First Aid for Workplace Burnout

Muslim Matters - 17 October, 2017 - 18:27

The General Social Survey of 2016 reports that almost 50% of people are often or always exhausted due to work. Many such cases lead to complete physical and emotional burnout. The thing that we need to keep in mind is that Muslims are not immune to mental or physical exhaustion. In fact, with increasing pressures of Islamophobia, discrimination, and tension due to current events, it wouldn’t be surprising if Muslims were experiencing the highest rates of exhaustion and burnout compared to everyone else. So what should one do to prevent and cure workplace burnout?

Earlier this year, I experienced a case of workplace burnout while managing a very large-scale international project, frequent international travel, and a very difficult colleague at the same time. At first I was completely confused and disturbed as to why I was feeling exhausted, mentally drained, and depressed. But over a couple of months, I was able to figure out that my nervous system was being affected by my overworking and not giving my mind and body time to relax and regenerate itself. Here are 3 tips to cure and prevent workplace burnout, or any kind of emotional burnout for that matter.

1. Get tested, rule the physical out, and accept.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are experiencing burnout is constantly thinking their condition is much worse than it actually is. The solution to this is to get tested for conditions that would be worse, and if everything comes out clear, accept that you were not managing your stress well and continue on to the road to recovery. In the western world, this may be difficult due to health systems causing delays in testing and identification of root causes, but it’s important to find a way to get physical tests done so that you can know for a fact that you are not suffering from something worse than stress and overworking. Another point to keep in mind is that once you are tested, don’t let your mind trick you into believing the doctors are missing something. Doctors do not want to be held liable for ignoring a serious illness and will tell you if they see something wrong. Consult credible doctors and then trust their judgment – do not try to become your own doctor and become obsessed with your symptoms. If everything has been ruled out, you are OKAY!

2. Know that you are not alone.

Because mental and nervous system health is a stigma, especially in our communities, it is unlikely that you are going to hear about others who have gone through or are going through the same thing you are. For this reason, it is likely that you will convince yourself that you are the only one in your group of friends, family, and acquaintances experiencing such an illness and you will feel ashamed. Don’t be ashamed. The fact that you have gone through emotional exhaustion means that you have emotions and that you are thinking about things intensely. Research shows that top performers are most likely to get burned out, so, in a sense, you should actually feel proud to be part of this special class of people. This also creates a level of responsibility when you recover from your illness, and we should remember to try to help others by sharing our struggles so that we can start breaking the silence and stigma around this issue. One of my friends, who is the Imam at our local Masjid, told me that he often has uncles coming up to him and saying, “Do you know so and so is getting counseling,” as though this is something shameful. In fact, mental strain is exactly the same as having a pulled muscle or joint pain and is nothing to be ashamed of.

3. Throw your ego out.

At some point during my experience with burnout, when I was feeling quite devastated, I realized that I had to throw my ego out and seek help in any way, shape, or form that was available to me. I’ve always had a very independent personality and was involved with community activism, sports, and entrepreneurial activities. You could say I was a go-getter and got stuff done myself. When I started experiencing mental exhaustion and burnout, I realized I was not myself and wouldn’t be for some time. Research shows that so called ‘Targets of leadership’ recover from burnout, on average, in about 6 months, while ‘Leaders’ recover on average in about a year. This is a long time, especially for someone who is a high performer at work and active in the community and social circles. Because of this, burnout is also a very good opportunity to practice sabr and tawakkul. It might take some time for you to reach the point where you start thinking of your burnout as a blessing, but if you are able to push through the initial period and start achieving some stability, you will see that Allah has blessed you with a condition which gives you much needed realization and introspection without actually placing a physical, irreversible disease inside of you. Since I started getting a handle on my symptoms, my wife says that I have become much more patient, more ‘in the moment’, and empathetic towards others. These are qualities that are almost impossible to acquire over the course of a few months in normal circumstances.

There are many things that can be discussed when it comes to burnout, mental fatigue, and symptoms related to the nervous system, but the main thing to remember is that your body has been made resilient by Allah.

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature,” (95:4)

If you give your body and mind time to understand, reflect, and recuperate, it will re-generate itself insha’Allah. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:
– Burnout at Work (Harvard Business Review)
– Book: Hope and help for your nerves – Dr. Claire Weekes (Available as Audiobook on Audible)
– Your local Naturopath

If you have been experiencing a case of workplace burnout and would like to email the author for advice, write to:

Disclaimer: The author is not a trained professional and responses are not guaranteed

Hate crime has become the new normal. This is how we tackle it | Shaista Aziz

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2017 - 17:50
Police and politicians need to reach out to vulnerable groups – and encourage victims of racism, Islamophobia and misogyny to report crimes

Reported hate crime has increased by 29% in the past year, new data released by the Home Office shows. Police forces across England and Wales recorded almost 80,400 hate crimes in 2016-2017. This is the largest recorded rise in the six years since records began.

The sobering truth is that many people do not report hate crime to the police for a number of reasons – so the figures could well be even higher. According to today’s findings, the unprecedented surge correlates with the Brexit vote and an increase in terrorist attacks in the UK.

Related: Have you experienced hate crime since the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack?

Vulnerable women are being pushed back into their homes because of hate crime. How can this be happening in 2017?

Related: Online hate is real-world hate. It’s about time there were consequences | Suzanne Moore

Related: Jeremy Corbyn urges Twitter and Facebook to tackle religious hatred

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Jeremy Corbyn urges Twitter and Facebook to tackle religious hatred

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2017 - 23:03

Labour leader speaks up in defence of Muslim women and condemns ‘vile, revolting’ language used on social media

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook must “shape up” to tackle racism and abuse, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Speaking at a packed meeting at Finsbury Park mosque in north London called to address a rise in attacks on Muslim women over recent months, the Labour leader said: “A lot of abuse takes place on online media and on social media.”

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Review: Unrest

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 October, 2017 - 21:49

A still of Jennifer Brea, a light-skinned mixed-race woman with short brown hair, wearing a yellow blouse, sitting in a car seat.Unrest is a film about ME, made by Jennifer Brea (right) and which tells the story of her life with the condition since it forced her to cut short her degree. It also tells the story of the outbreak of the disease in Nevada in the early 1980s, which led the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to label it hysteria and obstruct biomedical research into it for many years, featuring interviews with American scientists who have treated sufferers, including Nancy Klimas and Paul Cheney, both heavily featured in Hillary Johnson’s book Osler’s Web. It also features interviews with other sufferers such as Jessica Taylor here in the UK, as well as the parents of Karina Hansen, the Danish woman forcibly admitted to a psychiatric unit in 2013 and only released earlier this year. This was partly a KickStarter funded project and I donated some money early on when it was working under the title Canary in the Coal Mine, which meant I got access to a free stream of the film as of last week.

There have been a few film projects launched to cover the story of ME both here and in the USA; trailers for a project called What About ME? have been seen on YouTube over the years, but to my knowledge that never came to fruition. One that did was Voices From the Shadows, shot on a low budget by people with relatives with ME and released in 2011 which won the Audience Favourite award at the Mill Valley film festival that year. I wrote a review of that here and I also attended a screening at which Dr Nigel Speight, a British paediatrician who treats adults and children with ME, answered audience questions. You can watch that film for free at present on Vimeo using a link from the project’s website. I thought that film was harder-hitting than Unrest because there are no happy endings (two of the five people with ME featured had already died) and it principally features very severely affected people.

This film is mostly centred around telling the story of how its author and her husband coped with the disease and tried to mitigate its effects. There is a lot of footage of Brea in pain and her husband trying to make her comfortable, for example. It also shines a light on the appeal of quackery to many people with ME: the issue of “toxic mould” in houses comes up on ME forums time and again, and Brea tried to escape from it by moving to a desert location and living in a tent out of the house. On one occasion Brea tells her husband not to touch or get too close to the tent as he has been in the house, which is full of the alleged toxic mould, in the clothes he is wearing, which causes him some degree of annoyance and frustration. She also interviews a mother with ME whose daughter also has it, and talks about the possibility of her having a child (which would be difficult in itself but also raises the possibility of the child having it), and the other mother positively encourages her to do it. Perhaps inevitably as it’s an American film, it comes back to their relationship again and again.

This film doesn’t tread the same ground as Voices from the Shadows; it doesn’t principally feature the very severely affected, although it does feature interviews with the parents of Whitney Dafoe who is currently bedridden and very severely ill, as well as footage of and interviews with Jessica Taylor who runs the Facebook page The World of One Room and whose progress people have been able to follow on social media for some years; her book A Girl Behind Dark Glasses is due for release next year. That said, more people are affected to Brea’s level of severity than are affected in the way Emily Collingridge or Lynn Gilderdale were. It also really doesn’t look into the science, the debates about what sort of virus is the cause of ME, for example, nor the excitement and disappointment over XMRV which was ruled out as a cause of ME around the time this project started. But it’s a useful and fairly realistic look at what it’s like to have ME and the effect it has on your life, your relationships and your family, even if you’re not bedridden for 15 years.

Sadly, some of the viewer reviews of this film have been malicious; there is a group of activists who will automatically become hostile whenever the phrase “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (CFS) is mentioned, or ME is paired with CFS as if they were the same thing; the second term has wider definitions and a history of being used to trivialise ME, but it’s also commonly used (along with “Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome” or CFIDS) to refer to ME proper. These people are known for posting “ME is not CFS” again and again in ME forums or pages, often sounding like a stuck record as they say this over and again without any attempt at reason. (I call this phenomenon “stuck record syndrome” and have had to warn moderators about it a couple of times.) There have been a few one-star reviews posted on Amazon calling this a “CFS film” and repeating the “not CFS” mantra which will drag down the average rating. I would give this four out of five because it’s a four-year effort by someone who was very ill and had to work from bed, and sheds a much-needed light on the plight of people with ME in both the US and Europe and the disbelief and abuse they still suffer.

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Muslim inmates allege humiliation and abuse by Brisbane prison staff

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 October, 2017 - 18:00

Islamic council complains of prisoners being beaten, humiliated and deprived of halal food but Queensland Corrective Services says evidence not provided

Allegations of abuse, humiliation and deprivation by prison staff have been made by Muslim inmates at a correction centre in Brisbane.

The Islamic Council of Queensland made a series of complaints about the behaviour of staff towards inmates at the Arthur Gorrie correctional centre (AGCC), the state’s largest prison.

Related: Australia's jail population hits record high after 20-year surge

Related: Children locked in cells and security footage taped over at youth detention centre

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Hanafi Legal Theory in the Ottoman Empire: The Case of the Cash Waqf

Lost Islamic History - 15 October, 2017 - 06:23

The study of Islamic law in the Ottoman Empire is a vibrant and dynamic field. After the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, the early Ottoman State was an important actor in the Muslim world, re-establishing Muslim sovereignty and intellectual life in Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt, while simultaneously expanding Islam into a new frontier in the Balkans. It is partly for this reason that we see numerous structural innovations in the application of Islamic law in the Ottoman state. Unlike previous polities, the Ottomans established a clear hierarchy of religious schools (madrasas) with standardized curriculums that corresponded with a hierarchy of teachers and judges. They also institutionalized the office of the mufti, which had previously been a position that was a generally unofficial position separate from governance and created a hierarchy of muftis throughout the empire.

Yet despite this institutionalization of the structure of Islamic law, the underlying foundation of law in the Ottoman Empire continued to be traditional Islamic legal theory, particularly that of the Ḥanafī school of jurisprudence. This is most clearly seen in the legal writings of Ebū’s Suʿūd Efendi (d. 1574), who served as the grand mufti (şeyhülislam) of the Ottoman state for much of the sixteenth century. His Treatise Regarding the Permissibility of Cash Waqfs shows a strong adherence to traditional legal theory even in an ever-changing world empire.


The gravestone of Ebū’s Suʿūd in Istanbul

Ebū’s Suʿūd served as the grand mufti of the Ottoman state for thirty years during the sultanate of Süleyman I after having risen up through the mufti hierarchy in the 1530s. He issued a plethora of legal opinions (fatwas) throughout his time in office, which would often be accompanied by an imperial edict, further solidifying the authority of the grand mufti. He thus likely had the biggest impact on the office of the Grand Mufti, shaping how it would be seen for centuries afterwards.

One of the most pressing issues Ebū’s Suʿūd had to deal with was the cash charitable endowment (waqf, plural awqāf). Traditionally, the waqf played a major role in Muslim societies. It would most commonly take the form of a parcel of land or a business that a wealthy benefactor would endow to a charitable cause. In theory, the land now belonged to God and all the profits made off that land were promised to whatever charitable cause the benefactor stipulated in the original endowment documents. Through such awqāf, important social services such as schools, libraries, soup kitchens, orphanages, and mosques would be supported through the perpetual profits from the waqf.

In the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century, there began to be awqāf established not with land, but cash. Individuals would chose to endow a certain amount of money as a waqf and stipulate that it be lent out to borrowers, with whatever profits coming from such loans being forwarded to charity. The first record of a cash waqf dates to 1423 in Edirne, but by the end of the fifteenth century, the practice was so common and widespread, that the majority of newly established awqāf came to be in the form of cash instead of land. Naturally, as a newly established practice lacking historical precedent, debate soon erupted among the jurists over whether such a practice was permissible according to Islamic law in the first place (Note: the issue of how money could be lent out while avoiding usury, ribā, was another jurisprudential issue entirely. This article will only address the debate over the establishment of the awqāf).

By the mid-sixteenth century when Ebū’s Suʿūd held the position of grand mufti, the debate had reached a boiling point and required an official judgement from the religious establishment. The result was an approximately 40 page treatise by Ebū’s Suʿūd in which he analyzed the legal theory behind awqāf and then offered his comments on the authority of a government to rule on such matters in the first place, his Treatise Regarding the Permissibility of Cash Waqfs (Risālah fi Jawāz Awqāf al-Nuqūd).

The Treatise

Ebū’s Suʿūd begins his treatise by analyzing the rulings of the early Ḥanafī jurists on whether a waqf has to be immovable (ie, land or buildings) or if it can be established with an initial investment of moveable goods such as animals or farm tools.

He notes that the eponymous founder of the school, Abū Ḥanīfa, considered any moveable waqf to be invalid. His two primary students are more permissive, however. He mentions that Abū Yūsuf allows for moveables to be a part of a land waqf. For example, farm animals or crops can be part of a waqf so long as the main part of the waqf is a parcel of land. Muḥammad al-Shaybānī is the most permissive, however. Allowing for any type of moveable waqf so long as it corresponds with local custom (taʿāruf). Ebū’s Suʿūd does note, however, that while there were varying opinions on the permissibility of moveable awqāf in general, all three of the early Ḥanafī jurists did not specifically permit a waqf to be established only with cash.

Ebū’s Suʿūd goes on to mention however, that Zufar, another of Abū Ḥanīfa’s students, was explicitly in favor of cash awqāf. He goes on to mention that there exists a narration in Bukhārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ from Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī about an individual who endowed a thousand dinars for orphans and that this narration could be used to support the permissibility of cash awqāf.

Yet despite this very explicit approval of the idea of the cash waqf from one of the founding figures of the Ḥanafī school combined with a narration found in perhaps the most important Sunni compilation of Ḥadīth, Ebū’s Suʿūd steers away from building his main argument on these narrations. Instead, he goes back to al-Shaybānī’s concept of local custom. He cites pre-Ottoman Ḥanafī jurists such as Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Sarakhsī (d. 1090) and Burhan al-Dīn al-Marghīnānī (d. 1197) who echoed al-Shaybānī’s opinion that any type of moveable waqf is permissible so long as it is commonly accepted in any given area. He quotes another important pre-Ottoman jurist, the twelfth century Aḥmad al-ʿAtābī, as saying that while establishing a group of cows as a waqf is unheard of in his time and place (and would thus not be permissible), in another hypothetical context where such endowments are the norm, there would be no problem with it.

The tuğra of Sultan Süleyman, who appointed Ebū’s Suʿūd as grand mufti in 1545

Ebū’s Suʿūd thus argues that cash should be seen as just another type of moveable and that although such awqāf were unheard of in earlier Islamic history, the ubiquity of them in the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire would be reason enough, in accordance with the initial premise of Muhammad al-Shaybānī, to consider them valid in his context. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his argument is that he chose to shy away from basing his argument on the explicit opinion of Zufar and the narration of al-Zuhrī as found in Ṣahīh Bukhārī in favor of cash awqāf and instead focused on the legal theory outlined by al-Shaybānī.

He recognizes that another objection could be made to his ruling in favor of the cash waqf however. Even if one would concede that al-Shaybānī allows for moveable awqāf and cash could potentially be considered just another moveable and the prevalence of the practice would allow for it in the eyes of numerous authorities in the Ḥanafī school, an interlocutor could argue that there is no reason to go through all those legal hoops when Abū Ḥanīfa himself would not have allowed for such endowments. Even if such an alternative opinion is feasible, why should the Ottoman state go with al-Shaybānī’s opinion over Abū Ḥanīfa’s?

Ebū’s Suʿūd’s response to such an objection is the core of his argument and it illustrates his thoughts on the relationship between the religious scholars and the sultanate. He calls on a very important maxim in Islamic law: that the ruling of a ruler lifts [juristic] dispute (ḥukm al-ḥākim yarfaʿ al-khilāf). The idea behind this maxim was that when jurists differ on an issue, the sultan has the prerogative to choose one ruling and make it the law of the land.

Ebū’s Suʿūd was hardly the first to employ this notion. Imām al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820) stated that a ruler has the authority to exercise his independent judgement in a case where there is no precedent in the Qurʾān and Sunnah and the jurists themselves would differ. The thirteenth century Mālikī jurist Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qarāfī (d. 1285) stated that when a ruler makes a determination on a case that is in dispute, it becomes mandatory for people to follow it. He adds that rulers only have the authority to do so in cases that are outside of the basics of worship and instead deal with issues such as “contracts, property, mortgages, charitable endowments, and similar things”. The fourteenth century Ḥanbalī scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328) stated that if a ruler is considered to be upright and knowledgeable about religious matters, it is mandatory for the entire population to abide by his rulings. The Andalusian scholar al-Qurṭubī (d. 1273) notes in his Tafsīr that an early Persian mystic, Sahl al-Tustari (d. 896), stated that Muslims are obliged to follow a sultan’s rulings, and that a sultan even has the prerogative to prohibit a mufti from issuing rulings if they blatantly contradict those of the sultan.

While Ebū’s Suʿūd does not directly quote any of the above jurists in his treatise, their influence on his conception of a sultan’s authority in religious law is unmistakable. He makes clear that since the cash waqf is an issue that the jurists do not all agree on, so long as the sultan choses a legitimate ruling from the jurists to support, it becomes incumbent on everyone in his jurisdiction to follow that ruling. As such, muftis could not refuse to allow cash awqāf to be established, nor could they revoke earlier endowments. This becomes an especially forceful argument considering that cash awqāf had been in use for over a century by the time Ebū’s Suʿūd wrote his treatise, allowed by five successive sultans from Murad II to Süleyman I. The practice had become so entrenched that it is doubly legitimate: both through the opinion of al-Shaybānī regarding moveable endowments and through the notion that when a ruler makes a ruling on an issue the jurists differ on, it becomes incumbent on all to follow.


Ebū’s Suʿūd was perhaps one of the most influential jurists in Ottoman history. His plethora of written works, his close partnership with Sultan Süleyman, and his ability to establish an efficient religious bureaucracy caused his influence on Islamic law in the Ottoman State to be felt long after his death in 1574. His conception of the relationship between the religious scholars and sultanic authority was a complex and interesting one. It is clear that he considered earlier figures in the Ḥanafī school, from the formative years of Abū Ḥanīfa and his students to later jurists like Burhan al-Dīn al-Marghīnānī, to be authorities that he could not simply overrule. He did not seek to set aside their opinions and create a new Ottoman interpretation of law that broke from past precedent. Simultaneously, he ingeniously used the inherent flexibility of Ḥanafī legal theory to allow for creative solutions to new problems, such as the cash waqf, that those earlier authorities did not directly deal with. In this way we see an Ottoman engagement with Islamic legal theory that defies commonly-cited notions of “religious” and “secular” law being in conflict. It appears that at the highest levels of the religious establishment, the Ottomans understood religious law and sultanic authority to be two realms that work together in governance, rather than as factions competing for authority in the Muslim world.


Further reading:

Atçıl, Abdurrahman. Scholars and Sultans in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Burak, Guy. The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Ḥanafī School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Ebū’s Suʿūd. Risālah Fī Jawāz Waqf Al-nuqūd. Edited by Aḥmad Shāghif Al-Bākistānī. Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1997.

Imber, Colin. Ebu’s-suʿud: The Islamic Legal Tradition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Mandaville, Jon E. “Usurious Piety: The Cash Waqf Controversy in the Ottoman Empire.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 10, no. 3 (1979).

Rabbi urges calm in row over plan to turn Golders Green landmark into a mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 October, 2017 - 00:05
The former Golders Green Hippodrome, once graced by Marlene Dietrich, is now a focus for claims of Islamophobia

Its audiences once thrilled to performances by Marlene Dietrich and Laurence Olivier. They sang along with Vera Lynn, laughed with Danny La Rue, and rocked with Status Quo.

But the Golders Green Hippodrome, which closed its doors as a theatre in 1968 and was home to the BBC concert orchestra until 2004, is now at the centre of a disturbing controversy after the Grade II-listed building was bought by an Islamic charity earlier this year.

Comments such as ‘there is a chance of infiltration of bombers’ are Islamophobia plain and simple

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Hijabi versus liberal Muslima

Indigo Jo Blogs - 14 October, 2017 - 22:44

Picture of Birmingham Central Mosque, a red-brick mosque with a red-brick minaret with white decorations and a white low-rise extension at the front. There is an Arabic inscription at the entrance which reads (in Arabic) "there is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah" and another sign reading "Read Al-Qur'an, the last testament".The other day Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, a popular Muslimah poet and blogger, drew my attention to an advertisement she’d seen in a mosque in Birmingham. It was from a BBC radio producer looking for “an older, Muslim woman who feels deeply tied to a traditional interpretation of Islam — who covers her hair or perhaps wears the niqab”. The BBC would arrange for the woman to “talk to another guest, a younger woman adopting a more liberal practice”. The encounter would not be a “confrontation or a debate” but rather “each guest would take turns to talk about the experiences that have led to their convictions, while the other guest listens”. The promise of “no confrontation” might be intended to reassure, but the insistence on an older woman in hijab or niqab and a younger woman who follows “more liberal practice” is clearly not intended to demolish any stereotypes.

What are the stereotypes? One is that hijab is associated with older women while younger women are more likely to be more ‘liberal’ and less religious, at least less openly religious. The other is that a woman who wears hijab is more likely to have conservative views than one who doesn’t. Both of these are baseless. I know, and have known in the past, many women who wear hijab and are, at least, not reactionary or harsh in their views on matters like the status of women in or out of the home or even things like abortion, while many older women who do not wear the hijab, as it is commonly understood now, are more likely to think women should be housewives and serve their husbands and in-laws. That’s true of a lot of first-generation immigrants; a lot of the women who converted or became religious at university in the 90s are now in their 40s and have children (or even grandchildren) of their own and there are older women who followed similar paths to the younger ladies, but it’s not fair to cast all these women as “older conservative Muslims” because many of them were in conflict with women (and men) of the generation before them. Some of those elders even opposed their wearing hijab.

It is, in my opinion, a bad idea for mosques to allow this sort of advertising without some sort of debate among the management or some sort of consultation board. It should be understood that the media is not interested in portraying Muslims as they would like to be portrayed, or in taking a sober or nuanced view of the debates or conflicts within the Muslim community; in the case of Radio 4, their aim is to make “good drama” or headlines, even in documentaries, and to entertain a mostly white audience who want to be reassured that the ‘good’ Muslims who are willing to assimilate are predominant or growing and that ‘old’, alien customs are dying out; in the case of the more downmarket stations, they aim to give the impression of conflict and threat. This advertisement should have been refused on the grounds that it is based on ignorance and reinforces stereotypes, and this should have been explained: it’s not the community being stand-offish but wanting to protect itself from rising Islamophobia by participating in sensitive and thoughtful media coverage and not in its opposite.

Image source: Posted on Wikipedia by Oosoom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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We have to stop normalising relentless Islamophobia in Australia | Rabia Siddique

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2017 - 20:00

For Muslims in Australia, particularly hijab-wearing women and their children, Islamophobic attacks are all too common. It needs to change

Terrorised, persecuted, stateless, homeless, and, until recently, without real international support – this is the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority community being forced out of Myanmar.

At the hands of the Myanmar military, more than 80 villages have been burnt, leaving ten thousands of Rohingyas fleeing daily and attempting to cross into a flooded Bangladesh.

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The Guardian view on school segregation: the origins of inequality | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2017 - 19:29
As the Weinstein nightmare unfolds, UK judges were right to outlaw separating boys and girls at school but wrong to deny it hurts girls more

On the face of it, Friday’s UK court of appeal ruling that segregation by sex in co-ed schools is a breach of the Equality Act is important for two reasons: it expands the understanding of discrimination and it strikes back against the creeping normalisation of segregation on faith grounds in non-religious circumstances. Those are big victories, and they are important. But on the biggest argument, that any such discrimination always hurts girls more than boys, the court ruled two-to-one against. The dissenting judgment of Lady Justice Gloster is both a powerful advertisement for the immense importance of diversity in the courts, and essential reading for anyone interested in the complex relationship between faith and state.

Al-Hijrah school is a voluntary aided co-educational Islamic faith school in Birmingham that teaches children aged four to 16. From the age of nine, boys and girls are separated on arrival and spend the whole day apart. Last year, Ofsted put the school in special measures because of concerns about school management, but it also found that the segregation was discriminatory even though both sexes had almost identical access to the full curriculum. The high court supported the school’s right to segregate its pupils. But on Friday the court of appeal overturned the high court and backed Ofsted’s argument that every boy and girl was discriminated against on the grounds that they did not have the chance to mix with the opposite sex. As a result, their social development and the extent to which they were prepared for interaction with the opposite sex when they left school was hampered. They were not properly educated. It was not a question of separate but equal treatment, but of discrimination against every individual. So far, so groundbreaking.

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How Social Enterprises Are Changing Lives Of Palestinian Women

Muslim Matters - 13 October, 2017 - 16:45

“Our mission is to create jobs for Palestinian women”, Cayley Pater, Assistant Director of Child’s Cup Full (CCF), puts it simply for me during our interview about their non-profit social enterprise.

CCF was founded in 2008 by Dr. Janette Habashi, Associate Professor in educational psychology at the University of Oklahoma. The project started out as a student-led initiative which raised funds to support education programs in the Jenin area of the West Bank for refugee children.  Upon realizing the need for economic independence, the project was transformed into a social enterprise whose aim was to empower women by giving them economic agency through jobs that offer a living a wage.

CCF creates economic opportunities by creating educational toys and learning materials which cater to children in elementary schools. All its products are handmade by refugee women employed in its West Bank artisan center located in the northern village of Zababdeh. The center employs six full time artisans with several others employed on a part-time basis. The educational toys are made from soft fabric which fulfills a unique demand in the market; the company’s sensory learning materials are particularly well suited for play-based settings such as Montessori schools. They aid the of development of diverse skills such as memory retention and cognitive development. The products are designed in Arabic, English and Spanish, aiming to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Over the course of our conversation, Cayley explains to me the growth of the company since its founding. She travels frequently to trade shows where their brand is starting to get more and more recognition from educators and schools. CCF also recently become Fair Trade Certified; an arduous and long process but worth the effort, given the competitive edge it gives to their products. The company proudly claims that its products are not only Fair Trade, but also help empower Palestinian women artisans.

In addition to designing educational products, the organization has expanded into the ethical fashion world by launching a new fashion brand called Darzah. Darzah, which in Arabic means to stitch, specializes in creating products which carry a traditional form of Palestinian embroidery called tatreez. Tatreez is a centuries-old tradition which has been passed down from mother to daughter to the present day. It consists of colourful and vibrant patterns that can found stitched on clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Darzah seeks to introduce tatreez to the Western fashion market through his high-end fashion products. Like the educational toys of CCF, all its products are hand-made by refugee and low-income women. The leather used to manufacture these items is sourced from a family run manufacturer locally in Hebron, thus making all its products completely made in Palestine. The company is also dedicated to preserving and archiving the unique tatreez patterns in the form of a digital database; they launched a successful LaunghGood campaign this past Ramadan and raised over $37,000 for the cause.

The dream for Darzah is to be featured in places like Nordstorm, Holt Renfrew and Pottery Barn. In addition to selling through its online portal, it is already featured at select boutiques and craft expos such as the West Coast Craft Show.

CCF is not alone in its mission to bring economic independence to Palestinian refugee women. Sitti Soap is another social enterprise which is helping Palestinian women by preserving the art of Olive-oil based soap making.

Over our phone conversation, Toronto based co-founder and social activist Noora Sharrab shared with me the story of Sitti Soap. It all started when Sharrab co-founded an NGO called Hopes for Women in Education; an initiative meant to promote higher education amongst Palestinian refugee women. During her time at the Jerash camp in Jordan, she came across a group of Gazan women who were trained in the art of traditional olive oil soap making. Many of these women had tried in the past to create home-run businesses without success.  Seeing an opportunity to create a sustainable economic opportunity given her background in non-profit management, Sharrab teamed up with journalist Jacqueline Sofia and founded Sitti Soap.

Sitti, meaning “my grandmother” in colloquial Arabic, aims to preserve and promote the ancient Palestinian tradition of Nabulsi cold-pressed olive oil soap. Using all-natural and locally sourced ingredients, Sitti produces beautiful bars of soap handmade by refugee women. These soaps are becoming popular gifts that are given away at weddings and corporate events. Sitti employs about eight women full-time and several others part-time at its production site in the Jerash refugee camp. The site is located inside the camp to make it easier for the working women who often have challenges traveling.

The goal of the organization is to bring this tradition to the marketplace where it can be recognized for its uniqueness and become a means of economic empowerment for women. Using the profits from the soap bars, Sitti funds hard skills development and educational programs for refugee women and girls. The organization runs the Hopes-Sitti Center in the Jerash camp which acts as a social hub for women and offers numerous social programs and workshops. It hosts a computer lab which is home to the Bannat Connect program; a virtual language exchange which connects students of Arabic to local women in Jordan through Skype.

CCF and Sitti Soap are examples of two enterprises helping bring real, sustainable change for Palestinians and removing dependence on foreign aid. Projects like these are often under supported from the activist community who tend to focus on more popular movements such as BDS. While BDS is important, the approach to helping the Palestinian cause needs to be multi-faceted. The pressure on institutions to stop aiding the occupation needs to be coupled with support for ventures that help build the Palestinian economy. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation; with no end to the conflict in sight, the status-quo is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The need to support social enterprises that improve everyday Palestinian life is therefore now greater than ever.

Islamic school's gender segregation is unlawful, court of appeal rules

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 October, 2017 - 11:33

Judges overturn earlier ruling that segregation at al-Hijrah school in Birmingham is not sex discrimination

An Islamic faith school’s policy of segregating boys from girls is unlawful sex discrimination, court of appeal judges have ruled.

The three judges in London overturned last year’s finding by a high court judge that Ofsted inspectors were wrong to penalise the mixed-sex al-Hijrah school in Birmingham on the basis of an “erroneous” view that segregation amounted to unlawful discrimination.

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