May Musings - 18

On Energy and Vision

I’m always this excited.

I’m always this excited.

Sometimes, one has to make a choice about where they will place their energy. Choosing to ignore the small fights for the bigger win - the illusive deferment of gratification - is ultimately, for the best.

I type this after having spent maybe an hour longer on twitter than I needed to today though, so perhaps I’m taking to myself more than anyone else.

How much energy do you need to spend setting the record straight? When people are implying falsehoods about you, do you challenge every one, or accept that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, and find another way to fight the good fight?

The longer I live (Alhamduliah), the more I think the latter is the wiser strategy. Brute force will not win when you’re out-gunned, out-manned, out-numbered, out-planned. We gotta make an all out stand… Now, I’m no political strategist, but I look forward to seeing what different ideas come out over the next days, months and years as we figure out how to collectively keep pushing for a society that is safe, prosperous and fair for all, inshallah.


On a similar(ish) note, today was my first day in Dubai for this Modist press trip I am on, an experience which is *absolute* honour and privilege. I’ve never been on a trip quite like this before, and so I am doing all I can to learn, absorb and hopefully add value. I’m always curious about the ethics of a trip like this - being supported by a brand, but in my case, not to write about it directly, but perhaps to inform my ‘audience’ (I guess that’s you, my lovely reader!) about the brand, and what they’re up to. For what it’s worth - the Modist is worth checking out, as they’re a modest clothing platform founded by the most wonderful woman. Ghizlan Guenez - who is as charming as she is stylish, mashallah - has strong values around modesty as a choice, around breaking stereotypes and around empowering women and girls. I mean, all the things I love. So, Dubai or not, I’ll do what I can to support a woman with that vision.


And vision has been on my mind today. We spent some time in a museum, learning about the history of Dubai in a way I’d not really spent time considering before. My father often talked about how the leadership of Dubai was visionary, how Sheikh Mohammed built a global city out of nothing, how we had to learn from his example and his entrepreneurship. I never really paid attention to my dad’s Sheikh Mohammed sermons though, for whatever reason - it wasn’t not-interested, I just didn’t connect the dots. Until today.

Like it or not, Dubai has turned itself into a city that millions of people know about, visit, invest in. It is highly functional, safe, and there is a system that works. You might not agree with the system - and it’s definitely not a democracy - but the lives of citizens are good, Alhamdulilah. This is something that has been achieved over the course of less than a century - a few decades, even - and when you stop to take stock of the change, that’s an impressive and laudable achievement. Yes, it has it’s problems. It is important to note the questionable and unIslamic treatment of overseas workers that built said prosperity. However, I don’t think that negates the overall point re vision. Dubai works - and that’s something you can’t say about many other countries in the region.

Realising this left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It brought home the depressing impact a lack of visionary leadership can have on a people. Sudan is a wealthy nation: it has oil, minerals, agriculture and at one time in its history, a thriving public service and lively intellectual tradition. I have often blamed all the country’s woes on the post colonial hangover, and yes, that impact cannot be overstated. But does the example of Dubai provide an interesting counterpoint? Perhaps. Yes, their histories are different; Sudan’s population is 60 times the size of Dubai’s, contains a multitude of tribes, and a legacy of both Arab and English rule, yes! I understand all this. But walking around today, a small part of me wonders what Sudan would have been like under a visionary leader who wanted to build a society for the people. Hopefully, maybe, that visionary leader is hanging out in the sit-in today, hatching plans to make an all out stand. Khair, inshallah. One can only hope.


Aside from my musings, I have two bit of news to share.

1 - You can now purchase my YA fiction book, You Must Be Layla internationally through my store here on the site! Order, leave your name and I will sign it for you inshallah.

PS If you have already read it or when you read it, if you could leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon that would be so very appreciated, thank you!

2 - I’ve decided to start sending out little email newsletters every now and again! I won’t spam you (or if I do, please let me know that it’s too much) but if you’d like to get updates from the blog, notes on what I’m up to, links I’m reading and the like, sign up below!

It's been a while...

Hey y'all!

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!

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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! 



6. Still haven't picked up your copy of 'Yassmin's Story'? Well, fortunately for you, Mammia Mia posted an excerpt (a particularly angry one, haha!) here.  Check it out...then BUY THE BOOK! *grin* *angel face* #MyHijabCoversMyHaloRight? :D 

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 - 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.



The Run Down: Wills and Kate

Prelude: A couple of weeks ago, the phone rang (loudly).

The ringtone: Black and Yellow (very classy).

It was Governor General's (GG) office.

"Yassmin, would you like to come to a reception to meet Prince Will and Kate in a few weeks?"

"Um...sure?!", was my response, a little shocked.

I agreed immediately to the event in Canberra at the Governor General's residence.  No thoughts were given to the logistical details or how I was going to make it work. How could one say no?

Not a word was to be breathed about the event beforehand though either, so the countdown was on...


Today: 3am wake up, flight to Sydney from Perth and then down to Canberra.

Fortunately I had only packed the one outfit, because I could have spent hours deciding what to wear.  Why the outfit matters so much I am not sure, as one rarely remembers.  Irrationally though, that is almost always one of the first things on my mind when I get an invite to a fancy event.  In fact, the immediate thought is usually: what scarf?!

The night arrived sooner than I prepared for, and here are some of the highlights (after the jump!):

1. Almost arrived late. WOO! My ride got slightly lost and I made it to a 6pm event at 5.58pm...cutting it fine.

2. What that did mean though is that I was near the front of the pack, at the top end of the room. That's the only reason I could be at the right place for this shot...

Kate 3(Terrible, terrible...but my mother was pleased I got into the frame! :D)

3. Anyhow! So as we were standing around in awe of everyone else in the room (few VC's, few Aussies of the year, general debauchery), making small talk, a bell is rung.

4. "No personal photos!" we were told, and we're given the impression that if you do whip out the iPhone for a selfie with the Duke, it may be the last thing you ever do... (in that room).  The rules are set.  "The Duke and Duchess will circulate. Hold your positions".  Instructions given, we awaited the Royal entrance.

5. I sauntered over to meet the Sochi Olympians. Their medals were AWESOME! Very heavy; a large subway cookie-size piece. I was suitably impressed...

6. The Royals and the GG + Wife made the entrance. Speeches made, they begun to circulate...

7. The Winter Olympians and I spoke to the Duchess first off the bat! She gave her undivided attention to each person she spoke to, seemed genuinely interested in asking questions and quite lively, particularly given the fact that their trip has been insanely packed.  I spoke to her about Youth Without Borders and the work we do, she said she loved my gold flakes necklace (from Melbourne markets) and continued circulating.

Chatting with the athletes from Sochi

8. The rest of the night was meeting the other folk in the room. I told Harry Kewell how much of a Liverpool/Scouse fan I was (and how excited I am about how close we are to winning the league!), finally met the lovely Jess Watson and was embarrassed by the fact that I didn't know the dude from NXS who had a lovely suit.  I also laughed with a bunch of pilots and defence people who definitely thought I was insane. Caught up with a number of old friends and met the Governor General himself, who was also a great conversationalist and seemed very approachable.   "We love making use of this house!" he said, and I thought that was rather great.

9. All in all, it was an enchanting night. The caterers were also quite diligent: a lovely lady named Sarah always brought me the vegetarian options for the refreshments first.

10. What now?

Yes, these things are mostly ceremonial. However, they are also an opportunity to meet some amazing people and hopefully have the chance to work with others who share similar interests.  As I am very interested in equity of opportunity for young people, particularly for those from diverse backgrounds, I hope tonight will be the catalyst for a few of those conversations...

Who knows right?

Oh - and for my friends who are interested, this was the total outfit (white pants...too risky!):

PS: Would it be tacky to say I've had Lorde stuck in my head all day?


Daily Life: World Hijab Day should only be the start

Check out this piece I wrote for the Daily Life a little while back!



World Hijab Day was celebrated by a reported 116 countries around the world on 1 February this year.  The initiative, started by New Yorker Nazma Khan, seeks to promote understanding and harmony by celebrating the hijab and encouraging non-Muslims to try it on and see what it 'feels like to be a Muslim'.

It is fantastic that the world came together to celebrate the hijab.  If, however, the aim is to foster true connection and understanding of Muslim women, the focus has to be on more than simply focus on what they wear.

The campaign has its merits; there is no denying that there is a space for symbolism in the public realm. But the initiative can also be seen as exploiting the symbolic nature of the hijab by using the style of covering as a gateway for people to engage with the religion in an introductory fashion.

The fact is, for better or for worse, the visibility of the hijab (and the ease in which it can be policed) has made it a powerful symbol. It has evolved into a lightening rod around which debates and discussions about Islam's role in the West are centered and goes some way towards explaining why the concept of a 'World Hijab Day' is popular.

However, if the conversation stops at symbolism, which it so often does, the effect becomes to trivialise rather than achieve any sort of deeper connection and understanding.  By focusing on an item or style of clothing, we again run the risk of reducing Muslim women to objects.

Ironically, this is the complete opposite of what the hijab is designed to achieve.  By intimating that donning the hijab will allow the wearer to 'see what life is like as a Muslim woman', it also subtly implies that the hijab is one of the only things that makes a woman Muslim.  This does have the unfortunate side effect of ostracizing Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab.

This is not to say that the concept of World Hijab Day is entirely flawed.  By demystifying it in some sense, progress is made.  However, it becomes concerning when time and time again, the only discourse about Muslim women is confined to the hijab.

To enrich and broaden the narrative, we should instead focus on the stories, lives and achievements of Muslim women across the board, regardless of their choice of clothing.  We should recognise Muslim women as active and engaged members of the community. These are women who are doctors, engineers, accountants as well as  mothers, politicians and scholars.

Women like Ayesha Farooq, a female fighter pilot in Pakistan, or Ibtihaj Muhammad, a female fencing Olympian.  Women like my very own mother, who tells stories of standing up to soldiers during the coup in Sudan when she was a student.  She was never defined by her clothes but always by her steely determination to make the most of life and provide the best opportunities for her children.

It has to be said though, that part of the impetus is also on us as Muslim women.  We cannot simply continue to be defined by, and allow the world to define us by, the clothing and modesty choices we uphold.  We cannot wait for others to tell our story.  Although it may be frustrating to have to do so, these are the times we live in and so we have to actively ensure that the narratives we tell about ourselves are more than just about our physicality.

When we reach the point where the hijab is no longer something 'remarkable' in the literal sense of the word, we have reached a true understanding. Let's aim for that.

An advert deserving of a Gruen Planet appearance

Now here is an advertisement that is a little different.

Brands - particularly cosmetic brands - for their tendency to play on and reinforce gender stereotypes.

This ad for Pantene in the Philippines throws this right back at us, displaying various behaviours and highlighting the differences in the labeling of men and women in the different situations.

'Boss' versus 'Bossy'

'Smooth' versus 'Show-off'

...and so on.

This disparity in labeling is well documented and is often reported to be a challenge for female leaders, and honestly, probably women in general.

[box] “If women’s behavior confirms the gender stereotype, it lacks credibility and is deemed incongruous with the leader prototype; and if it matches the leader prototype, it lacks authenticity and they are not thought to be acting as proper women. It is a lose-lose situation.”[/box]

It is an interesting dilemma, and one without an easy answer.

What is interesting is that Pantene has decided to profit from highlighting this double standard.  In a way, I am skeptical of capitalist, for-profit corporation use of advertising to send a positive message because at the end of the day, their bottom line is what is most important - they simply want to move product, right?


Perhaps .

What this also indicates though, is that advertising gurus up in Pantene Philippine's head office decided that women would want to buy something from a brand that realised there was a double standard at work and seemingly wanted them to do well regardless.

It implies that although you, as a woman, may be labelled 'bossy', or 'selfish', your actions were actually that of a 'boss' and someone 'dedicated'.

An interesting tactic.

I wonder if Pantene Australia would ever go for something like this, or whether women in places such as the Philippines connect more strongly with this sort of message?

What do you think of the ad?


Photos from around the net.  Click for source.

LOLs on a Monday morning: Cosmo?!


So, I am not a huge fan of asking people to 'vote for me' - it was one of the reasons I was never really interested in University politics (that and it always seemed to be like a lot of drama...)

...but for some cray reason I've been nominated as a finalist for Cosmo's 'Fun Fearless Female' Awards?! In the role model category.  You guessed it, it needs votes!

So what do you say? Head over to their website and maybe read about all the other nominees too. Give me a vote if you reckon I deserve it, but there are some amazing other women in the bunch too so spend some time to learn about them and be inspired... It's an honour to be counted among these ladies at any rate. Damn Australia has some fine talent!

Thank you if you do :)

comso 2

Links, Links, Links!! 12th May 2013

Happy Mother's Day all! Check out the links for the week...

Even though she grew up playing football, shooting hoops and running races against all the boys in her neighborhood, U.S. 800-meter champion Alysia Montano never wanted to be thought of as one of them. As a result, she started wearing a flower behind her right ear to remind the boys they were getting beat by a girl. “The flower to me means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like you run like a girl. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you’re strong.


Do you pay for newspapers or any news? Do you want to? News Limited has a paywall dilemma trying to deal with it...

[box] This announcement is their epitaph. It suggests that News Limited really sees little future in hard copy newspapers. They will continue until their revenue falls to a point where they are unprofitable. Then they will die. But don’t worry: you can always switch to news+.[/box]


Society seems obsessed with the concept of "happiness".  It would seem the "happiest people pursue the most difficult problems".  I think it comes to finding meaning in life... "For many social entrepreneurs, happiness comes from the feeling they are making a difference."


Has the Carbon Tax actually worked? I missed this earlier, but it seems Australia's emissions are at 10 year low...What does this mean for the industry? Stretching this out a little further, what does it mean for the thousands of engineering students training in Australia every year in response to the "engineering - skill - shortage"?

[box] Australia's greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation have fallen to a 10-year low as coal-fired power slumped to its lowest level in a decade, a new report says. At the same time, the share of renewable energy in the National Electricity Market (NEM) has soared beyond 12 per cent and looks set to continue rising.[/box]


An amazingly honest piece about what Depression is like.  Many of us have family and friends who go through this, and it is a difficult thing as a bystander to understand.  It is really interesting to read a piece that provides an insight into a struggle that afflicts so many.


Anil Dash talks about privacy through identity control and asks the question, who owns your identity right now?  His blog is an interesting mix of technology and pop culture and worth a read.


Imran Khan - the Pakistani ex-Cricket Captain writes some interesting words on 'selective Islam' and the spiritual journey. 

[box] To understand why the west is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see torture apparatus used during Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of scientists as heretics by the clergy and convinced the Europeans that all religions are regressive. However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practised by most of its preachers. In other words, there was a huge difference between what they practised and what they preached. Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an over emphasis on rituals.  ... I feel there are certain western countries with far more Islamic traits than us, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.[/box]


An interesting piece from the blogger at, Rosie Waterland on being fat and deciding to go on the self worth diet.  Worth a read! 


Tune of the day: Janelle Monae is a funky lady indeed.