You Must Be Layla

May Musings - 28

Today was a ‘head down, do errands and writing’ kind of day. I don’t have too much to report beyond an interest in this idea called ‘The Right to Repair’.

I took a favourite dress to my local tailor today, as it had a small but growing tear in the armpit region (heard the lyrics put your hands up in the air and I followed those instructions a little too violently). I’ve started to get into the habit of repairing clothes more recently, either myself of at the tailors, in an effort to develop more sustainable clothing habits. It’s possible with clothes, but what I find fascinating is that many items that we purchase today aren’t necessarily designed to be repaired. Companies have been fined for what’s known as ‘planned obsolescence’, but the idea itself is wild: that companies may actually design objects in such a way that we would have to buy a new one once it breaks. Whether though software design (Apple and Samsung fined for slowing down old phones), or by physically manufacturing products that cannot be opened once they’re sealed, it’s not only a pernicious capitalistic act, but it’s terrible for the environment and also frankly robs little kids of the pleasure of taking things apart! it was one of my favourite pastimes as a child, taking things apart…

This movement, the ‘Right to Repair’, is taking off in the US, having recently been endorsed by the New York Times.

“Right-to-repair” is a bit of a  misnomer. The owner of a device generally has the legal right to repair it. The issue is whether the manufacturer allows people and independent  businesses to obtain the necessary information, tools and parts to do the repairs.

Clearly, the movement is picking up speed, gathering momentum. However, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops and whether regulation is brought into play that forces companies to allow consumers and independent businesses to make their own repairs. It’s not really in their financial interest, but it’s certainly in ours…

The other thought bubble that emerges is one around the right to repair algorithms and software. Bear with me on this —

The way machine learning currently works, you feed a bunch of data into a computer and it creates a program or algorithm from the patterns it finds in the data (this is a super oversimplified version of the process). What that means is that often we don’t know what is in the algorithm per se because it wasn’t designed by human beings - it isn’t necessarily in a language we can understand. As such, the ‘right to repair’ is a bit obscure - if you get an adverse output because of a machine learning algorithm (like, you get denied bail unfairly, you are screened out of a job process unfairly, you are denied financing unfairly etc), how does one fight for the ‘right to repair’ the result or outcome? Perhaps it’s better framed as a social justice challenge, but at the core it’s the same: manufacturers, designers, programmers denying individuals the ability to fix a problem because of it’s inherent design…

Food for thought. Holla if you have any ideas!


PS Look at this lovely review by Words of Colour on You Must Be Layla. I’m so honoured!

Award-winning activist, broadcaster and former mechanical engineer  Yassmin Abdel-Magied makes a solid mark with her debut YA novel. A  Sudanese-born Australian herself, there are parallels between Layla and  Abdel-Magied’s life as she too grew up in Brisbane, was the first Muslim  female student to wear a head scarf at her exclusive private school  and, at 21, she was the only Sudanese-Australian Muslim woman working on  an oil and gas rig. Being othered was part her experience in Australia,  but there the similarities end.

Filled with Aussie, Irish and Jamaican slang, and a healthy sprinkle  of Arabic terms, supported by a useful glossary at the back, the plot is  pacy and Layla sparkles and crackles with verve, wit and gumption.

Abdel-Magied enthusiastically sweeps away outdated perceptions of who young Muslim girls are – and should be. Hugely likeable, it will not  take long before you want Layla to be your best mate.

There are many laugh out loud moments, alongside a heart-stopping  situation that reminds you of the invidious nature of racism and sexism.  Although the storytelling isn’t complex or multi-layered, it is an  important book for our times.

You Must Be Layla is an enjoyable and easy read, whether you are a 10 year old or a fun-loving adult.

May Musings - 27

Couple of announcements today folks!

I have these events coming up:

The Last Word - In Conversation at the Roundhouse Theatre - TICKETS HERE

This one is pretty cool… You Must Be Layla book event IN LONDON in collaboration with The Other Box - TICKETS HERE!

I’m also heading to Australia for a week or so in June so stay tuned for those details inshallah

What’s on my mind today? Well, firstly, I can’t believe it’s May Musings 27. I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep up the habit of writing every day when I started the challange - fairly flippantly - sitting in a cafe in Malaysia. Goes to show that a slow, incremental change that you hold yourself to does make a cumulative difference.

I’m not sure if my writing has gotten any better in this month as I’ve often written squeezed in the moments between five-to and midnight. That being said, I certainly think my fingers are flowing a little easier…It’s also been nice to have a record of my travels and adventures this month.  I’ve got one more trip before the end of Ramadan, inshallah. I really did pick one hell of a month to try write every day!

I’m curious to see if it’s a habit I can maintain. Part of me wants to try continue it for as long as possible, part of me realises it’s probably unsustainable. But then again, some people do continue habits for years at a time - praying, for example, is one such habit. If I reduce the commitment, say to once a week, will that reduce the disciplinary effect? What if I write once a week and focus the energy on developing my newsletter (that I’ve been saying I’ll do for ages?). What if, what if! And that’s not even taking into account that I have to make time for actual paid work that I need to do... haha.

That’s where my head is at, this Tuesday. Where are you? 

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!