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.”
It was my first night settling in. I wiggled into a comfortable nook in the couch, put my feet up on the edge of the coffee table and switched on the TV.
...only to release a high pitched squeal.
There was a hijabi lady reading the news, in Britain! THERE WAS SOMEONE WHO KINDA LOOKED LIKE ME! And she wasn't even talking about terrorism, or women's oppression!
My first instinct was to send a pic to my insta story, the next to tweet about it. I had to share my excitement, after all.
That's honestly been the most remarkable thing thus far about this move. Seeing myself, reflected.
I can't quite explain what it is like to walk around a city - an English speaking city at that, which, for better or for worse, feels more like 'home' - and see myself in the faces of those around me. London is (visually, at least) truly multicultural in a way no other place I have been is. To think of myself as becoming part of that is something that feels remarkable, subhanallah.
It's delicious. I'm walking around and seeing hijabi women - of all the colours - wearing all the styles wander past me. I am yelling 'Al-Salamu Alaikum!!' to every single one of them, my toothy grin in their face. They look at me with bewilderment, but that's fine. Their confusion increases my joy. Because who they are isn't unusual here, and I guess that means I am not unusual either. Who would have thought it would feel so good to be 'not-unusual'? I mean sure, I've only been here for a few days, so it might be hubris, and sure, I am proud of who I am wherever I am, and sure, I love standing out...
...but for the first time, I know what it's like to be one of the crowd.
To have people say 'oh you're from Sudan? I love Sudanese people!' instead of being the first Sudanese person they know.
To walk around and see my aunt, uncle, brother...
...to hear my aunt, uncle, brother, grandmother.
And to see them right alongside my neighbour, my boss, my colleagues.
What a gift.
I'm so excited to share with you the second part of the whitepaper I've written on cultural diversity and inclusion.
Part 2 is focused on how to create a workplace that is inclusive, and links to a lot of the Diversity Council of Australia's work in this space.
Want to learn more about cultural diversity and inclusion? Download the whitepaper today!
Part 1 - Diversity Beyond Gender
Part 2 (NEW!) - Re-thinking Diversity
Let me know if you have any thoughts / feedback on the papers. If you're interested in having the paper presented to your organisation, feel free to get in contact and we can organise a time.
To the Editor:
Re “Will the Left Survive Millennials?,” by Lionel Shriver (Op-Ed, Sept. 23):
My initial response to Ms. Shriver’s keynote address at the Brisbane Writers Festival last month — walking out and writing about why — seemed to be largely misunderstood. Many took the reaction to be a call for censorship and responded with fury. They took as a given the right to say and write what they want, without critique, consequence or interrogation of intent.
The debate is not about censorship: People can write in the voices they please. The real question is whether they should. It is about the structures that define the world in which we live and work.
Fiction does not exist in a vacuum: It becomes people’s realities, because so often the only exposure we have to those with very different lived experiences to our own is through stories. But this discussion is larger than the world of fiction.
Ms. Shriver claimed that those who now fight for equality have become the oppressor. Her words betrayed a disappointment that the times are changing, and lamented that people are so terrified of being caught saying the wrong thing that they instead choose not to say anything at all.
This must be the same censorship that sees her books published, her keynote addresses delivered and her Op-Ed article published in The New York Times. Her perspective betrayed a deep fragility, born out of the fear of change. To those with privilege, equality may feel like oppression. But equality need not be a zero-sum game. Framing it so seeks to divide and ultimately to halt progress.
Yes, the times are changing. Millennials, like me, are agitating for us all to be better, and that should come with the acceptance that nobody is beyond reproach. Difficult conversations will make us all uncomfortable. Good. That discomfort is how we improve, how we render the best characters, best stories, how we create the most equitable societies.
So rather than making broad, sweeping generational assessments, how do we move forward? We can start with intent. Is the intent to preserve the status quo, or to demand more?
Change. We talk a lot about it but how often does it truly happen in the way we want it to? There are all sorts of studies, speeches and books dedicated to the concept and yet, it sometimes seems nebulous.
One of the really interesting questions that I often hear - and ask myself - is whether people can ever truly change.
Can someone who has committed a grievous crime be truly rehabilitated? Can someone who has traditionally been socially conservative become extremely liberal, and/or vice versa? Can someone who hates sport turn into an ironwoman/man?
As I was pondering this very question on my last flight, I came across this podcast... Invisibilia's study on personalities.
I highly recommend you listen to it, and then have a think about what I drew as the conclusion. It's all in our mind...
...and I think this book is now on my reading list.
Hey hey hey!
I would love to see you all at an awesome event planned at The Greek Club in Brisbane, talking about the future of Australia and this country's travel through transition.
George Megalogenis, Anne Tiernan and I will be tackling these issues on the 28th of April, and we would love to see you there! Jump on the Avid Reader website and get your ticket today!
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."
Sometimes professional people in the community say some strange things. One such Professor in Sudan said on the national channel (Blue Nile) that "all Sudanese women were short and ugly". How charming.
This was the fantastic response...
(Partly in English, partly in Arabic - but the passion needs no language to be understood!)
The niqab, burka and things women women use to cover their heads and faces due to faith are of great fascination for much of Western society. Much of the commentary precludes opinions from the ‘primary source’ (women who wear these items of clothing), and as such there are significant and often damaging assumptions made about the subjects.
‘Subjects’ is an uncomfortable but apt term, as many niqabed Muslim women are seen as foreign objects of curiosity and conjecture. They are rarely ever perceived as human women who have hopes, dreams, kids, families, gardens, laundry and all the same dramas as every other human.
So given the fact that I don’t wear the niqab, what gives me the right to talk about this topic?
Nothing really, to be honest, and I do my best not to talk on behalf of, but to hopefully propose alternative narratives in an effort to change perceptions. This post is one such example.
As you may or may not know, I spent the first half of 2012 in Sudan with my grandmother, learning how to cook, become a ‘good housewife’ and studying Arabic at the local university. The university I went to, unbeknown to me at the time, turned out to be an Islamic based - and very traditional - institution for international students from all over Africa. This meant that the classes for men and women were separated and many of the women were from all over Africa, rather than just Sudan.
I was fortunate enough to befriend many of my fellow classmates, although it was an interesting experience as our life experiences were very different! Funnily enough, because we were in an all-women class, all the ladies would remove any niqabs they wore and many would have their hair out (the 45 - 50 degree heat wasn’t conducive to many layers of clothing). As such, my ideas of them were not founded around what they wore but their varied personalities and stories. I’d actually forgotten they all wore niqabs until I saw the following photographs on a former colleague’s Facebook page:
What are these photos, you may be asking? Are we seeing women being trained up for some crazy operation that we don’t understand?
No, what you see are African (Ugandan and Nigerian) women being trained as mechanical engineers and technicians.
Not only do these women have to brave the standard ‘women in engineering’ perception, they have to do so in an extremely hostile and patriarchal culture. They learn how to take apart engines, weld and manufacture equipment, and do so with flair.
It is inspiring.
They’re smart and driven, but also feminine and devout. Sure, it isn’t easy. There is no denying the difficulties… but these are examples of women who do almost everything they want to, and what they wear in no way oppresses them.
Kinda cool huh? Glad you clicked? I am too :)
It has been a week full of intensity, as per usual. It seems like the news has become a little like that, or perhaps it is what we choose to consume... Here are a five videos that popped up on my radar this week that are definitely worth your time.
1. Jon Oliver on Drones.
This guy is a gift. Takes issues once a week, tears it apart in 15 minutes or so. Sometimes, he can say things that others have been saying for ages but because of who he is, it is better received. Yes, that may be frustrating, but who said life was fair? Either way, his stuff is worth watching, and this week just highlights how ridiculous and insane the United State's Drone policy (or lack thereof) is.
2. Reza Aslan destroying CNN
Skip the first part of the video and wait until you get to the part where Reza Aslan starts talking. This guy is a religious scholar and academic. He knows his stuff, and the way that he clearly articulates things many Muslims yell at the TV while watching (or avoiding) CNN is brilliant.
3. Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!
A lesson that my father taught me over and over. Why projects keep failing in 'Africa'.
4.Kcee – Ogaranya ft. Davido (aka some light Afrobeats)
It can't be a Yassmin video wrap up without some Afrobeats... Let's have something light to finish off why don't we?
Guys, what Australia is this?
"A woman has been left traumatised after her head was smashed into the side of train carriage during an apparent racial attack in Melbourne's north.
The 26-year-old victim was on an Upfield line train outbound on Thursday night when she was approached by another woman, who began hurling abusive and racist remarks.
The woman grabbed the victim by the neck and hair, and forced her head into the wall of the carriage several times.
She then pushed the victim off the train as it rolled into Batman Station in Coburg North."
It cannot have come to this. We're so much better than this, really, we must be.
Yes, there are terrible things happening in the Middle East, but let that not destroy us from within.
I wish I could be witty and satirical at this point, but it would only serve to sound a little bit jaded. A fellow rig guy said to me once: "the things is, you can make a terrorist joke...but we don't know if you're kidding or not."
Talk about majorly awkward.
I could focus on the negatives, and there are a lot. Check out Media Watch's wrap up if you'd like some proof.
However, instead, I choose to focus on the fact that even though there is a lot of misinformation and hatred out there (which does not deserve traffic from my blog, no matter how meagre, so won't be linked!), there is also a lot of good.
Follow the hashtag #WISH on twitter, and check out some of the empathy and solidarity shown.
If you're curious, check out my new favourite Tumblr that is about Sharia, PartyTilFajr.
In other news...
A child is just about to get his first taste of Formula 1. #SoManyFeels. Okay, calling him a child may be a bit harsh and petulant. The young teenager then...
The Dutch racing driver is set to become the youngest on the track during an F1 weekend, three days after his 17th birthday.
I guess there is nothing like some F1 familial pedigree to ensure your rear end gets a seat.
As much as I adore / love / live for Formula 1, there is no doubting the decadent and brazen level of nepotism and elitism that exists within its ranks.
Yet, we keep coming back...