Last Posts

  • Who is the victim?

    If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears I wouldn’t have believed it. Netenyahu on prime time UK radio yesterday calling the actions of the Lebanese “Hitler-ian”. He went on to compare the current crisis with World War II.

    Poor, poor victimised Israel, he wept between the lines. Here we are being bombed by a country we have invaded and are occupying. We have the most sophisticated army in the Middle East, we occupy the land of three of our neighbours, we are not allowing aid to the civilians of the country we are occupying and attacking, we have caused almost a million people to be displaced. Stop them firing their rockets (but we won’t!).

    A country resisting invasion is like Hitler? Did I miss something in history class? If I remember, Hitler invaded other countries and then illegally detained civilians and killed millions of them.

    Hitler-ian? Like World War II?

    How crazy is this?

    continue reading
  • The Cedar trees of Lebanon are weeping

    In 1998 I stood in the cemetery in Qana in the south of Lebanon. It was a small quiet graveyard, and pretty unremarkable, except for the fact it marked the deaths of over 100 civilians who should have been protected by the fact that they were in a UN compound. Israel states it was an accident, but I still wondered how they accidentally targeted a UN area. In 1998 and now again in 2006. Blood upon blood.

    I was spending a couple of weeks touring Lebanon – a country that turned out to be one of the most beautiful that I have visited. It was spring time, and the orange trees were budding across the plains. In other parts the olive trees filled the landscape with greenery, hinting at the fertility of the land.

    The hospitality of the Lebanese was remarkable, and we were taken into people’s homes. Some were beautiful, some basic, but they all shared one thing in common – all of the families had lost someone to the conflict with Israel. One woman recounted how she spent her weekends ferrying the injured from the South to Beirut in make-shift ambulances.

    I travelled down the coast, stopping at Sidon and Tyre. As a Muslim brought up with a Christian education, the places had multiple layers of meaning for me, referencing both the Biblical and the Islamic.

    I stood in the UN World heritage site amongst the ruins at Tyre. The poverty of the restoration, and the fact that you could wander in and pick up valuable artefacts, or even destroy them was eerily reflective of the way that Lebanon was being treated.

    I stood facing the sea and the guide pointed to the curving shore in the distance. “That’s where the Israelis used to bomb us from” he told me sadly. “I lost my brother.”

    Further north were the booming tourist towns along the coast, and up into the Qadisha valley I saw some beautiful mountains and fresh clear streams, and the famous Cedars of Lebanon mentioned in the Bible. The loss of the innocent people of its land that they watch day after day would be enough to wither away the sturdiest of trees. But whilst they stand firm, their hearts must be torn to pieces.

    Beirut was in many ways a different world. Martyrs’ Square was decorated with statues and pieces of art to commemorate those lost in the civil war. We drove along the famous green line which had separated the two sides of Beirut, and the houses were ravaged with holes from the firing. But surprisingly, there were signs of regeneration going on. The streets were bustling, and there was a sense of moving towards restoring Lebanon to its heyday.

    The Israelis have stated in that they wish to put back Lebanon twenty years. That is a bare-faced crime.

    continue reading
  • Hello to the stereotypes at Harry’s Place

    I noticed a huge spike in my readership yesterday. Seems like Graham at Harry’s place, has taken a shine to me, and the loyal subscribers are clicking through to see what a “young woman” like me has to say. Thanks for the compliment Graham 😉 You’re certainly a charmer! But your comment that my views are “interesting” makes me think your thesaurus was looking for some other euphemism?

    Paradoxically, I’m also intrigued by your question: “Are we frightened to communicate outside of what we know?”

    One of the reasons I started writing my blog was to counter the idea that people – whatever angle they came from – knew who I was, and who I am. I pick up a lot of stereotypical labels, and in less serious moments it can be good fun to blow people’s expectations. However, this is not a time for fun. But it certainly is a time for communication.

    I’ve welcomed and published all the comments I’ve received so far, even though I disagree violently with them. My main observation is that they are pretty standard, nothing we ain’t heard before. Come on guys, try a bit harder, and try something new. Don’t be frightened to communicate outside of what you are comfortable with, try a different angle…

    continue reading
  • How not to do housework

    Following on from my earlier post, here are some useful tips

    Click here to watch the video clip

    continue reading
  • Less housework going on

    I’m intrigued by a survey from the National Office of Statistics which shows that in 2005 people in the UK spend 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on housework, which is down by 30 minutes from 2000. We spend more time sleeping, resting, looking after kids, socialising and participating in sports and games. On average we watch 2 hours and 37 minutes watching TV, but men spend 25 minutes more than women do. Women in full time work spend 38 minutes more on housework than men in full time work.

    It seems that overall we are spending less time on housework on more on relaxing and having fun. But it seems we’re still spending about 15% of our waking day doing unexciting chores. Surely, modern life was supposed to provide us with ways to get rid of the dull stuff and make life more enjoyable?

    continue reading
  • The pleasure of a new word

    Here’s a brief time out from the seriousness of the conflict in Lebanon…

    I’m currently on a training course run by the lovely company I work for, about “Getting the best out of others”. I learnt a new word on this course. It is… (drum roll please)…

    paradoxicalcounterproductivity

    I think its a pretty cool word, so in my cheesy way, I thought I’d share it with you.

    It means when you put something in place to do a job, but actually instead of improving things, its very presence makes the situation worse. For example, there is a theory that if you don’t put in traffic lights, traffic regulates itself and actually flows better. However, people perceive that traffic is dangerous and chaotic so they put in lights. And what happens, is that the traffic actually gets worse. So the lights are an example of paradoxicalcounterproductivity. Super-cool.

    Any good words you know of?

    p.s. I thought more about this and as a total coincidence (honest!) it seems to encapsulate my view of Israel’s activities. They think the bombing will help them, but actually I think it will make things worse…

    continue reading
  • It’s not our fault!

    ‘We can’t help it if our bombs kill civilians’ says Israel. ‘It’s Hezbollah’s fault, they made us do it!’

    It reminds me of a little kid throwing a tantrum about a sibling and then telling tales to their parents.

    continue reading
  • What does ‘winning’ mean?

    Israel wants to destroy Hezbollah. This means destroying them militarily. Israel and the Americans see Hezbollah as a physical entity. Once they are killed off and their assets wiped out, they will be gone. But Hezbollah also represents a mindset – one that says that you have the right to defend your land. And what the Israelis don’t understand is that winning militarily doesn’t mean winning the war. If anything, they will find they have made the end goal harder. And that is what Israel hasn’t understood. Winning does not mean that all your neighbours are scared of you and live through death and destruction.

    continue reading
  • Publish your opinion here…

    So everyone, this is your big chance. If you read through my posting below, I want to find out what YOU most want to raise as an issue in the Muslim community? What do you think most needs to be changed? What do you think needs to be addressed? Post your comments here or you can email them to shelina@spirit21.co.uk

    continue reading
  • Speak up, don’t shut up: a plea for us all to have opinions

    Here is my monthly column from The Muslim News.

    Muslims are good at being armchair critics. We like to mutter between sips of tea, muffled through mouthfuls of paan, under our hijabs. Everyone has an answer to all our problems. I even find myself being Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells – or should I say “Defender of Hadith from the Homeland”? I confess my guilt quite openly – and I’m probably guiltier than most, as I’m a blogger too, and blogging is the ultimate in yelling advice from the sidelines. But at least I’m making myself heard.

    What is wrong with our youth! I hear people cry, despairing of the apathy, both political and religious. Where has the sanctity of marriage gone! They weep, at the increasing statistics of divorce. Why are weddings so expensive! They shudder at the bank manager’s demands. You know that you are all just as guilty as I am of complaining, criticising and offering solutions in the privacy of our own homes, at rabble-rousing lectures and after spirited khutbas on Fridays. But given a public forum, the horizon is quiet, and everyone carries on without a word. Where are the voices, opinions and disagreements of the community? I asked my blogfans this (that’s all of you!), and got pitiful response. My most popular pieces are about football and swimwear (I’m not kidding, read the responses!). Are these our pre-occupations? I feel disheartened that at this time of unprecedented change and focus on the British Muslim community, nobody has anything to say, there is no courage for ordinary people to voice their opinions. I’m not referring to the voices of our “leaders”, because it’s their job to have opinions (even though we criticise them for it). I’m talking about you, Ahmed and Auntie Jee next door.

    I’m fed up of hearing people complain about what is wrong, what our leaders should really be doing, how the Government is harassing Muslims, how there is a world conspiracy, how Islamophobia is growing, how our children are losing their faith. Heard it before. Mostly from the same people. Yawn Yawn. Don’t talk to me about it unless you’re willing to do something yourself. And believe me, there’s a lot to be done. The issues I’ve listed need addressing, as do a plethora of others.

    Let’s start a lively debate, let’s hear some unheard voices. As a multitude of Muslim communities, we need to have the courage to put forward our opinions. The days of inferiority complexes must be banished and a new openness needs to be encouraged. We need to build some guts into the community, and we need to stop being afraid of being labelled as the “wrong sort of people” within our communities for proposing change. Let’s discard the labels imposed upon us by the outside, be that moderate or extremist, liberal or conservative, progressive or reactive. How many of us have avoided raising issues in our local communities for fear of being stigmatised, of having our reputations sullied, for becoming outcast?

    My current bugbear is the fact that Muslims love to be so miserable. Fun is not to be tolerated, and I am sure that one morning I will wake up to find a fatwa declaring fun to be haram. A Muslim company has hired out Alton Towers for a day in September specifically catering for Muslim needs, but people are asking on websites, are we allowed to have fun? Yvonne Ridley sparked a controversy in a piece attacking women who were clearing enjoying themselves too much at a boy-band nashid concert (I have my own opinions on boy-bands which you can read on my blog elsewhere). How can Muslims be enjoying themselves when there is so much suffering in the world, she cried.

    Even the enormous IslamExpo missed out on the opportunity to give people a Good Time and send them home with smiles. It too put politics categorically above fun. In claiming to showcase the diversity and pleasures of the Muslim world, it forgot to inject the ingredient that most binds people together and creates support and unity – shared enjoyment. You may think this issue is flippant, but it’s quite important and affects everything we do. Muslims should be happy people, not miserable creatures wallowing in Catholic guilt. Fun is a platform for creativity and vision, and these are the things we lack in greatest measure. Lack of creativity and vision translates directly into lack of progress.

    So here is my challenge to all of you, make your opinion heard. What is the one thing that you would most like to change about the Muslim community? And how do you propose to do it? You can comment from the deeply political and religious, to the mundanities of life. This is your chance to get interactive and share your views. To mix metaphors, it’s time to get what’s on your mind, off your chest. You can post comments on my blog or email them to me at shelina@spirit21.co.uk. I’ll even include the most interesting in my next column in The Muslim News print newspaper. What is that one thing that you always wanted everyone to know, to address, to change? Go on, have an opinion, give it a try.

    continue reading