Current Affairs

Faryal Makhdoom: The Stigmatisation of Daughters-in-law in Asian Societies

The current Khan saga will have most in hysterics over the mundane situation which has been awfully propelled into the media limelight. A bitter dispute between a wife and her in-laws has made headlines across eager tabloids, and most people think very little of the conflict. However, for Asian and Muslim women, this saga stands for much more than just a family dispute: it stands for the treatment of women across society by their in-laws, and the particular stigma associated with a daughter-in-law standing up against her husband’s parents.

Faryal Makhdoom, wife to boxer Amir Khan, has come forward on social media revealing the psychological and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws. The details are, of course, readily available on The Sun, The Mirror and naturally, The Daily (hate) Mail, so I won’t go on about that aspect of this whole situation. However, I do want to address the fundamental issue that has arisen out of this dispute; the treatment of daughters-in-law in Asian families.

Firstly, Amir Khan’s parents took to Geo News¹ to publicly condemn Faryal’s dress code, claiming that was the subject of conflict in their family. His mother claims she wanted Faryal to adopt a scarf, typically worn in Islam by some women to cover up, as she was unhappy with her daughter-in-law’s Western dress code. This in itself is problematic for many reasons. There is nowhere in the Qur’an that says women have to dress in accordance to their in-laws. Secondly, as much as I appreciate that some can interpret Faryal’s dress code as not entirely in accordance with Islamic wishes, no one has a right to dictate what a woman can and cannot wear. A woman is perfectly entitled to wear a dress if she wants to. Attempting to exercise this kind of control over a daughter-in-law cannot and should not be accepted.

Many people, especially those in the Islamic community, claim Faryal’s refusal to adhere to her in-laws’ conditions are rebellious and disrespectful. This attitude of utter disregard for a woman’s plea for awareness is the exact reason why our culture and religion is given a bad name, because, by condemning Faryal Makhdoom as a Western, disrespectful daughter-in-law, we ultimately ignoring her in favour of very old cultural customs which cannot be applied to present day society. Furthermore, I’m baffled at the men who comment on this like they have any idea what is expected of a woman once she leaves her own parents for her husband’s. If anything, the comments made by some men on social media regarding this have come across as incessantly misogynist in nature and sexist. If a man was condemned to a strict adherence to cultural, and ultimately backward, norms, they’d refute them in a heartbeat. In our culture, men tend to prefer exercising control over women, and Faryal’s outburst on social media has exposed us to this harsh reality. The extent of this control extends to physical violence in many cultures, including beating and forcing wives to take part in household chores.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t condone Faryal’s decision to take this to social media. In fact, I wholeheartedly support this. How else are we to understand the plight of women as they enter their husband’s households and are subjected to emotional and physical abuse? Of course a daughter-in-law should show nothing but kindness and respect to her in-laws, but the same kindness should be reciprocated: it’s not a one way street. Fundamentally, people cannot dictate and control their daughter-in-laws. That era is long over. Women should not be silenced into obedience and they certainly should not be forced into living under strict rules of in-laws. Women have no legal or religious duty to look after their in-laws, although it is culturally appreciated and desired.

For as long as I remember, I’ve known women to have an inferior title enforced upon them, simply because of their gender. Everything Faryal says is second-guessed and then compared to the plight of her in-laws who are elderly, and thus, assumed correct. A woman cannot be ridiculed for standing up against abuse. It’s interesting that people attack her for appearing fake, commenting on her undergoing plastic surgery and insulting her appearance before making a judgement on how right she was to come out in public and shame those who abused her.

Women are not bound by law into subservience to their husband’s family. And we most certainly will not be silenced by or into patriarchal dominance.

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travel

DUBAI 2016!

My favourite city, with the best food to offer worldwide (in my opinion!) Dubai is what my parents and I call our “home away from home.” It’s somewhere we can escape to when life in England gets too stressful, and these past few months have been exactly that. This year, we stayed at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) – having visited it briefly last year, we fell in love with the beach front and all it had to offer in terms of restaurants as well as atmosphere. All in all, we spent very little time actually at the beach, because let’s be honest, 42 degrees is not sunbathing on the beach kind of weather.

JBR was an interesting experience; unbeknownst to us, it’s where most of the nightclubs and bars were, hence the extraordinary number of  people walking around half-naked, and the odd few tourists seen stumbling across the beachfront, visibly and embarrassingly intoxicated. Ultimately, people are allowed to dress however they like, but what I find ever so slightly disrespectful is the utter disregard some tourists had for the culture and country they were in. Dubai is part of an Islamic country, and thus tourists should show some consideration of the cultural and religious values that the country holds. I think some have a misconception that Dubai is a very liberal city and thus, it’s not necessary to adhere to the strict values that its neighbour cities, such as Abu Dhabi, hold. Despite 84% of Dubai’s residents consisting of foreigners and expatriates, I still believe it is fundamentally important to respect the cultures and values of the country you’re in.

It’s also interesting to note that different parts of Dubai, despite it only being a city, vary in the extent of strict culture; for example, JBR is known to be the least conservative area in the city, whereas if you travel further east, you’ll find there are less tourists, less expatriates and more Emirati nationals, and thus, they’re more conservative in their traditional/cultural values.

Anyway, enough about that. Here are a few snaps of my favourite moments during my time in Dubai.

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JBR Walk 

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Dubai Mall 

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Umbrella St 

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Cheesecake Factory: one of the best aspects of Dubai!

This year, we decided to explore a little further out of Dubai instead of staying in the city, and it was the best decision we made this year! The East Coast is one of the (not so) hidden gems of the UAE and the tour took us to Al-Fujairah, the Indian Ocean, a beautifully hidden fishing village called Dibba and the Middle East’s smallest and oldest mosque.

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A rug market situated amidst mountains

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Markets amongst mountains

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More rugs!

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Greenhouse market

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Al-Fujairah

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Beach, ocean and mountains – what could be better?!

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Sandy Beach Hotel – Al- Aqaa

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Al Aqaa

I think my favourite part of the trip, however, has to have been visiting Abu Dhabi. Last year we visited only briefly but I immediately fell in love with the culture, despite it being somewhat more conservative than Dubai, as well as the calm and relaxed atmosphere. This year we swallowed our fears and went to Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster (and boy they weren’t kidding about being the fastest!) I’m already looking forward to revisiting Yas Island and Ferrari World the next time we visit Abu Dhabi, and we’re definitely staying there longer to explore the area a little better.

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So many cars!

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Italian themed stores and restaurants inside the theme park

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Yas Mall

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Yas Mall

Something that (obviously) stood out to me was how much art I stumbled across whilst in Dubai – from wall murals to paintings, every other street had some form of artwork that everyone and anyone can appreciate, and it added to the ever-modernising appeal of the city.

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Found at JBR Walk

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Also found along JBR Walk

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The interior design of this cafe was breathtaking!

All in all, Dubai certainly did not disappoint this year; in all honesty, however, I would not stay in JBR again – if you’re visiting Dubai for the nightclubs, alcohol and bars then yes, I would recommend it but otherwise, I think I’d like to stay in downtown Dubai, by the Marina perhaps. Nevertheless, the holiday was truly wonderful, just what I needed before I began university and I’m already counting down until I go back! I’d like to thank my parents for giving me such a special holiday, and for forever spoiling me as they always do.

A x

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Current Affairs

Eid Mubarak!

To all my Muslim friends and family around the world, Eid Mubarak! (A day late, I apologise, as I spent the entire day with family)

This year, Eid was particularly special for me; for one, my entire family spent it together for the first time in years, due to different mosques in different boroughs choosing to celebrate Eid a day after it’s announced by Saudi. I am still yet to understand why. Thus, this year, it was fantastic to spend the entire day with loved ones and not spread it over two days.

Secondly, this year more so than previously, I am reminded of how special family is, and how fortunate I am to be able to spend this year celebrating with them. I am constantly in awe of how exceptionally wonderful my parents are –  I truly feel so blessed to be surrounded by such love. I’m happiest when I’m with them. The events of Baghdad hang heavy in the air for many Muslims celebrating Eid around the world, and I can’t help but feel slightly guilty for enjoying it as much as I did today, knowing there are families around the world who’ve lost so much, so many at the hands of terror. Today allowed me to appreciate that life is unpredictable, and we ought to cherish our time on this earth with the people we love, who help us strive to be better versions of ourselves.

The war on Islam is ongoing, with ISIS claiming more Muslim lives than any other. During this holy month of Ramadan, we witnessed a terror attack on such a great scale, no comparison can be made with relation to lives lost. It’s believed to be one of the deadliest attacks on Iraq. What more can be said to emphasise the severity of this situation? One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat – charity. I urge as many of you as possible to donate to charities which help cities like Baghdad recover, or at least begin the recovery process.

It appears the Western media only cares about terrorism claiming lives if the victims are Westerners. Muslim lives are worth much less comparatively, in their eyes, hence the substantial lack of media outcry against such an act of atrocity. The Baghdad bombing should serve as a shocking reminder to the ignorant that ISIS do not represent Islam in the slightest if they’re killing fellow Muslims –  they are not Muslims and lost the right to call themselves so when they decided to commit acts of senseless murder in the name of a religion they so clearly subverted.

Conclusively, I ask as many of you as possible to keep Iraq in your prayers. We cannot fathom what they’re experiencing, having to bury their loved ones, children and families on a day where the rest of the world is celebrating the end of a holy month. But we stand in solidarity against the Islamic State militants, and their fight against Muslims. Shia or Sunni, a Muslim is a Muslim. We are all one and equal in the eyes of God, and what matters the most is how we live our lives –  NOT how others live theirs. May God give those who lost their lives a peaceful resting, and those who’ve lost loved ones any kind of comfort to ease their pain.

God is not a creator of evil; evil is manmade.

A

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Current Affairs

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

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Life Updates

Umrah 2016: Medina

Medina: The Prophet’s (ﷺ) holy city and final resting place. With it comes immeasurable peace and tranquility, a sacred place of historic, Islamic beauty. The Prophet’s Mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, is said to be one of the largest mosques in the world yet during prayer times, the entire mosque is packed full of people.

We pretty much spent our time doing exactly what we did in Makkah, and the only thing we really wanted to do which was complete our five daily prayers in the Mosque. Whereas Makkah is well known for being sacred, Medina is beautiful in its historical value. Hearing the call to prayer every couple of hours didn’t just reach our hearts, it reached our souls. What’s even more spectacular is seeing such a large number of people come together at the sound of a prayer, in absolute silence, entirely absorbed in worship.

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi at Fajr

The most humbling aspect of entering Medina is knowing that our beloved Prophet ﷺ is buried there. Sadly, due to the large number of people and short time slots, we were unable to visit the tomb. The organisation of visiting hours for the tomb was terrible, I have to admit; when the doors opened, people ran towards the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb like their lives depended on it. Islam clearly teaches us not to idolise or worship anyone other than God; The Prophet also warned us not to run in an act of desperation, the same way one should never cause harm to a fellow Muslim (i.e by pushing, shoving, crushing) whilst reaching his tomb. It’s a shame that many of those who visited the tomb on the day I went completely discarded these teachings they supposedly hold so dear. My father’s toenail was ripped by men crushing each other to catch a glimpse of the tomb. My foot was run over by a wheelchair. It was absolute chaos, and I urge the Saudi’s to organise their crowd control because it is unsafe.

Nevertheless, the Mosque and the tomb are truly breathtaking in their intricate beauty. Islamic teachings believe there to be an empty grave along with the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb, said to belong to our Prophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) when he returns to the world for forty years. Knowing that the tomb was the closest I could ever get to the Prophet ﷺ not only brought me closer to Islam, it also filled me with pride in being part of such a peaceful, beautiful religion. In Medina, there’s countless opportunities to learn more about our beloved Prophet and his teachings/what he lived for. For example, he spoke of equality within mankind, regardless of their religion or belief. He spoke of gender equality.  He fought for his life, for his religion and for his people, to convey the message of Allah. (SWT)

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

Alhamdulillah, it makes sense for the city to be as beautiful as the religion itself.

Whilst in Medina, we also explored historical sites such as Mount Uhud, Masjid Al-Qiblatain and Jannat Al-Baqi. Each site holds stories of the Prophet’s ﷺ heroic struggles to convey the message of Islam along with other historical tales. To be on the same land, in the same place as our beloved Prophet is a truly enlightening spiritual experience. I can only hope and pray that all my Muslim followers and friends experience what I have, because it is like no other.

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View from the top of Mount Uhud

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Mount Uhud

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Graveyard of the Prophets

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Qiblatain Mosque

I want to thank my wonderful grandparents and my parents for making this trip possible. Their determination for us all to experience this and so early in my life has had an immeasurable impact on me and I’m grateful beyond words that they’ve given me this gift. Inshallah my prayers for them were heard.

On a final note, I want to thank Allah for allowing me to experience this trip and everything He has to offer us. Coming back from Makkah and Medina, I spent the following weeks incredibly sick with my ongoing health conditions amidst new bugs I’d picked up along the way. Allah (SWT) looked out for me whilst I was in Makkah and Medina, blessing me with perfectly good health and no pain. Although these past few weeks have been the most challenging yet, I’ve embraced the peace He’s bestowed on me; every time I feel scared, nervous or in pain, my soul goes back to Makkah and I remember His plan for me is still in motion – I just have to wait the worse of it out. When I needed it the most, He gave me strength to go on, to fight my body. Whenever life gets tough, or there are obstacles in the road, I can now embrace the peace my soul has finally found.

And I know I can make it through to the other side.

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Maghrib Prayer on our final night in Medina (Photo: Mama Hamid)

لآ اِلَهَ اِلّا اللّهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُوُل اللّهِ

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Life Updates

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

الحَمْد لله

Having just returned from the most life changing trip I’ve ever had the privilege of going on, I’m juxtaposed in my feelings of heartache at leaving a beautiful city behind and excitement at the prospect of going back again in the near future.

Before I arrived in Makkah, I was nervous and apprehensive at doing things wrong but all the worries of my life back home were washed away the second I stepped foot in the holy city. The night we landed we were exhausted from a long flight and made the decision to begin the pilgrimage of Umrah the following day so we could complete it to our full potential. Driving from the airport to the holy city, we were astounded at how modernised it was; lights and sculptures lined the streets leading up to the Holy Mosque. The roads were packed with cars, everyone travelling to the mosque for Isha (night) prayers.

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Top level of Masjid Al-Haram

Setting foot inside the exterior of the mosque (expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing capacity of visitors worldwide) the first thing to hit us was the sheer grand scale of the Sacred Mosque. The interior was packed with Muslims trying to get in as fast as possible to visit the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. The intense rush of people hastily making their way towards the Kaaba is quite overwhelming at first but as soon as your eyes find the Kaaba, everything falls away because at the moment, it’s just you and God. The outside of the Kaaba was packed with circles people performing Tawaaf (one of the rituals of Umrah.) The rest of the visitors were either praying or simply sitting in front of it, making the most of being in the presence of such a sacred part of Islam.

The following morning, after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, we made our way to the Aisha Mosque to recite our intention of performing Umrah. From there, we travelled back to the Sacred Mosque and began the Tawaaf which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times, passing the Black Stone at the eastern corner. Following the seven rounds, we proceeded to Maqam Ibrahim (The Station of Ibrahim) where we performed the prayer as mandatory during Umrah. Finally, once this was completed, we made our way to the Zam Zam wells. It’s said to be the purest and freshest water on the planet, with sacred qualities improving health and wellbeing in all those who drink it. I personally believe this to be the truth as my health was the best it has ever been whilst in the Sacred Mosque.

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Sitting in front of the Kaaba

 

From there, we made our way to Al-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’i – walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. (3.15km) Once completed, we performed the mandatory prayer and thus, completed the ritual of Umrah. Sa’i was definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire pilgrimage, as we were walking barefoot on marble for nearly two miles. Nevertheless, once this was completed, a beautiful feeling of serenity washed over me and that’s when I found an inner peace radiate within me.

For the remainder of our four days in Makkah, amidst performing our daily five prayers, we visited other holy sites in the city. Most of the time I was inside the Sacred Mosque, sitting in front of the Kaaba and it was blissfully peaceful. My relationship with God grew ever-stronger as I know He listened to every prayer. It sounds awfully cliche but this was a life changing experience for me in that it transformed my entire perception of the religion, bringing me closer to God. I embraced everything Islam has to offer and came back an entirely new person, spiritually. Once you enter Makkah, your heart never wishes to leave; being back in London is great for me health-wise, but my heart is still in Makkah and I’m desperately longing to go back as soon as possible.

I can only thank God for making this trip possible.

سبحان الله

 

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