Review of Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant

Indigo Jo Blogs - 8 August, 2015 - 19:47

Wanted: A Very Personal Assistant is another part of BBC Three’s ongoing season of programmes about disability, Defying the Label. In this two-part series, four young people with mobility impairments of differing severity were matched with carers by another disabled man who apparently specialises in matching carers to disabled people. This programme sought to get unemployed and inexperienced young people into caring jobs under the premise that there were all these unemployed young people and all these disabled people who needed carers or assistants. The result, as you might imagine, was that some of the recruits were very poorly matched indeed. (If you’re in the UK, you can watch episode 1 here for the next two weeks, and episode 2 here for the next three.)

Picture of Jasmine, a young white woman wearing a dress with flowers on a black background, sitting in a wheelchairThe disabled people featured were Jasmine (right), a young woman with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA); Josh, who is a survivor of a brain injury from a cycling accident when he was 12; Rupy, who has cerebral palsy; and finally Michael, who is a quadriplegic following a diving accident while at university. With the exception of Josh, all of them are power-wheelchair users who are fairly successful; Josh, who can walk but has impaired arm function,. is a comedian who does a routine in comedy clubs styling himself “the disabled gangsta” and cracking jokes about disability. Josh is seeking to break away from having his parents do his personal care for him by having an assistant his own age, and believes having his father around when he is socialising is getting in the way of ‘pulling’ girls; the other three have no such concerns, but need the assistant to do cook, clean, wash and dress them and in some cases help them in their work.

The carer matched to Michael thought she could stomach emptying his bladder and bowels manually, but despite having done it to a dummy while in training, could not bring herself to do it for Michael, which resulted in his having to call an agency carer. (This job cannot just be left, as an overfull bowel or bladder can result in a life-threatening complication called autonomic dysreflexia or AD in a person with a high-level spinal cord injury.) The next day, she emptied his bladder, but was so disgusted when she got splashed with his urine (they did not say whether it went on her skin or her clothes — and she was wearing long sleeves) that she resigned. She eventually got a job as a legal secretary, then moved to Bahrain according to the closing captions; this rather suggested that she had no intention of pursuing a career in care (and let’s face it, it’s not well-paid, something this programme didn’t mention at any point).

The best match was that of Jasmine with Emily, and crucially she was the carer who was most like the person she was caring for: same sex, same age, looks so similar they could be cousins at least, and a similar cultural outlook. Emily and Jasmine got on extremely well and Jasmine had no complaints about how Emily washed and dressed her, but both did worry about how her lifestyle and lack of cooking and cleaning skills would impact on Jasmine’s health; Jasmine at one point revealed that a friend of hers had died just weeks ago because of an infection. Fortunately, one day while Jasmine was out doing something or other, Emily cleaned her flat from top to bottom, much to Jasmine’s satisfaction. Emily was the only one to keep the job.

A still in dim light of Josh and Francesca in an art gallery, Francesca explaining a Van Gogh painting to JoshThe most interesting story was that of Josh and Francesca, a rather prim, middle-class arts student who described herself as a committed feminist. Josh obviously came from a working-class background, liked his drink and called himself “the mong with the big dong”. He was rather obsessed with ‘getting laid’ and believed that all the other young lads were doing it, and that he wasn’t only because of his disability. Josh wanted Francesca to help him ‘pull’, but she was clearly uncomfortable in his world and was not much help. Then he decides to go on a trip to Amsterdam, which she is thrilled by, only she has ideas of visiting all the museums and art galleries and he wants to go to the Red Light district and, perferably, sleep with a prostitute. (She liked the idea of going to one of Amsterdam’s cafés but neither of them mentioned stronger chemicals than caffeine.) She has strong moral objections to this, regarding it as exploitation, and said she would resign if he actually did this. They agreed to both visit the galleries and tour the red light area, but he would not avail himself of their services.

In the event, he is nonplussed by the art (when Francesca explains that the bright colours in one painting were the result of the painter’s emotions colouring his view of something, Josh replied “maybe he was just colourblind”) although he says he loves Francesca’s company; Francesca is made profoundly uncomfortable by the women on display and men leering at them in the RLD. The pair meet with a dominatrix who explains that many of the girls are in fact in the ‘trade’ by choice, but Francesca feels that she and Josh have ganged up on her. In the end, Francesca insists on going back to the hotel early, which gives Josh a major disappointment as he had agreed to “do Francesca’s shit” and that she would do his. However, the next morning, they are both in a better mood, and Francesca suggests that they build an online dating profile for Josh and he accepts that his manner may be putting women off. In the end, the two stay friends but Francesca ceases to be his carer, as the two don’t want a “job” getting in the way of a beautiful friendship.

The premise of the programme — that the multitudes of unemployed should mean it’s easy to find assistants for all those disabled people who need them — was really not sound at all. While I’m very well aware that there are too many jobs out there where employers demand experience when it is not really needed, providing personal care or assistance to a severely disabled person is not something to do just because you need a job. It did not appear that any of these candidates had ever provided personal care for anyone, and they were not asked whether they had assisted in the care of an elderly relative or a baby. The issue of whether some of the disabled participants wanted a male or female carer was not asked, and they all got women (which nobody objected to here although it’s not always appropriate); a disabled female friend who advertised for a female PA a few months ago told me when I tweeted about this aspect that she had received a number of applications from men. It was possible, she agreed, that some of these had applied just to apply for as many jobs as possible to please their JSA “advisor”. And a good many of my disabled friends who have employed PAs or carers for themselves or relatives (for a variety of impairments from autism to motor neurone disease) have complained of incompetence, lateness, no-shows and in one case, theft.

I was on Job Seekers’ Allowance for two years (2008 to 2010) and although my interest in disability issues only really started halfway through that, the idea of inflicting myself on a quadriplegic when I couldn’t stomach emptying their bowels or changing another adult’s dirty nappies never occurred to me, nor was it suggested. If anyone is suggesting this to an unemployed person with no care experience, they should be stopped immediately. This series demonstrated, if inadvertantly as the issue really wasn’t discussed, that the job of providing intimate day-to-day care for a person with a severe mobility impairment is not a job to be left to anyone who walks in off the street: they need to be professional and not squeamish. If an agency provided too many carers like the one Michael got in this series, they would not last long in the business.

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Foreign nationals rescued as Mali hotel siege leaves seven dead

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 August, 2015 - 07:23

Government says there are ‘five dead, two injured’ on the Malian army side and ‘two killed’ on the insurgent side

Five foreigners were evacuated and a number of hostages freed after they were trapped by gunmen in a hotel standoff with soldiers in central Mali that left at least seven people dead, military sources said early on Saturday.

Related: Suspected Islamists seize hostages in Mali hotel raid

Related: Eleven soldiers killed in Mali in terrorist attack on camp, government says

Continue reading...

My Allotment: Soothing The Soul Through Nature

Islamicate - 8 August, 2015 - 02:04

Mahatma Gandhi said: “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend to the soil is to forget ourselves”.   I would go further and state that to forget how to dig the earth and tend to the soil is to forget God.  Most Muslims in the UK are urban animals, and for most urbanites, twenty first century Britain is the pinnacle of human development: the digitalisation of society, the advancements in human construction, the precision of how the various moving parts operate in such a fast and yet efficient manner, are really exhilarating.  And yet, in this fast paced environment, do we have the opportunity to question whether we are fulfilled; or whether we are happy in the deeper sense; or are we simply happy with our material existence in the most superficial kind of way?  Life is overwhelming, and it is only by keeping a distance from the world that we will begin to see its proportions and sift the essential from the fleeting. I genuinely believe that so many of us now have the sensation of standing about two inches away from this crowded, noisy, constantly shifting big screen, and that screen is our lives. It is only by stepping back that we will see what the screen is communicating.  As Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”.

Born and bred in the urban jungle, I live the standard life, focussed on earning enough to feed my kids; working tirelessly to advance my career; obsessively trying to ensure my kids receive a reasonable education; finding pockets of time to meet friends; and so on.  And somewhere in my hectic schedule, I try to find time to live as a Muslim, performing my ritual obligations.  I am privileged and life is good thus far.  And yet, as I get older each year, I realise the sheer futility of my material existence and focus.  And so one year ago, I took on the standard middle-class fad – an allotment. The idea of immersing myself into ploughing a land, nurturing the earth, watching seeds grow, and devouring its produce seemed particularly appealing.  And here is my first point, as Muslims seduced by the hectic trappings of our surroundings, it is imperative that we have a way out – for some, it may be an allotment; for others, it may be walking through hills; and for some, it may be sitting by a lake.  Irrespective of what it is, seeking a proximity to nature can help facilitate greater proximity to Allah, who created this all.  My ventures on my allotment, shared with my children, has allowed me to disconnect from the trappings of the wider world, and allowed me to observe the majesty of Allah’s creation in a unique and yet simple way. Indeed, Alfred Billings Street was correct when he said: “Nature is man’s teacher. She unfound her treasures to his search, unseals his eye, illume his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence”.

There is something profound about the soil – as you dig deeper and clean the soil, and as you immerse your hands with the dirt, foregoing all your previous inhibitions, you realise that for all the success or failure of your life, you will one day lie in that bed of dirt, your body decomposed into nothingness. As you toil on the earth, unearth worms and centipedes, rip out difficult weeds, you do so in a state of stillness and solitude. But it is a form of inner stillness, which blanks your mind, declutters its chaotic nature, and gives you a sense of inner peace. At such a moment, you cannot help but reinforce your conviction that nature is a gift from Allah (swt). You cannot help but marvel at His majesty, who created you from this earth, cognisant that you will once again return to this earth.

Beyond the soil, you learn about the intricacies of planting, yet remain humble to Allah, in whose control is all success.  To watch a tiny seed become a flower or plant, driven solely by sun, water and the soil is a remarkable insight into the simplicity of our world.  For all the technological advancements made by humans, the lifecycle of a plant or flower remains unchanged for millennia. And yet, these plants and flowers sustain all humans through their produce.  The intricate nutrients buried in the soil provide the perfect balance for the needs of a plant.  On a simple level, when planting a seed, the human merely places the seed in a bed of dirt and manure and waters it. Yet, the complexity involved escapes us. For the seed to grow, it requires the right temperature; it requires the right level of nutrients; it requires the right texture of soil; it requires the appropriate amount of water; in essence, it requires the right level of nurture. In many ways, a seed mirrors the life of a foetus incubating in his/her mother’s womb, dependent on all the conditions of its surrounding remaining intact. When the baby is born, we nurture him or her, feeding the baby with the appropriate nutrients; keeping them wrapped in the optimal temperature; keeping them hydrated; in essence, nurturing them to the best of our abilities so they can grow and flourish. Plants, like humans, are prone to diseases and in both cases, we treat them.  Both live their lives; both produce output; and both succumb to death; both return to the dirt of the earth. And yet, even more profound, both are interdependent on Allah who dictates the conditions for their existence. If nothing else, my small period in my allotment has reinforced my dependence on Allah, teaching me that I am a very tiny spec of dirt in the wider, more complex jigsaw. I am more conscious that the ecosystem, which we share with humans, animals and plants, are wholly interdependent on each other; all work together and for each other to create a harmony and balance; all share a finite time together on this earth and then return to Him; all share the finite resources bestowed upon us by Allah; and the functioning of this ecosystem is driven solely by Allah, in His infinite wisdom.

And yet there is a social dimension to this all.  In the last year, I have encountered co-allotment owners of all ages, races, religions and backgrounds.  All driven by a simple love of nature.  For many, this is the first time they have encountered a Muslim. Aside from the sharing of seed potatoes and rhubarb, jam recipes and gardening tricks, there have been deep and meaningful conversations about life, faith and nature.  As the media feeds the common man with information 24-7 about impending terrorist attacks, non violent extremists who are allegedly nurturing the next generation of suicide bombers and be-headers, it has been a significant learning process for many to meet a normal Muslim, who seems more concerned about the foxes devouring the sweetcorn or protecting the cherry tree from birds. Believe it or not, Muslims are not the biggest threat on an allotment! But this is important – as the government moves more and more into the realms of absurdity and the media exacerbates its narrative of fear, it is down to the common man to engage with each other and present a united stand against bigotry.  We must find common ground, and perhaps there is nothing more common than nature, as irrespective of race, religion or class, we all share this one thing. We all share this earth, the sun, the water and the air.

But perhaps, the most enlightening and meaningful bi-product of my allotment is to see first hand the greatness of our Rabb.  As I said, I am privileged – I work and have a roof over my head; I have three wonderful children, who are healthy; have enough wealth to ensure my children are fed; and so on.  Unlike many, who toil in intense heat on fields, because it is a question of livelihood for them, I spend afternoons on my allotment as a pastime. And during this pastime, when I can divorce myself from the hectic schedule of daily life, which is all consuming, I can truly reflect on Allah’s words: “Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny”.  Indeed, the essential meaning of Rabb is the one who provides sustenance. And as I dig the soil and plant the seeds, watch plants grow, see bees pollinate flowers, marvel at the fruit blossoms, observe fruits and vegetables expand in size and eat organic produce, I can do so in a peaceful solitude conscious that this is all Allah’s miracle, unfolding everyday in front of my own eyes. How can one be anything but grateful? For all of the technological and material advancement of humans, they pale in comparison to the simplicity of God’s artwork: nature. As urban Muslims, we need to declutter our busy minds and souls and reflect on His majesty and His favours, and we need to reconnect with Him away from the urban sprawl which occupies and consumes us.  Amethyst Wildfyre was right when he said: “Nature holds all the answers – go outside and ask some questions – open your heart and listen to the response”.

Friday Links

Muslimah Media Watch - 7 August, 2015 - 19:16
A recent study has shown the number of Saudi women who do not marry young has shot up to four million, more than double the number five years ago, because apparently Saudi women prioritize employment and education over early marriage. A reader of The Arab American News, who had stopped at a traffic light with the [Read More...]

How to Own a Mansion Bigger Than Shaq’s in 12 Minutes

Muslim Matters - 7 August, 2015 - 12:54

Many years ago, during  a trip to Florida, I happened to drive near a town named Windermere. I had heard that this was a place where several celebrities and athletes and athletes. I was curious to see what their mansions looked like, so I stopped by one of the nearby stores and asked if my assumption was correct and they confirmed that this town included homes of athletes such as Tiger Woods and Shaquille O'Neal.

I decide to drive by to see their mansions. Upon arriving in the vicinity, I noticed that the mansions were in a gated community. So I drove up to the gate and there was a security guard who asked me if I needed any help and I told him I wanted to drive around to view some of the mansions. He told me that I couldn't just drive around like that. Then I asked what if I wanted to purchase one, won't I have to be allowed to drive in? I purposely said at the beginning of this post “many years ago”.

The security guard smiled and told me: no person comes to purchase a house in this area unless a real estate agent accompanies them. I thanked him for clarifying things for me; I reversed with the car and drove off…

According to Star Maps, the following is Shaq's 11 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms, with a total of 64,000 sq ft mansion in Windermere, Florida  from satellite view:


What came to my mind after not even being able to see the mansions from the outside, let alone entering them (let alone owning one!) was a hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saw). The hadith, in Sahih Muslim, which goes as follows:

An-Numan, son of Salem said:

“Amr the son of Aws said: “Anbasa the son of Abi Sufyan said to me (i.e. Amr): “Shall I not tell you of a hadith Umm Habibah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (saw) has told us?” We replied: “Yes!”. He, Anbasa, said: “She told us that the Prophet (saw) said: “Whoever prays 12 prostrations (i.e. 12 rak'as) voluntarily, Allah will build them a house in Jannah”. Umm Habibah (may Allah be pleased with her) then said: “I have never stopped praying (i.e. the 12 raka'as) since I heard this hadith from the Prophet (saw).

Anbasa then said: “I have never stopped praying them since I heard this hadith from Umm Habibah.”

And Amr said:  “I have never stopped praying them since I heard this hadith from Anbasa”.

And finally An-Nouman said: “I have never stopped praying them since I heard this hadith from Amr”.

Allahu Akbar! Basically everyone in that chain who heard the hadith applied it and never stopped afterwards. Brothers and sisters, we may never enter a mansion in our lives let alone own one. However, by the mercy and generosity of Allah, He promised to build us a mansion for every day we pray 12 voluntary raka'as. Allahu Akbar! One of the best ways to divide these 12 voluntary raka'as is as follows:

2 before Fajr

4 before Dhuhr and 2 after

2 after Maghrib

2 after Isha

Whenever I get a chance and mention this story in my lectures, I illustrate how long completing 1 raka'ah takes. Obviously, it can take as long as you want but, generally, you can spend a comfortable 1 minute to complete 1 raka'ah. With that, you will get a mansion every day you pray for 12 minutes :) May Allah bless you and accept from you.

Feel free to share this post with your friends and family. For every person who ends up doing it because of you will earn them a mansion and so do you! Allahu Akbar :) As the Prophet (saw) said: “The one who guides to which is good is as if they have done it”. – Sahih Al-Jami

And Allah knows best.

Wassalaamu alaykum,

USA: 207 Mass Shootings In 2015 Alone, Only 1 Committed By A Muslim

Loon Watch - 6 August, 2015 - 22:28



On Aug. 5, a man armed with a hatchet, pepper spray and a pellet gun was killed by police in Antioch, Tennessee, after trying to attack people inside a movie theater.

Some news outlets are claiming it could’ve been yet another mass shooting – almost two weeks after the massacre at a cinema in Louisiana. However, there’s no back-to-back media coverage of the incident as was seen when a similar tragedy occurred in Chattanooga at the hands of a Muslim attacker.

The only information available about the gunman is his name and mental health issues.

Vincente David Montano was a 29-year-old white man who, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson, had “significant psychiatric or psychological issues” and “had been committed four times for psychiatric treatment.”

Unlike what was seen in the case of Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, nowhere has the media mentioned Montano’s religious affiliation (as yet).

In fact, even as the authorities were still investigating the Chattanooga shooting and no Islamic extremism links had been established, several news organizations began a discussion on Abdulazeez’s “radicalization” and Muslim heritage.

Recommended: One Tweet Sums Up How Homegrown Terrorism Is The Real Threat

This discriminatory approach in reporting facts when it comes to Muslims and acts of violence is a well-documented fact now.

But here’s one more problem: If radical Islam is of so much consequence when it comes to mass murder, why isn’t the media reporting on the number of Muslim perpetrators involved in mass public shootings that have become more commonplace in the United States, especially this year?

That’s probably because there were no “perpetrators” involved. There was just one – Abdulazeez. And even in his case, the FBI wasn’t able to find any links to Islamic terrorism.

According to Shooting Tracker, “the only crowdsourced mass shooting tracker in the world,”  there have been 207 mass shootings in 2015 so far and only one, the July 16, 2015, Chattanooga massacre, was committed by a Muslim.

But you won’t see these figures on cable news.

Continue reading…

Men Arrested For Making Explosives To Resist Government

Loon Watch - 6 August, 2015 - 22:07


What if they were Muslim? Can anyone spot what these three have in common? Also, note that it doesn’t appear that an informant was necessary to entrap them into some anti-government plot.

WCCB Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC — The FBI has reportedly arrested three men on violations of federal weapons laws Saturday.

Reports say that law inforcement received tips that Walter Litteral, 50, Christopher Barker, 41 and Christopher Campbell, 30, were attempting to manufacture explosive or destructive devices.

Law enforcement were reportedly told the men were reconstructing live grenades from “dummy grenades” sold as military artifacts at stores.

Authorities believe the men were preparing for the possibility that the government intended to use armed forces to impose martial law, which they planned to resist.

The FBI also reportedly became aware that the men wanted to manufacture pipe bombs.

Other defensive items were said to be purchased from stores, including a .338 caliber rifle, hand-held radios with throat microphones for communication, military issue Kevlar helmets, body armor vests and balaclavas (a form of cloth headgear designed to expose only parts of the face).

The three men are facing charges of conspiracy to violate laws governing firearms and explosives. Campbell was also charged with receiving, possessing and making firearms.

Timbuktu: A Film Review

Muslimah Media Watch - 6 August, 2015 - 12:55
A few months ago I watched Abderrahmane Sisako’s Timbuktu, as part of a retrospective of Sissako’s work at the Walker Art Museum. It stunned me at the time—the film examines how daily life changes in a Malian community where an al-Qaeda group has taken over. While the film focuses primarily on a young family’s tribulations when [Read More...]

Muslims, Society, and The Immune System – Art of Connection with Belal Khan

Muslim Matters - 5 August, 2015 - 12:02

Are Muslims in the “West” an organ that the “Western society” is rejecting?

I met a person who was studying immunology, which is the study of the human body's immune system.

I asked them about what the deal was when it came to the body rejecting organs during transplants vs. blood transfusion where there typically aren't any complications.

The body is a complex system of systems. Every cell in the body is its own self contained system with an energy house, the means to replicate and it also consumes energy.

When you pull one set of systems out and put in another, there may or may not be compatibility

Why is it that when you pull out a dead liver and replace it with another fully functioning one, it's typically followed by complications.

The immunologist was saying that in such a process they have to tell the recipient's body to old back and stop attacking the new organ which the body sees as a foreign object.

The idea is the let the new organ get settled in and get integrated and have a full feel of how this new territory works. Then maybe there can be acceptance.

If blood is made up of cells, why are there typically no complications during blood transfusions?

The reason for that is because blood is a more simple cellular system. The simplicity allows the body to get along with it better.

Consider a person who's simple and doesn't have that many needs

They're able to go from one place to another and get along very well. Compare that to someone who is high maintenance.

The immunologist also mentioned that when it comes to stem cells, it's easier to leverage that from one person to another because stem-cells are like babies. Where as bone-marrow and developed organs are like adults.

Even in real life it's harder for an adult to be transplanted from one location to another, but a child can adapt and grow into their changing circumstances.

A person's life is a series of systems

Everyone has a certain way of doing things. Does your personal system and processes allow you to adapt to the changing circumstances that life throws at you?

This is something that would allow for better acceptance into society, communities, and families.

Islam is a system of faith

Question is how are we integrating that system into our lives and the society around us?

How are we giving value? Is our quality of work as a community consistent?

Are we doing it day in and day out without fail. Whether the media or political climate is up or down?

Some thoughts for us all to really think about.


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