Does Media Bias Against Muslims Feed Into Radicalisation?

I can’t even say “as of recently” because this is an ongoing issue, and has been for some time: bias against Muslims in the western media. I voiced my opinion on how I, as a Pakistani girl, felt attacked by various, biased, news broadcasters; the above interlinking of anger at the bias and radicalisation was the response I received, from someone who worked in the industry.

Now I’m not exactly well-informed in what goes through one’s mind when they decide to fight for the Jihad but this suggestion of subjective bias in the media being a reason behind  radicalisation is almost hilarious. Instead of accepting responsibility for unfair media coverage, they deflect furthermore blame. The heavy focus on average Muslims fleeing the country to fight for groups like Islamic State places most Muslims under the spotlight and heavy scrutiny. Since 9/11, Muslims have been categorically associated with terrorism. Anyone wearing a hijab, burqa or with brown skin is instantly given an awkward side-glance. People wearing niqabs are racially abused in public. The media’s stance on, or rather, against, Muslims is adding fuel to an increasingly widespread fire.

To create a correlation between Muslims feeling attacked by the media and terrorism is possibly the highest level of ignorance I have ever come across. That’s saying something, what with ignorant, uneducated comments are on the rise with a biased media reporting unfairly on current affairs worldwide, involving terrorism and more specifically, Islamic State. There are a fair few newspapers who incite racial hatred with their headlines and focus on the ethnicity of key figures in a story. For example, the Daily Mail is notoriously well-known for focussing on “Muslim” immigrants or “Muslim youths” being involved in crime, when the ethnicity or faith is not necessary to the crime at all. This representation and blatant categorisation of Muslims being criminals, job-takers and rapists is what is creating an increasing uproar amongst the Muslim communities. This uproar is not radicalisation, it is defiance and anger at being treated unfairly. Poor media coverage of Islam is not turning us into radicals. Let me make that very, very clear.

Broadcasters such as the BBC thrive on sensationalist headlines but go out of their way to attempt to prove their lack of bias; sadly, in doing so, they make themselves look even more stupid. More often than not, I find myself having to write posts like this to justify a Muslim, such as myself, being completely thrown and disgusted by outright bigotry. Sadiq Khan is our new mayor of London; I, for one, voted for him and for many Pakistani Brits across London it is much more than a political achievement. It’s a step forward for us as a multi-cultural community to accept a Pakistani man leading our city, much to the disappointment of Islamophobic bigots.

I do not blame every white person for the acts of the KKK. Should I? Should I label all white citizens of London as racists? No, because I am educated. Reporting on events by drawing attention to their faith first is uneducated. Finally, assuming that terrorists represent Islam and Islamic teachings is uneducated, too.

I am a Muslim; I am defiant in my faith and beliefs. That doesn’t make me a radical.

Anisah

Thank you, Brandon

Thank you, Brandon

I’ve been following the Humans of New York (HONY) page on Facebook for a couple of years now and I’m still astounded everyday by the stories of strength, survival and resilience around the world. Recently, the founder of HONY and photographer, Brandon, has produced a series on paediatric cancer patients in New York, documenting the lives of cancer sufferers from the perspective of parents and patients.

All around the world and through social media we hear stories of cancer sufferers and their plight against the disease. So much so that the term ‘cancer’ is almost considered to be a taboo; whenever we hear the word we associate it with a death sentence. But what strikes me about these individual stories is the strength of the children who suffer with the disease on a daily basis, and their attitude towards it being nothing but positive. With their childhood almost robbed, they persevere with the determination to fight. Most of them don’t realise they’re sick, they consider themselves to be just the same as other children and that is what’s remarkable about these stories. It makes everything we complain about on a daily basis seem so mundane and minuscule in comparison to the sickness these young children fight everyday.

They’re an inspiration to us all. They show us that life isn’t too short at all, it’s too unpredictable to have a negative attitude towards. We ought to celebrate the good health we have and make the most of what life has to offer us. But we also ought to give the parents credit – those who remain as strong as they possibly can be for their children, because that in itself can only be debilitating, both emotionally and physically.

So thank you, Brandon, for making us realise how precious life is when you’re healthy. It’s something we take for granted all too easily. In the day-to-day rush of working or studying, we forget to appreciate what really matters. Our health, our families and each other. Thank you for giving these remarkable fighters a voice. They are the epitome of bravery. And they renew our faith in the health professionals who save lives everyday with their tireless efforts, as well as with God in His power to heal.

I urge as many of you as possible to donate money towards the MSK cancer centre and other charities; more money for these centres means more research facilities and a higher likelihood of finding cures for the devastating diseases.

And lastly, Brandon, we cannot commend you enough for all you do worldwide, from the refugee crisis in Syria to humanitarian crisis victims to cancer patients.

Brandon’s HONY blog: http://www.humansofnewyork.com

Donation page for the MSK Cancer Centre: https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/let-s-help-dr-o-reilly-fight-pediatric-cancer

A x

Featured image: Stanton’s book cover ‘Humans of New York’ on amazon

The Saudi Experience

The Saudi Experience

Whenever people hear that I’ve come back from Saudi, I’m usually greeted with a raised eyebrow, an uncomfortable side glance or a “really? Saudi?” I thought I’d shed some light on my experience there, culturally, not just spiritually.

Firstly, the strictness people associate with Saudi Arabia is relatively accurate, but this is fundamentally due to a strictness in cultural lifestyle. Additionally, what we in the West may consider to be “strict” is the norm for them. More and more often, I find myself talking to people who condemn the lack of freedom in their dress code; it’s conflicting, because on the one hand, it’s completely irrational to dispute another country’s cultural values when you don’t live there yourself. However, the lack of freedom for women is a growing concern within the East, especially in Saudi Arabia with more women desperately seeking freedom, independence and the desire to become something greater than a daughter, wife and mother. While it’s not exactly desirable being covered from head to toe in black garments in 35 degree heat, it respects the religious values of the kingdom, especially with it being an Islamic country.

Furthermore, it’s also imperative to understand the differentiation between orthodox Muslims and liberal Muslims: the latter of which is increasingly growing in the East. Once girls get their first period, they’re required to ‘veil’ – wear a burqa and niqab (face veil). As this necessity doesn’t extend to all Muslim countries and is not obligatory within Islam, it therefore becomes a cultural aspect of living in Saudi Arabia for the orthodox. Whilst some see the burqa as oppressive, other see it as liberating. This conflict is also very evident with Saudi women. Hearing stories of women’s experiences in Saudi, I’ve come to understand that women breaking the moulds set to confine them to their gender. The age of stay-at-home wives and daughters is slowly coming to an end as young members of the Saudi royal family are seen to be wearing jeans and dresses instead of the traditional burqa. Maybe we’ll see a drastic increase in western clothing becoming a prominent part of Saudi culture in a few years.

Finally, whilst on my travels I noticed the undeniable amount of wealth Arabs are born into. From families of seven travelling in first class on flights around the world to hands and necks adorned with gold, it’s clear that the rich, have a good life out there. Yet, when you pass a shopping centre and turn onto a side road, slums slowly come into view with children sitting outside, begging for money whilst the elders take refuge in the shade. They’re not wealthy enough to afford a fan, or pay electricity bills. This paradox of extreme wealth juxtaposed with extreme deprivation within metres of each other brings to light just how little is being done for the people of Saudi, 15% of which live in poverty. Since the assassination of King Faisal, a King who had great ideas for Saudi in his plans to liberate the country and introduce more freedom and independence as well as financial reform designed to help the people, the country has digressed. The royal family live with an abundance of wealth at their fingertips: the people’s money. Instead of projecting this wealth onto poorer parts of the country, helping eradicate poverty and poor living standards for those who can afford very little, the royal family are seen to be travelling across the world, to their villas in Spain and Cannes or apartments in central London.

My love for Makkah and Medina stems from a spiritual enlightening I gained whilst on my pilgrimage. My love cannot extend to Saudi Arabia as a whole, simply because of the explicit inequality which is grossly overlooked by the country’s wealth as a whole. The people’s money is not being used effectively. Women are awfully restricted in that they still cannot drive; if they don’t hold a valid driving license, they cannot vote. They’re required to travel with a chaperone. They cannot take part in criminal proceedings as they’re considered forgetful and too emotional. Saudi has a long way to go to achieve gender equality and freedom; something which may never be achieved, predominately due to Wahhabi sects exercising their beliefs on how one should live their lives as a true Muslim. It’s the 21st century, but it appears Saudi are still centuries behind.

A x

 

Pray for Pakistan; Pray for the World

Pray for Pakistan; Pray for the World

إِنَّا للهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

It’s shocking to realise that suicide bomb attacks are becoming something of a recurrence across the world in our current society.

Yesterday, we learnt of an explosion in Lahore which left over 70 men, women and children dead in a park. My heart breaks for the innocent victims who paid the price for being in what we perceive to be a safe place at the wrong time. The Taliban have since claimed responsibility for the attack, but it begs the question; for what purpose? What message are they attempting to convey by killing families on a holiday weekend?

This deplorable act was clearly meticulously calculated with the intention to cause maximum damage. Nothing screams inhumanity like killing 30 children on a public holiday. It also begs the question: to what incomprehensible extent have these terrorists subverted and distorted Islam for their own gain, in order to find this act of atrocity justifiable?

Pakistan is in my prayers tonight. As is the rest of the world.

The only way we can fight terror is with unity.

A x

Stand Up to Bullying

Being mean isn’t cool.

I sometimes wonder why on earth people have this obsessive desire to be particularly cold and manipulative when it takes so much effort to do so. You have to go out of your way to pick on someone, and I really do wonder what possesses someone to treat someone as if they’re worthless.

I’m going to try not to give an X-Factor-worthy sob story about how hard my childhood was, growing up in an all-girls privatee school but the main gist of it is that I developed anxiety as a result of certain teachers’ treatment towards me. I was made to feel like a failure at everything, and I was picked on for standing up against their constant accusations of being a disruption in class. They had their favourites and I simply wasn’t one of them, so naturally they made my life hell. I was punished for asking teachers to pronounce my name correctly when they’d intentionally mispronounce it. I was given detention for ‘answering back.’ I was always questioned about why I deserved to study at their school. Alas, shit happens.

I hate to sound bitter but there’s no way of sugar-coating an experience which traumatised me during an influential and delicate period of my life, where I was yet to discover my identity and sense of self. My point to this is that it was highly unnecessary. My form tutor and my “head of pastoral care” who soon came to claim the title of headteacher both accused me of anything and everything under the sun. I used to sit in the back and do my work silently but that wasn’t enough for them. And it was intentionally malicious; they set out to humiliate me in front of classmates. What did it achieve for them? A momentary sense of satisfaction to exploit an authoritative position and the trust of one’s parents simultaneously without them knowing, sure but what real gain was there from treating me like this? It’s been four years since I left that place and I’m still somewhat haunted by it. That’s what bullying does – it leaves scars that won’t ever leave you.

Bullying comes in all shapes and forms: online, in person, through social media etc. I am a strong believer in the notion that not enough is done to catch these coward culprits and bring them to justice. From sharing intimate pictures of your ex as ‘revenge porn’ to sending death threats to those who speak out on social media, people ought to be punished for their actions. Bullying isn’t taken as seriously as it should be, with the ramifications leaving a victim both emotionally and physically traumatised. A boy I grew up with committed suicide after being told to kill himself by another group of schoolboys in the same town as him. They spurred him on, told him they’d kill him if he didn’t go through with it. I cannot fathom how heartless a person can be if they can sleep at night after sending such messages. And to think, my friend’s death is on them now. How can one live with that? Bullying should warrant more punishment, including sentencing and jail time depending on the crime.

Discriminating against someone because of their nationality, beliefs or religion is also unacceptable and ought to be treated with the same attitude as other crimes, too. Ultimately, discrimination is singling someone out from others because they’re different in some way or another. It’s making someone believe they’re inferior to you and treating them as such. It’s unfair. We didn’t come this far in life, as a society and as a race, only to be defeated by each other. What a step backwards. Some people see bullying as childish: I see it as dangerously destructive.

Say NO to bullying, whatever form it comes in.

A x

Racism: in 2015, in Life, in General

It’s sad to even contemplate that racism is still rife, and I’m noticing it now more than ever.

Living in the countryside, I understood the compromise I was going to have to make everyday; 90% of the citizens in my town are over the age of 40 and definitely not accustomed to seeing brown faces, let’s say. The pushing past me on the roads, pushing in front of me on public transport and the weird looks every single day is something I’ve just had to ignore if I wanted a peaceful life. To a variable extent, I have ignored it and made the most of my wonderful new home and the great views on my doorstep. Every now and then I’ll get a little sassy if someone is explicitly racist but so far, I haven’t had a showdown.

Recently, and interestingly more so after the Paris Attacks of 2015, racism has suddenly escalated to a frighteningly all time high; threats of violence, Trump’s Nazi-like approach to Muslims living in the USA, attacks on the Muslim community etc are never front page news but viral on the internet with people doing nothing about it other than re-posting and sharing the articles. We’re treated like third class citizens primarily due to the ideologies of less than 1% of the Muslim population, because a large majority of ignorant people in the world choose pick what they believe to be true rather than looking at facts and statistics. In other words, they’re blinded by their own racist views to even contemplate the possibility that, hey would you look at that, maybe every single brown person on this planet isn’t a terrorist.

The most frustrating aspect of this is how much I’ve noticed these discriminatory attitudes and been a victim of them at work. I thought working in London would be a walk in the park, with cultural and educated people coming into the store each day but annoyingly, it’s quite the opposite. Customers literally throw clothes at me if they don’t want or need them, even someone I work with racially insulted me and my grandparents, simply because of my skin colour, claiming we’re “stealing all [their] jobs.” It appalls me that these attitudes still exist and are something Muslims must grow accustomed to. No matter how much I have accomplished and achieved in my 19 years on this planet, one look at my skin colour has me judged as inferior to an ignorant and uneducated citizen.

I think it’s high time Muslims, and other ethnic minorities targeted by racism, should stand their ground against discrimination. There’s no excuse for it, and there never was; it was blindly ignored as no one wanted to be the minority standing up against the majority.

This is our country as much as yours. Yes, some of us are not the same colour as you. Yes, some of us are more educated and successful than you.

Get over it.

A x

Paris Attacks: November 2015

I am once again utterly appalled and disgusted at the tragedy which unfolded in Paris on Friday 13th November.

It’s incomprehensible how humans can kill innocent men, women and children in cold-blooded murder and not flinch. It’s also disgusting to hear reports that one of the attackers cried “Allahu Akbar” before shooting into a crowd of hostages in the Bataclan Concert Hall. Praising God before committing murder is inhumane and delusional to the highest degree; it goes against every principle Islam, and Muslims, stand for. Allah will not reward these terrorists and suicide bombers with paradise in the after life. They will be condemned and punished for unspeakable crimes against humanity.

The harrowing concept of terrorism is ever-increasing in today’s society, an atrocious fact leading to ignorance and fear which, when mixed together, leads to violence such as what we saw unfold on Friday. It’s imperative we understand now that these members of the Islamic State do NOT represent the entire population of Muslims and Islamic values/teachings. As we’ve witnessed a rise in terrorism and racial attacks, we’ve also witnessed a rise in racism and racial ignorance.

I’m a Muslim. I am not a terrorist. In fact, I am avid campaigner for racial equality amongst other humanitarian concerns. My close friend wears a hijab, and she finds herself repeatedly defending our religion for the growing number of imbeciles who associate terrorism with the entire Muslim population. Unfortunately, ignorance has a louder voice than the truth; we need to stop this and stand united against terror, not fragmented by uneducated assumptions.

It’s promising that France are re-evaluating their security systems. It’s been reported that a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, allowing one to believe members of the IS attackers were immigrants hiding under the facade of refugees coming into Europe. What a disgusting, cowardice act. The world stands united against the attacks in Paris on Friday. We must remain united in the face of terror from hereon out. We simply cannot ignore terror rising around the world, in Serbia, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India etc.

IS: if you want to kill anyone, kill yourselves and leave it at that.

We continue to stand united against terror, and will continue to do so until the end of terror has been reached.

#PrayforParis #ParisAttacks #Paris2015 #WaronTerror

World Mental Health Day 2015

A couple of days ago marked World Mental Health Day, a day of showing awareness and support for those suffering from mental health conditions. As an anxiety sufferer, I believe mental health is grossly belittled and not enough is done to support those who have to live with harrowing mental health conditions.

It took me nearly two years to fully understand what I suffered from. Having both general and social anxiety is a pain in the bum; it affects literally every part of your life. From getting on public transport to walking into a doctor’s waiting room, and even walking into a room full of family and friends, it’s a dreadful thing to live with. And that’s just the social aspect! When my therapist told me the feelings I was suffocated with on a daily basis were related to anxiety, I was confused, scared and ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone for months, not even my parents or family. In my head, anxiety was a weakness and I was simply a weak person who couldn’t control her emotions.

The first person I told was, at the time, my best friend. He helped me through the worst periods of anxiety and rescued me when I felt like I was drowning in my thoughts. Having someone there by my side whilst my brain exploded into a million thoughts was a blessing. In fact, without him, I would not be sitting here today; he saved me from myself. Anxiety in a nutshell is overthinking every little part of your life until, to use the cliche phrase, a molehill becomes a mountain. You end up worrying over everything, thinking you’ve done something wrong or there’s something wrong with you; you feel like no one will understand what you’re thinking and in most cases, sadly you’re right. Not many will understand you. But it’s finding the support systems and networks out there to help those who feel completely isolated by their conditions which is so imperative. The fact that many people feel the need to see professionals privately is absolutely absurd and a complete failure of the government in supporting their vulnerable citizens. The idea of someone, or someone’s parents, paying £70 for a professional to help one through an ordeal as traumatising as their own psychological disorder is shameful. No one deserves to be given the ultimatum of private professional help or being dismissed onto a waiting list.

I’ll ask you a question: if a cancer patient, or a terminally ill patient was told they needed to wait to seek treatment for their condition, is that considered acceptable? No. There would be a public outcry at the injustice of forcing an unwell patient to wait. So, what makes mental health any different from physical health? We may not be hurting physically, but we are hurting mentally. Cries of pain can come from within, unnoticed by others. Mental health is JUST as important and life-threatening as physical health. I suffer from both myself and can confirm that my physical suffering, which has been rather intense and at times, unbearable over the past three years, was just as painful as my mental suffering. So throwing someone under the carpet with the insincere promise of a “waiting list” is pathetic.

More needs to be done to support mental health sufferers. More needs to be done to help sufferers come to terms with what they have, so they can move forward and control it.

Right now, it’s explicitly clear that the government has failed us. Now’s the time to make a difference, with or without Cameron’s help.

“Assisted Dying”, or “Assisted Killing?”

I’m incredibly disappointed to learn that 330 MPs rejected the idea of allowing a terminally ill patient to end their lives with medical supervision, despite many doctors agreeing to administer the drugs and take part in it.

I understand the cons of the bill; the possibility of vulnerable patients being exploited by their families and pushed to end their lives. That patients may feel the need to end their own life to stop the misery and pain of their loved ones. I get that. However, I am of the opinion that those 330 MPs acted with complete selfishness and possible religious bias.

I am not terminally ill, so I cannot speak for those who are. I also strongly oppose the categorisation of people who qualify for the ‘right to die’ – those who only have 6 months to live. What about everyone else? What about those who have been suffering from constant pain for months and even years on end? What about those with absolutely no quality of life? According to the Guardian, “one in five people who travel to Switzerland for assisted-dying are from the United Kingdom.” Surely the statistics speak for themselves?

I’ve watched and read a fair few interviews with people who suffer from motor neurone disease and their biggest fears were living a life of complete paralysis, wheelchair bound and in pain without the ability to speak coherently and express their distress. For MPs to deny these people that right to me, is a complete failure of morality within the establishment of law-making.

Another obstacle in this debate is the concept of religion. In many religions such as my own, it is forbidden to take one’s own life. Full stop. There are no ifs, no buts; just no. I understand that life is precious and a gift; we only get one and we ought to do all we can to preserve it. But I will never understand the point in living if there’s nothing to live for because an illness or health condition is prohibiting you from doing so, and instead you’re sentenced to a life of pain and misery.

I sincerely hope this isn’t the end of the debate on assisted dying. We ought to give these people a chance to do as they please with their own lives, as they’re the ones living it. Not us. For authoritative figures to simply dismiss this chance in the name of “ethics” is simply incomprehensible and morally unacceptable.

‘If I Stay’ – Cinematic Adaptation Review

“Sometimes, you make choices in life.
And sometimes, choices make you.”

After watching Forman’s novel come to life, I was overcome by both extreme sadness that the film was over, and complete ecstasy that the film was exactly how I envisioned it to be.

Mia, a girl with her whole life ahead of her, suddenly finds herself in a coma after a fatal car accident which took the lives of her parents and younger brother, Teddy. The novel, and the film, takes us through a series of flashbacks into Mia’s life and memorable moments which predominately surround her love interest, Adam. The reader is left right up until the end of the story to find out whether or not Mia survives the crash, and the journey from start to end is both tragically endearing and overwhelmingly exhilarating with a few life lessons along the way.

The character of Adam is strangely and seductively compelling, played exquisitely by Jamie Blackley, and represents the conflicts of love and morality thrown into question when someone we love is almost lost to us. I fell in love with his character from the moment Forman introduced us to him; a leather jacket-wearing rockstar who wears his heart on his sleeve and falls for the girl who remained invisible to all but him. Boys wanted to be him. Girls wanted to be on him. Right up until the very end of the story, Adam, and Blackley, did not disappoint.

Chloë Grace Moretz was brilliantly casted to play Mia Hall. She conveyed every emotion I felt whilst reading the novel, and I don’t think anyone else could have captured the essence of Mia Hall the way Moretz did.

I find that the music complimented the film perfectly, too. Very well chosen in accordance with the novel.

I cannot express how amazing it feels to read a book, fall in love with it, then see it on a screen exactly the way you imagined it would be.

So thank you, Gayle Forman, for manipulating me into thinking that true love exists in the form of a rocker, and to the cast of If I Stay, for bringing my imagination to life.