For many in Sudan, its current situation is virtually unliveable, with cash and fuel shortages galore, astronomical and unpredictable inflation, and basic services that sometimes do more harm than good
What do we know about Noura Hussein? The 19-year-old Sudanese woman is currently on death row in Omdurman, Sudan, for killing a man in self-defense. She was convicted of murdering her husband, who raped her on their “honeymoon.”
I joined Deborah Frances-White and Susan Wokoma for an entertaining and impassioned edition of the fabulous podcast, The Guilty Feminist. Also a guest on the show was the inspiring co-founder of Legally Black UK, Liv Francis-Cornibert.
Check it out!
STEP 1: Sign a global petition (bold + italic = click for link)
STEP 2: Consider long-term support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign
For long-term, constructive support and solidarity, please support the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel which works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law
STEP 3: Support Volunteer Local Advocacy Groups and their Campaigns
STEP 4: Apply Political Pressure by emailing your local Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister:
Electronic Intifada: @intifada
Military Court Watch: @MCourtWatch
B’Tselem: Israeli Info Center for Human Rights in Occupied Territories: @btselem
Adalah: Independent human rights organization and legal center: @AdalahEnglish
So a couple of things have happened in the last few weeks that have caused my Facebook feed to lose its collective mind.
The first was Brexit. The media post the vote (which apparently, no-one took seriously) bordered on openly derisive towards Leave voters.
I love Trevor Noah as much as the next third-culture-kid, but he was just one of the many whose commentary post-vote was essentially, 'how could they do this, don't they know what is good for them?'
Now hold onto that thought, and how the tone might play out.
The second thing that happened was Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate. If you haven't heard of Pauline before, here is a taste of her world view.
Again, her supporters have been labelled as xenophobic, ignorant, racist, etc etc.
She's tapping into the populism that has fed the Brexit, and the same that is supporting Trump! On this, the general commentariat is agreed.
Now check out this video... and I want you to listen to what Pauline has to say about 'grass roots Australia'.
Now I don't share the world views or policy platforms of Pauline Hanson, Drumpf or Leave voters in any way, shape or form. However, I think it is incredibly dangerous to ignore and deride those we disagree with. When has derision ever worked to persuade someone to your perspective?
The question then becomes - well, if we are not to deride and ignore, what to do? How do we deal with these vast feelings of frustration, hurt and exasperation?
Honestly, I think what we *must* do is start by truly listening.
Pauline is right on one thing. Leaders haven't been listening to what sections of the population have been trying to say, and so the 'unheard' have taken to yelling in the only way that seems to get the attention of progressives and intellectual elite (a social segment for the purposes of this argument) - by voting in ways that will hurt them - despite what said elite say is 'logical' and 'rational' and 'good'.
Listening doesn't mean agreeing. But what it might help us to do is *understand* why populism is taking on the hold is has, and understand what needs to be done to tackle it.
Who is this group? Well on that I don't have a definitive answer, and smarter people than me are working on nailing down the exact demographics. There are some interesting leads though... Check this graph out.
Note the blue line; inequality within country groups. It is relatively flat (although increasing slightly) during the industrial revolution, but takes a definite dive during the early 20th century. it gets pretty flat again during the period following the second world war... and then it starts rising in recent decades. The world starts seeing an increase in inequality within countries from about the 1970's. Globalisation has been around for a while by this point, but an interesting reflection is the change in the cost of flying.
According to the Atlantic, 'in 1965, no more than 20 percent of Americans had ever flown in an airplane. By 2000, 50 percent of the country...the number of air passengers tripled between the 1970s and 2011.'
So the crudest way of looking at this is that in the last 40 or 50 years, people have started to increasingly look different in countries (because it was just easier to access different places on planes and thus the link to the anti-immigration sentiment), and coincidentally inequality within countries increased, yet everyone was being told that what was happening in the world was good for them.
What was happening in the world was good for the world, yes. The graphs above demonstrate that on the whole, the world is less unequal (there are less people at the super poor end of the spectrum).
What hasn't changed though, is the fortune of the poorer people in the richest nations. The people who globalisation (in the modern, airplane driven sense) hasn't really helped. The ones who have lost positions of privilege and power due to the improving status of the world but who have not been swept up with the tide. The ones who in some sense, feel like the world is forgetting them and leaving them behind. The ones who were once proud of their identity and place in the world, and are searching for that feeling once again.
Their vote is equal to everyone else's, and they are some of the people that aren't being heard.
Being unheard - silenced even - is not a fun place for anyone to be.
Inequality is frightening. I truly believe it is one of the most toxic ailments that can afflict a society and so much of what is at the root of the current wave of populism is due to the increasing levels of inequality within nations. Watch the video below (click through) to hear some of the reasons why I think we must keep talking about this deep disease.
So what does this have to do with not laughing at Pauline Hanson's voters?
It's about reminding us to think about the long game. To think about why people are at the stage they are at, and realising that rather than derision, they deserve - like anyone else - to be listened to and heard. That is the minimum we owe. We may disagree, but what is more important is then to tap into that and dig deeper - why are you feeling the pain you are feeling? What in our systems is causing this entrenched and divisive societal ailment? What can we change?
Our societies are meant to be built to protect the lower income ends of society. It is not supposed to exploit them until they have no way of speaking out and thus turn to being societally destructive.
The world is being served some timely reminders. It is also worth noting that the relative peace and harmony we have been working on and have enjoyed for the past few decades has only occurred because people worked at it. Harmony doesn't just happen; social cohesion is a constant project and we all need to roll up our sleeves and get stuck into it, on the daily. A socially cohesive society starts with understanding and respect, and a vision that is about the greater good and systems that reinforce that belief.
We've got some work to do. Khair inshallah...
A few things have been going on so I thought I'd share a few links, thoughts and announcements...
1. I wrote this piece after attending an Iftar with the Prime Minister of Australia, the first Iftar held by a sitting PM in the history of the nation. It was also in response to some pretty vicious reporting following the event... check it out here!
The fallout has been pretty rough, and has definitely provided lots of food for thought. I'm still ruminating but hope to share some reflections soon. Stay tuned inshallah.
2. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely Meri Fatin for Cover to Cover WA talking about 'Yassmin's Story' and the process of writing a book. It was broadcast on Westlink TV a little over a week ago. Check out the video below!
3. I started a new Instagram! It's very self indulgent...
@HijabKween is where I'm sharing my hijab/turban styles, fashion influences and bits and pieces of inspiration that I collect on my travels. Hit a sista up!
4. Junkee let me reminisce about the last year. Subhanallah, it has been a full year, Alhamdulilah! Check it out here...but more importantly - if you'd like a nomination for Junket let me know - and nominate someone you think is cool for Aus or Young Aussie of the year! It's how we recognise those changemakers around us! <3
5. Amaliah are doing this really awesome thing where their readers 'takeover' their Snapchat for a day and show what Ramadan looks like in their world! Follow the account below...I'll be doing a Ramadan Takeover on the 29th of June inshallah! Watch out for it!
7. I'll be cruising around Switzerland, The Netherlands, Berlin and Uganda over the next month inshallah. Follow my travels on @yassmin_a (twitter, snapchat and insta), but if you're in these areas and you'd like to catch up and say hello, holla @ me! Email email@example.com - I'd love to meet you inshallah, and bonus points if you have a copy of the book for me to sign ;)
8. Last note... this is what I wrote on my FB wall today. Food for thought.
I haven't written for a while as I have been run off my feet with a few projects - keep up to date via my FB here.
However, the attacks in Paris have given me cause to write a quick note.
We cannot let fear divide us.
Whatever your foreign policy agenda, no matter how badly the immigration officers may treat you, or how uncomfortable life becomes on public transport, let us not turn that into hatred. Because then, who wins?
I am just about to jump on a plane to the U.S. where I imagine borders will be tight. This is what I will be reminding myself of.
There is no 'us' versus 'them', we cannot afford to think that way. Life is not that easy and straightforward. In some cases though, there is clearly and 'wrong' and a 'right', and there is no 'right' that includes killing of the innocent.
Islam does not allow for killing innocents. Ever. Full stop.
Our Prophet Mohammed (SAW) did not turn to violence unless it was in self defence and even *then*, he constantly chose to forgive rather than inflict further pain.
Even the colonisers, when invading Muslim countries back in the day, thought Muslims were 'too lenient'. Governor Hastings, along with his Governor-General of India Charles Cornwallis, felt like Islamic law allowed people to escape punishment too easily, complaining that Sharia was “founded on the most lenient principles and on an abhorrence of bloodshed”.
Why bring that up? To remind us that we do not have to be steeped in blood to be strong.
The world we live in can sometimes feel like it is more unstable, more violent and that the violence is becoming more indiscriminate. We cannot let that feeling override us, because that is what causes further division and allows the space for vitriol and hatred to occur. Acts of prejudice are at the bottom of the Pyramid of Hate, and we cannot afford for our society to make it's way back up that ladder.
We have to find it within ourselves to be kind. We have to find it within ourselves to forgive those who may look at others with fear and see it as an opportunity to build bonds of compassion, to find what unites us rather than what divides. We owe it to our ancestors and to society to ensure we play a part in making the world a safer place and not sit in the ease and comfort of hate.
If we all try to find a way to unite, particularly in a way which is inclusive, in the words of Kendrick:
"We gon be alright!" (inshallah)
Take this moment to also remember those in other nations who suffer from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Khair inshallah. #Lebanon #Syria #Beirut #Sudan #Iraq #DRC
It goes without saying, but should be said anyway.
The various violent events that have dominated our media over the last few days, weeks and months have been heart wrenching atrocities. Lives have senselessly been lost, bringing the precarious nature of our comfortable lives into sharp relief. It is almost exhausting in its relentlessness, and bizarre to step back and realise that we live in a world where violence has taken on a gross normalcy; terrible, yet no longer completely out of the ordinary.
After the Sydney Siege, there was little I felt I could add to the public lament.
Yet after Sydney, 2014 didn't let up. It was followed by the slaughter of innocent children in Peshawar, the grinding, endless deaths in Congo, the murders in Paris and an unimaginable massacre in Nigeria, only a few days ago.
The easy option in dealing with this barrage, this constant reminder of the cruelty of humans, is to switch off.
Stop reading the commentary.
Stop engaging in the debate.
Stop critically analysing and regress to black and white, to binary thinking, to 'us' and 'them', 'them' being whoever you deem as broadly evil or uncivilised, depending on your colour and place of birth.
That cannot be our response.
Yes, in the midst of the mourning, there has been a troublesome vein of hatred that has bubbled beneath the surface. Glints of these perspectives and attitudes are epitomised in the language and expectations surrounding the media and commentary around the violence.
Listening to my favourite news podcasts for example, or even to our own Tony Abbott, there was a constant reminded that 'they hated 'our' freedoms', our 'civilisation', our 'liberty'.
Who are 'they'?
'We' have to stand against the extremists, people say. We can't let 'them' win...
The problem being that entire groups are demonised, dangerously so. The framing makes someone like me - thoroughly, visibly Muslim and fervently Aussie because well, this is home - almost ask myself the question: am I us, or them?
Of course I know...right? Yet, there is a constant implied expectation for justification. The is a whisper of accusation in all the tones, forming seeds of doubt fertilised by ignorance and lack of exposure to anything but the dominant discourse...
The nuances are oh-so-subtle.
The language polarises, forces us to choose sides without realising what we are doing. It frames our conversations in ways that moulds our thinking: classical grade 10 critical literacy stuff. Obvious to those paying attention, but how many of us truly are?
It has been explained very well by writers more impressive than I, and there are links below to some very interesting and thought provoking reading around how the media reporting is clearly biased, how blaming all Muslims isn't going to help as expecting constant apologies is damaging in itself and how providing context is not the same as justifying an action. In ruminating on our collective (i.e. humanity's) current situation, the following became clear:
The language we use to refer to those who commit violent acts must change. 'Islamists', 'radicals', 'fundamentalists', 'extremists' and the like simply suggest that well, these actions are at the fundamental core of what it is to be Muslim. It legitimises their actions as Islamic, when scholars worldwide have time and time again, said that they are not.
Rather, they should be referred to as what they are: Violent criminals.
We don't often refer to criminals by their perceived or claimed motivation: A bank robber is a bank robber, not a greedy-capitalist. A murder is a murder, not a politically-motivated-youth-claiming-Islam-backs-him.
If we turn on each other, we are playing into the hands of these violent criminals.
"Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims [and this can apply to all nationalities], but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination."
Acts of violence that are so obvious and politically motivated are aimed at sharpening contradictions. They are aimed at forcing open those slivers of cracks in our multicultural societies. They feed on distrust in communities, spreading insidious doubts and roots that breach the foundations of compassion a society has built.
We have to choose to see beyond the hatred and have faith in humanity, regardless of what we are being drip fed to believe by the hype around us.
Oh, it's not going to be easy, and it doesn't mean blind positivity. It means belief that humanity can prevail. 'Humanity' isn't owned by a civilisation either; it isn't 'secular' or 'traditional', it lies in understanding that each of us are fundamentally human, and we all deserve protection, compassion, opportunity, love.
It means understanding grief and mourning, and not choosing to mourn one life as more important than another. It means respecting that every life is valuable and its barbaric and unfair extinguishing is inhumane, regardless of the motivation.
It means choosing to treat each and every person individually, not judging them by the actions of others.
It means, as Imam Zaid Khair puts it, not being hasty in dismissing others, but being patient in inviting them to understand your lense.
We have to work together to constantly, tirelessly and consciously choose to value our common humanity.
If we choose to hate, to despair, to lament, to be so overwhelmed by the seeming tidal wave of conflict, nothing will change.
But if we stay resolute in the belief that humanity will prevail and that each and every single of us has a part to play in making this happen, then surely, we can have something to look forward to.
5 pieces of food for thought:
If nothing else, read this: 9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shooting and Charlie Hebdo. Much of my writing was inspired by this piece.
"And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others."
"Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination."
"But then again, I had to wonder about the way the massacre in Paris is being depicted and framed by the Western media as a horrendous threat to Western civilization, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I wondered about the over-heated nature of this description. It didn't take me long to understand how problematic that framing really is."
So don't be surprised if people around the world, while condemning the despicable acts of the murderers in Paris and grieving for their families and friends, remain a bit cynical about the media-circus surrounding this particular outrage while the Western media quickly forgets the equally despicable acts of systematic murder and torture that Western countries have been involved in. Or perhaps a bit less convinced that Western societies are really the best hope for civilization when they condone this kind of hypocrisy, rather than responding equally forcefully to all such actions repressing free speech or freedom of assembly. I could easily imagine (and regret) how some Islamist fundamentalists will already be making these points about the ethical inconsistencies of Western societies with their pomposity about human rights that never seem to constrain the self-described "enlightened democracies" from violating those rights when it is they who perceive themselves as under attack."
"Take your pick, whichever one suits your politics, whatever tin drum you want to bang on.
Just don’t bang it near me. I don’t want to read about how “we’re all” anything, because wishing away complexity is inadequate and juvenile. I want to hear no talk about cracking down on anyone or tightening anything up. We have cracked and tightened for a decade and a half and all we have to show for it is a bloated, unaccountable security state that is eroding the cherished freedoms we claim to be so eager to protect."
“How much time did you get with him?”
The message was insistent.
“Oh I duno, maybe 10 seconds? Five?"
“Take me through every single second…"
I grinned, cast my mind back to the brief moment of the handshake and let my thumbs fly...
...the coolest kid/leader in town - President Barack Obama - was coming to visit my alma mater was everywhere. Fan girls and boys extolled their excitement with exclamation marks and witty status updates, an exuberance tempered only by the ire of the UQ (University of Queensland) students who realised that ‘day kids’ (students who didn’t stay at college) wouldn’t get a chance to attend. Understandably, it was an unpopular decision, to say the least. The news that only 40 or so students from every residential college was able to secure one of the sought after tickets rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way.
I have it on good authority that it was the University’s decision, and may have been due to the fact that they had to get RSVPs and confirmations with only a few days notice. The US Consulate/White House (as far as I have been led to believe) was keen to get as wide a demographic as possible but left it in the hands of the Universities and schools. Make of that what you will...
I was fortunate to snare a spot in the crowd, thank you US Consulate! Awkwardly though, I didn’t realise the tickets had to be picked up a couple of days before the event (at UQ!) until I was called up by the staff on the collection day! Sitting in my office in Perth, I scrambled to get a family member to pick up the invite for me. Predictably, no-one in my family picked up the phone! A friend came to my rescue and operation “Ticket Collection” was a success. (Shout out to my saviour Romy!)
I arrived in Brisbane on the morning of the event, rushing home from the airport with my little brother at the wheel and hurriedly deciding what to wear. It had to be comfortable, I thought, in order to be able to handle the incredibly sticky Brisbane heat. Not too crazy I told myself, but also with just enough ‘Yassmin-ness’ (read: flamboyance) to be appropriate. Smart Casual, the invite said, but since when did anyone pay attention to what the invite says? I went high waisted pants (*cough* cue *cough) and killer high heels (modest, of course!), so that I wasn’t just tall but towering. Ha, nothing like height to demand presence right?
Securing the Seat
Doors opened at 10.45am: I strolled in and secured a spot three rows from the front. I hadn't realised the President wasn't arriving for hours, so couldn't understand why the place wasn't immediately full. As I looked quizzically around the center, the guy next to me explained:
"Well, this is what happens when you rock up two hours early..."
Ah, indeed. Fortunately though, there was plenty of entertainment.
Politics of the young people in the crowd aside, the invite list was fascinating. Once the room began to fill up, there were a few hundred students in the risers complemented by hundreds of the men and women who help shape Australia. In the far right hand corner of the room sat the ‘heavy hitters’, and boy were there a few! Ex-Governor Generals, Premiers, former Premiers, business men and women and stalwarts of the Australian political scene. Wayne Swan, Qunnie Bryce, John Story, Sam Walsh, Bronwyn Bishop, Colin Barnett, Campbell Newman and Tanya Plibersek to name a few. It was daunting, but honestly? An awesome opportunity to make some new friends, I thought. The worst part was not recognising someone I really should have, particularly when they clearly think you know how important they are (sorry Colin Barnett). Something I am working on…
Funnily enough, one such 'High Net Worth Individual' commented on the number of heavy hitters in the room.
“The thing is,” he said. “I am not sure they are used to being made to wait!" …and yes, waiting is what they were doing.
Doors opened at 10.45am, but the President didn’t make his entrance until after 1pm. That is a lot of time for someone who deems their time critically important, but alas, if not for Obama, then who for?
The Vice Chancellor of UQ stood up to make a speech.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity... but I'm going to get off this stage because I know no-one is interested in what I have to say! I'm like the warm up act for the Rolling Stones!"
People chuckled, but it was true. There was a buzz in the air. Everyone was excited to be there, and even the loftiest figures a little bit groupie-like. The background music would occasionally fade out between songs, and every time there was a moment of silence, the room would instantly hush in anticipation. This is the moment, we were all be thinking, and then a note of the next song would ring out and the building erupt in (slightly nervous) laughter. The tension was palpable...
Then, the moment we had all been waiting for.
The announcement of #Obama # universityofqueensland A video posted by Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a) on
The Big O
I am not a massive fan of Obama's policies, and anyone who has had a discussion with me knows my opinions on his legacy. That being said, there is no denying his power as an orator. He came out and instantly the masses swooned, laughing uproariously at his aussie jokes and comments about "Fawr X".
His charisma is undeniable, and he used it to good effect: starting out bolstering the Aussie pride and subtly reinforcing our status as allies.
"As the world's only super power..." he would say, a silent barb towards China.
"These are our choices, oppression or liberty."
The real clincher however, came after he mentioned Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. The real surprise was what dominated the headlines; Obama's commitment to an International Climate Fund, aiding developing countries tackle the effects of climate change.
This is a fascinating development, particularly as I am personally interested in the effects of energy poverty and the dilemma around setting up countries to gain equal access to clean, cheap and sustainable energy. More on this at a later date...
It happened like this:
(All jokes aside...)
Speech was made, and he moved to the side of the stage. We had no idea if he was going to meet anyone, but the moment he started descending via the stairs, the crowds surged towards the barricade. There must have been ten secret service / body guard guys on each side, warning people not to shove cameras in his face as he walked along the black fence and greeted individuals.
I was aided by my enormous heels and wide hips. As I swung my way to the front, a former colleague from the Queensland Museum smiled at me.
"Get in there Yas!"
I grinned back. Oh yes indeed!
As the President turned towards me, my mind raced. What do I say? This wasn't the time for a foreign policy barb I supposed...
The handshake was firm, and his eyes fixed on my face, seemingly like an uncle I hadn't seen in a while.
"Thank you sir" was all I managed.
"How are you," he said (I think. It is a bit of a blur). He looked right at me (slightly up, I was really tall), perhaps slightly surprised to see someone who looked like me in the Australian crowd.
The lack of inspiration in my answers is slightly embarrassing in hindsight, as was the fact that I didn't go for the fist bump instead.
Lots of squealing. From everyone involved...
Ladies and Gents, occasionally we have to use the tools the system has given us to agitate some change. That time may be now...
Defence Australia is calling for submissions from the community to inform the Defence White Paper, which will guide Australia's Defence spending for the next 20 years.
They want the community to send in thoughts - and if you have ever wished you could change the way Defence spends their money or thinks about things, this is the opportunity you have been looking for.
It is so important for marginalised and minority voices to be heard in this sort of forum. I'd like to make sure, in whatever way I can, that these voices are heard.
Therefore, if you want to write a submission (or a short paragraph showing your feelings!), check out the links below:
WHITE PAPER (What on earth a 'white paper' is...)
COMMUNITY CONSULTATION (Some info about the consultation process)
PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS (Where you make a submission)
2014 PAPER (What the 2014 paper said).
If you don't want to write your own submission but want your voice heard, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think, or we can have a chat in some other way.
Make sure your voice gets heard.
There is a lot of interesting stuff on the internet. Here are a few of the articles that caught my eye this week...
1. A completely different perspective to one that is usually told: The niqab makes me feel liberated, and no law will stop me from wearing it
"I’ve always been the sort of person who loved to experiment, but I never expected that wearing the niqab would be something I’d try."
"In his book A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the emergence of Islamism, Dr S. Sayyid describes five arguments that explain the spread of what is commonly called Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism or militant Islamism."
But Alberici’s own responses to Doureihi’s questions reinforced Doureihi’s claims that some kind of underlying narrative was at play. She was becoming flustered by a phenomenon — an interviewee answering her question in a manner he wished — that she should be well used to. Heck, politicians do this all the time. HT is a political party. Doureihi is a Muslim politician wannabe.
This is SO good. Read it.
Channel Ten's new show. What do you think?
Oh and in case you missed it, have a listen to Ian Hanke, Jane Gilmore and I on Outsiders for Radio National with Jonathan Green. On the Sunday morning show we are talking the Lateline Interview (Emma-Wassim) and the current state of play in Australia...