An advert deserving of a Gruen Planet appearance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOjNcZvwjxI

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?

Sheryl-Sandberg-Quote-Leadership-Skills-400x266

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?

amypoehler

Photos from around the net.  Click for source.

Book Review: STOP PRESS

Just finished reading this short and punchy 'history' book, written by Rachel Buchanan.

'STOP PRESS' is one of the Published Scribe's Media Chronicles, a series of first person accounts about the changes in the mass media that we are now a part of.  I was actually sent this particular book by Crikey as part of my subscription which I am thoroughly enjoying and is probably where I get most of my Australian news from.

Shameless promotion aside, the book and the Chronicles are timely, given never-ending public lament on the death of the newspapers.  Circulation is down across almost all dailies in Australia, revenue is plummeting and it seems the grieving has begun before 'Time of Death' has even been called.

It is interesting to ask whether this is a history book or not.  Rachel's friend, quoted in the book, seems to think so.

[box] "I started to explain that I was writing about the present, about how newspapers were made now, but my friend interrupted. 'Yes it is,' she said. 'We are history Rachel. You are writing a history book.'" [/box]

Perhaps.  Buchanan chronicles the huge change in the world of newspapers over her lifetime, a change that has occurred so rapidly it is no wonder folk are blinking their eyes, shaking off twittering birds circling above their head.  The fall of newspapers has been rough and undignified in a way.  Rachel writes nostalgically of hot metal presses; proud, loyal distributors who would do anything to get the paper out on time, an entire industry devoted to reporting, writing, producing; intellectuals in their own world that are unused to this recent loss of importance.

Again, like other books and films, I become nostalgic for a time I never knew.  The world seems foreign yet romantic in a way that reminds me of period-films; movies set back in time that make you wish you were there.  Sometimes though, you realise if you were, you probably wouldn't have been living the life shown on screen.  After all, when in history were coloured people ever the ones inhabiting mansions?  Downton Abbey, for shame.

What Rachel does well is highlight that the (alleged?) death of the traditional press (if it can be called a death - after all, the book claims that the national circulation is still 11 million) does not just mean the loss of jobs for reporters and journalists, but of the entire industry around the 'press' itself.  This was an angle I had not really considered before.  Newspapers were a 'manufacturing' industry, and with the decline in manufacturing around the West generally, newspapers naturally followed suit.  The book does well here, giving life to all from the paper mills to the ink stained men working the presses and the local distributors, stuffing papers with inserts every night.

Yet, I feel there is a unnecessary conflation between the death of the newspaper and the death of 'quality journalism'.

I was born early enough in the nineties to not have grown up with the internet as integral to my life as air.  I grew up in a family that lived on newspapers; until today I pick up copies of The Australian (I do love a broadsheet) and the Financial Review (and SMH/The Age if travelling) whenever I get the chance.

However, it strikes me that all the lament is coming from those who played a role in the old world of the press.  Personally, I feel like news is news is news.  Online I can be my own curator, add to the discussion and diverse voices can be heard, and, well, that is just fine with me!

Yes, the traditional world of the press is not as ubiquitous as it used to be (in the West, the East is still a little different).  Neither is the world of vinyl, or horse driven carts.  New technology is different, but it doesn't make it any less valuable, if we treat it with the same level of respect as we did its predecessor.

The old school press might be dying, but journalism doesn't have to.  In fact, I don't think it is.

Stories that are truly investigative and revolutionary might not occur every day, but the recent Edward Snowden upheavals are examples of the fourth estate really showing why it remains a pillar.

The internet has shaken things up for the capitalist world, which thought it had its revenue streams all figured out.  In a way, I like the upheaval and the change.  It means the power has shifted - or at least, has the potential to shift - from powerful (single-demographic) men who controlled it all, including what the public saw as the truth.   Too much power with the one demographic is never really much fun.

I've never heard a person my age lament the death of the paper; we read the news on our laptops, phones, iPads and just get on with life.

Yes, things are different.  The money for editors, sub editors and the like isn't what it used to be.  The structures are changing.  Buchanan's book is a chronicle of that change.

Still...

Change brings new beginnings, and I am excited to see what we young people make it.

It's going to be a fun ride :)

Links, Links, Links! 17th November 2013

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Here are a few great pieces I came across on the internet this week:

***

"The Logic of Stupid Poor People"

Why do poor people make stupid, illogical decisions to buy status symbols? For the same reason all but only the most wealthy buy status symbols, I suppose. We want to belong. And, not just for the psychic rewards, but belonging to one group at the right time can mean the difference between unemployment and employment, a good job as opposed to a bad job, housing or a shelter, and so on. Someone mentioned on twitter that poor people can be presentable with affordable options from Kmart. But the issue is not about being presentable. Presentable is the bare minimum of social civility. It means being clean, not smelling, wearing shirts and shoes for service and the like. Presentable as a sufficient condition for gainful, dignified work or successful social interactions is a privilege. It’s the aging white hippie who can cut the ponytail of his youthful rebellion and walk into senior management while aging black panthers can never completely outrun the effects of stigmatization against which they were courting a revolution. Presentable is relative and, like life, it ain’t fair.

 ***

The not-so-secret secrets to success

We imagine ultra-successful individuals being endowed with almost superhuman talents. In so doing, we surround greatness with a certain kind of mystique and deem it somewhat inaccessible to the average person. However, success is not contingent on having extraordinary, innate ability. Nor does greatness depend upon some mysterious approach to life. There are no secrets to success—only simple truths, principles, and disciplines that have been around for thousands of years. Sadly, we obscure the reality of success by making a number of misjudgments about it.

***

The Lost Female Scholars of Islam

Dr Akram Nadwi is soon to publish his 40-volume collection on Muslim women scholars.  In 2007, Mehrunisha Suleman and Afaaf Rajbee analysed the lost legacy of women scholars and its impact on today's world in emel's feature on The Lost Female Scholars of Islam.

...

Since women today participate so little in the teaching of Hadith and the issuing of fatwas, there is a wide misconception that historically they have never played this role. As Shaykh Akram describes, “when I started, I thought there may be thirty to forty women,” but as the study progressed, the accounts of female scholars kept growing and growing, until eventually there were no less than 8,000 biographical accounts to be found. Such vast numbers truly testify to the huge role that women have played in the preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of the blessed Prophet Muhammad. The women encountered by Shaykh Akram were far from mediocre when compared to men, indeed, some excelled far beyond their male contemporaries. There were exceptional women who not only actively participated in society but also actively reformed it. Most striking was the high calibre of their intellectual achievements and the respect that they received for this.

***

Senator Nova Peris's Maiden Speech

It is what it is. The past is the past and no matter how hard we try we cannot change that history.

But let’s start to undo the wrongs with what is right and just. I urge all my Parliamentary colleagues to become champions for the recognition of Australia’s first nations people in our constitution.

To Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples this has always been part of our story of struggle, injustice and heartache. But we are here today – I am here today – because of this history. Aboriginal Australians are symbolic of triumph over adversity. We represent knowledge and wisdom held in land and country.

Because in our hearts we know that we do not own Mother Earth, the Earth owns us.

As a child growing up, I dreamt big.

Most people would have looked at an Aboriginal girl from the Territory, where the statistics of alcohol abuse, youth suicide, domestic violence, imprisonment rates and sub-standard education point to every reason why you should not succeed.

But I was determined to be successful.

And yes I am a product of that history, and I continue to live in a society whereby the odds are stacked against Aboriginal people.

***

Abbott's new world order

As a senior executive with one of the charities says: ''I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worried that one day we may have to face a royal commission and have to answer for the conditions under which these people were treated and which we didn't have the guts to challenge the government on.''

***

Economics students demand an education that reflects post-crash world

The economic crash brought back a host of long-forgotten truths, or rather lack of truths, as academic economics closed itself away from the beauty of competing, different ideas. Classroom economics failed to adapt itself to the essence of the world and fails to search for its own failures, to seek and wrestle with new truths.

We now have an opportunity to extend economics beyond the orthodoxies, to reach out to branches of economics that do not allocate resources through simple supply and demand, but theories that directly address the issue of sustainability and aim to ensure people's decisions are born out of social responsibility.

It is essential that future financial and commercial leaders realise the direct consequence of their actions on the wider society, and the best way to do this is by expanding the range of economic thought they are able to engage with.

***

 The Saturday Paper is coming to town!!

THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME.

***

Of course, there was also the pieces on this blog in case you missed them, published in the Financial Review and lamenting on what to do with our lives (fulfillment?)

What have you read that you really enjoyed or found thought provoking?

Can't wait to share!

Cheers,

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Fantastic Friday Five !

Morning morning morning! I hope your Friday is going well!

TGIF indeed...here are five bits of interesting facts for your Friday.

 

ONE.

Facts about Africa, lol

 

Okay, this irritated me slightly because it's another 'fact' sheet about 'Africa' (conveniently forgetting the fact that Africa is 52 countries, and that they are quite different and not one, amorphous, exotic mass), but because it highlights a few interesting and different points, I will let it pass.  The fact that female entrepreneurship is this highest in the world? Hell yea! That's what we're talking about. Oppressed? Ain't nobody got time for that...

 

TWO.

Sayings 2.0

 

Doghouse Diaries. Love it.

 

THREE.

Instagram JJJ

 

Triple J did an awesome story on my experience of Ramadan on the Rigs. Props to Sarah and the team for letting me share this! Have a listen HERE (it starts at around 21 min in :D)

 

FOUR.

I adore this idea - quotes in comics.  Zen Pencils, it's called.

This is the first comic I read, and it struck a chord it did!  A fan even made a short video of it.

Around the corner

FIVE.

Long read for the day: Slow Ideas, on the New Yorker.

In our era of electronic communications, we’ve come to expect that important innovations will spread quickly. Plenty do: think of in-vitro fertilization, genomics, and communications technologies themselves. But there’s an equally long list of vital innovations that have failed to catch on. The puzzle is why.

***

So tell me. What are some interesting things you've come across on the net?

 

How I fell in love with V8s and all things motorsport...

I've always considered myself a rebel of sorts, even though all my friends at the Christian ecumenical high school I went to didn't see it that way.

I wasn't allowed out at night or on the weekends to ‘hang out’ at the shopping center; I had chosen to cover my hair and my body up as part of my religious beliefs; all my social events were with my family or community.

That didn’t matter to me though. I rebelled in my own ways… and one of those rebellions has turned into a full blown, life passion.

The story starts innocently enough; it was a cool Friday night and my mother, brother and I were settling in for another VHS movie night.

As was our tradition, we headed on over to the local video store and proceeded to each pick a movie.  My brother always picked the strange titles; I remember him thinking Shaolin Soccer looked cool. The night we watched that movie our stomachs hurt from distraught laughter.

cover_shaolin_soccer_uk

Back to the Friday night in question...

It was an evening like any other, unremarkable to the point where I don't remember any details.  Suffice to say, however, one of us picked a movie that essentially changed my life.

It was called Catch that Kid. I look at the cover now and cringe, but at the time I just thought the two boys looked cute - and one had an afro like me!  I was sold.

The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It was a good movie, with nothing of note to remember...until right at the end, one of the characters heads out to his family's go-kart track and speeds around the circuit.

"That looks so cooool!" I remember thinking.  "I want to do THAT!"

Sold.

How terribly nineties...

I then proceeded to beg my mum to let me on the internet (dial up, as it was), and began researching everything I could about go-karting.  When my parents refused to fork out the hundreds and thousands of dollars I was asking for to hit it up myself, I then started researching cars.

Somehow, between that kid's go-kart and the pages of the How Cars are Made books I borrowed from the local library, I fell in love with cars.

My first love was the McLaren F1. The fastest production car of the time; I couldn't get enough of it. I would borrow shelves worth of books from the library, from service manuals to the history of Ferrari, drinking up the shapes, the designs, the speed, the beauty of the power...

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I think my parents thought it was a strange phase I would get over, until I started taking design and technology classes at school.  They would later be pleasantly surprised when I went on to top the subjects of both graphic design and design and technology in grade 12 (I was the only girl in my design and tech class!).

They must have realised something was up when all I would watch on the television was the Formula 1 and the V8s.  They definitely came to accept it when I chose mechanical engineering as my major, because I wanted to design cars for a living. I did initially want to be the first, female, Muslim Formula 1 driver but it didn't quite work out that way! ;)

If there is one thing I have learnt from the experience though, it's that inspiration can come from anywhere.  If we hadn't decided to stay in that night and watch movies, I might neverhave discovered my love for motorsport.  It makes life exciting in a way, to know that inspiration can hit at any time. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut and take life for a drive!

Three (MEGA) Tips for Creating that AWESOME Personal Network.

"It's not what you know, it's who you know". How many times have you heard that phrase?

How many times have you felt exasperated with that phrase because you didn't feel like you 'knew' anyone?

If you love something, let it go...

Last week, Youth Without Borders' Spark Engineering Camp was held in Brisbane, Queensland.  It was the third year of operations and the first year where my involvement was purely observational.

There is something amazing to be said for seeing a project taken from concept to execution.

There is something even more spectacular about seeing it be truly owned by the next generation, and taken to heights beyond what you might have imagined for it.

I am so immensely proud of the Spark Engineering Camp team, their professionalism and their candour; humbled by their capacity and what they have done for  over 60 young people around the state.

They were able to take this group of young people - all with beautiful stories of their own and many from backgrounds that do not lend themselves to university or engineering aspirations - and broaden their horizons, empowering them forever more.

I visited the camp on the last night and was inundated by positive comments.  One young student, an extremely quiet and still lad, put it quite simply.

"It hasn't just helped me with choosing what I want to do. It's done so much more. It's made me come out of my shell..."

Words cannot do justice to the power of this experience.

***

As I was leaving the camp after the visit on the final night, my heart twisted slightly, for an unfathomable reason.

Lying in bed, I realised it was the heartache of seeing something you had worked on grow beyond you...

...coupled with the realisation that this is the greatest thing that can ever happen.

We can hold onto what we love; people, organisations, projects, but holding on for too long can sometimes be the very cause of its stifling and demise.

It isn't an easy thing to do there is no doubting that.  But it is in act of love in itself.

Giving space for growth is a beautiful gift and one that shouldn't be underestimated.

I must warn you though: the results may very well inspire you.

***

(PS Stay tuned for the video of the week!)

What do (young, CALD) women want? Ask them.

 

Young people are often maligned in our society. Unsure of whether they are contributing adults or dependent children, they fall between the cracks and can often be voiceless in public conversation and debate. Culturally and linguistically diverse groups find themselves in a similar position at times; spoken 'for' rather than asked, 'othered' and objectified in a way by a society that may not fully understand them.

 

For young, culturally and linguistically diverse women then, the challenge can sometimes seem insurmountable. Not only do they hail from different backgrounds, their age and their gender compound the difficulties that can often prevent them from fully engaging in community and society.

 

In order to engage young culturally and linguistically diverse women we must first understand that they are not only dealing with the standard societal expectations and pressures of being a young woman, but they are also dealing with often diametrically opposite expectations of their cultural background and community.

 

This dilemma encapsulates the issues of identity and belonging, as it so often does. Young culturally and linguistically diverse women are currently left to navigate these confusing waters alone, often without guidance, and seem to be expected to do so without fault. This is an unrealistic expectation. These young women should be supported, engaged and empowered to deal with issues of identity and growth. This will enable them to feel like they are part of the community or give them the power to shape their own.

 

Anecdotal evidence of mismatches between cultural expectations and the anguish that follows is plentiful. For families that migrate from very conservative societies where women are not given the same autonomy as they are in Australia, the idea that this is the norm here is one that is difficult to relate to and sometimes rejected.

 

This moves beyond the simple and superficial differences that are often highlighted, such as codes of dress. It goes to the root of gender roles and what it means to be a 'good woman' in particular cultures.

 

For some communities, women’s' involvement in extraneous activities including sports or politics is seen as undesirable. The 'Shinpads and Hijabs' program, which trained young Muslim girls in soccer, is one such example. When the initiative was run at the local Islamic school during school hours, parents were accepting and encouraging. However, when the suggestion was made to broaden the scope of the program and run it after hours, it was no longer an option for many. Furthermore, the final excursion to see the local team at the city's stadium was eventually cancelled as parents were reluctant to let their daughters attend the festivities.

 

It is quite possible that had these been boys, there would not have been any issue at all.

 

Examples such as this illustrate the pressures that are placed upon young culturally and linguistically diverse women on a daily basis.

 

How can we support and empower these young women as a sector to grow and develop as individuals?

 

Effective engagement with the young women, beginning with families and implemented through schools, is part of the solution.

 

It is important that any engagement with the young women include their families and communities. Due to the collectivist nature of many culturally and linguistically diverse communities, it is difficult to engage these ladies on an individual basis only and ignore the role their family plays. This collective engagement not only shows respect to cultural norms but also allows for a feedback process that is imperative to improving services.

 

Engagement through schools is also a natural avenue, as schools provide a platform that is already accepted. Moreover, families are more likely to value education and opportunities provided through educational institutions as opposed to random, unaffiliated programs. The legitimacy that the school structure provides is important, as is the captive audience within a school group. Operating during school hours, as with Shinpads and Hijabs, also allows for engagement programs to be minimally disruptive and more likely to be accepted.

 

One aspect not to be underestimated in effective engagement is the power of example. Encouraging other culturally and linguistically diverse women to run programs for their younger counterparts and become involved in the process is invaluable. The ability then of the young women – and importantly, their families – to relate to the programmers is enhanced significantly. They are also more likely to accept the program, as it will more obviously align with their own values, a concept which is extremely important.

 

Lastly, ask. Ask the young women what they want to do, what they want to achieve, and how best they want to do it. Often, as a sector we assume we know the best for particular groups, especially when it comes to dealing with young people. However these young women are smart, dynamic, interested and often have some idea of what they want to do. By asking, not only will their considerations be taken into account but their needs are front and center of the equation and the solution. This focus is imperative and invaluable.

 

Nothing will happen without some change. This does pose its own difficulties, as families and communities are often reticent to accept or entertain the idea of cultural and ideological change. However, as a sector it is our role to find the best ways of communicating with all of these groups – the young women, their families, schools and communities – in order to provide the best possible solution for all involved and to ensure these young women have their own, authentic voice..

 


This was initially published in FECCA’s 'Australian Mosaic'.

 

The Wisdom of the Dalai Lama in Person.

 

The Young Minds Conference being held at Sydney Town Hall had a lucky guest for the opening session on the 17th of June - His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

I was fortunate to be a part of the fantastic panel that flanked the Dalai Lama, including the moderator Simon Longstaff, and Professors Deborah Harcourt and Carla Rinaldi.

Check out the official conference's blog here...

What a session! The topic was huge, "How to grow a good person".

What a topic indeed...

***

Justice cannot be done to the morning by recounting a few simple words, but I will do my best!

An unexpected surprise was the Dalai Lama's candour and sense of humour (especially at his own expense - it's awesome to know I'm not the only one who laughs at my own jokes!). It is easy to forget in those simple moments that he is Nobel Laureate and the religious leader of his people.

What did he say?

He talked about the importance of family and the kindness of his mother, who 'never showed an angry face'.

He laughed about life as a young student who was only interested in playing, as all kids are.

He ruminated on the secular nature of ethics and morals...

He took us on a journey of a spiritual man who sees goodness as not being the sole property of those with religion, but of humanity.

This, he stressed.

'We should teach morals and ethics as a curriculum subject!'

His emphasis was profound.

To him, the values of love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, respect and the like are not values that we should, as religious folk, be protective of but should share, as they are humanity's values.

Instead, they are secular morals that are based on biological factors that are about keeping humanity going. It was an interesting argument, and one that gives much food for thought.

***

A profound experience. I've had the blessing of speaking with His Holiness before, however this experience was a little different. Perhaps because I saw his obvious love for children; for their predilection to play, enjoy and be affectionate. We had a number of young people join us on the stage to ask questions; he would hold their hands, laugh with them, get them to sit on his lap...much like any elder gentlemen would treat his own grandchildren perhaps?

Let children be children, let them play and let them love, was his message.

However, don't let us forget that we can learn from children, from their abandonment, for their honest curiosity and humanity. Let us learn from them. Let us focus on secular morals and value them more in society.

 

Some among us have a wealth of wisdom to share.

The Dalai Lama is one of these men.

Regardless of differences in belief, it is important to reflect on the wisdom shared, relate it back to one's own beliefs and understand the univeral importance of humanity.

There is beauty - flawed and imperfect - but beauty nonetheless, in our collective humanity. For that reminder, I am grateful Alhamdulilah!

Grass Roots Sudanese Inspiration (ARABIC)

A good friend of mine recommended this TEDx talk performed in Sudan and I simply love it. It talks about ambition, gumption, examples of Sudanese who have defeated the odds and 'made it'...and is a great grass roots video for young Sudanese to watch and be inspired by. Note that it is in Arabic, and pretty Sudanese Arabic at that!

Enjoy.

 

The Malaysian Moderation Obsession

Thoughts of a young Aussie on a Malaysia cultural exchange...we made it into the paper! Check out my first reflection on the trip so far here.

The 'Global Movement of Moderation Foundation', or the GMMF for short, is symptomatic of an contradictory obsession with moderation in the Malaysian political sphere.

This contradiction has been demonstrated over the course of the Australia-Malaysia Institute's current program, an initiative pitched as a cultural exchange between the youth of the two nations. The Malaysian Government's Ministry of Foreign Affair's determination to include the GMMF along the way has led to the 'moderation' agenda dictating the terms and language around the program and it is clear that this is coming from the top. Why? What is this all achieving?

A more fundamental question to ask is 'What exactly does it mean to be part of the moderate movement?'

In essence, what does 'moderate' actually mean?

This is a question we have been asking as a group for the last few days and have yet to receive a comprehensive answer. It seems that the concept of 'moderation' is something along the lines of 'the middle path', or more boldly, the opposite of extremism. How such an amorphous concept can be a goal however - especially when so poorly defined - is difficult to understand.

What is concerning is the use of the word 'moderate' when it is a word that quite clearly comes with baggage.

It means various things to various people and as a Muslim, the use of the phrase 'moderate Muslim' is slightly...uncomfortable.

Rather than moderate, some Muslims prefer words such as 'mainstream', if we have to give ourselves a label.

'Moderate Muslims' however, to me seems to just imply a Muslim that is lukewarm, or just 'moderately' interested and engaged in the religion. It makes me think - if I am a 'moderate Muslim', does that mean I am not a 'good Muslim'?

It almost insinuates that it's neither here, nor there. Just a bit, well, meh?

Different Muslims have different preferences, but it should be recognised that the word 'moderate' does have that connotation to many.

So clearly, the use of phrases such as the 'movement of moderation' when that is so poorly defined and in fact insinuates a dilution of [religious] belief is concerning and confusing.

In addition, the second issue of note is the corresponding and contradictory moves in Malaysia to politisice Islam. This has been demonstrated by the tightening of particular laws excessively and against the principles of Islam, an attitude which flies in the face of 'moderation'.

The most recent case is naturally that of banning the use of the word 'Allah' by other religions and various cases in family court that are said to terribly disadvantage women. This disadvantage is due to procedural issues and poor implementation of the law rather than of the word of the law itself.

It would seem that even one of the most outwardly progressive Muslim majority nations in the world suffers from the deep politicisation of religion, evidenced in the adoption of the word 'moderate'. It is a word that the West love, as it is nice and not-extremist-scary. A nation that adopts this position will be internationally favoured.

Domestically however, the opposite is true. Political leaders use the religion to justify their actions in order to try gain the domestic Muslim internal support they desire.

It is an interesting situation indeed...

***

Politicisation of religion is difficult to fight without true, just, fair education, and that includes proper religious eduation that focuses not on the rituals of a religion but the spirit behind the words.

When Muslims are properly educated themselves as to their rights, responsibilities and duties as good Muslims, the true spirit of Islam - which is like any religion, lauding peace, mercy, forgiveness, et. al. - will shine through.

After all, Muslims are told to walk the 'middle path'...

Ironic, la?

 

How do we grow a good person?

As part of the fantastic Young Minds conference next week, I will be appearing with the Dalai Lama and a few other awesome people discussing the idea of 'growing a good person'.

It is an interesting issue, and raises a multitude of questions.

What makes a good person?

Can we 'grow' a good person?

Are there qualities that are inherently good or bad, and can we truly become 'better'?

I can't wait to tackle this issue! What are your thoughts?

***

In the lead up to the conference, I wrote the following piece for the conference blog.

***

A stroll in the self-help section of any bookstore, electronic or otherwise, will offer a wide and varying selection on how to achieve the illusive state of ‘happiness’.

Happiness seems to be a state which we should aspire to achieve and embody. However, this doesn’t seem to answer all the questions.

If we are all trying so hard to be happy, to de-stress, de-clutter and distance ourselves from anything that brings us pain and difficulty, where are we collectively heading as a society? Can we really achieve and progress if we are not interested in the meaningfulness of what we do and instead focus on our personal, individual happiness?

In her recent article, Nancy Colier asks: Why do we expect ourselves to be happy all the time? It is a pertinent question and challenges a concept that has been encouraged and celebrated strongly over the past couple of decades, particularly in the United States. The article draws from The Atlantic’s original article, which postulates There is actually more to life than just being happy.

If life isn’t about being happy, then what is it about?

Having grown up in a household with a strong Sudanese, community based culture, my younger brother and I were taught the importance of ‘duty’, and doing things with a purpose, something that offered meaning.

This wasn’t something we always understood or appreciated, as for young children and teenagers, the immediate payoff seems to be the most important thing. As time has passed though, I have begun to appreciate what my parents were trying to teach us.

Meaning can bring happiness, but in of itself is much more profound and encompassing than just ‘being happy’.

Meaning is about the concept of working for something larger than your individual person. It is about, as the psychologist who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning found, being a ‘giver’ instead of a ‘taker’.

It is a concept that implies a fulfilling life isn’t one that is focused on personal contentment to the exclusion of any pain, suffering, or any struggle for a better situation. Rather, a fulfilling life is one that gives individuals a reason to be happy – or at the very least, content.

Meaning can come in any number of forms, but it is often related to what we as individuals and society value.

For those who value family, meaning and ensuing happiness can come from providing for the family. For those who are more focused on their career, meaning may take the form of employment related activities. For me personally, meaning comes from working with young people and the community to help empower them, individually and as a group.

Achieving or striving for these may not always be sunshine and roses, and may not always provide immediate happiness. However, the long term strive for meaning gives depth to our lives, and value to what we contribute to in society.

It is that meaning that we can derive true happiness from, knowing that our time on this earth made an impact in some way, and that the world is a little better for us having been in it.

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