Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Incredible Aliya (prepare to be inspired!)

I think this is by far the most touching, accurate, honest and passionate article on hijaab I have ever read! What adds to its beauty and uniqueness is that its come from a non-Muslim who has clearly taken time to reflect, reason and place her love and devotion to her daughter above any thing else! I solute this legend of a female, and am anxiously waiting to see how her daughter’s journey shall unfold! Even at 14, its clear to see that whatever religious path she chooses, she is going to be a mover, a shaker and an activist and we need many more like her!
Enjoy: I wish so badly that my mother would read this!

Nine years ago, I danced my newborn daughter around my North Carolina living room to the music of Free to Be...You and Me, the '70s children's classic whose
every lyric about tolerance and gender equality I had memorized as a girl growing up in California. My Libyan-born husband, Ismail, sat with her for hours
on our screened porch, swaying back and forth on a creaky metal rocker and singing old Arabic folk songs, and took her to a Muslim sheikh who chanted a
prayer for long life into her tiny, velvety ear. She had espresso eyes and lush black lashes like her father's, and her milky-brown skin darkened quickly
in the summer sun. We named her Aliya, which means "exalted" in Arabic, and agreed we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our
dramatically different backgrounds.

I secretly felt smug about this agreement—confident that she would favor my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing. Ismail's parents
live in a squat stone house down a winding dirt alley outside Tripoli. Its walls are bare except for passages from the Qur'an engraved onto wood, its floors
empty but for thin cushions that double as bedding at night. My parents live in a sprawling home in Santa Fe with a three-car garage, hundreds of channels
on the flat-screen TV, organic food in the refrigerator, and a closetful of toys for the grandchildren. I imagined Aliya embracing shopping trips to Whole
Foods and the stack of presents under the Christmas tree, while still fully appreciating the melodic sound of Arabic, the honey-soaked baklava Ismail makes
from scratch, the intricate henna tattoos her aunt drew on her feet when we visited Libya. Not once did I imagine her falling for the head covering worn
by Muslim girls as an expression of modesty.

Last summer we were celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim community at a festival in the parking lot behind our local mosque. Children bounced
in inflatable fun houses while their parents sat beneath a plastic tarp nearby, shooing flies from plates of curried chicken, golden rice, and baklava.

Aliya and I wandered past rows of vendors selling prayer mats, henna tattoos, and Muslim clothing. When we reached a table displaying head coverings, Aliya
turned to me and pleaded, "Please, Mom—can I have one?"

She riffled through neatly folded stacks of headscarves while the vendor, an African-American woman shrouded in black, beamed at her. I had recently seen
Aliya cast admiring glances at Muslim girls her age. I quietly pitied them, covered in floor-length skirts and long sleeves on even the hottest summer
days, as my best childhood memories were of my skin laid bare to the sun: feeling the grass between my toes as I ran through the sprinkler on my front
lawn; wading into an icy river in Idaho, my shorts hitched up my thighs, to catch my first rainbow trout; surfing a rolling emerald wave off the coast
of Hawaii. But Aliya envied these girls and had asked me to buy her clothes like theirs. And now a headscarf.

In the past, my excuse was that they were hard to find at our local mall, but here she was, offering to spend ten dollars from her own allowance to buy
the forest green rayon one she clutched in her hand. I started to shake my head emphatically "no," but caught myself, remembering my commitment to Ismail.
So I gritted my teeth and bought it, assuming it would soon be forgotten.

That afternoon, as I was leaving for the grocery store, Aliya called out from her room that she wanted to come.

A moment later she appeared at the top of the stairs—or more accurately, half of her did. From the waist down, she was my daughter: sneakers, bright socks,
jeans a little threadbare at the knees. But from the waist up, this girl was a stranger. Her bright, round face was suspended in a tent of dark cloth like
a moon in a starless sky.

"Are you going to wear that?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said slowly, in that tone she had recently begun to use with me when I state the obvious.

On the way to the store, I stole glances at her in my rearview mirror. She stared out the window in silence, appearing as aloof and unconcerned as a Muslim
dignitary visiting our small Southern town—I, merely her chauffeur. I bit my lip. I wanted to ask her to remove her head covering before she got out of
the car, but I couldn't think of a single logical reason why, except that the sight of it made my blood pressure rise. I'd always encouraged her to express
her individuality and to resist peer pressure, but now I felt as self-conscious and claustrophobic as if I were wearing that headscarf myself.

In the Food Lion parking lot, the heavy summer air smothered my skin. I gathered the damp hair on my neck into a ponytail, but Aliya seemed unfazed by the
heat. We must have looked like an odd pair: a tall blonde woman in a tank top and jeans cupping the hand of a four-foot-tall Muslim. I drew my daughter
closer and the skin on my bare arms prickled—as much from protective instinct as from the blast of refrigerated air that hit me as I entered the store.

As we maneuvered our cart down the aisles, shoppers glanced at us like we were a riddle they couldn't quite solve, quickly dropping their gaze when I caught
their eye. In the produce aisle, a woman reaching for an apple fixed me with an overly bright, solicitous smile that said "I embrace diversity and I am
perfectly fine with your child." She looked so earnest, so painfully eager to put me at ease, that I suddenly understood how it must feel to have a child
with an obvious disability, and all the curiosity or unwelcome sympathies from strangers it evokes. At the checkout line, an elderly Southern woman clasped
her bony hands together and bent slowly down toward Aliya. "My, my," she drawled, wobbling her head in disbelief. "Don't you look absolutely precious!"
My daughter smiled politely, then turned to ask me for a pack of gum.

In the following days, Aliya wore her headscarf to the breakfast table over her pajamas, to a Muslim gathering where she was showered with compliments,
and to the park, where the moms with whom I chatted on the bench studiously avoided mentioning it altogether.

Later that week, at our local pool, I watched a girl only a few years older than Aliya play Ping-Pong with a boy her age. She was caught in that awkward
territory between childhood and adolescence—narrow hips, skinny legs, the slightest swelling of new breasts—and she wore a string bikini. Her opponent
wore an oversize T-shirt and baggy trunks that fell below his knees, and when he slammed the ball at her, she lunged for it while trying with one hand
to keep the slippery strips of spandex in place. I wanted to offer her a towel to wrap around her hips, so she could lose herself in the contest and feel
the exhilaration of making a perfect shot. It was easy to see why she was getting demolished at this game: Her near-naked body was consuming her focus.
And in her pained expression I recognized the familiar mix of shame and excitement I felt when I first wore a bikini.

At 14, I skittered down the halls of high school like a squirrel in traffic: hugging the walls, changing direction in midstream, darting for cover. Then
I went to Los Angeles to visit my aunt Mary during winter break. Mary collected mermaids, kept a black-and-white photo of her long-haired Indian guru on
her dresser, and shopped at a tiny health food store that smelled of patchouli and peanut butter. She took me to Venice Beach, where I bought a cheap bikini
from a street vendor.

Dizzy with the promise of an impossibly bright afternoon, I thought I could be someone else—glistening and proud like the greased-up bodybuilders on the
lawn, relaxed and unself-conscious as the hippies who lounged on the pavement with lit incense tucked behind their ears. In a beachside bathroom with gritty
cement floors, I changed into my new two-piece suit.

Goose bumps spread across my chubby white tummy and the downy white hairs on my thighs stood on end—I felt as raw and exposed as a turtle stripped of its
shell. And when I left the bathroom, the stares of men seemed to pin me in one spot even as I walked by.

In spite of a strange and mounting sense of shame, I was riveted by their smirking faces; in their suggestive expressions I thought I glimpsed some vital
clue to the mystery of myself. What did these men see in me—what was this strange power surging between us, this rapidly shifting current that one moment
made me feel powerful and the next unspeakably vulnerable?

I imagined Aliya in a string bikini in a few years. Then I imagined her draped in Muslim attire. It was hard to say which image was more unsettling. I thought
then of something a Sufi Muslim friend had told me: that Sufis believe our essence radiates beyond our physical bodies—that we have a sort of energetic
second skin, which is extremely sensitive and permeable to everyone we encounter. Muslim men and women wear modest clothing, she said, to protect this
charged space between them and the world.

Growing up in the '70s in Southern California, I had learned that freedom for women meant, among other things, fewer clothes, and that women could be anything—and
still look good in a bikini. Exploring my physical freedom had been an important part of my process of self-discovery, but the exposure had come at a price.

Since that day in Venice Beach, I'd spent years learning to swim in the turbulent currents of attraction—wanting to be desired, resisting others' unwelcome
advances, plumbing the mysterious depths of my own longing. I'd spent countless hours studying my reflection in the mirror—admiring it, hating it, wondering
what others thought of it—and it sometimes seemed to me that if I had applied the same relentless scrutiny to another subject I could have become enlightened,
written a novel, or at least figured out how to grow an organic vegetable garden.

On a recent Saturday morning, in the crowded dressing room of a large department store, I tried on designer jeans alongside college girls in stiletto heels,
young mothers with babies fussing in their strollers, and middle-aged women with glossed lips pursed into frowns. One by one we filed into changing rooms,
then lined up to take our turn on a brightly lit pedestal surrounded by mirrors, cocking our hips and sucking in our tummies and craning our necks to stare
at our rear ends.

When it was my turn, my heart felt as tight in my chest as my legs did in the jeans. My face looked drawn under the fluorescent lights, and suddenly I was
exhausted by all the years I'd spent doggedly chasing the carrot of self-improvement, while dragging behind me a heavy cart of self-criticism.

At this stage in her life, Aliya is captivated by the world around her—not by what she sees in the mirror. Last summer she stood at the edge of the Blue
Ridge Parkway, stared at the blue-black outline of the mountains in the distance, their tips swaddled by cottony clouds, and gasped. "This is the most
beautiful thing I ever saw," she whispered. Her wide-open eyes were a mirror of all that beauty, and she stood so still that she blended into the lush
landscape, until finally we broke her reverie by tugging at her arm and pulling her back to the car.

At school it's different. In her fourth-grade class, girls already draw a connection between clothing and popularity. A few weeks ago, her voice rose in
anger as she told me about a classmate who had ranked all the girls in class according to how stylish they were.

I understood then that while physical exposure had liberated me in some ways, Aliya could discover an entirely different type of freedom by choosing to
cover herself.

I have no idea how long Aliya's interest in Muslim clothing will last. If she chooses to embrace Islam, I trust the faith will bring her tolerance, humility,
and a sense of justice—the way it has done for her father. And because I have a strong desire to protect her, I will also worry that her choice could make
life in her own country difficult. She has recently memorized the fatiha, the opening verse of the Qur'an, and she is pressing her father to teach her
Arabic. She's also becoming an agile mountain biker who rides with me on wooded trails, mud spraying her calves as she navigates the swollen creek.

The other day, when I dropped her off at school, instead of driving away from the curb in a rush as I usually do, I watched her walk into a crowd of kids,
bent forward under the weight of her backpack as if she were bracing against a storm. She moved purposefully, in such a solitary way—so different from
the way I was at her age, and I realized once again how mysterious she is to me. It's not just her head covering that makes her so: It's her lack of concern
for what others think about her. It's finding her stash of Halloween candy untouched in her drawer, while I was a child obsessed with sweets. It's the
fact that she would rather dive into a book than into the ocean—that she gets so consumed with her reading that she can't hear me calling her from the
next room.

I watched her kneel at the entryway to her school and pull a neatly folded cloth from the front of her pack, where other kids stash bubble gum or lip gloss.
Then she slipped it over her head, and her shoulders disappeared beneath it like the cape her younger brother wears when he pretends to be a superhero.

As I pulled away from the curb, I imagined that headscarf having magical powers to protect her boundless imagination, her keen perception, and her unself-conscious
goodness. I imagined it shielding her as she journeys through that house of mirrors where so many young women get trapped in adolescence, buffering her
from the dissatisfaction that clings in spite of the growing number of choices at our fingertips, providing safe cover as she takes flight into a future
I can only imagine.

Krista Bremer is the winner of a 2008 Pushcart Prize and a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She is associate publisher of the literary magazine
The Sun, and she is writing a memoir about her bicultural marriage.


Friday, 28 May 2010

Telling it like it is!

I’ve had quite a few new visitors to the blog recently, and quite a few of them have had quite allot to say, (all be it anonymously!). Sadly though, I’ve had to delete almost all of these comments in order to uphold taste and decency, but the deletions have met with great opposition as well, with people accusing me of being one-sided, and not accepting the fact that some one may wish to disagree with me!
Firstly, let me make it clear that, I am both honoured and delighted that people from a rich variety of backgrounds would want to take time out of their day and visit my blog. I’m not a great writer after all, and you can all find better things to do with your free moments, so it means a great deal that you’d want to stop by here. As for disagreeing with me: go right ahead! It’s a free country, and this is a free blog! I adore healthy debate, and believe that difference of opinion is the fuel that educates us and forces us to look beyond what is safe, comfortable, familiar and sometimes incorrect! My issue? Well, with any brand of freedom comes responsibility! Sure you may disagree with me, but do you really need to call me a Kaffar on my own blog? Do you really need to clutter up my blog with vile insults against the shia and our beliefs? You might say to me, well, that’s all fine and good, but don’t you insult ‘wahabis etc on your blog? Think what you will, but I do not believe I have insulted any one. I have most certainly disagreed, and shall continue to do so, because even from among my own people there are sadly very few speaking out about this sect and the damage it is doing. If you examine my posts, particularly those concerning the FGM series, I have been very particular about providing as many references as I can to support any axe to grind that I do have. Whatever my views may be on wahabis and others, I would never call any one kafar or abuse them in such a manner, Allah (SWT) is the one to judge, I am no one in the world to do that and wouldn’t dream of it! I don’t know what these unfortunate souls get out of posting their insightful abuse over here: after all, I know that there are plenty of wahabi bloggers out there who waste their days and nights posting filth against shias, yet I don’t follow their blogs and don’t waste my time trying to counter it. Hanif Qureshi once said: “we all face abuse, physical, mental etc, in our lives at different stages. Some of us challenge it with violence, aggression and hot air, while others choose intellect, and I’m pleased to say I chose the latter”.
Well, I did too!! I am no scholar, but the facts are clear for any one who chooses to open their heart to them. Even then, if you have chosen another way, that’s fine! But do me the decency of not insulting me on my own blog! And at least bring some religious/historical facts to the argument, so that we might engage in something more meaningful!

I posted the below last year on the blog, but feel the need to post again as I’m pretty sure the said individuals won’t be tracking back that far! This is an article that we compiled over at RMA, in an attempt to try and route out some of the vile accusations such people throw at us shia on an almost daily basis, its open source so you are welcome to use this if you are facing similar abuse! And to my wahabi readers, at least read this to the end if your egos can take the fact that you are wrong, and even if you don’t accept our reasoning, try to be respectful enough Muslims not to insult and abuse others, Insha Allah!

Surely We have revealed the Reminder (Qur'an) and

We most surely are its Guardian.

(Qur'an: Chapter 15, Verse 9)

Do the Shi'ah Believe in

a Different Qur'an?

The Shi'ah are frequently accused of belief in Tahrif in Qur'an which means believing that the Qur'an has been tampered with and is not the same as the
one revealed to the Prophet (s).

THIS IS not true !!!

All great Twelver Shi'ah scholars from the earliest period to the present century have believed in the complete preservation of the Qur'an. Some famous
early Shi'ah scholars who have clearly stated this belief in their books include:

q Shaykh al-Saduq (d. 381 AH), Kitabu'l-Itiqadat, (Tehran, 1370) p. 63.

q Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413 AH), Awa'ilu l-Maqalat, pp. 55-6;

q Sharif al-Murtada (d. 436 AH), Bahru 'l-Fawa'id (Tehran, 1314) p. 69;

q Shaykh at-Tusi (d. 460 AH), Tafsir at-Tibyan, (Najaf, 1376), vol 1 p. 3;

q Shaykh at-Tabrasi (d. 548), Majma'u 'l-Bayan, (Lebanon), vol. 1 p. 15.

Some of the later scholars who spelt out the same views include:

q Muhammad Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1019 AH), Al-Wafi, vol. 1 pp. 273-4, and al-'Asfa fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, p. 348;

q Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1111 AH), Bihar al-'Anwar, vol. 89 p. 75

This belief has continued uninterrupted up to the present time. Shi'ah scholars of this century who have reiterated the belief that the Qur'an is completely
protected and unchanged include such famous names as Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-'Amili (d. 1371 AH); Sayyid Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi (d. 1377 AH.); Shaykh
Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita' (d. 1373 AH); Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (d. 1390 AH); 'Allamah al-Tabataba'i (d. 1402 AH); Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni (d.
1409 AH); Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'i (d. 1413 AH) and Sayyid Muhammad Rida al-Gulpaygani (d. 1414 AH).

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list.

Q: But what about the Shi'ah before these scholars, didn't they all believe in tahrif?

Not at all! Consider the example of 'Ubaydullah b. Musa al-'Absi (120-213 AH), a devoted Shi'ah scholar whose narrations from the Imams can be found in
the famous Shi'ah hadith collections such as al-Tahdhib and al-Istibsar. Now let's see what some Sunni scholars have to say about him:

q "... a pious person, one of the important Shi'ah scholars ... he was considered reliable by Yahya b. Ma'in, Abu Hatim said he was reliable, trustworthy
... al-'Ijli said that he was an authority on the Qur'an..."

[Al-Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (Haydarabad, 1333 AH), vol. 1 p. 322]

q "... he was an imam in fiqh and hadith and Qur'an characterized by piety and righteousness, but he was one of the chiefs of the Shi'ah."

[Ibn al-'Imad al-Hanbali, Shadharat al-Dhahab (Cairo, 1350 AH), vol. 2 p. 29]

None of these Sunni scholars would have praised him for his knowledge of the Qur'an if they thought he believed in a different Qur'an!!!

And 'Ubaydullah was considered so trustworthy, despite being a Shi'ah, that the famous Sunni traditionists al-Bukhari and Muslim as well as many others
narrated scores of traditions from him in their hadith collections!

[The Creed of the Imaam of Hadeeth al-Bukhari (Salafi Publications, UK, 1997), pp. 87-89]

Q: Don't the Shi'ah believe in Mushaf Fatimah which is three times the size of the Qur'an?

The Qur'an is a Mushaf (book), but any book is not necessarily the Qur'an! There is no Qur'an of Fatimah! Mushaf Fatimah was a book written or dictated
by Fatimah (a) after the Prophet's (s) death. It is not a part of Qur'an and has nothing to do with Allah's commandments or legal rulings.

Q: But are there not traditions in Shi'ah collections that mention verses of the Qur'an containing extra words than what we have today?

There are some instances where extra words are indicated only by way of explanation, they do not imply that the original Qur'anic text is being distorted.
This happens in both Shi'ah and Sunni sources. Consider the following two examples, both from famous Sunni commentaries of the Qur'an:

q "Ubayy b. Ka'b used to read '… then as to those whom you profit by for an appointed period give them their dowries as appointed…' (Qur'an Chapter
4, Verse 24) and this was also the recitation of Ibn 'Abbas."

[Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb (Beirut, 1981), vol. 9 p. 53]

[Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim (Beirut, 1987), vol. 2 p. 244]

A footnote in Ibn Kathir's Tafsir explains that the additional words indicated above, which are not part of the Qur'an, were recited by these Companions
of the Prophet (s) only by way of tafsir and explanation.

q "Ibn Mas'ud said: In the days of the Prophet (s) we used to recite, 'O our Messenger (Muhammad) deliver what has been sent down to you from your
Lord that 'Ali is the master of the believers if you do not, then you have not delivered His message.' (Qur'an Chapter 5, Verse 67)

[Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, vol. 2 p. 298]

In this case as well, the part in italics is certainly not part of the Qur'anic text, however the Companion Ibn Mas'ud used to recite it in this way to
explain the context of its revelation.

Q: But what about those traditions that say a number of revealed verses are no longer part of the Qur'an?

The Shi'ah do not believe in the immunity of any writer, commentator or narrator from mistakes, and, therefore, they do not take any collection of hadith
to be completely valid and correct. The only book which is completely immune from any mistake is the Qur'an. These traditions are mostly considered as
weak or interpreted as referring to non-Qur'anic revelation.

q It is interesting to point out that there are numerous traditions reported in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim which allege that many verses of
Qur'an are missing. [Al-Bukhari, Al-Sahih, vol. 8 p. 208; Muslim, Al-Sahih, vol. 3 p. 1317]

q Not only that, these Sunni reports allege that two chapters from the Qur'an are missing with one of them similar to the Chapter of al-Bara'ah (chapter
9) in length!!! [Muslim, Al-Sahih, Kitab al-Zakat, vol. 2 p. 726]

q Some Sunni traditions even claim that the Chapter al-Ahzab (chapter 33) was as lengthy as the Chapter of al-Baqarah (chapter 2)!!! The Chapter of
al-Baqarah is the biggest Chapter of the Qur'an. The traditions in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim even detail some of the missing verses. [Al-Bukhari, Al-Sahih,
vol. 8 p. 208]

Yet, fortunately the Shi'ah never accuse the Sunni brothers and sisters of believing that the Quran is incomplete. We say that either these Sunni reports
are weak or fabricated.


"It is our belief that the Qur'an which Allah revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (s) is (the same as) the one between the two covers (daffatayn). And it
is that which is in the hands of the people, and is not greater in extent than that… And he who asserts that we say that it is greater in extent than this
(the present text) is a liar."

[As-Saduq, Kitabu'l-I`tiqadat (Tehran: 1370 AH) p. 63; English translation, The Shi'ite Creed, tr. A.A.A. Fyzee (Calcutta: 1942) p. 85]

To find out more about authentic Islam, visit:

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Time for an update!

Greetings people! I know I’ve been horribly neglectful of the blog recently, and guess its time to bring you all up to speed! My Absence was the result of more than a little chaos (that sounds like those notes for school you used to construct yourself without your parents knowing!). Seriously though, my health has deteriorated quite a bit, the arthritis in my hands has spiralled way quicker than doctors expected. I’ve had a number of bone scans, and while doctors debate what to do with me, I have to ware huge hand splints for hours on end, and don’t have the same computer access that I used to (self-imposed, yet necessary exile). This probably wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but for me, it felt as if my world had fallen apart: I couldn’t read my favourite blogs, study the news or do my online shopping. My Emails were piling up, as were incomplete job applications, and then, some one suggested voice recognition software, and I cried!! For days!! I hate these programmes, and while governments try to move us away from Braille, our own written medium and language, they want to stop me typing as well! Writing, deleting and expressing my own thoughts through the liberation that is writing! I was devastated, stopped going out, answering the phone, having any thing much to do with the outside world! Then, I had to go to London (and things got better by the Grace of Allah!). This trip was the last thing I wanted to do, as I was too lost in isolation: and as well as the new pain I was experiencing, the medication is causing quite horrific stomach upsets (I don’t think I want to go here, but suffice as to say leaving the house can be challenging!). However, going was what I had to do, and with lots of dua and a heavy heart, I boarded the train on the 16th May! The trip was all about the Iran Embassy: yeah! Remember that saga? Turns out that they really did need to fingerprint and interview me, and there was no avoiding it! The agency who have been acting on my behalf, advised that a certain known individual (lets call him MR. Leader of the community), had the power to pool strings and negate this responsibility! So, I sent a very diplomatic Email, politely requesting assistance: I’ve never been particularly close to MR. Leader in the community, but his family are very good friends of mine, and I was certain he would assist! Now, I should point out here, that my hubby-to-be has never been a fan of MR. Leader in the community, and others like him. His logic: well! He’s lived in Iran and seen the best, and indeed the worst of religious/power abuses on the part of such self-made leaders! He feels that the Iranian regime in particular has corrupted the pure shia legacy they are supposed to be cherishing, and it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that we would not consider settling in Iran after we get married!
Back to the situation at hand: it seems that MR. Leader in the community had been doing his research too, and decided he wasn’t going to assist me after all, why? Yeah you got it! because my husband, when interviewed, discussed his views on the so-called Islamic state! I was so angry! What do these people get out of creating barriers for others? These people, none of whom ever helped me to find a husband during my 7-year search! None of whom offered any kind of support when I was out of work or too ill to hold down a job and had barely enough money to heat my apartment in the winter! These people, who preach on about how the blind are to be “pitied”, (not that I’d want that, but some empathy might have come in useful on occasions!). I was angry, bitter and broken, but as is usually the case, Reza was the voice of reason, reminding me that ultimately, Allah (SWT) is the sustainer and the best of planners! It is he, and he alone who will decide our fate, and grant us the outcome that is best, whether it’s the one we want or not! And so, with this heart, I went to London: and from the moment I arrived, the old ‘Roshni started creeping back in to the forefront! It was sunny, busy and just so …., London! I was with good friends, those I loved and who loved me, and I hadn’t seen them for ages! It felt good, liberating and almost like coming home! I did the rounds, had lots of laughs, visited green street and, despite my resolve, I just HAD to buy a suit from Bareeza: you hear? I had to!! I woke up each morning I was there with circles of birds sitting on my attic window (and yeah, the Bob Marley song rang true: every little thing, was alright!). On Tuesday of last week, I began what I’ve recently termed ‘mission Iran! That is a journey across London, picking up documents and required pieces of paper, before hot-footing it to the embassy to submit them! The journey was long, hot and tiring, and we were even sent to the wrong building and had an extra 30 minutes walk to the right one towards the end, but the interview its self went like clock work: mashallah all of your duas, support and good wishes paid off! The Embassy staff were warm, professional and helpful, and a few days later, I learnt on very good authority that the visa would be issued! This is a huge relief for both of us: I’ve caused my in-laws enough stress already, and I was already starting to fret over how I’d tell them if I didn’t get the visa!
I came home on Wednesday, and dad offered to pick me up from the station: a very kind gesture, but something that worried me: he wanted to go for lunch: (again, why worry you may ask?), well, dad never goes out with me in hijab: he just won’t! and of course, I wouldn’t be taking it off: so, how in the world did we move forward from here! He picked me up, I was tired, weak and with a pounding migraine, but didn’t show any of it: I met his growls with smiles, and then he suggested I go home and changed before we went for lunch! I don’t know where I got the courage from, but I smiled again, calmly informed him I didn’t require to get changed, and how if I went home and then come out again, I’d be late as I was having my online grocery shop delivered and needed to get back at a reasonable time! I expected him to fly in to a rage, to take me home and call it off, but he didn’t! we went for lunch, and that too in a small place opposite his work! Granted, it was 2.30 and there wasn’t much danger of colleagues dropping in, but a risk none the less! And one that made a huge deal to me! I was floating on optimism for a good few days after: mum didn’t share my happiness, she still thinks hijab is optional and I use it to cause a fight: but hey, happiness is a blessing, and should be shared, whether others embrace it or not!
The stress of the trip etc came out then, and I spent a couple of days in bed, but Saturday I was back in full form: in the evening attending a fundraiser for a school for the blind in Calcutta. We had the customary dodgy language being used, the sympathy votes and the pleas for money for the “poor stricken blind in their dark world” (that was a real quote from the film they showed), but I like to think I countered some of that in my own speech: I got positive feedback at any rate, including a few who suggested I think about a career in politics! …, Those on here who suggested the same: do you see a pattern!! (grin).

Other than that, we began the new Environmental project with GCIL on Monday (will write more on it later), but despite the initial logistical problems, we had a successful day, and I’m allot more optimistic about its success than I was in the beginning! So, there you have it! my update, all is …, well, not right, but at least improved with the world! And to top it, a close friend has invited me for dinner tomorrow: my friend, who cooks the most fantastic biriani in the history of biriani cooking in Glasgow: and I am more than a big bit excited!

I’ll leave you with One born every minute (late this week I know!). Short and sweet: here’s a bit of bangra for ya! Why? Well, because its summer, and this is my ultimate summer tune right now. If my friends had kept the car, we would have been chacking the phatay to this at every traffic signal in green street, and, yesterday I was found hoovering in time to some great bangra tunes while this song blasted out! Even if you don’t do pindu music, you’ll love this, and for all those idiots still listening to ‘amplifier, THIS IS THE MUSIC YOU WILL LIKE, acha? Cool, now that we’ve got that out of the way, enjoy! Oh and if any one has this in mp3: please send my way as I just can’t find it!

name="allowscriptaccess" value="always">allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385">

A shia response (FGM Series)

It would appear that the last few months have sparked widespread internet discussions on FGM! While I’d love to take the credit, I’ve no idea what has suddenly generated so much debate on the subject, and while you can say that any debate is healthy debate, in this case, I really don’t think so (the Email I posted earlier being an excellent case and point!).
In order to get your head around FGM and other related controversies, you are required to reach out far beyond the comfort zone and start questioning with objectivity and non-bias in order to seek out true reality, and as wahabism spreads and pollutes, we see fewer and fewer Muslims being prepared to do that. I’ve also seen a strange trend emerging among our shia ullamaah (something for another post), but the new trend seems to be, to water down rulings, or at least to engineer the wordings/interpretations in order to make them more palatable to sunis: I don’t quite understand what they get out of doing this? While I know that the Indian sub-continent in particular has always been a hot bed for what they term ‘agency bunday, (i.e., those who are paid by the non-shia state to toe one particular line or other), but given that we are hated for the most part any way, and when all is said and done, truth is truth whether withheld or disclosed, so why bother!

Any way; I digress; since the FGM series began, I’ve been desperately trying to source some shia hadaith and references to back up the points I was making: in particular, I wanted a hadaith that explicitly forbid FGM, as I was certain that logically speaking, this would be and had to be, the only realistic shia answer to those evil individuals who support it. Finally, I was rewarded: and came across the following:
Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s.) has said: "I asked Abu Ja'far (a.s) about a bondwoman that was captured from the land of polytheism and there was no woman
to circumcise her. The Imam said: "The Sunna recommended the circumcision of men and not of women." It is also narrated that Imam Ja'far As-Sadiq (a.s.)
said: "circumcising a male slave is a part of the Sunna of the Prophet(p.), but circumcising a bondwoman is not."
I can’t express to you the relief I felt when I read this, I actually cried in shukr for around half an hour! While my heart always told me this would be the case, I needed that validation in an Islamic context: and not least because of the hate mail I received and continue to receive almost daily owing to my standpoint on this issue.
Since I began the series, I’ve also written to a number of our law makers in the shia world for their rulings on the subject, and have heard little back yet. While this is normal practise due to their constraints, I think it is safe to predict that some debate will surely go down as to how to “politically” answer this question “safely” as it were. If you don’t believe me or are getting ready to accuse me of cynicism, check out this ruling I found from Fadlullah on the issue:
“'Female circumcision is neither obligatory nor recommendable, as it is the case for men, but it is deemed prohibited if it causes her harm to women. "

While I am most certainly not a scholar, doesn’t the hadaith above state clearly that FGM is haram? And, as discussed on my previous post on the Islamic validity (or lack there of), it was universally agreed that any unnecessary form of physical abusing, either to one’s self or to others, is haram, and wouldn’t that equally apply to FGM? Allah (SWT) and his Ahlulbayt (A.S) know best! And have expressed the same in this regard! However, I’ll continue to post responses as and when I receive them.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Announcing a sad death (from Allah we came, and to him is our return)

Salaamun Alaykum Brothers and sisters,

For those who do not yet know, I am writing to inform you of the tragic passing of a renowned brother, scholar, writer and activist, Barrister Haji Murtaza Lakha.

Barrister Lakha is known through-out the shia world for his eloquence, passion and great love for the Ahlulbayt (A.S), his name is synonymous with knowledge and education of the highest calibre: reflected in his rousing muherram lectures, his many Islamic text translations and his unique ability to draw on hidden purls of wisdom from our faith often untouched by many modern-day scholars. Barrister Lakha became ill around 4 weeks back, after relatively strong health, so his sudden death was a huge shock to his family, friends and all those of us who loved him. He was an ardent supporter of RMA, and mentored many of the prominent revert brothers now in leadership roles in the UK shia community today.

He will be known through-out the legal fraternity for his unceasing dedication to the world of law and justice, as well as among those shia faithful who yearned for learning that stretched them far beyond the realms of their comfort zones, while at the same time, elevating them to higher dimensions of understanding and spirituality. I last met Barrister Lakha in Muherram, during one of my visits to Ahlulbayt TV. As always, he showered duas upon me, which left me energised and ready to battle through another day. I remember discussing a proposed programme for new reverts that the channel was planning to make, and how he commented, that while in his view, although reverts were sometimes closer to Allah (SWT) because they had chosen the path of Ahlulbayt (A.S), on their own and through their own reasoning, the positions they held with Allah (SWT) required greater responsibility. He strongly believed that reverts would be among the Army of Imam Mahdi (A.S), and therefore, had a moral and ethical duty to be leading lights in the fight for equality, justice and liberation for all.

Barrister Lakha leaves behind a grieving family, but he also leaves a treasure of a daughter, Barrister Sabira Murtaza Lakha, who has for many years, been training in her father’s footsteps, and who I know will surely do an invaluable job in continuing the incredible legacy her beloved father has left behind. SR Sabira was very ill prior to her father’s death, and this shocking loss has weakened her even more. Please remember this family in your duas, as well as Barrister Lakha’s friends, supporters and loved ones. Surely such flowers of Jannah are in a better place, but it is those of us who are left behind that have to come to terms with the tremendous void their absence leaves in our lives on so many levels.
Please recite sura Fatiha for Barrister Lakha, May Allah (SWT) bless him and Grant him eternal rewards, for all that he was, and for all the noor he brought in to the lives of so many, aameen.

Friday, 14 May 2010

1 born every minute: its back!

A long way back, way back in the day: I used to present radio programmes, and …, horror upon horror, people actually listened to them! And liked them! So much so that, a few of the said listeners have asked me to bring one of their favourite features back, and include it here on the blog! The feature was entitled, ‘one born every minute! I soon learnt that, my life is allot more bazaar, surreal and disjointed than your average, but rather than get upset and worked up about it, its better to just celebrate the madness, laugh at yourself and with the others rather than have them laugh at you alone! Life is too short after all; of course, it becomes ever so slightly unethical when the joke is on some one else and I happen to be observing, but hey: others need to share the love and the smiles!
I’ve been mulling this over for a couple of weeks, trying to find a belter to kick things off, and then it came to me yesterday! (this is actually a true story, before any one runs away with the idea I mocked it up!).

So, I’m doing an evaluation for a new Ethnic Minority project, exploring the use of the natural world (yeah I know: evaluations are the only work freelancers can get these days: and yes, I do hate it!). So, as per usual, the apna crowd have been complaining about how there are no projects for them, no one is interested etc, and then we get this new project together, only to find out ‘bang! No one is interested!! So, we’ve had to top up the numbers with all other breeds of individuals: because we’ve worked dam hard to get the money, and I don’t want to give it back!! I interviewed one of the candidates yesterday: a rather dull gora guy from Ayrshire, somewhere in his late 30s, but he seemed up for coming to our project, and that’s all I care about! Somehow, we got on to talking about the nature of his impairment (something I prefer to avoid given my social model persuasion, but he volunteered the info, and kept talking even when I made it obvious I’d switched off). He was talking about the trauma of his sight loss, and then I felt bad, wondering if perhaps he had been involved in an accident, or inherited some dodgy genetic complaint like mine later in life, so I bit the bullet and asked him what had happened to him (if of course, he didn’t mind spilling). He smiled, and told me, quite calmly: “well, the thing is, some guys dared me to blow myself up and …, I did it! and my eyes got the worst of it!”. At that moment, I thanked God for the fact he couldn’t see how hard I was working to suppress my laughter! Only a guy from Ayrshire could do this!! And do you see now why I mentioned he was a gora? A guy who blows himself up! And isn’t Muslim! Wonderful! I then wondered if he really should come on our course at all: the last thing I want is to be accused of running a terrorist training camp for disabled people!. Moreover, I started to worry about what would happen if any one else in my group dared him to do something! Would he jump off bridges, flash down David Cameron during his latest Scottish visit, (who said that would be helpful!!), But when I informed my manager of the same, his sentiments were similar: “let him come along: it will be good entertainment!”, yeah right! So you see? There really is one born every minute! If you encounter similar twilight zone moments, coupled with their own unique flavour, you are welcome to send them to me for publishing, or just add them in the comments, …, more madness next Friday!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Another Wahabi attack! (FGM Series)

The FGM series running on this blog was originally supposed to be restricted to 6 posts, however, given the level of interest there is in it, and the severe lack of education there is regarding it, seems to suggest this will sadly be an ongoing subject for us to be returning to again and again. As the fowl disease that is wahabism continues to spread, we need to find new, more clever, sharp and shrewd ways for exposing their ignorance for the empty, evil darkness that it is. Any one can call themselves a Muslim, few live according to the teachings of peace, what is a label when the contents of the product are nothing but fowl smelling diseased comestibles. I’ve received many Emails cursing me, the blog and all those who protest against FGM and other practises like it, but I want to draw your attention to just one of them. This stands out because it was sent by some one describing himself in the subject line of his Email as ‘albaseera ‘true vision! Hmm interesting! Albaseera, in Arabic, literally translates as insight. It is used to describe that ‘true vision, that comes from the depths of the soul, the purest part of a human being before the nafs and other diseases touches it.
This Email came to my attention because, around the time the FGM series was running, another unrelated Email group I am a part of, sent out a message from a research student wishing to research FGM and its connections with Islam. I replied back in brief, trying to summarise some of the points made on the blog series, and also appealing to people to come forward and add their voices to the campaigns to have this practise stamped out for once and for all!
I figured that this particular Email group might actually be more supporting of the campaign: most of them are visually impaired Muslims, so have countered the discrimination head-on. They, better than most others can understand the lack of education among our people and the need for those of us who can, to speak out against it and do what we can to change things. While there are sadly, a great many people around the world who support FGM, this is one of the most blinkered and ignorant responses I’ve ever come across, particularly because it tries to fake concern through clever language and look-warm references, and its come from a so-called scholar who really should know a world better! My apologies if this offends some of you: I suppose we can only understand ignorance, if we see it in the cold light of day and expose it for what it is.

“Without enlightening much further on the subject of FGM, may I remind
my brothers and sisters here that, Only Allah Who is our creator knows
what is good for us and what is not. He sent the prophet Sallallahu
Alaihi Wasallam to us so that he may be the example of our life. We
can by no means gain true success without following him and believing
with certainty without ay doubt in everything that he brought to us.
Of course we would be tested by various means and it is up to us
whether we would choose the path guided by Allah's messenger or the
path of others who are astray.

Our understanding of Islam must never be based on our own defective
thinking and especially on the ideology fed by the disbelieving folk
in whose heart contains not even a single grain of Faith and they
don't even know who their creator is! They might carry out their
project under a very fancy name or under a struggle calling for peace,
however, in reality, what's hidden behind that is a total propaganda
against the Muslims and the merciless slaughter of our own brothers
and sisters in various parts of the globe.

The only way we can bring up our peaceful and happy society is by
bringing back the true teaching of Quran and Sunnah in to our lives.
By Allah! Nobody in the history of mankind ever defended for the right
of a human, whether male or female, young or old like how the Prophet
Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam, and the noble Khilafa'
Raashideen have done. And no religious figures in the world history
ever showed mercy, kindness and tolerance to their fellow human beings
of a different faith, race and color like the Muslims.
Let’s entrust the life of our brothers and sisters in Africa,
Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq and in all parts of the world with the right
hand and not with the hand of the opposing party. Can we give credit
to or even expect assistance from such people who call our Muslims
terrorists and oppressors while their hands are burying our sons and
daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan? While this is supposed to be a
basic Human right, the media feels free to throw out whatever it likes
to disfigure and discriminate the Muslims, yet you would rarely
witness someone finding it interesting enough to strive against such
There are loads of other social problems which are much more serious
and life-threatening than the one previously mentioned, whether in
Africa or in various parts of the world including Europe and the US,
but since it doesn't go well with what the public is interested, it is
simply left out.

Dear brothers and sisters, Let us not be deceived by their soft tone
and sweet talk so much so that we're willing to lend them our ears and
struggle on their behalf while at the same time, we point out our
fingers against our own people and the scholars of Islam. What is the
status and position of those people compared to that of Imam Abu
Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'ee and Imam Ahmad Bin Hambal?
Do you know that, they were such people who would even sacrifice their
life in order that this Deen may reach us?
These were the people who were ready to die for the Deen of Allah.
They wouldn't allow a single bit of Deen to be changed even at the
cost of their life! These are the true scholars of Islam to whom we
owe our sincere gratitude. They weren’t scholars of a particular sect
or group but of Islam as a whole!

Yes. We should help each other in removing ignorance from the minds of
people because many a time, ignorance causes a great deal of damage to
the society. And the very root of ignorance is Kufr and that is, not
having faith and diverting from the right path. Islam means submission
that's why it is us who should find the way for ourselves to fit in
Islam and not the other way round!
I find it as my duty to further enlighten this discussion since the
Hadith concerning it is absolutely authentic and let it be clear that
whatever the scholars said must never be disregarded. The harm and the
ill effect of FGM is not related to Islam nor any law derived from it.
The people must know the ruling and be educated about the correct
method of carrying out such a task while not linking the unexpected
result to Islam but rather to their own ignorance. At the same time,
the ignorant way of FGM must be totally discouraged and avoided at all
costs. Whoever use Islam as a medium to satisfy their desire and
subjugate their women must answer to Almighty Allah on the Day of
Judgment and they will have to severely pay the price of what they've
done. The evil outcome of such careless act could easily be
understood from the description pointed out by sister Roshni in the
previous message. Such cold-blooded and inhuman treatment is
absolutely against the path of the noble messenger Peace be upon him.
May Allah give us the true understanding and guide us to practice the
best of it. Aameen.”
To dissect this, (and I won’t go in to loads of detail as this discussion has taken place in another post with references), my point here is really to try and expose just how baseless and bigoted their pathetic arguments really are!

The writer begins by discussing how the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) came bringing a message of peace, and how, as his followers, it is up to us to discriminate between real Islam, and the corrupted versions, …., I couldn’t agree more! The irony of course is, that this is precisely what wahabis have got wrong! They have chosen a group of peasants for their masters, and refuse to go back to the original unadulterated sources for their Islamic learning, instead following a sheep farmer who’s utterings begin and end with the word ‘kaffar!! And this is the first problem I have with this Email. Kaffar, in Arabic, means a disbeliever in the concept of Tawheed (the oneness of God). While one could, possibly single out atheists as ‘kaffar, Islam expressly forbids a person from labelling any one as kaffar, whether he/she is one or not! Kaffar, or doing ‘kufr are not permanent states, if I negate the demands of my brother or sister on me, I may fall in to Kufr, or, If I ask forgiveness for my wrong-doing, committed by me either knowingly or unknowingly, I may reverse this state and return to the straight path. So, if my own house may not necessarily be in order, I have no right at all to point the finger as it were! And while this Email begins with the pretext of warning us against misguidance within our religion, what he is actually saying (all be it indirectly at this point), is, do not join hands with any one who is not Muslim!! Do you see a pattern here? When Hitler committed his atrocities, he began a mission to obliterate any one who appeared (either physically or mentally) to go against his perverted ideology. Wahabism follows a similar track, that is why nations like Saudi make it so difficult for their inhabitants to marry non-Saudis, that is why they prevent their woman from driving, and many of them have no accommodations for Muslim women in their Islamic centres. The idea of not working together with non-Muslims for the common good is no where in Islamic history. In the early days of Islam, the fledgling Islamic state looked after its Jews and Christians, enabling them to practise their faiths freely and without fear. Through-out history, the ahlulbayt (A.S) went out of their way to form treaties with the corrupt leaders of the time for the good of the people, and when they sent representatives to non-Muslim nations, those people lived peacefully there, according to the laws of that nation. The entire modern-day interfaith movement would fall apart if every one took on the view the Email respondent is suggesting, and I give thanks for the fact that not all Muslims subscribe to such a ridiculous and unashamed segregation!
He then goes back to how we need to follow pure Islam, and goes further, suggesting that no one protected the rights of women like the Prophet (PBUH) (agreed), and the 4 khalifas (disagreed) (with the exception of Imam Ali) (A.S). I say this, not just because I am shia, but for a hard and simple fact: how can a leader, who has been falsely elected, and who, violates the right of his fellow man in the process, defend the rights of women, or any one else for that matter! How can those who made their livings out of fabricating and manipulating hadaith to their own advantages have a single grain of truth in their hearts? And how can a man, who calls himself the ‘rightly guided Khalifa, then go and brutally murder the blessed flower of jannah, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH), Fatimah Zahra (A.S), not only killing her in the most painful and tragic of ways, but killing her unborn son in the process, all so that he could usurp her inheritance from her! If you don’t believe these facts, you only have to go back and study history for yourself: Islamic history books expose their evil for what it is. Because of their actions, the earliest seeds of terrorism were planted on that very day, and the generations who followed and mimicked their behaviours are cursed too, for many of them had a clear choice, and could distinguish truth from falsehood much easier than one sometimes can today, yet they still chose to follow them. The Emailer suggests we should leave the fate of our sisters who suffer FGM in the hands of the “Muslims”, because that is better for them. I am glad that Imam Hussain (A.S) did not leave the fate of these women, and the rest of the Muslims in their hands, other wise, we would all be excuses for human beings like Yazid (LA), or else we’d all be affected just as wahabis are today.
He goes on to somehow compare FGM with killings in Afghanistan, Iraq etc, and blaming the media for this victimisation. The connection doesn’t quite make sense to me! 2 evils do not make a right, nor do they make a greater evil. While I would agree with him that the media has an agenda (in part) to work against Muslims, but haven’t the wahabis given them plenty of fuel to their fire? After all, few of them speak out against terrorism, and few of them can be bothered to eradicate such ideologies from their nations, and isn’t it the wahabi scholar who takes the knife to his daughter, rather than a foreign journalist? Wahabism breeds terrorism because young men with half a brain can see that there is more to life, there is a need to act, to stand up and be heard, yet wahabism does not provide them with an outlet through which to do so. Unless they are crying ‘jihad or ‘khilafa, no one is interested! Most of them opt out, choosing to agree with my Emailer who says “there are loads of other social problems which are much more serious and life-threatening than the one previously mentioned!). Well, on one level he is right, in fact I’d put abolishing wahabism in its entirety as being one of them, for if we did that, FGM and other perverted evils would automatically dissolve along-side it! But, if this individual truly believes that other things are more important, I wonder how he justifies shouting about the equality he believes he, as a visually impaired person deserves!!! Is that important? Should money even be spent on it!
He does say, (and rightly so), that we should tackle problems within, rather than pointing the finger at our own people! …, well maybe, but wahabis will never do that, and this is why other Muslim groups spend their lives trying to account for their filth in the press, why we get involved in activism and interfaith groups, and speak out against FGM. If the media and the non-Muslims point, it is only because wahabis permit them to do so. 5 years ago, a horrific case of sexual abuse took place in a Glasgow based wahabi centre: myself, and the counsellors involved all received death threats and excrement through our doors for speaking to the media about it! so you see what ‘not pointing the finger can lead to! Sad times indeed!
He concludes by attempting to justify the fabricated hadaith defending this practise (this has already been addressed in a previous post), he says that Islam can’t be questioned nor can the suni scholars be challenged! Strange isn’t it, how the so-called scholars he talks about, were all students of the ahlulbayt (A.S), yet he’d prefer not to go back to the source for his education? Moreover, the ‘real scholars, our Imams (A.S), welcomed all to come, disagree, debate and learn from them regardless of faith, rank, status etc. The day we stop questioning is the day we truly fall down as a nation (if we haven’t done so already!).

There never has, and there never will be, any justification within Islam for brutally mutilating a woman, and I leave my Emailer with another simple fact previously given: were it an Islamic practise, wouldn’t the Prophet (PBUH) have circumcised his daughter and the women of his house? The ironic thing is that, many of these so-called supporters of FGM would never circumcise their mothers, wives or daughters, yet waste their time peddling this evil to others.
May Allah (SWT) save us from the curse that is wahabism. May we never stop using our intellect and logic to lead us to truth and falsehood for what they really are. May we all, Muslim or not, keep speaking out against their disgusting evils and show them for what they truly are to all mankind, and finally, may we continue to enjoin the good and forbid the evil with all those voices who come together for peace and justice across the world, whoever they are and whoever they may be. When Wahabis call themselves Muslims, we carry an even greater responsibility to promote and display true Islam for the peaceful way of life that it really is! While I am not a scholar, and do not claim to be, Insha Allah I’ve sparked some real ‘baseera, within all those who read this (wahabi or not!).

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The day the Ex came calling!

So, the thing is that my radio friend Sangeev has got himself entangled with a random Lebanese woman he met on a film networking evening. And he’s not just entangled!! He is, in fact, madly, stupidly, crazily, screwed-up besotted in love with her!! How did that happen!! Neither of us saw it coming: they were friends, work colleagues (or so I thought), till I saw his mood fall further and further down to his feet: and then, one cold wet afternoon: he confessed all: he was infatuated by her, I’d never seen him like that: not ever! And I’m angry: he was never like that over me!! But, that’s not the only reason why I’m angry: he’s a great friend, married to a beautiful woman and with a young son he should be way proud of! Sangeev isn’t religious, so I can’t use that card on him, but we do have a shared value base, so I went in at that angle: what did he think he was doing? Why was he trying to spoil his married life? Destroy his son’s teenage years and ruin his own future belief in relationships (as happened with me when my own parents took to affairs). He would be ostracised from the family, would ruin his brother’s career, his standing in the community and send his poor mother to an early grave (his father already past away, and such a revelation would surely finish the poor woman).
Apparently though, I don’t know it all! He tells me that things between him and his wife have been pretty bad lately, he feels lonely, depressed and broken, this ‘other woman, is just a good friend, just like he and I are for one another! He doesn’t want any thing physical! It hasn’t gone there, and will never go there!! Then I remind him that I know him better than I know myself, and I reinforce that he and I were never like that, then I come back to the shame, the destruction, the selfishness of it all, and we repeat the circle all over again!! We spent afternoons, days, nights doing this; he got lower and lower, and I got all the more angry! Heck I’ve no job, no money and all kinds of family problems: I’ve got better ways of fretting away my hours of unemployment!! But he is a friend, and you don’t neglect a beautiful friend when they are down! As he cried through his heartbreak, I suddenly came upon my tubelight moment! Why hadn’t I thought of it before!! I think it was because he’d been going on and on about how wonderful she was, but had omitted to mention her narcissistic tendencies: self-obsession, leading a double life, never returning calls, no texts or Emails, no mutual social outings with friends, and then I knew how to get through this, and in measured tones, threw in my wisest wise crack of the night!
“see, I, …, well, I was once where you are now!”, Sangeev was silent, intrigued! And then I laughed, as I’d discovered a coincidence that would have been so obvious to the rest of the world, that I totally skipped it!
“and the weird part is, he was Arab too! …, well, Arab American to be exact!”. Sangeev is silent, then the heckles rise, and I know what is eating him: “why didn’t you tell me!”, he quips roughly, adding “besides, you were never like that with me!”.
“That’s not true!”, I retort, though, its not entirely untrue either. Sure there was a time when I actually thought Sangeev and I could, possibly be romantically linked: we talked about it, dreamt about it, and acted it out for a short time, but even in its most blissful moments, somehow that connection never really sustained the x-factor I was looking for. Then, along came Arab American guy: and whoop-bang things would never be the same again!
Naturally, Sangeev wanted to know all about it, and I obliged, but summarising, because you never really can find words to define affairs of the heart, they are so spontaneous, so other-worldly that even recounting conversations, places, circumstances seems somehow cheep and puerile. A bit like my first step in to romance with Arab American man! We’d been exchanging long-distance calls, Emails riddled with mutual admiration, and it felt nice: he enjoyed intelligent sarcasm and razor sharp jibing: before I knew it, I was manically checking my Email, and sitting by the phone, praying it would ring! Then the 1st July 2007 happened: I had guests coming to stay from Pakistan, and was faking a domestic Goddess routine because the house had been crying out to be cleaned for months, and I didn’t want my former work colleagues to go back informing all in sundry that I’d lost the will to live since my divorce! Arab American guy calls, and I’ve got the phone in one hand, and a duster in the other, but I now whiz through the cleaning: I have company, the best kind, and I have that lovely butterfly feeling, combined with a soft, velvety sense of being cocooned: this guy cared enough about my pending visitors to give me a call and see how I was doing. Eventually, he offered to hang up the phone so I could get on with the more urgent 2-handed tasks (cleaning the bathroom for example). I didn’t want to end the call, and moreover, I sensed he wanted to say something: and that too something very, very important!! After pressing for around 3 attempts:
“is there something you wanted to say?”, I asked shakily. he clinched it; “ah: just that I love you!”. There you had it, I was in cloud 9!! This amazing, funny, intelligent, beautiful, talented, loving, caring and intriguing Arab American guy loves me!! Yeah! He loves me!! Some one as average, boring, uninspiring and cynical as me! And I was flying: dropping my work to send Emails, and never as hospitable to any guests as I found myself being that weekend! That was the 1st July 2007, and all through that summer, birds chirped and music played, the sun shone, and I was smiling again: I looked great! I wore pretty clothes and didn’t need make-up because the new light on my face shone brighter than any blush-on.
“what happened?” Sangeev asked. I swallowed hard, it still hurt to think about this! “well, …, he chucked me!”.
“what? He chucked you? Are you serious? How in the name of God could he do that!!!”. That’s when I smiled: now I remembered why I had told Sangeev! Despite being smitten by new Lebanese interest, he still thought I rocked like no other! And yeah!! How the hell could Arab American guy dump me!! I am not earth shattering, but he could do worse, and besides its not like he’s had any better offers recently (as far as I knew).
“and the worst part was, he didn’t even have the balls to finish it properly!”. Sangeev tutted with all the understanding I needed to power up my own melancholy: but it was true, we’d never really had that discussion: that closure, that heartbreaking yet necessary moment where one or both of you say “we need to talk, …, things haven’t really been working between us lately, …, its not you, its me!”. Instead, Arab American guy just stopped calling, no Emails, no more concern, no interest shown, and as he didn’t call, I didn’t call either! And hate myself now for admitting that I’d left far too many balls in his court rather than taking the proverbial by the horns, but that’s what love does sometimes, and as I’m normally so control freakish and prickly around the edges, I wanted to open up, to let down my guard and allow this magnetic man to penetrate in to the deepest undiscovered recesses of my being, so that years in to the future as we sat by the sea meditating over our past, he could never say “you didn’t tell me”, or, “you hid that from me”. None of this he appreciated though: he let go, eventually getting back to me to crib over his “problems” and “baggage” and how “he didn’t have room for a relationship in his life right now”. These were apparently all phrases being utilised in precisely the same manner by Lebanese woman, so Sangeev totally felt me at this point.
“so you see?”, I concluded matter-of-factly, “its not worth it, you need to stop this, let go before its too late, don’t let this pathetic human being play with your heart and screw up your head!! No one is worth that, but especially not shallow users like these!!”, I was vehement and fiery: Sangeev had perhaps underestimated the affect of this guy’s “dumping” on me. “you are really angry about this aren’t you!! Even now!”, I was silent, biting my bottom lip so hard that I drew blood!! I didn’t want to have this conversation any more, and I would not, WOULD NOT cry!!
“Just don’t do it!!!! just get out of it!!!”, I was almost shouting now were it not for the fact that the tears hidden at the back of my throat would have given me away!! I was remembering something else: how, once upon a time, Arab American guy had gotten very, very serious! So much so, that he’d even given me the green light to tell my family about him! I remembered how, I’d got dressed up, and taken my mum for lunch, and told her about how I thought I’d “found the one”, and how, although my mum was a little worried about his visual impairment (its amazing how the mother of a blind girl can have such prejudices), she’d still been happy and liked the sound of him: and the best part was, I knew I could take him home to my parents with confidence, pride and peace in the knowledge that they’d love him as much (if not more), than I did!
“I’m sorry jaan”, Sangeev was saying, “I’m really sorry! I had no idea you’d been through that, it must have been hell for you!”. He talked about Lebanese woman some more, and how she too was hurting him, by that time I’d washed my face and taken back my customary stoic attitude to men, and that’s when I remembered how much I hate him! Up until I went to ziyerat last July, I’d been hopelessly hung up on him! I missed him, and cried at least once a week over our strange painful ending! And then I’d called him to tell him I was going for ziyerat, to try and make peace with him, to be polite and pass the time of day, and maybe, even to be friends! And he’d been cold, uninterested and busy! And that’s when I hated him: who did he think he was? He had problems? Well I did too! He had a screwed family? I did too! And he had health problems? I had them all as well: it was our shared misery that had enabled us to elevate one another beyond the hurt and the eccentricity of our mutual realities! But he wasn’t interested! And so that’s when I let him go!
“she doesn’t deserve your tears, your long nights of waking up missing her, your late night texts and your pure love filled fantasies! She’ll chew you up and spit you out, and you’ll hate yourself for being nothing but a pon in her nasty pathetic game!”, my anger was evident, and it was getting through! After painstakingly extracting a few more affirmations from him, I put down the phone, happy, that I’d saved the soul of one I really did love, and for the right reasons: but sad in that I’d raked up something that should never EVER have been raked up!

That night I didn’t sleep, I wish I hadn’t, but I’d saved a whole collection of Emails from Arab American man in an old, disused Email account. I copied them all in to a word file, and spent the long cold night reading them, remembering the sun, and the songs I used to sing, the clothes I’d ware and the long nights of pure bliss, deep conversations and passionate promises made with full sincerity, sleeping for an hour and rushing to work with an even bigger smile than the day before, life was really so unfair! Then, somewhere between my parent’s home and the chocolate shop I had a reality check: what the hell was I doing? I’m supposed to be getting married in 7 weeks, and I’m letting this messed up loser make me miserable? The best thing I could do would be to overdose on my own medicine right now!! And that’s what I was doing! I was lost in election fever, and so was Sangeev! Lebanese woman had gone off to the states on work, and we had more important politicians to fry! It felt good, I was in love again and preparing to receive my wedding dress: and then, the Email came! It was earth-splitting, one of those sick synchronised moments that are never meant for reality and should stay firmly in Hindi film land! He wants to know how I’m doing!! Why does he need to know how I’m doing! And then I recall how all this is my fault, because I’ve given him a licence to ask how I’m doing, I gave it way back then when he had way too many cards, and when I, like a love sick school girl was anticipating a friendship of sorts back in July 09! And then I want to tell him how I’m doing, that I’m doing brilliantly, even though I’m unemployed, in my Email I’m freelancing, and although my family is screwed, its all “comfortable insanity”, the stuff he and I are used to, and even as I send that Email I should have earmarked for the trash, I already know that it won’t be enough: .., and its not!! Arab American writes back with enough indifference to fill in the blanks, before he can legitimately ask if I’m seeing any one? And then, it happens again!! I have to think for a moment: part of me wants to tell him I’m not seeing any one, that I’m too screwed in the head because of all the hurt he caused me, and because all men are B***ds and don’t deserve some one like me! But somehow, truth prevails and I tell him with way too much hot air that I’m getting married, and that my husband-to-be designed my dress, and that he rocks, etc. He too is seeing a Lebanese woman (not the same one: I checked!), she’s a lawyer, the same lawyer who once represented him! “that’s how she gets her kicks!” I thought silently (screws you before you screw her!), and its all good apparently, apart from the fact that he is still struggling to let his defences down and ditch the baggage, “get over yourself!!!” I thought angrily!!
But I had my own perfectly chiselled ways of getting my own back! I replied sweetly, advising him that if ‘new Lebanese interest is the right one, he should let down his “defences”, and certainly not treat her in the nasty, evil casual manner he treated me! I admitted it had broken me, and assured him that no one deserves such treatment (regardless of what I thought inwardly!), I sent the Email, with an evil but satisfied smirk on my face! And, he didn’t reply, (not right away at any rate!). The gap gave me just long enough to inform Sangeev of the bazaar happenings that had ensued that week!
We were both flat out with election stuff, so it was another phone convo during my non-London weekend: “tell me about the Email!”, he said as my number flashed before him, without so much as a hello!
“Not much to say!”, I said, this time, I would avoid the subject: the former conversation had taught me lessons: it really had! And I wasn’t going there again ever!! But I’m not good at lying, and my bitterness sharpened its claws: “he’s seeing a Lebanese woman!! What is it with Lebanese women these days? Have they got something I haven’t, or have I totally missed the point!”. Sangeev laughed, his Lebanese woman had been laying out her own cards, just as Arab American man used to. She’d told him, she thought of him as a friend, maybe, …, possibly, just a little more, but not quite enough to have a relationship, she had too much “baggage”, and so it was better that they stayed friends.
“what crap!!”, I shouted! “if you believe that nonsense, you are more of a sucker than ever I thought you were!! Tell her where to stick her ‘friendship/maybe more/baggage excuses and find some other idiot to letch on to!”. Sangeev laughs: “you are still really angry aren’t you?” “I’m not angry!!! Why should I be angry!!”.
Sangeev cuts in: “exactly!!! Why should you be angry!! Your getting married soon! Your life is finally shaping in to the order you always dreamed of, what is there to get angry about!”. I fall silent, I’m ashamed, because I know he’s totally right, but words are out of my mouth before I can sensor them, and I hear myself say “but that was all before, ….., before I got that Email!!”.
Sangeev is livid, and rightly so! “and what about all that stuff you fed me? And how I shouldn’t go there? how it’s a waste of time? What exactly are you playing at? Does this guy deserve you? And does your future man deserve this crap from you?”, he was right: about all of it! I was nothing less than Arab man: I was allot worse in many ways because I had it all, and was potentially going to fritter it all away on a man who couldn’t be bothered to spit in my direction! I cried allot, fell in to depression laced with insomnia. I turned off the phone and didn’t answer Emails, till I got a reply to the ‘wedding dress brag I’d sent! And it was friendly and polite, talking about the election, and enquiring politely if the dress had been a success? I replied, (and I didn’t tell Sangeev about it!). I replied, with pathetic one-liners, infested with double-entendre and was totally unaffected while doing it! that night, I was sick: violently sick! I spent the evening in the toilet, holding on to the bowl and crying as my innards spilled out and my body was racked with pain. The man of my heart called that night to see how I was, cursing himself for choosing computers, and not medicine, so that he could help me out! And that’s when it finally hit me: Sangeev was right, I had indeed found my place, my love, my life, the order I needed to ground me. When my divorce happened, I’d gone off the rails in so many ways: some of them shock me, and some of them repel me so much that I’ll take them to the grave with me and can only pray my creator forgives me for them! I don’t quite know how that happened, but I lost my faith, my routine, my self-respect, and had to work incredibly hard to get them back! Not only that, but I had to find new friends, a new community and a new purpose! Even as a Muslim woman, the shame doesn’t go away: men don’t let it! Muslim men, no matter how cultured they claim to be, have a real problem with an attractive, single and highly successful woman living alone, wearing her hijab, going to work and doing her thing, without a man to prop her up and furnish her nest for her! And because a woman like me isn’t marriage material, I spent my days fending off middle-aged perverts who fancied a second wife or a muttah partner to while away the nights with, and what’s most difficult about all this, is the guilt of your misguided years that makes you believe this garbage is actually all you are worthy of and all you’ll ever deserve because you’ve thrown the best years of your life away blaming a divorce for your deviancy! Men like ‘Arab American man are safe because, they too have uncomfortable pasts behind them, and the devil you know is much safer than the angel you could have if you truly moved on. You are more at home with his rejection than another man’s love and respect! So it takes a while to register that a heaven sent man has come to change your world, and genuinely wants to be with you, to spend his life with you and for all the right reasons!
Its amazing how an Ex can suddenly shift your perspective from neutral, to overdrive, from supposed love, to lust, to love again and then in to concrete indifference! Rarely do we think about an Ex with a reflective sense of “what the hell was that about?”, the past mingles with nostalgia to make you believe what you had was actually allot more beautiful than you wish to let on, but that’s all dribble as well!! Ultimately, if it didn’t work, there is a reason why!! And there is an even more important reason why you are somewhere better, and with the kind of man you only ever dreamed to marry, the man you prayed for, but never expected to have: and there you are: together, married, planning a universe exclusively for each other!

Lebanese woman went back to Lebanon, (perhaps they were both the same woman after all!), Arab American man went back to his lair, and Sangeev and I got back to work! My wedding plans are in full swing, and I realise that love can happen, there is no coincidence behind X being at the end of the alphabet: that’s how it should always stay! People come in to your life for a reason, and some of them have the God-given power to change your life forever (and sometimes too, for the better!). Most importantly perhaps, elevation can come through association: osmosis doesn’t have to merely apply to unbroken cycles! Goodbye Arab American man: you have your life, and I have my heaven: earthly things are for the grit of reality: while stars are the furniture of a higher plane!

Monday, 10 May 2010

When justice was done!

Something seemingly impossible happened on Friday 7th May 2010, (and no, I’m not talking about the endless election saga!).

I came to know last night that finally, after 3 years of bullying, abuse, harassment, intimidation and unwanted sexual advances, my excuse for a former Manager was sacked! Yes, he was fired: given his cards, expelled from the organisation!! He was found guilty of Grosse misconduct and will not be entitled to either references, nor an exit package!
I was sent a sms message by a colleague informing me of this, and I swore I’d keep that message forever, part of me could barely take it in as I read the message over and over, and over again!! My uninterested parents were asleep on the sofa when I rushed from my room to tell them! I guess you have to be there to get it: and its not an exaggeration if I say that this news has changed my life!!

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll recall me writing about all this in a rather tangential manner, both before my departure and some more after I left, but I never really had the guts to go in to detail: partly because every blog has lurkers, and you never know who really reads your words and with what intention: coupled with the fact that, as I am still out of work, and trying desperately to get back in to my sector, I didn’t want to be seen as the one rocking the boat as it were!! Now that justice has indeed been done, I figure I have nothing to lose, and might even benefit from sharing my side of the story, and insuring that my name is cleared before uninformed idiots come to their own conclusions!

In October 2008, I began working as Outreach and Development Manager for Inclusion Scotland, a leading National user lead disability campaigning organisation. My role was to support new and developing user lead groups with every thing from constitutions, to funding applications, recruitment and media skills: basically, any thing they required to build the capacity of their groups or get themselves off the ground. A fellow activist advised me to apply for the job in the first place: I was working part time by then, with a government funded project that was set to close, and he figured the self-governance and opportunities for creativity and activism would suit me down to the ground! Inclusion Scotland was traditionally recognised as a pretty radical movement of disabled people! Not least because it had a full board made up of disabled directors, a good quota of disabled staff, and a disabled project manager, MR. William Campbell. This manager (referred to from here on as WC), was more commonly known by many as the marmite man, (i.e., you either loved him, or hated him with a passion!). I first came across Inclusion Scotland and WC in 2005, while working for an employment project. Inclusion Scotland did, and continue to, send out a very informative weekly news letter with disability related news, comment, articles, job vacancies and all kinds of other useful titbits for Scotland based disabled people. I happened to see the manager’s contacts at the end of it, and one afternoon, wrote to congratulate him on this fine piece of news compilation! He Emailed to thank me for my kind words, and called me a few days later to expand upon the contact! It turned out we had quite a bit in common: both visually impaired, both activists, both committed to the movement or so it seemed! I later came to know from friends that he had something of a questionable reputation, but back then I was new to disability politics, and was determined that rumours weren’t going to inform my judgements, as they often did in other areas of the sector! Back then, WC was busy arranging a seminar on integrated education, and as this has always been one of my campaigning priorities, he asked me to speak on my personal experiences and work being done. My talk was a big hit, and I was quite overwhelmed with the responses from Inclusion Scotland directors. WC was equally taken in, and it seemed for a few months after that I was being “groomed”, (yeah OK, poor choice of word but …, not that bad given the context of what is to come), but although WC kept in touch with me, I soon fell out of favour: he is horribly insecure, and so doesn’t get too intimate with any one who is competent, thus exposing his blatant incompetence, .., but more on that later!

So, I applied for this job, and to my amazement I got an interview! I was in 2 minds whether to go: my then job still had a few months left in it, plus, I was travelling to Canada for a conference shortly after, and was busy writing my lectures and dealing with other logistics. Most significantly, it was the middle of Ramadhan! And since my health has deteriorated, I am generally weaker than most during fasting! I had absolutely no idea how I’d be able to hold down a job interview under those circumstances, but after procrastinating way too long, I decided to go: nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!
The interview proper was where my troubles began! Any wise person would have given up there and then and headed home! I didn’t receive details of when/where the interview would be held till the day before, and franticly had to rush together a powerpoint presentation in the interim, turning my nerves to jagged fragments! On the appointed day, I made my way to a city centre hotel, and was settled by 3 PM in time for the interview at 3.30. As I nervously thumbed through my notes, a woman came and asked me if I was Roshni; when I confirmed my identity, she calmly told me my interviewers were coming from Edinburgh, and would be a few minutes late due to traffic! I smiled and told her that was fine; (I was more surprised that they were coming from such a distance! Was I the only person they were interviewing? Or, were they interviewing all night?), God: I thought, that’s dedication for ya!
3.30 came, shortly followed by 4 PM, and there was no sign of my interviewing panel! I was fed-up by now: it was ramadhan, I was in need of cold water, I was dizzy and tired and felt that any decent person would have cancelled knowing that they had already wasted 1.5 hours of a candidate’s time! 4.30 came, and at 4.45, my interviewers wandered in! they casually apologised to me, as though they had perhaps been delayed for a matter of seconds, then went to their rooms to dump bags and order dinner! I was raging: were it not for the fact ramadhan requires calmness, I’d have told them where to stick the interview and walked out! Worse was to come though: they then told me how, they had not been able to secure a room for the interviews to take place, so did I mind being interviewed in the bar? …, I fell silent: was this actually a question? I was shocked: why the hell had they opted for interviews here if there was no room? How many dam hotels are there in this area!! Besides, they have meeting rooms at their offices where they could have easily done the deed! To add further insult, MR WC pipes in with “if that doesn’t suit, we can always use my room!”, at that point, I decided that the bar would be a most favourable option, and we took a corner table, in the presence of business men and city slickers swigging their evening pints after a day’s work! The rest ordered their drinks, and asked me if I wanted something: (guess the hijaab didn’t give it away!), “I’m fasting”, I said dryly, hoping that this might extricate a more sincere apology (it didn’t!).
The interview was horrible, I knew by the end of my presentation that they hated me, and I was horrified when one of their totally blind directors asked “so, Ra, …, Ra, …, how will your faith affect your job?” er …, not only can he not pronounce my name, but how did he know I was Muslim? How did he know I was in hijab!! My “ramadhan” convo hadn’t happened in ear shot of his: clearly a discussion had gone on about my being Muslim, and converting etc. I answered the question as best I could, but wondered all the while whether or not non-Muslim candidates had been asked the same! It was a relief to finally get home: eat, take my medication and sleep for around 14 hours! Not only that, but I woke up knowing it had all been useless, as they hated me, and would never speak to me, ever again!!
Imagine my shock then, when, 10 days later, WC called to offer me the job! I was shocked; wished I could have had more time to think (and find a reason for refusing!). I thanked him profusely and expressed my shock, but regretted I would probably not be right for them: I had to offer a 4 week notice period at work, and was then going to Canada for 3 weeks: the late start would doubtless not be what he wanted! But he even compromised on that, saying they really liked me and would do any thing they could to accommodate me! …, well, I had no choice but to accept!
When I started, WC was alone in the office with me, and took me in to the back room to go through my duties! While the work seemed reasonable enough, I was worried by his continuous reminders about my being on “probation” for 3 months, and another comment about my hijab being a breach of health and safety regulations, and how he’d need to have it checked! My hijab had never been a problem before, and its not like I was working with dangerous machinery or something of that nature!
Further alarm-bells rang when I started getting in to the work: I was shocked by how small a membership base they had for a national organisation, and moreover, how that membership had been steadily dropping each successive financial year! WC gave me a list of contacts who could help me with a resource pack he wanted me to develop, yet each person on the list I contacted either had nothing to do with such resources, or else never responded back to me. I had no contract, nothing in writing, my work was merely governed by a series of one-to-one meetings (well, I’d call them rants), with WC himself! None of these were witnessed, nor were they minuted! If I kept my own minutes and asked him to sign, he’d refuse! If I had any questions about my role, he’d simply send me the funding application he’d sent to the government: it was all circles! He expected a very high turn-over of work from me, which I could have handled! Only, he wouldn’t let me do any thing on my own! If I held a meeting, he had to be there, and if his dates didn’t fit in with mine or the others, the meeting was cancelled! This meant I was falling further and further behind on every day tasks, thus incurring even more of his rage! I didn’t know what to do: I was alone, new in the door, I could complain, but as he said! I was on “probation”, and with no contract! He could throw me out at any time and I’d have no recourse, no one to support me, potentially no food and no home! So I kept quiet, tried to grin through the pain and keep my head down! My head, however, featured once again, when, in another rant session, he asked me why I’d not checked out hijab with health and safety! By now, I was smelling a rat and felt I might need to start gathering evidence to back up any claim in the event of worse happening. I Emailed him a day or so after, asking if he still wanted me to speak to health and safety, and asking him for a number, and a note of who I should speak with: no reply ever came, but I stored the Email! I did the same when he denied me leave for hospital treatment, telling me I had to take it from my annual leave entitlement! But by this time, he too might have been suspicious of me, so quickly replied telling me I could take medical leave, there was no problem!
He had other ways of making me pay though! He kept piling on the work, and I watched my health deteriorating every day. I lived on black coffee and adrenaline all the while, not meeting friends because I was tired, upset and irritable. I have a stress related migraine condition (amidst my many health problems), it got worse and worse, till it was common for me to spend 4 days out of 7 unable to even stand up from my bed! My long absences resulted in his discussing the ins and outs of my health with a fellow director of his! And, as she was a doctor in a previous life, she saw fit to lecture me about my conditions and how to manage them, even going so far as asking for contacts for my family doctor (which I of course refused!).
One day, I was called by the access to work team, for an equipment assessment for my new job. Access to work are a government project who fund any adaptations a disabled person may require in order to do their job. The scheme is very much in demand, and it can sometimes be difficult to get appointments when you want them! My delay in getting one caused no end of rage between WC and myself, he even wrote in the directors report that I was falling behind because of it (I wasn’t!). WC had left for the day when my call came, and as I had nothing urgent work wise for the following day (A Friday), I took it up, Emailing WC to tell him where I was going, and that if he had any objections, to Call me in the morning! I heard nothing from him, so assumed all was well. That night, he Emailed, saying he hadn’t been happy about my decision, and wanted a word with me on Monday. I replied, saying I was happy to talk to him, but that I had acted in the organisation’s best interests, and that as he hadn’t responded in the contrary, I had gone ahead as per my instructions to him. I assumed that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t! he called me on Saturday evening, fully drunk, and cursing me for every thing he could think of. I stood there stunned, holding the phone, listening and cursing myself for not having a tape recording machine to hand! I told a colleague the next week who was adamant that I should act on things, but I was still too scared to do so. Things got progressively worse between us, until it was all taken out of my hands on 18th December 2008. It was our last working day before Christmas, and the plan was that we’d have our last staff meeting of the year, with some drinks (WC has to have drink with every thing), and then we’d all go our own ways (well, that is, the rest of the staff had organised a lunch together in secret, without him!). The meeting started quite normally, but WC got the drinks underway before we even started (about 9.30). He got increasingly drunk, and the bulk of his alcohol induced anger fell on me, he would continually turn on me, shouting and swearing at me in the presence of colleagues, often pointing a finger aggressively in to my face or yelling over me that I was a stupid Muslim and didn’t know what I was talking about! I soon excused myself and spent the remainder of the meeting in the bathroom, wondering what in the world I’d done to evoke all this! Over lunch, colleagues informed me that whether I agreed or not, they would write collectively to the directors, voicing their concerns about my safety and well-being at work given what they had just witnessed. After Christmas, I took an extended leave from work, on the basis that I was suffering severe stress. When I got back, one of the directors called me for a “return-to-work meeting” to discuss my absence, and as she’d already received the letter from my colleagues, what I had to say came as no shock to her! Later that week, WC was suspended from work pending investigation, (I never saw him again!).

An in-depth directorial investigation ensued, each of us had to submit written accounts of what had taken place, along with Emails and other evidence to back up our claims. While I did all of this, there was a clear flaw with my submissions, (you might have guessed by now). WC, in his wisdom, had always conducted the heavy stuff in his famous one-to-one meetings, as those were neither witnessed nor minuted, how was I to evidence they had even happened? It was, after all, my word against his! It was at this time that I came to know that this behaviour I had witnessed was not new, WC had sexually harassed and bullied at least 2 other female staff members, one had left due to stress, and the other, although still there, had been forced to sign a document stating that she had settled her differences with WC, and that nothing had ever “gone wrong” between them, (they are so lucky papers didn’t get hold of all this!). While the other staff backed me, the previous evidence was not considered along-side mine, moreover, the directors were very split on whether or not to believe me: a couple did, but the majority did not, and amidst all this, WC continued his violent, aggressive behaviour, this time accusing the directors of bias and even taking out grievances against the investigating officer! The company then had to bring in external investigators, costing every one time, energy and a great deal of money: cash, that a Small NGO should be spending on development rather than justifying the existence of such a vile excuse for a human being! The investigation rumbled on for months, leaving us all in a strange limbo. We juggled our work with demands from the directors for meetings, reports and evidence for the ongoing investigation. As the months past by, larger and larger wholes appeared in WC’s so-called management, and we often had to drop whatever we were doing to sort out accounts, policy responses or respond to other unmet demands from the Scottish government. As the months went on, it became increasingly evident that WC had them over a barrel, he was threatening them with a tribunal, and as none of the directors has much HR expertise, they believed he had a chance! It was my word against his, and although I’d never been given the opportunity to submit any evidence in person, most of them had decided I was lying and were fast turning on me! I was desperately seeking an exit route, when in October 09, the seemingly final nail sealed my professional coffin! They said that he’d been given a written warning, and would be back at work within a couple of weeks! I remember we were manning an advice stand at a large exhibition that day, and I kept having to excuse myself as I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. I was so upset, dejected and angry! I’d gone through the pain of the last year, and the recriminations from directors who didn’t trust me, the fear of losing my job, and the loss of family support, (you can imagine! They told me if he had a problem with me, to grow up and take my hijab off, and stop making an issue out of it!).

Around this time, I received news of that housing traineeship (I know, it resembles something of the holey grail now!). The organisers knew of my plight, and had even given me letters of support, so believing they meant what they said, I quit my job in December 2009, believing that at worst I’d only be out of work for a couple of months. Before leaving, I requested an exit interview, and submitted a further resignation letter, stating that the soul reason I was leaving was because of this evil man, and the stress and trauma the investigation (and lack of justice), had done to my life, my health and my career.
WC returned to work in December 09, but wasn’t around for long! A colleague of mine left in February, stating the same reasons for her departure, (she was the woman who had been abused by him first time around). Moreover, following my departure, he was using her for a punch bag, choosing to believe she had put me up to complaining in the first place. Her and my resignations combined, prompted another suspension for WC, and more investigating followed. To this day, I do not know precisely what clinched his final exit from the company, but I can tell you that it came as a massive shock to me, and all those who worked with me. Sadly, WC is not an uncommon figure to be found across the voluntary sector. Just like him, most of them are self-appointed, by unskilled boards of directors, most of who are his friends, and even if they are not, his passion, or even the fact that he is a disabled person is usually enough to keep him safe. They have a strange, patronising utopian outlook on disabled people, I remember my own directors saying to me “how can he possibly discriminate against you, he is blind himself! Maybe he didn’t know what he was saying, he is mildly deaf after all!”, if only all disabled people were so nice!
You might wonder why I’m happy? After all, what have I gained: I’ve no job, and don’t know when I’ll ever get one. The organisation I worked for is on its knees, likely to lose funding and status on every front, plus, WC would have retired in a few years, he was on a massive salary and has a comfortable pension to fall back on: even if he doesn’t work, it will make little difference to his lifestyle, unlike the affect of his behaviour on mine! But for me, the fact that justice has ultimately been done is enough. For all that is wrong with the NGO sector, there is allot right with it, the problem is that figures like WC often overshadow the dedicated workforce of passionate people we have, and we need to insure that doesn’t happen. We know anecdotally that more and more disabled people are discriminated against at work, and suffering illness because of it, we need to route out such figures and encourage the victims to stand up and report what is going on. For a while, I thought of going to the papers, TV, radio, telling my story to all to clear my name and expose his evil, but in the end I let go: what good would it do now, I wanted this man out, and he has gone, leaving me free to rebuild my life, and let the truth speak for its self, especially in the lives of those who called me a lire! Truth/Huq will ultimately out, as a light through the dark, no matter how one tries to hide it, alone or in a collective. I only pray that others in a similar position learn from my story and take action to change their own realities. I have suffered allot, and lost even more, but I sleep easier each night knowing that this man is no longer free to intimidate, harass and destroy those around him: justice has a name, ……, and its Roshni tonight!