#IStandWithAhmed

16 Sep

I’m sure every single one of you today has seen the news story about 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed from Irving, Texas, who was arrested for bringing a clock that he made to school. His teachers made the (inexcusable) mistake of thinking it looked too much like a bomb, so of course this 14 year old ethnic American boy was a threat to society (note the sarcasm).

I woke up to this news today with obvious outrage. How was it even remotely acceptable that this situation came about?

If a kid (brown, white or rainbow coloured) comes to school with a ‘suspicious’ looking electronic device, here’s what you do:
1) As a qualified (and hopefully competent) engineering teacher, you look at said device.
2) You see that said device is a clock, not a bomb (huge difference, btw).
3) You praise this (clearly very smart) kid for making said device.
4) You carry on being a competent teacher.

I think I commented on every single article I read about this today, until it was just exhausting. I don’t think anyone with any sort of intelligence would deny that this was a clear case of racial profiling. Of course this 14 year old boy whose name was ‘too Muslim’ was scrutinised because he was Muslim, and isn’t it only ever young Muslim men that carry out acts of violence? Not even focusing on the fact that violence in America usually revolves around the gun issue, and mass shootings are often carried out by young white men. This isn’t to start a debate about guns, but just to make the point. Have we started profiling every young white male that goes to school with an electronic device? No. Because we shouldn’t, because it’s stupid and wrong.

The Internet (surprisingly) reacted as it should have done, and called out the school, Texas, and America on its blatant racial profiling of young Muslim boys. Well done, internet.

I did, however, see a few too many comments that were along the lines of:
“Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry..”
“You know what *those* people are like..”
“It’s a clock today, what could it be tomorrow..”

Let me stop you there. No, it’s a clock today, and it’ll be a damn clock tomorrow. There is NO valid justification for what happened to Ahmed today, so quit trying, you sound like a racist bigot.

But let me tell you something about the radicalisation of young Muslim men, because that of course is your biggest fear:
Young Muslim men are the targets of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and whatever other radical Islamist Jihadi group. They prey on young, Western, disillusioned (and often) boys. They prey on young people who have no faith in their Government and society, young men who don’t believe they’re truly American (or British, or any other Western nationality) and they use this to their advantage to marry it with this idea of “Islam is antithetical to the West. To be a real Muslim, you have to hate the West. Come and join us to be a true Muslim.”
They don’t try to recruit smart, educated individuals with bright futures in politics, or science, or technology who are proud of being American, or British. That’s because these individuals hate ISIS and Al-Qaeda and radical Islam more than anyone else in the world. Because they’ve taken our religion and turned it into this hell that we’re seeing in Afghanistan and Syria.

But, when you criminalise a smart, young, 14 year old kid in his NASA t-shirt, you’re telling him that it doesn’t matter that he’s smart, because if his name is Ahmed Mohamed, he is only capable of terrorism. Then his clock is no longer a clock and his talents are no longer valued. You alienate this child and you turn him against the America he was raised in and loves.
THIS is how you create radicalised Muslims. THIS is what ISIS is counting on. THIS is where your counter-terrorism strategy is failing horribly. So for everyone who made comments about ‘being safe rather than sorry,’ you are contributing to creating the very monster you are so frightened of.

My last point on this is what started as a horrendous story has turned into a hugely positive social media campaign.

If you see the response that has come out of this, from POTUS to Hillary Clinton, to Mark Zuckerberg, to America and the rest of the world so clearly seeing the dangers of demonising an entire group of people and realising how counterproductive that is to creativity, to nurturing the youth and to counter terrorism policy, you would realise just how much of an impact this one child has had, in one day.

The social media response has been phenomenal. For every xenophobe, racist and bigot, there is a wonderful world of smart people who have reacted with the American ideals they’re supposed to have, the ideals of an inclusive, tolerant society that promotes creativity and nurtures its young people and leaders of the future, whichever religion or race they’re of (or not of)- isn’t that what the American Dream was supposed to be about?

That’s why the ‘West’ is so valued by so many Muslims, despite what the media tells you. Muslims like Ahmed, who wants to contribute positively to America and millions of others. Like my 12 year old kid brother who wants to work for NASA. Muslims like me who love Britain (and America) and will continue to work for my country.

We’re here, we love it, and we’re not leaving any time soon.

#IStandWithAhmed

Violence against women is still an ignored problem in Europe.

1 Oct

We were left in awe and admiration after 16-year old Malala Yousafzai stood in front of the United Nations and addressed the world. We all watched the video and read the articles praising this young girl’s bravery and achievement, and we support her commitment for education for millions of girls like her worldwide. In developed nations, we continue to condemn violence against women; from sexual violence in conflict to the brutal treatment of women and girls seeking access to their basic rights. And quite rightly so.

However, what we have forgotten to take away from this, is the recognition of the unfair treatment that women continue to receive right here in Europe. From domestic violence in our homes to sexual violence on the streets, we need to stop pretending that the unfair and unequal treatment of women is an issue that exists only outside of Europe. We need to remove the blinkers that allow us to assume that gender-based violence only exists in war-torn, conflict-ridden, developing states. Or that other countries have a lack of law and order and societal standards which subjugate women to a level where abuse and violence in tolerated. Because in reality gender-based violence happens right here in Europe.

We hear of the treatment of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We hear of horrific cases of sexual harrassment in India and Egypt. Yet how often do we allow ourselves to be outraged over the many cases of domestic and sexual violence against women that occur on a daily basis in our own developed countries?

Violence against women is still an ignored problem in Europe ImageLet us take an example: Italy. Italy is currently ranked in the top 50 countries with high human development. However, this does not account for the deep rooted cultural issues Italy faces. Gender-based violence in Italy is rife. In Italy, according to the latest reports, 65 women have been killed since January 2013 by current or ex husbands/boyfriends who either could not stand the humiliation of being dumped, or jealousy simply drove them crazy. In addition, almost 7 million women and girls have been victims of physical and sexual abuse and many women do not report crimes for fear of repercussions or lack of protection from the State. In Italy, stalking only became a crime in 2009 with the introduction of article 612 bis of the Italian criminal code. Previously, women who were persecuted, humiliated or driven to total fear could do absolutely nothing as this behaviour was not effectively punishable according to Italian law. These persecutions often led to the murder of the victims. The phenomenon was so widespread, it induced journalists to coin a specific term for these killings: femminicidio (pl. –di).

Just in case you are still not convinced, let’s discuss some numbers from the UK, another developed nation with no deep rooted problems of violence against women, right? Wrong.

Approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year. Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year and 1 in 5 women (aged 16 – 59) have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Whether home is Egypt, India, Italy or the UK, gender based violence is not being given anywhere close to the amount of attention it is due.

Numbers and statistics can only do so much to bring this emergency to our attention. We also have to start thinking about and elaborating on this information. What is the cause this? Can we really say it is only a few men who come back home from work frustrated and hit their wives, or is a more wide-spread mentality that is hitting society as a whole? In other words, is violence against women a cultural problem?

We often assume that cultural issues as such can be avoided as we increase levels of education. The problem is that we all agree on the fact that this violence is wrong and, because we are all politically correct, we acknowledge the fact that de jure women have the same rights as men. Education, in primis. Yet we confine these rights to paper and leave it there. We go no further to challenge the views that allow gender-based violence to occur. So while we actively support Malala Day and the campaign for education, we need to rethink what we mean by education.

That is not to say that forms of cultural education do not exist and that the whole of Europe is entrenched in inescapable patriarchy. We only need to look at Sweden and their model of gender equality to realise that gender equality in employment and cultural awareness can together become the ultimate antidote to sexual violence. From their parental leave policies to the debate over gender-neutral language, Sweden’s model of cultural education provides positive and workable examples to improve gender equality.

However, with over 28000 cases of violence against women per year, that is still 28000 too many. For all the advancements of women in the public sphere, there still remains a dark cloud over the private sector where misogyny and chauvinism continue to fester.

Europe may have managed to grant access to academic education for men and women alike, yet we’re still lacking in providing the social and cultural education that is necessary to counter views that fester violence against women in the household, fuel rape culture and maintain that women are still the subjugated gender in the 21st Century.

Note: This article is co-written by Martina Spadaro and Heena Mohammed

To read more on this: http://www.ondaosservatorio.it/elementipagine/106/it/conferenze-stampa/751/conferenza-stampa-stop-alla-violenza-sulle-donne

The Typewriter

3 May

Today, on 3rd May 2013, in celebration of the World Freedom Press Day, we present to you ‘The Typewriter’ – an online publication aiming to provide news editorial and opinion pieces from the local perspective. In this age of globalisation and sophisticated information technology, there still exists a disconnect between what is being reported by international media outlets and what is actually happening on the ground. We believe that the Typewriter is a way to rectify the situation. Further, by providing the world with our own thoughts and having the world to read our opinion pieces, we believe that this can be a part of a bigger movement to encourage global awareness and global citizenship.

The Typewriter will also act as a platform to provide the voice of common sense politics. For far too long, nearly everything in the world has been subjected to unnecessary political labeling. An idea proposed to the public is no longer just an idea anymore – it has to be pin pointed and fixated along the political spectrum. From now on, an idea will always be either liberal or conservative, either left wing or right wing, either progressive or old-school. Such ‘ideological anchoring’ gradually took over the centre-stage of policy-making and replaced the notions meritocracy, rational thought and common sense. Politicians from different parties find it increasingly difficult to cross to aisle and reach a reasonable compromise, for that might affect their job security. Being a moderate politician nowadays makes one look soft, undecided and disloyal to one’s political party. Media outlets are becoming more afraid than ever in losing their base audience when they try to be less partisan when reporting the news.

Many of us seemed to forget that the spirit of democracy celebrates the multiplicity of ideas and the existence of a forum for these ideas to be critiqued, looked over and transform into the best available solution for the situation concerned. This can only be done through constructive discussion, sincere dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other. We hope that the political commentary pieces in the Typewriter will remind readers, politicians and the general public of this from time to time.

Be not mistaken, this is not strictly online journalism. We are here to express our opinion about the world, not to report what is going on in the world. Considering how politically anchored media outlets are in this age of time and yet how desperate they are in trying to portray themselves as being unbiased, whilst masking their political agenda by handpicking which news to report and deciding on how it is reported, we prefer to just speak out in the most honest and direct way possible.

We sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading our articles. We also hope that this will allow readers from all across the globe to know just a little more about each other’s country, cultures, worries and problems. Perhaps some day we can all start to care for each other a little bit more, regardless of our apparent differences.

http://typewriterinternational.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Typewriter/151452475018990?group_id=0
Twitter: @Typewriter_OpEd

Move over William Hague, Angelina Jolie’s got this.

12 Apr

William Hague and the other G8 Foreign Ministers ought to be commended on their agenda setting for the G8 Summit in June 2013. The Foreign Ministers met on the 10th and 11th April to discuss the issues to be addressed at the Summit highlighting challenges faced and actions to be taken. The priorities range over a number of issues including: Africa particularly North and West Africa, Mali, Somalia, the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan; the Middle East including Syria, the Peace Process, the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition and Yemen; Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament, Iran, DPRK, Burma/Myanmar, Afghanistan, Cyber Security, Climate Change, Maritime Security, Human Rights, Counter Terrorism, Illicit Drugs and finally, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.

It is very much worth noting the extensiveness of these priorities outlined in comparison to Mr. Cameron’s solely economics based focus on Tax, Trade and Transparency (A nice use of alliteration I must add). There is no doubt that economy is a vital issues but let’s leave that to the G20 shall we? Mr Cameron ought to take a leaf out of Mr Hague’s priority book.

Now the priorities mentioned above are certainly exhaustive and positive frameworks and actions on challenges facing each issue are vital.

However, as much as North Korea and Iran have been an issue that the media have been up in arms over, it was Mr Hague and the other foreign minister’s actions on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative that is worth applauding. Yet it was not only the work of the Ministers. Joining the G8 Ministers in London this week was Angelina Jolie (Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and Zainab Bangura (Special Representative for the UN on sexual violence in conflict), joining as the Foreign Ministers signed in the historic G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict- a true achievement. (Of course, this must now be met with decisive government action to follow the recommendations made.)

Last year, on the 29th May 2012 the Foreign Secretary launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative as a Government initiative proving to be a very active step in work towards preventing rape and sexual violence in conflict; a horrific but often forgotten part of war. We continue to hear tragic stories from the DRC and Syria, among other places, yet these atrocities continue to be committed on a mass scale with little sign of ending.

The UK government’s step forward to tackle this issue is essential and builds upon UN actions from Security Council Resolution 1325 and the work of various bodies within the UN.

What strikes me most about the prioritisation of this issue is the work that as opposed to the all-words-no-action approach to Syria, Iran and DPRK, Mr Hague’s work for the PVSI are genuine action beyond mere words. But he hasn’t done it alone. Angelina Jolie has been working with Mr Hague on this initiative and the Hague-Jolie pairing symbolises real determination on both their parts to stop sexual violence in conflict. Last month, Ms Jolie and Mr Hague travlled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda where they’ll to meet victims of sexual violence, and discussing with doctors and lawyers how to work towards healing the victims and achieving justice for them.

The G8’s Challenge of Inclusivity

12 Apr

Once again, all eyes will be on the United Kingdom this summer as the UK hosts the Presidency of the G8 2013. However, as opposed to the cultured gathering of 204 nations, the G8 hosts an invite-only party of eight to Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. Yet the G8 isn’t likely to be as warmly welcomed to UK as were the Olympics. The G8 has been long criticised for being irrelevant, out of touch and far too limited in its selection excluding the likes of China, Brazil and India. Will this exclusive group of the world’s leading nations achieve more than mere round-table murmur to present feasible solutions to the most pressing global issues of today?

The first area of exclusivity of the G8 is represented in its limited nature as a party of eight. Made up of mainly Western nations and Russia and Japan, the G8 does not so much represent anymore the most powerful nations in the world with the exclusion of the BRIC countries bar Russia. However, there is a continuing global importance of the G8 members. The UK, USA, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan collectively represent half of the world’s GDP, emphasising the ever growing importance of economic power on the global stage.

Even so, the G8 must extend its inclusiveness to allow for increased representation as well as greater support for frameworks and solutions outlined by G8 Ministers as a response to current global issues.The G8 ought to extend an invitation to Brazil, China, India , Mexico and South Africa as part of Outreach 5 to be able to move beyond the criticism of exclusivity and establish real frameworks and goals to achieve real global change.

The second area of exclusivity that must be addressed is the extent to which the agenda for this year’s G8 has been dominated by economic related issues, leaving little to be said for global issues such as the continuing instability in the Middle East, the growing threat of North Korea, the horrific stories of sexual violence in conflict from Syria to Somalia and the growing concern of climate change.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, David Cameron outlined his priorities for the UK’s G8 Presidency in largely economic terms keeping well in line with the roots of the G8. Mr Cameron has established the priority of the G8 in relation to the global economy by using the Presidency to focus on advancing free trade, tackling tax evasion and avoidance and establish greater transparency of the development agenda.

It would be much more feasible for Mr. Cameron to leave the economic agenda to the G20 that was established as the body of the world’s strongest economies to discuss and deliberate on matters of finance and economics. The role of the G8 was not and is not exclusive to economy and trade. There are a plethora of global issues that need to be discussed. By establishing the agenda of the G8 in terms of economics, it leaves far less room to discuss other global priorities.

This is not to say that discussing the global economy is not necessary, especially as the world currently undergoes an economic crisis. However, the scope of global priorities must extend beyond economic issues to address Human Rights, food shortages affecting Sub Saharan Africa and ongoing conflict in the Middle East and Far East Asia. We ought to leave the economics to the G20, while the G8 refocuses their concerns to those mentioned here.

The main issue that ought to top the agenda for this year’s G8 is Human Rights. As conflict rages on in Syria, the Congo and many other parts of the world, Human Rights must be upheld in the G8’s discussions and be the framework upon which global policies are created and implemented. Amnesty International has voiced this very concern urging the G8 leaders to ‘ensure that respect for universal human rights will be the hallmark of their deliberations and decision-making in 2013.’

Though Mr Cameron has not explicitly stated for Human Rights to be an utmost priority for the G8, Foreign Secretary William Hague and his fellow G8 Foreign Ministers have their priorities in much better order, having already discussed a range of issues far broader than the official economic based agenda, including the situation in the Middle East, political stability across North and West Africa, gender based violence and climate change and rightly so. The priorities outlined by the Foreign Ministers will discuss Sexual Violence in conflict, a vital Humans Rights issue to be considered, as part of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative  with NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children. Sexual violence is not only an issue faced by developing countries and therefore must be seriously tackled by the G8  countries in relation to their own country’s issues and broader implications of sexual violence in conflict.

We ought to applaud this effort of inclusivity by the Foreign Ministers to move the discussion beyond the global economy by discussing Human Rights issues in relation to Preventing Sexual Violence as well as the other priorities outlined of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, security in cyberspace, Somalia and Burma. If the G8 prioritises these issues, as well as climate change and reaffirming its commitment to international aid and development, the exclusivity question can and will be answered with positive frameworks and progressive change coming directly from the world’s key players.

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Come back, a thousand times come back.

11 Aug

20120811-014116.jpg

‘That evening, I went out and gazed up at old Orion, and sure enough, there he was in all his glory, right where I expected him to be. The trees outside my home were blooming, and nature’s order was so palpable, I realized that no matter how disorderly man becomes, God’s order in His Divine creation is there to constantly remind us: “Come back, come back, a thousand times come back.”’
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.

http://sandala.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Quran-Spring-of-our-Hearts.pdf

The ‘Booty shakin HOEJABI’- where we went wrong

5 Jun

Fantastic blog post, summed up every thought I had in regards to the issue. I won’t need to write my own thoughts down, this post did it for me. The ‘Booty shakin HOEJABI’- where we went wrong.