's dressing, to always interjecting when a female is giving a presentation with completely irrelevant and snarky comments ... he's the kind of a person at work any lady finds best to avoid.

Now that I noticed, sitting diagonally opposite to him I could see that Tirmazi sahab was actually not with us lesser mortals in the room. His eyes were glued to something under the table. Ah ... okay! He was watching the screen of his mobile phone he was holding underneath the table's glass top.

Since the meeting had lasted long enough to make watching paint dry an interesting task in comparison, I continued to study Tirmazi sahab's uncharacteristic cheerfulness. I didn't remember ever seeing him not being scornful. I imagined the cute little video his grandson/daughter would've sent him asking him to be home soon and the thought suddenly made me smile. This caught Mian sahab's PA - Naveed Ahsan's attention who was sitting right next to Tirmazi sahab. Our eyes met and his quizzical gaze moved to Tirmazi sahab's phone screen. The next instant I heard a hissing sound following Naveed's visibly popping out eyes. Startled at the sudden attention, Tirmazi sahab dropped the phone. First came a soft thud and abruptly the meeting room was filled with loud moaning sounds and sighs. Mian sahab's rambling voice instantly hushed.

"Phir se!" A female's seductive voice urged and all heads in the meeting room whipped to me. My mouth dropped open.

"Yeh ... Yeh! Isay band karain please!" Naveed whispered with a reddened face to a Tirmazi sahab who had literally moved beneath the table.

"Karo na!" The female voice was insistent this time and there was a rustling of sheets.

"BC ... Ki bakwaas ay eh Tirmazi?" Mian sahab roared aloud, stepping out of his sailing Titanic.

The lady whispered something again, which I couldn't hear in the sound of chairs being pushed around, people standing up to take a better view. Of Tirmazi sahab, perhaps.

"Mian saab Youtube hang ho gaya hai. Band nahi ho raha." Tirmazi sahab's struggling, reluctant voice came from under the table.

Naveed dived down and grasped the phone.

"Ye dekho ..." This time an intoxicated, male voice demanded and was abruptly cut short. Naveed had removed the phone's battery. Phone band ho gaya.

For a few minutes there was absolute silence, the kind in which you can hear the movement of astonished clock arms witnessing the entire scene. Then Tirmazi sahab's grey head slowly emerged from beneath the table and he sat in his seat, wiping his face, head bent down.

God knows who coughed first. And just in case you aren't familiar with the seth organization culture in Lahore, please read that 'cough' a little louder.

The meeting had, unceremoniously, come to an end.

*Disclaimer: All names in the text have been altered to maintain the privacy of the individuals.*

Leenah Nasir

The author is a member and a regular contributor on Bookay, a Facebook group that brings readers around the world together.

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DISCRIMINATION FROM WITHIN

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The term, “discrimination,” is very unheard of in religious communities. Actually, people rarely acknowledge it unless asked to speak about it. But some fear to speak about it freely/openly because they fear being expelled from the community or the religious institutions they are a part of. And, not because what they speak of is incorrect or a lie, but because by speaking freely, they have exposed something negative about the community to the outside world.

In Islam, this mentality exists in several sects. Now, these groups are not influenced by religion alone. They are also influenced by their personal norms grounded in culture, local customs or even personal preferences, they want to perpetuate as the mindset of Islam as a whole, which basically spoils the reputation of the whole institution of Islam, itself.

The divisions lead to divisive decisions, as well as opinions. Hence, all this causes conflicts of interest that eventually lead to insecurity issues in the community. The main source of insecurity globally is the lack of respect of different opinions of people from other sects, and vice versa, and also creates an inferiority complex.

Arab Muslims segregate themselves from African Muslims. The Asian Muslim community also keeps itself separate. is the same the wondering factor is why this is happening and the leadership sucks it in without considering the umma i.e the people. The People are the most important component in this whole scenario. If the people are mentioned in the preamble of the constitution of Kenya then there must be very privileged in the eyes of God despite their background. The suffering group of people are the less privileged people in the society, i.e. the poor marginalized people, the old, the young and the needy too who will speak for this group of people if God brought who is human to subject them to social injustices and inhuman acts? Who is to blame? Religion or the people in power?

In Christianity, man has been mentioned in the book of Genesis and in the Quran, man is mentioned severally. This shows how human beings are privileged by God himself. Muslims in this modern era have put back the history of how we should live but adapt to their own and systems as they may seem fit to there that is not true religion as it’s engulfed in inhuman practices that are assumed to be religion.

When will these social injustices end, and who will speak against them in a loud voice as they speak concerning scriptures. Religious leaders as much as they shun bad characters in the religious world. Why and when did the role of religious leaders change in this world?

Let us all pick our roles very well in the society and speak volumes in our actions love each other as the way Jesus loved the adulterous woman and forgave her so who are we not to forgive?

 

Ulfat Hussein

 

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Religious Freedom for Who?

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Religious Freedom Day is an important day that signifies the best of America: the doctrine of  separation of religion and State, the right to belief or not, and the right to practice one’s belief without prejudice.

As an American Muslim, the primary reason why I am still a Muslim is the Quranic verse 2:256, which states, “let there be no compulsion in faith.”  It is a powerful verse revealed when the children of one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions chose to convert to Christianity and Judaism. Yes, these Muslims converted out of Islam freely. Juxtapose that to today where individuals who are apostates, or merely ask critical questions of some Islamic doctrine are sentenced to death because of lies perpetuated by our mullahs and “religious authorities.”

With the exception of Tunisia, where freedom of conscience is a right,  the rest of the Muslim-majority countries, dictate the Islamic identity of its citizens for them.  In other words, Muslim countries are actually the antithesis of what they claim to represent, an Islamic State.

In Egypt, an “Islamist” legislature has drafted a law criminalizing atheism. In Malaysia, a government representative of this supposedly moderate Muslim country calls for the hunting of atheists. The Quran in verse 10:99 on the other hand states:  If your Lord wished, everyone on earth would have faith: all of them together. Will you then force people to become believers?”

That is why much of the Muslim world is in the decay that it is. The curtailing of freedoms, religious freedoms in particular, stifles dissenting speech, thought and expression, the backbone to a vibrant, creative and enriching society.

One of the rallying calls of the so-called newly minted progressive-Muslims-since-the-election-of-Trump, such as Linda Sarsour, CAIR, MPAC, ISNA and many others  use Religious Freedom to defend Muslim rights in America. Without a doubt, those perceived as Muslims in America are discriminated against. For these progressive Muslims one should ask: to what extent do you support one’s religious freedoms? Does it include the right for a Muslim to convert out of Islam? Their politically correct answer will probably be  “yes”. But,  what have they done to support ex-Muslims? Nothing. For them, the concept of religious freedom is used only to benefit their definition of Islam, which isn’t  that different from the tyranny found in the “Islamic States.”

At this juncture, America can potentially follow the path of these Muslim countries. The Religious Freedom Act has the potential to undermine the very basis of what is great about America. The façade of one’s religious right to discriminate and to harm one another is evident in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case now at the Supreme Court, and the female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) case to be tried in Detroit in June. And, how often have we heard the use of God and one’s beliefs in elections? Legislatures at the State and Federal level legislating their interpretation of the Bible to undermine women, LGBTQI and minority rights?

Sounds like Christian Sharia law to me.

In the FGM/C case, two Muslim doctors of the Bohra minority sect are charged by federal prosecutors for illegally performing FGM/C on young girls. Per the advice of Counsel Alan Dershowitz, this case is being framed as the Bohra’s religious sect’s right to perform FGM/C, as enabled by the Religious Freedom Act, regardless that it is an illegal practise.  

Dershowitz’ counsel is appalling and misguided as FGM/C actually has no basis in Islam or Christianity for that matter, but is a practice purely for the purpose of controlling women’s sexual desires that predates to the days of Pharoah.

The question to all Americans to consider: Do we really want to go down the path of a theocratic system?

Ani Zonneveld

Ani Zonneveld is a Malaysian-American singer, songwriter, activist and writer based in Los Angeles.

She is the president and founder of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a non-profit organization in the United States with affiliates in Canada, Europe, Chile, Australia and Malaysia, creating inclusive communities that welcome and supports interfaith marriages, gay marriages, gender & sexual minorities, as well as sectarian minorities.

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Bookay Column - Self

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If tonight, you're staring at a wall with a heavy heart then know how to pour it out. Tell
yourself that things like these, sometimes, need a beholder, to be beautiful.
Don't stop looking for people who understand that a painting can be beautiful, even without
colors.
If today was a long day at work or university, and no one gave you a warm hug or a moment
of company, know that your favorite coffee mug is just a few kitchen shelves away.
The book that's alone in the last pocket of your bag, is having a tryst with specks of dust, try
taking her out for a date.

The lonesome road you take while walking back?                                                                                                                     It adores your shoes, give it a little more talking for the day.


If right now, you are reading me out, and are messed enough to have reached here, know
that you are loved for the small things you do.
That extra slice of the pizza, you left in the box for your elder sister, just because she had a
hard day at work.
That small poem you wrote for a friend who was feeling sad about something on a cold
Tuesday.
That little advice you gave to your brother, only to make him know more about life.
That first conversation you had with a stranger who was sitting alone on the last seat,
looking at the window with eyes which spoke heartache.
That midnight rush to a friend's house, just to help.
The tears you cried when you unintentionally hurt someone who matters a lot to you.
The small words you've written on the last page of your diary, but never uttered out to a fear.
They're all you, and I know how they made you feel.
So, if in this moment, you're turbulent, remind yourselves of the hundred ships you helped
mend.
People will tell you that love runs out, books end, and mornings die out to evenings.
Smile, laugh and forget the need to believe them.
I have seen beautiful poems inscribed on tombstones, which speak of eternal and immortal
stories.
I have seen beautiful roses, resting on a hundred graves, shouting lullabies of love.
Tomorrow,
this night will die, make sure you drape it in white and watch it become a morning you crave,
and give away as a piece of love.
The clock is still ticking, and the sound doesn't haunt you now.
You are your music, and if no one in this world dares, hear you by yourself, and give you
words, always, in a letter like this.
An ice cream on a chilly night, a warm hug, or a small note which makes your eyes wet, are all parts of magic.


Let it run your world.


Love,
Self.

Uzair Ibrahim

The author is a member and a regular contributor on Bookay,a Facebook group that brings readers around the world together.

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“Religion without spirituality is hollow” – Dania Baig

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My name is Dania Baig and I am American-born and raised Indian-Muslim. I consider myself lucky in that I have never had to seriously question who I am or the basis of my beliefs. I was brought up in an Indian-American Muslim household, which blends these three sometimes different lifestyles quite well. I went to Sunday school for almost 12 years, and I was able to understand not just the history of Islam and the verses in the Quran, but why Islam makes sense for me. And because of that, I have always felt that my faith is a defining factor in my identity, and one that I am proud of. 

Before I continue, I want to clarify something: I believe there is a difference between spirituality and religion. If you are religious, you go through the motions of your religion and practice with other people of the same faith in an organized manner. Spirituality, however, is more abstract. You may think of John Lennon, who sought to improve himself and find his purpose in life through engaging in introspective activities. Just being religious is not sufficient, because without spirituality, religion is hollow and can turn into a catalyst for extremism and hatred.

Life without the drive to better yourself and find your purpose is meaningless. Regardless of your religion or how often you practice, spirituality is a driving force of positivity. The distinction between these concepts is one we understand but are not consciously aware of, and it dictates many of our interactions with others on a day to day basis. Perhaps because of the current political atmosphere, people my age tend to equate being upfront about religion to being conservative.

A study by National Geographic found that the world’s newest major religion is actually no religion at all. That is not to say liberals are right, nor is it to say that they are conversely more open-minded than conservatives. Most people my age believe that they can look beyond religion and see the world from an almost “anti-faith” perspective: one that presents its case through a series of proofs and not beliefs. 

Despite the growing reservations about the actual practice of religion, millennials are becoming more and more spiritual— though we may not label it as such. Meditation, mindfulness, and “finding yourself” are all manifestations of spirituality. While older generations anchor themselves with routine practice, we the younger generation do the same with abstract concepts relating to self-improvement. However, the thing we must acknowledge is that neither of these two interpretations of faith are better than one another. 

While I appreciate my Sunday school for teaching me about going through the motions of religion and understanding the rules and principles behind Islam, I also owe them for exposing me to altruism: the spiritual aspects of helping others, and being a part of a community. When we pray as a community, we stand shoulder to shoulder, taking on the responsibility of everyone else in the congregation to help one another. Through my religious education, I have learned the importance of going out of my way to help other people in need, to donate to charity, to be a part of philanthropic organizations, and to contribute to my family, community, country, and the world. 

What I’m realizing now is that when we have faith that there is a force beyond what we can control – that is, something that we believe has our best interests at heart - we tend to be more resilient: we know that whatever life throws at us is not the end of the world. We become less anxious and depressed when life does not go our way, and we are able to see the bigger picture. When I’m getting a math test back, I instinctively start praying. When our family is going through tough times, when we were sitting next to my grandfather while he was hospitalized, we prayed unrelentingly. It’s the trust we put in someone beyond us to help that gives me confidence in myself and pride in my identity not only as an Indian-American, but also as a practicing Muslim. 

When I go through the motions of namaaz (prayers), I do my own form of yoga. When I clear my mind of everything but the verses I recite, I practice mindfulness. When I get up to pray and stay up late to do the same, my established routine makes me more centered, grounded, and self-assured. And throughout the rest of the day, I am able to put my spiritual practice to good use and make myself the best Muslim Indian-American I can possibly be. 

Dania Baig is currently a junior in a high school in Chicago. American-born and raised Indian-Muslim, she has always been passionate about social justice issues and feels that it is extremely important to promote intersectionality and equity during these troubled political times.

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Being a Muslim Woman in America Today

By Humeraa Qamar

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The oppression and discrimination that Muslim Women face in the US has been the topic of heated discussion amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike for a while, especially among men. Non-Muslims claim that all Muslim women are oppressed and Muslims claim that not a single Muslim woman is oppressed. The truth lies somewhere in between.

This topic has become especially relevant in today’s America where sexual harassment, the #metoo campaign, and harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric in some circles raise special concern for Muslim American women. As a Muslim woman living in USA I can expand on this subject first hand.

Since I do not don a hijab or dress differently in any shape or form, I do not find myself at the receiving end of openly hostile glances or verbal hostility in public. I am a physician working in private practice in a small town in Florida: my patients are from self-selected non-racist families. Hence, I have not faced any overt discrimination in my office or the hospitals I go to, from patients, staff or other physicians.

In the public sphere too I seem to have survived relatively unscathed as most people we meet outside the work sphere or our immediate group of friends (who are also Muslim like us) are open minded and overtly non racist (whatever their inner convictions maybe). However that does not mean that other Muslim women do not face discrimination, especially the ones that wear the hijab.

We all hear stories of hate crimes being rampant all across the country especially in big cities like NY, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, etc. which is surprising as you would think that big cities are mostly populated by more educated and less racist people. However we have all learnt that racism and education are not mutually exclusive.

This brings us to the topic of Muslim women facing oppression within their own communities. So what constitutes oppression from within? The inability to leave the house without the men’s permission, to work outside the house, to dress the way they want to, to socialize at will, to have any control over their sexuality and have financial freedom.  All of these things fall within the realm of oppression of women.

Muslim women also face oppression/discrimination at the mosques where they are expected to pray in a small separate space, behind the men, shrouded in long black mysterious robes. Any attempt to criticize this or increase intermingling is perceived as a “sin” which is planted in the rebellious women’s head by none other than Satan. We have all heard horror stories of Muslim wives being brow beaten by their husband into allowing them to “marry” another woman while still being married to the first wife, a polygamist practice which is clearly against the law. So how common are these unfair practices and how do Muslim women deal with them?

The answer again is not as straight forward as most of us believe. Most women I know try to exert some semblance of control over their lives by means of establishing more control over finances and decision-making. How successful they are, is in turn determined by their level of education and upbringing and how well assimilated their families are in the west. Several Muslim families I know of, although living here and enjoying the full benefits of being citizens, never fail to complain about how morally corrupt this country is and how much the government oppresses Muslim countries worldwide yet will never talk about migrating to a Muslim majority country. These families are the worst offenders vis- a-vis women’s oppression. 

So in conclusion, it seems like the Muslim communities in the USA need to mature, integrate, self-reflect and self-correct a lot more than they have so far and grant women more freedom to peruse lives as they deem appropriate.

Dr Humeraa Qamar is a paediatrician who loves humanity and strives for a secular and moderate Islam.

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Their music is fun and light-hearted, but never trivial: a profile of the punk band Shh ... Diam!

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By Mohani Niza

If there is one thing that the Malaysian band Shh … Diam! (‘Diam' means ‘quiet’ in Malay) wants us to know is that they just want to play good music and not take themselves too seriously.

The trio comprises of Faris Saad, Khairunnisa Mohd Nasir (also known as Yon) and Nurul Shuhadah (Yoyo) – all 33. Faris is the vocalist and guitarist, Yon the guitarist while Yoyo plays bass.

They have formal jobs by day but by night and on weekends play music which they describe as “happy hardcore” and “queer punk”. Some have described their music as “comedy punk.”

“We don’t need to be serious to sing about serious issues,” Yoyo said during their interview at their loft-slash-studio outside the bustling Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Some tracks from their first album ‘Attack of the Kongketron’ are up on bandcamp. One of the songs is called ‘The Bathroom Song.”

“I love my bathroom/my sexy bathroom/my lovely bathroom,” they croon. There are other light-hearted tracks as well, among them: ‘Sivaji Shot a Horse in the Face’ and ‘I Woke up Gay’.

They even sing about the absurdity of Malaysian politics.

“We like to make things funny – even anger,” Yon said.

However, the band was reluctant at first to pin down their style, but when pressed, said that it is “whatever the fans say about us and whatever we feel like saying.”

This doesn’t mean their music is irrelevant.

“We strongly believe in women’s rights,” they said, adding that they are okay in calling themselves “a queer band.” In fact, their fans in Malaysia are mostly from the LGBTQ community, with most fans being young gay men from the ages of 18 to 25, according to statistics from Facebook.

So, who are they really? During the day, Faris is a writer, Yon a freelance translator and Yoyo is a project manager.

The band’s formation was organic: they were strangers at first and came together nearly 10 years ago to perform at a pool party on the request of a poet friend.

At first, they started off playing covers.

“We even played The Cranberries,” FS Saad recounted, with a laugh.

It hasn’t been easy for them to sustain the band. They mostly raise funds themselves and rely on word of mouth for publicity, like the time they toured Europe in 2016. They performed in Germany, Sweden and Finland.

People came.

They played five gigs in Germany and the response was good. The band did not expect that their performances would pull a lot of crowd in Europe. In Hamburg, the gig was so crowded that many fans had to queue outside the door to get in to the venue.

“All the white girls wanted to make out with us because we are exotic,” Faris joked.

The band is now working on their second album, but mostly they are taking it slow. They plan to tour Europe again and predict that they will make more profit this time around.

Asked whether they found music and being Muslims contradictory, they said no.

“Music is natural, like reading a book,” Yoyo said. “If we can make people’s lives happy for a few minutes, then we’ve done our jobs.”

Check out the band on Facebook and if you would like to purchase their music, check out their page on Bandcamp.

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