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#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

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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

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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.

Man is by nature a political animal.

5 Jun

One of the greatest Philosophers of all time characterised the nature of man.

‘Man is by nature a political animal.’

The Greeks knew politics, they invented the basis for modern democracy. So Aristotle’s words ring true, for all of us. Politics is in our nature. Whether we like it or not. Instilled in all of us, is a desire and a want to have some sort of say in the decision making process that affects our society. Whether that be by running for President, voting, or even by voicing your opinions on a social network, We all have an intrinsic need to let people know what we think and why.

Why though, are some of us more vocal than others? The answer to this is specific to each of us. Some of us go through academia, some through grassroots programme and others like to have their tuppence worth in the comments section of The Independent online

I decided to pursue a career in politics, because they said I couldn’t. Simple. When I decided to study Politics and International Relations at University, the most asked question was ‘Why don’t you become a Dentist/Doctor/Insert-medicine-related-field-here?’ Instead of rethinking my decision, it just made me firm in my decision. That regardless of being a double minority (Muslim and Indian) and a woman, I will be able to pursue a degree and a career in International Politics.

Since beginning my degree, countering stereotypes has been my main focus. Since September 2001, I feel as though, and I’m sure many other Muslims do too, I have become a walking, talking stereotype. So engaging in Politics, for me, is a serious way to counter stereotypes of Islam as are seen today. Religion and politics have become inextricably linked and it is vital that those of us that identify as both political and religious use any available platform to discuss and counter such stereotypes.

And finally, the ‘You’re a woman’ comment. I’ve learnt to let that one slide. I know my gender is not a weakness and it will never prevent me from doing what I love. If someone else can’t see that, well that’s just their loss.

Man is by nature a political animal. So is a woman.

Not much of a writer, but let’s see how this goes…

4 Jun

I’m a talker. Never have been much of a writer. My ideas are best expressed through my words.

However, oftentimes, ideas and thoughts can be lost within seconds of being spoken. The best of thinkers write their thoughts down. Scribble a few notes on paper, on a napkin, on the back of a hand or two. Keep from them being lost forever.

So, I’ve decided maybe I should start putting pen to paper. Or rather, words to a page, (I’d almost certainly lose the pen and paper by the end of the day). I usually have a lot to say, so I’d like to express them to the world. Whether the world wants to hear it or not. I’d like to think it does, but then, there’s a lot like me who want to change the world with their ideas. But let’s start small. Babysteps.

I mainly talk Politics and Religion. Maybe a few other ideas that may cross my mind, but the capacity of my mind usually fills up quite fast. My thoughts are my own, unless referenced otherwise. My ideas are my own. You’re welcome to disagree ofcourse, as long as you respect my opinions like I will respect yours. Mutual respect and the world’s a happy place, right? So let’s see how this goes..