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 - 25

It’s been a couple of days since Binyavanga Wainaina passed. Binyavanga was a Kenyan writer and journalist who wrote widely, including one famous essay I thought it was worth revisiting. It’s titled ‘How to Write About Africa'.

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

On it goes. It’s brilliant, but sad, as you realise the sardonic tone is often missed by the majority of writers outside the continent. Rather, they take Wainaina’s words as instructions. Quartz has shared a lovely obituary here.

Re-reading the piece was timely, as I’m speaking about the ethics of writing at How The Light Gets In festival sharing the stage with another legend, Minna Salami. To my shame, I hadn’t come across Minna’s work before, but her blog, Ms Afropolitan, ‘connects feminism with critical reflections on contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective’ in a wonderfully fresh way. In the interests of sharing different voices, here is a recent piece I enjoyed from the site: What is the role of family?

…in modern society, we oscillate between contradictory ideas about family as a place of comfort and an institution of tradition and dogma, where repressive and outmoded views are upheld.

Additionally, people who grew up in countries that were colonised by the West must grapple with the intersection between typical Western ideas of family and their traditional ones. Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, I witnessed how the polygamous family and the Western nuclear family were entangled in ways that, at times, made them more vibrant, but also compromised women.

Going back to the question of the ethics of writing. It has been termed as ‘cultural appropriation’ in the program but that term is so ill-defined I find it unhelpful. Conversations like these mildly interesting, but often miss the point. Why do we even have a conversation about who can write what? In a truly equal society, where no group was deemed supreme, then there wouldn’t be a problem. However, we don’t live in that world - we live in one with structural inequalities, ethnocentric supremacy and ‘epistemic injustice’. In writing, this last term is quite relevant: it refers to the idea that there is injustice and inequality in who gets to ‘know’ things in society, and whose knowledge is respected, deemed worthy of listening to, deemed true. Is a young black man’s testimony of a crime worth the same as a senior, white male engineer? If a young woman accuses a powerful man of sexual assault, is she believed? If an indigenous grandmother speaks of an injustice on her land, is that given the same weight as that of a farmer named Bryon? We might not legislate the differences in how these testimonials or ‘knowledge’ is treated, but society reflects deeper inequalities in this way at every level. I can tell you that my grandmother fasted on Monday and Thursday every day for years and that the Islamic tradition encourages this as good for your health, but the moment that same intermittent fasting regime is published in English, it becomes a down-right phenomenon.

So, in a world with such injustice, how can we say that we can write without an acknowledgement of the responsibility that accompanies that creation?

The thought led me to Orwell’s essay, ‘Why I write’.

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books..

Sigh…

Riveting Reads: Wednesday 21st March, 2018

Riveting Reads: Wednesday 21st March, 2018

Interesting articles on issues ranging from a small town fighting for asylum seekers to stay, to Cambridge Analytica.

Right of Reply: A Call for Difficult Conversations, Not Censorship

In case you missed it, I wrote a reply in the New York Times to Lionel Shriver's piece, and also to further clarify the points I made in the original Medium/Guardian essay.

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?

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED

Melbourne, Australia

 

Can we actually, truly change?

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.

Enjoy! 

 

 

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...

*chuckles*

@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! 

SNAPCHAT YO.&nbsp;

SNAPCHAT YO. 


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 yas@yassminam.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.

 

  

Conversations with Richard Fidler

Today I had the honour of being interviewed by the incomparable and charming Richard Fidler. You can listen to the hour-long yarn here (click for the link).

Into the Middle of Things

Hello there! Well it has been a while. I read once it was bad form to apologise for not having posted for some time, but I think in this case I feel like some sort of acknowledgment of my absence is warranted.

It has been a 'busy' few months, although I do dislike using the word 'busy'.  Busy doesn't tell us very much, does it?  It is like 'fine'; an empty word that describes the status quo and adds no real value to a sentence.  It is there as a social nicety, which is something I suppose.  'What has been keeping you busy?' has been my go-to question of late, rather than 'what do you do?'.  It makes for a more interesting conversation.

Occasionally, I include a twist and amend it with 'what has been keeping you busy mentally?'

In my case, it has been a couple of months of growing up.  Mentally, I have been devoting a lot of time to issues around gender, access to opportunity and diversity across decision making places. I've also been thinking a lot about unconscious bias, how that plays a role in our society and how we can move past it...

Big issues, big questions. Too much for one blog post perhaps.

So instead, let me pepper you with some links to say hello again, and hopefully the next update will not be so far away.

***

I was recently alerted to this wonderful website: 'Into the Middle of Things', where Australians from around the country are interviewed about their life.  The first one I saw was below and it is a beautiful few minutes with Abe, a Sudanese-Brisbane lad:

Born in a Sudanese jail in the midst of a civil war, Abe escaped a possible future as a child soldier and managed to make it to Australia as a refugee with his seven brothers and sisters. The secret emotional and mental toll of this is still catching up with him today.

***

Shonda Rhimes is an awesome strong black woman and is doing some cool things with the various TV series she writes.

"I get asked a lot by reporters and tweeters why I am so invested in 'diversity' on television,"  Rhimes said, according to Medium's text of her speech. "'Why is it so important to have diversity on TV?' they say. I really hate the word 'diversity.' It suggests something other. ... As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV."

Rhimes offered an alternative to the term "diversity," saying she'd rather describe what she's doing as "normalizing."

"I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain't out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look normal," she said.

***

Some awesome women learning to be engineers in remote areas in the Philippines. LOVE IT.

***

Did n bit of a run down on various topics with the Triple J Hack crew for the Friday night Shake Up. What are your thoughts on some of these issues? Listen to the podcast here.  Also did some radio in Arabic! Check it by clicking here.

***

Loving this insta: Did I ever tell you I really used to love drawing cartoons?

90s Superboy cover for DC's Convergence! :)

A photo posted by babsdraws (@babsdraws) on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:06pm PST


***

So anyway, what has been keeping YOU busy mentally?

In Sydney for Changemakers Festival! (and some links!)

Quick update: I'll be in Sydney this weekend! There are a couple of cool things happening: for one, Youth Without Borders Sydney is catching up (click HERE for details).  I'll also be taking part in the 3things event through the Changemakers Festival which should be quite awesome - come along on Sunday morning if you're free (details HERE).

I've also been honoured to be highlighted as part of birdee's Changemakers - the guys and gals are too kind!

Don't forget to like / contribute to the campaign: Racism, Hatred, Bigotry: #NotInMyName

A couple of things to keep you busy on a Saturday morning:

Do you think the 'Age of Loneliness' is killing us?

An essay on 'Terrorism and the Muslim veil'

I really enjoy good graffiti and have begun using Instagram to record some of what I see around the world.  Tag me if you find some #graf you've enjoyed...

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#Perth #graf #tagsandthrow #streetart #perthgraf #graffiti

View on Instagram

THIS COMIC: Twisted Doodles

Links, Links, Links! 13th October 2014

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."

 

2. How ignorant commentary on Sharia law increases discrimination

 

3. Is it fair to blame the West for trouble in the Middle East?

"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."

4. The Myth of Religious Violence

 

5. An alternative perspective on the Emma - Wassim interview on #Lateline that even the PM lauded...

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.

6. Is Islam a Violent Text?

This is SO good. Read it.

 

Channel Ten's new show. What do you think?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3U4f6lsp4E

 

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...

 

Four Videos You Need to Watch This Friday

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.

http://youtu.be/K4NRJoCNHIs

 

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.

http://youtu.be/6ibKWVTFSak

 

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?

http://youtu.be/Ig97XJv8iRQ

IN THE BLACK: Thank you!

A great big thanks to Catherine Fox and "In the Black" for including me as part of the 2014 Young Business Leader's list. Screenshot 2014-06-21 22.09.49

 

It's an absolute honour, and an interesting branch into a world I had never really considered myself a part of before: Business.

Check out the write up here.  While you're there, read up on the other leaders! Everyone is doing something absolutely amazing and inspiring...

[While I'm here, shout out to my folks and the mentors who have helped me along the way!  Honestly if it wasn't for their encouragement and support, I wouldn't be at full, I'd be at no throttle at all].

An excerpt:

Still in her early 20s, Abdel-Magied says the best advice she’s been given is to be adaptable, and to use the leverage you have. A young Muslim girl interested in working in the community and with an engineering background is an unusual combination, she admits, but it means people listen.

“I’ve always looked at the opportunities that have come my way and had a goal – but don’t let that blind you to other avenues. The job that I’m in now, it was almost a whim that led me to apply to work on a rig and led me onto a new path. And you need to ask all the silly questions when you are in the early part of your career before you are seen as ‘the expert’.’’