Where’s the love brothers and sisters? A first-hand account of the worldwide persecution faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community

There is a community of Muslims in the UK who many Muslims refuse to accept as Muslim. A community of people whom in many countries worldwide are actively persecuted – denied the right to go to perform Hajj in Mekkah, denied the right to call themselves Muslim, denied the right to own official mosques and quite simply denied the right to freely live the way they wish to in line with their beliefs. On many occasions they have been victims of violence and even been killed

Yes, this brothers and sisters in faith and humanity is the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. For many, simple referring to my fellow brothers and sisters is somewhat of a “blasphemy”. Now I’m not going to get into religious “debates” here. Instead, I’d like to present a guest blog by an associate of mine – Dr Irfan Malik who is himself a member of the Ahmadiyya community and based in the UK. Here’s his honest and quite often shocking story of the discrimination that he and his fellow community members face each and every day here in the UK and across the globe.

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Persecution Faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community was founded by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in 1889 in Qadian, India. He proclaimed to be the ‘Promised Messiah’.

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Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed (Image credit: sirsheraz, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Our community is now established in over 200 countries, with tens of millions of followers. The UK chapter was established in 1913 and built London’s first Mosque, known as ‘The London Mosque’ inaugurated in 1926 in Southfields. We are guided by our spiritual leader and Khalifa, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed, the 5th successor to the Promised Messiah [pictured].

The community is actively involved in humanitarian and charity projects all over the world. Each branch regularly holds interfaith events and peace conferences. We portray the true peaceful message of Islam, as taught by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Our motto is: Love for all, hatred for none.

Unfortunately however, our peaceful community has been the target of persecution in other Muslim countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and across the MENA region – simply due to our beliefs.

I will now give a summary of how Pakistan has treated Ahmadiyya Muslims over the years.

Legalised discrimination in Pakistan

pakistan-895319_1920.jpgThe Ahmadiyya Muslim community has suffered decades of religious discrimination and persecution in Pakistan. Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, it is estimated that 302 Ahmadis have been killed for their beliefs.

In 1974, under pressure from religious clerics, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed legislation declaring the Ahmadiyya community as non-Muslims. In 1984, General Zia ul Haq decided to impose even stricter restrictions on the Ahmadiyya community by introducing the Ordinance XX, thereby forbidding Ahmadis from calling themselves ‘Muslims’ or even posing as one.

Public preaching or professing of beliefs was banned and Ahmadiyya Mosques had to be renamed ‘places of worship’. It became illegal for Ahmadis to give the call to prayer (Azan), publicly recite the Holy Qur’an, or greet people with ‘Assalam alaikum‘ (‘May peace be upon you’) [as is commanded for every Muslim].

A person found guilty of these crimes would face three years imprisonment or even a death sentence if sentenced under the current blasphemy laws. These laws and ordinances have severely undermined Ahmadis’ rights to freedom of religion or belief and have further increased their experiences of discrimination and hostility in Pakistan.

Below are some examples of recent acts of violence:

In my ancestral village of Dulmial in Punjab, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque ‘Darul Zikr‘ was attacked on 12th December 2016 by a huge mob of over 4,000 people. They used semi-automatic weapons to gain entry and set fire to the mosque. The local police were overwhelmed and unable to stop the assault and eventually the Pakistani army were called in to gain control. One Ahmadi Muslim, my uncle, died during this violent attack. The mosque remains sealed to this day and is guarded by armed police.

A recent report entitled ‘Ahmadis in Pakistan Face an Existential Threat‘ published by the International Human Rights Committee, explores the  ongoing persecution faced by Ahmadi Muslims across Pakistan in detail and is worth a read.

Life in the UK: Intrafaith relations
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Bait Ul Futuh mosque (Morden, London) – Home to the local Ahmaddiya community

In the UK, Ahmadiyya Muslims have also suffered discrimination and persecution with the most horrific example being the murder of shopkeeper Asad Shah in Glasgow in March 2016. Unfortunately, the hatred continues to be propagated by certain preachers.

Personally, I have experienced situations where an Interfaith Council asked us to change our name to ‘Ahmadiyya Association‘ instead of ‘Ahmadiyya Muslim Association‘. Some Muslim leaders have also advised us to leave certain police and council consultation meetings as they didn’t accept us as ‘Muslims’, whilst a leading academic criminologist backed out of researching hate crimes against Ahmadi Muslims due to concerns about their safety.

Most recently, as we launched an event as part of ‘Visit My Mosque’ day in February this year, there was a campaign and sermons telling people not to attend. The recent billboard campaign advertising the beliefs of Ahmadiyya Muslims has also received complaints and several displays were removed.

Hate against Ahmadiyya Muslims is in fact common place on social media and YouTube. Whilst ‘Islamophobia’ is regularly highlighted and researched, the hate against Ahmadiyya Muslims and sectarian issues within the Muslim community are infrequently mentioned or studied. I am extremely thankful to Tell MAMA and Faith Matters as these projects/organisations have had the courage to raise and challenge this type of hate.

Organisations monitoring and recording hate crimes need to highlight these terrible acts for all, regardless of faith, colour and creed and not be selective. As Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations declared: “We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race”.

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imDr Irfan Malik, is a GP based in Nottingham (UK). An active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, he is also a keen First World War researcher. 

Credits and acknowledgements

I’d like to thank Dr Malik for this thought-provoking peace and offer my sincere condolences for the loss of his uncle.

I urge each and every one of you who have read this piece to share and spread the message that this type of abuse is simply not acceptable. For everyone out there – and especially non-Ahmadi Muslims – I urge you to report intrafaith-based hate crime, to welcome your Ahmadi brothers and sisters and to challenge the hate-fuelled discriminatory rhetoric out there. We need greater inclusion, great unity and less hypocrisy of “peace and unity”. Actions speak louder than words. Rights are for all – regardless of your particular thoughts, opinions and beliefs.

For more information and to take action, please visit the following Amnesty UK blog.

Salam ♡

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Gender, sexuality and identity: An interview with Islamic feminist Dr Amina Wadud

Back in 2011. I was studying for my Master’s degree in Human Rights and Human Values and as part of my course I took a module called: Feminism in the Muslim World. Now, being a Muslim, a woman and a passionate feminist, taking this module was a must. I saw this as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and to (further) see how women’s rights are protected and enshrined in Islam. The module was based in another department and not traditionally part of my degree but that didn’t deter me. If I could do it, I would. What’s not to love?!

Departmental logistics aside, here comes the issue. “Feminism? Islamic feminism?!” is what you may hear many people cry in a confused stupor. Yes, many non-Muslims may believe that Islam is anything but a feminist religion which works to actively promote women’s equality. Whilst I fervently disagree, on the other side of the fence there are those Muslims (both male and female!) who actively in both their socio-cultural and political practice and also critically, theological teachings, do anything but promote women’s equality.

IMG_0138.JPGNow here is where us Muslim Feminists stand proudly. During my studies I was introduced to the scholar Dr Amina Wadud through her book “Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam“. Dr Wadud is an Islamic Feminist and leading scholar in this field. A Professor Emeritus based in the US, she has dedicated her life in academia to issues surrounding women’s rights and equality within Islam, promoting pluralism, human dignity and additionally LGBT rights. The media however most often refer to her as the Muslim woman who lead mixed prayer back in 2005 and the topic of female imama (women imams).

With such an inspirational approach towards Islamic and a big fan, I was delighted to speak to Dr Wadud herself. Here’s our interview on gender, sexuality, identity and human dignity.

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VoS: Assalam aleykum. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. So to start with could you give a brief intro about your work, what you’re working on at the moment and what are your current projects?

AW: Wa aleykum salam. Currently I am doing a funded research project. I’m in the third of three years to examine classical Islamic sources on the topic of sexual diversity and human dignity – not only what was said in the classical period of Islamic thought but also the implications of those statements. I believe that certain things are outdated and we need to figure out how to address them succinctly and not to defer to past – even intellectual – engagements as if the matter is closed.

VoS: That’s fabulous! So when will the public be able to find out more about the project? When will everything be published?

AW: I’ve not shared much of the results of the research so far, except in a closed setting. I would like to compose an entire monograph on my findings and my thoughts but to also work on curriculum development for the teaching of sexual diversity in Islamic thought in graduate level courses.

We thought maybe we should develop a reference text to develop hopefully programmes that will encourage others who are trying to address the topic in their teaching to use the resources to again enhance the conversation with students. I’m looking forward to some of the products of the research but am still enjoying the opportunity to simply do the research part, not to do the writing and the publication yet!

VoS: It’s a long journey! That must be fascinating because there’s definitely not a lot out there.

AM: We have growing diversities in our community and part of the conservation because whenever I describe the research project I always say sexual diversity and human dignity because that will be the principle that I will use to determine how you address the specifics and some of the conversations that are there are somewhat singular in terms of their objections to sexual diversity. I want to bring the conversation to hopefully a more nuanced way and just make it possible for us to open up to have some genuine conversations.

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Image credit: Ikhlasul Amal (CC BY-NC 2.0)

VoS: Insha’Allah that will be a good eye-opener to really get discussions going. So for those who are perhaps not familiar will the idea of gender jihad or are perhaps confused by the term Islamic Feminism, how would you define that?

AW: Well, I don’t necessarily do a single definition. I think the distinctions [between gender jihad and Islamic feminism] are important. Gender jihad I actually lifted from my South African colleagues when they invited me in 1994. I was there for a lecture tour and a conference and was ultimately invited to give the khutbha (the sermon) in the Friday jumaa service at the Main Road Mosque and I lifted the phrase gender jihad from them because they made a concerted effort to include that in their antiapartheid struggles and because they also combined a conversation about the war against poverty – the class jihad.

I very much liked the idea that we take the metaphysical understanding of jihad as a struggle and evoke it for issues of community, like gender and sexuality and then I named my book after it. I very much feel for the term and its relevance and for the ways in which I have experienced that women in diverse communities across the globe are themselves leading that struggle by determining what issues will be most significant, how those issues need to be addressed in their particular context and that the mandate that women’s voices and lived experiences be a part of the formula for how we address those issues. There is no community where women have not risen up and begun to take greater agency in determining how Islam will be used in their lives and how they themselves identify with their Islam.

I distinguish that from Islamic feminism because Islamic feminism is a specific methodology and not everyone who is addressing the issue of the gender jihad is addressing it from the perspective of any kind of feminism. There are also diverse kinds of feminism so it’s a very specific use and I don’t advocate it. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not a person identifies as feminist because I also myself did not accept the description of feminist for the majority of the years in which I’ve been doing work on Islam because the majority interpretations of feminism are part of the problem of the relationship between Islamic nation states and their colonial masters from another era who still call the right to determine what is the best way for previously colonised people to progress in development. They hold the monopoly over that. The way in which they address the issues pretends the best solution for everyone: to leave Islam and all of its manifestations because they have marked Islam as the problem.

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Image credit: Andrea Moroni (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Now, there are people for whom their own identities as Muslims also problematises how we address Islam in terms of the solutions of certain civic problems like gender discrimination. I call those people now secular feminists because they are bedded to a very conservative definition of Islam as the eternal definition and they are not able to grapple with what I consider to be one of the major contributions to Islamic feminism and that is: the right to be able to determine for yourself what is the definition of Islam and even what is the appropriate, educated, relevant interpretation of Islamic sources in the context of the nation state.

Islamic feminism has a very specific methodology and that methodology involves taking full agency with regard to how key terms will be applied in our circumstances and how they will be adjudicated in our laws. But, there are, feminists who for example who are more liberal feminists – Muslim liberal feminists – who don’t have a specific methodology. Using liberal mechanisms wasn’t the strategy that led me to the use of Islam as a means for eradicating inequality experienced by women. That’s something that only came about with the solidification of this idea of Islamic feminism.

I do want to emphasise that in no way is feminism a title for people engaged in gender jihad, in no way is feminism an objective. It’s simply a method developed with an understanding of how Islam is understood today, politicised today and is still an important factor in the self-identity in particular of so many Muslim women today.

VoS: Thank you, that’s a really important distinction. So something I found particularly interesting in your book Inside the Gender Jihad was how you talked about various social issues within the community as well as theological teachings, such as single parent families and the way Muslim women are stigmatised in regards to HIV/AIDS. In terms of mobilising the Muslim community and tackling misogyny, what’s one of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced so far?

AW: The biggest challenge I face personally in doing this work is the lack of critical engagement with some of the vast diversity of interpretations which have always been a part of our tradition. They get swept under the rug today because everything gets summarised into a simple formula of anti-imperialism under the name of Islam.

I call it the takfiri factor. They will call someone “not a Muslim” if their interpretation of what is Islam is different from the interpretation that has the dominate control in terms of [being] conservative and patriarchal but if anybody examines the aspects of Islamic intellectual history – which is ongoing – then they will see that there has never been a consensus over any of the multiple factors that impinge upon the way in which we actually get to live our Islam.

Believing communities are notoriously emotionally attached to what they consider to be their religion and are not always thinking critically. I find there was a singular expectation that somehow all critical thinking belongs to men and politics – that women are not capable of doing it, let alone engaging in it! I really do feel like that’s the biggest problem – how to get people to actually engage in the work with a certain level of intellectual rigor.

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Image credit: Omar Chatriwala (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

VoS: In talking about takfiri behaviour, do you think that perhaps people are scared to engage and that they’ve been convinced that it’s a, b, c, d, it’s black and white, or do you think people are just not interested or not familiar with the great intellectual history and the diversity within Islamic theology?

AM: I actually think all three of those and I do see them as three. First let me just say something about people being afraid to engage. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. We have a very heavy self-censor going on.

I feel that Muslim women who are working are afraid of being accused of going against Islam and they struggle to gain mastery over just the rubrics of the debates. Often I find people saying things like: “I’m not a scholar” and just the very idea that you have to be a scholar in order to make a comment over things that literally impact on your life and wellbeing is something that we’re trying to dismantle. But, I think a lot of women fear being pushed up against the wall and then have somebody throwing, hurling random versus at them as if this, hurling of verses is the same as saying “You’re wrong!” and “You’re outside of Islam”. That’s why women are so intimidated by it – or anyone struggling for human rights and dignity in our time – because we now have a different amalgam of information and the idea that all information that’s good can only come from Islamic sources is a little bit naive but that’s how people will approach it.

I also do think that there is a certain level of ignorance because Muslim laity want to feel that Islam is the natural course because that’s the course that they’ve been on. And so: What is this Islam? is my main question. The idea that one could even question What is Islam? to such an extent is something that most people just don’t think about.

VOS: Well it’s seen as sort of sacrilege! 

AM: For people who are outside of Islam. They simply come up with a conclusion: This is Islam. There’s nothing you can do about it…. and it’s like where did that this is Islam come from? That’s a lot of work. People don’t want to do that. You’re either “enemies” or “believers”.

The other thing is I think quite frankly that the idea of an easy answer to “what is Islam?” has failed us and yet we have not changed our overall curriculum approaches in the context of a Muslim majority context. They still teach Islam the same way they’ve been teaching it for hundreds of years and it doesn’t serve us. It doesn’t build equal confidence and competence in embracing the nuanced diversity of what is or what has been Islam over little less than two millennia and in so many different ways.

So it’s a combination of all those things and although I’ve been at it long enough to accept that this combination is going to have certain consequences still for some time more, I’m actually hoping to be a part of the conversation of lifting the tendency towards taboo in Islam and Islamic thought because I think that there is so much richness in this tradition and in the cultural historical experiences of Muslims that simply doesn’t come to the front when we are always feeling like we’re under siege. Islamophobia is very real and it is a threat but that is not the not the only thing that’s going on and how to move beyond it, critique it, engage with and challenge it without making ourselves subject only to how easily we might be able to justify, explain or apologise for Islam in the context where it is not the same as another worldview or system of practice.

It’s a difficult time but I really hope that we can move into a place with a greater tolerance and acceptance – accepting diversity within the community as well as accepting that not all conversations are going to be closed and fixed and that we can have more than one conversation about any matter that is on the table today. Islam is not going to be destroyed because we have different opinions!

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VoS: I agree with you completely. Some of it is just accepting different opinions and even having those discussions – not that we all have to agree on the same thing.

You were saying that about taboo. What do you think about the role of culture? There are some very strong taboos in terms of even discussing women’s issues and issues surrounding the LGBT community. How much do you think of that is a specific to conservative views of religion or culture or do you sort of see the two as intertwined?

AW: Well for some reason, some people will say things like: “Oh, that’s just cultural Islam.” Well actually there’s no living Islam that’s not cultural. So that’s not even a factor. Understanding and embracing the complexities of the different cultures I think goes along with developing more tolerance and more critical engagement and to understand that of course cultures are both impacted by and have an impact on what comes to constitute Islam and Muslim and have always done so. And that’s OK. And it’s even OK to make distinctions between your culture and other cultures when it comes to an understanding about any particular location on any particular issue. Coincidentally, this is something that’s been very important to the Muslim convert communities to which I belong because I’m Muslim by choice.

I learned this best living in south-east Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia where they have a very proud understanding of their own identity and a pride and love for Islam. They articulate clear tensions between “We’re Indonesian, this is our culture” and at the same time, ownership of Islam to combat the idea that certain manifestations of practice and ideology have a relationship to say our culture but it’s not universal and it’s not the only Islamic response. It was an interesting place for me because Islam has been there forover a thousand years in south-east Asia. So we’re not talking about new communities as in say the United States, which comprises not only immigrant populations from Muslim majority countries that go back several centuries but also new converts.

It’s nice to think about the fact that every culture has been shaped by and is shaping what is Islam and that is also something that’s true for new communities that are forming in the last 100 to 200 years.

VoS: What’s your message to those people who would promulgate takfiri ideologies? Do you tend to engage much with them or do you focus more on educating people as we were saying who perhaps don’t have the exposure to different intellectual teachings?

AW: That’s a very interesting question. I want to say in all honesty that I do not prioritise engaging with Islamophobia and Islamophobes. Nor do I prioritise engaging with the takfiri brigade – although I do have a YouTube video says “Do not fear takfir!”which I addressed because of, as I said, the fear component. People are doing their work and then they are afraid of it but I do not prioritise those who have the greatest disagreement with me in the work that I do.

I prioritise the target community. I write what I would like to read and that is: I am an African-American Muslim hijabi woman by choice – all of it, except for being African American. That is just my legacy. I have chosen to be Muslim. I have chosen to wear hijab most of the time and when I don’t, I also choose when I don’t wear it. I meet Muslim women of colour globally -African, Asian, Latinex African-American, Black – who are Muslim and the overwhelming majority of Muslim women – which is not to say that I have any lack of interest in white Muslim women, it’s just that their numbers are very small. I engage with that intersection of race and class, gender, sexuality, ableism and also intellectual and spiritual stations or locations. That’s my primary target and because that’s my primary target group, I am trying to focus on what are the lived realities for Muslim women, how we grapple with them in order to achieve well-being, human dignity, spiritual acumen and wholeness.

So I either talk theology or I taught policy but I’m only talking policy in a very pragmatic hands-on way. I engage with issues relative to the places where they come up because that is a mandate within those communities. Female imama is not yet a universal issue of concern but people think that I prioritise what the media tends to focus on and once again it means that they lose. They’re focused on the issues that make greater headlines and takfir makes a lot of headlines. I am literally blacklisted from communities. I don’t get an invitation in the confessional and communities in my own African American community. It’s a tender spot for me because again, working at intersections, I’m very conscientious about my intersecting identities and I would love to feel that my most natural home is among other African-American Muslims.

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Image credit: Glen Halog (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The reality is however that my most natural form is among Muslim women of colour globally. I travel a lot and every time I am reconfirmed in what I consider to be the freedom of being a Muslim among many Muslims – not necessarily exactly like anyone else – but at the same time sharing something, whatever that something might be called with all Muslims, especially Muslim women. And so I that’s my focus.

I believe that the negation of a negative does not equal a positive. If you switch to address your attention to the negative, you will be negating the opposition eternally and you will never go forward.

VoS: Well some people are never going to be willing to engage. I suppose you carry on and do what you do and maybe some people who have maybe changed their minds. In the meantime, you work with the women that you can do valuable things with.

AW: My feeling is whatever it is that people use to allow them to not critically engage is a major problem for our community which we need to try and work out because ours is one of the most intense intellectual traditions ever. And yet we come to our current community and the laziness with which we actually engage is just such a disappointment. I’m still studying! I don’t understand how we have such a rigorously intellectual tradition and such lazy reactionary kinds of responses!

VoS: Well in the UK, Islamic education is encouraged but there wouldn’t be an engagement or challenging or discussion around different issues. It would be include a pre-set kind of curriculum. You generally wouldn’t be able to step outside certain boundaries or think or question.

AW: Well that’s true in lots of places and that’s why I say that, hopefully we will make a change. Indonesia has engaged in a project to update the primary teaching manuals that are used to tackle their expressions of gender inequality. The project should be able to reform the main manuals. This is a huge project because there are so many schools and they literally don’t have the money to be able to create new manuals just off the bat. So what they did is they created a companion text in order to challenge certain habits of gender inequality. So the educational process has to be looked at comprehensively from what we teach our children to what we develop our degree programs to look like. It’s a big thing – not impossible but it’s big!

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Image credit: Ikhlasul Amal (CC BY-NC 2.0)

VoS: Amazing! So last question: what inspires you each and every day in your work?

AW: It’s a pretty corny answer but I was born and raised a believer. My father was a Methodist minister so what he was doing in terms of his own personal devotions and his personality had a very strong impact on me taught me integrity and honesty but also taught me the theology of liberation.

So I’m actually inspired by the desire to live my life in a way where the presence of the divine, of the sacred – of Allah – is manifest in everything that I do. I’m motivated by lots of things, not all of them necessarily “high” or loftier or even good, but to live a life with the consciousness of this sacred goal: our returning to Allah, our origin point, and with the intimacy of the divine presence.

The gift of life is presented to each of us so we can be the best of who we are and the best of who I am is the me that manifests the embrace of the love of God so that I myself become an instrument of God and God’s will. It is a little bit corny!

VoS: Well it was a corny question – sorry! But it was a good answer!

AW: I’m very much very much a believer and it very heavily motivates me.

VoS: Well, I suppose that ultimately is what it should all be about – not about habits and behaviours but the consciousness of God and that motivating the everyday. So that’s a really good point to end on. Thank you so much for taking the time out for this interview!

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Acknowledgements and further information:

First of all I’d like to say a massive thank you to Dr Wadud for taking the time out for this interview and I wish her all the best in her current research and future work.

For readers, please note: this is an edited version of what was a much longer transcript!

For further information on Dr Wadud, visit her social media pages:

For more information on the issues discussed surrounding gender, human rights and Islam, you can also check out the organisation Musawah via their website and follow them on Twitter.

Salam! ♡

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Anti-Semitism in the UK: Do you know about the abuse happening in our towns and cities?

Anti-Semitism has always been an unfortunate reality which the Jewish community have sadly have had to battle against. However, in 2018 the reality is that anti-Semitism is on the rise. CST (Community Security Trust) – the hate crime reporting body for anti-Semitic crimes in the UK which has been operating as a UK-registered charity since 1994 – recorded a staggering 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017.

This figure is in fact the highest annual total that CST has ever recorded and shows a 3% rise from 2016 – which at the time concluded a record annual total. The third highest total was back in 2014 when CST recorded a total 1,182 anti-Semitic incidents during the Israeli-Gaza conflict. So, for communities in Greater London and Greater Manchester in particular – the two largest Jewish communities in the UK – anti-Semitism is a real threat. Three-quarters of anti-Semitic incidents take place in these two areas and although communities are reporting anti-Semitic hate crime, it’s likely that other incidents are going unreported. In a survey back in 2013 measuring anti-Semitism in the EU, 72% of British Jews who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment over the past five years had not reported these incidents to the police or relevant organisation. 

Assaults in particular are on the rise which is particularly worrying , although thankfully this excludes extreme violence, whilst verbal abuse continues to remain a real reality for communities across the UK. Just take a look at the figures based on figures from last year recorded by CST:

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Anti-Semitism on our streets

Based on the same figures, here’s some examples taken (quoted) directly from the latest (2017) CST report explaining what’s happening to our Jewish brothers and sisters across the UK.

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1. Abusive behaviour

  • A Jewish man was on the underground when a group of men started chanting and shouting, “Jew boy”, “F**king Jew boy”, and “We’re running around Tottenham with our willies hanging out, I’ve got more foreskin than you, F**king Jew”. The group then made a prolonged hissing noise to mimic Nazi gas chambers. (London, May)
  • A Jewish organisation received a tweet that read: “The Holocaust is fake history.” (London, August)

2. Literature

  • Hate mail was sent to multiple Jewish organisations. The hate mail was 18 pages long and consisted of images and text relating to conspiracy theories about Jewish domination. (London, February)
  • At Cambridge, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, the London School of Economics and University College London, leaflets denying and belittling the Holocaust were distributed on campus. These leaflets were found pinned onto students’ and academics’ cars, as well as inside university buildings.

3. Assault

  • A man hurled a glass bottle towards a group of visibly Jewish teenage girls. As the bottle smashed and the girls ran for cover, he chased after them and shouted, “Hitler is a good man, good he killed Jews.” (London, August)
  • A visibly Jewish boy was confronted at his home by a group of boys who then proceeded to grab and push him on the ground whilst shouting abuse, including “F**king Jew” and “You’re different.” (Hertfordshire, October)

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4. Threats

  • A Jewish couple received threatening hate mail through their door. A week before this occurred, in a separate incident, their mezuzah (Jewish prayer doorpost) had been removed from their front door and burnt. (London, March)
  • A visibly Jewish woman was walking in public when a group of men acting in an aggressive and intimidating manner, shouted: “Let’s go after the Jews. Look there’s one.” (London, July)

5. Damage and desecration to Jewish property

  • A Jewish restaurant was vandalised in a targeted attack, by a man who smashed the window and threw in a home-made fire bomb. (Manchester, June)
  • Graffiti that read “F**k Yids” was found on the entrance to a Jewish school. (London, August)

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Shocked? Surprised that these disgusting incidents are happening in our towns and on our streets? Well this is the real reality that Jewish communities across the UK are living with. We must stand up and speak out – from the visible public incidents of harassment to even the smallest slyest remark online. Either we stand for everyone or we stand for nothing as was once famously said. Both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise and we must work together as a society to help put this quite frankly sick behaviour to an end. 

To find out more information on CST and anti-Semitism in the UK, you can visit CST’s website and social media channels: TwitterFacebook and YouTube channels. And finally, I urge you: get to know your Jewish neighbours. Take a course, visit a synagogue, join an interfaith group. Remember: we are stronger together. As the late Jo Cox said: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Salam, shalom, peace ♡

Credits and acknowledgement:

I’d like to thank CST for their assistance in compiling this blog. All information and statistics taken from CST’s latest incident report: CST (2017) Antisemitic Incidents, Report 2017

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5 Things you didn’t know about human trafficking

Fake promises, offers of a new “job” abroad and the abuse of someone’s trust. Transporting a man, woman or child across borders, far from their home and pushing them into a life of slavery or even death… This is the reality of human trafficking today.

The Global Slavery Index’s latest statistics estimate that there are 45.8 million people worldwide living in slavery. Trafficking people for the purposes of human slavery is clearly a gross violation of their human rights. Sexual exploitation, forced labour, organ harvesting, forced begging, child soldiers, forced marriage, illegal adoption, benefit fraud and even pornography – these are the abuses which lie behind human trafficking.

Core human rights legislation including The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which falls under The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, calls upon nations to criminalise and fight human trafficking. Today, 88% of countries worldwide have done so, according to the definition outlined in the UN protocol (UNODC, 2016). Yet despite national, regional and global efforts, human trafficking is a daily heartbreaking reality for millions of people worldwide.

So, who are the victims? How old are they? What work are they forced into and by whom? Well here’s 5 key trends in human trafficking, based on figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2016) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons to give you the lowdown on human trafficking at it stands today.

Human trafficking: 5 Key trends

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1. If you’re female you’re (still) more likely to be trafficked

Women and girls are more than twice as likely to be trafficked than their male peers. Women and girls account for 71% of (detected) victims of human trafficking worldwide. At 51%, women are still the biggest victims of human trafficking, with sexual exploitation the most widespread cause. The only exceptions are in South Asia with adult forced labour, Sub-Saharan Africa with boys forced into child labour and North Africa where women remain the biggest victims but are primarily subjected to forced labour. On top of this, domestic servitude (cooking, cleaning etc.) – another factor behind human trafficking – also predominantly affects women.

2. Forced labour is on the rise

The gender gap is narrowing. In fact, the number of men being trafficked – specifically for the purposes of forced labour – is on the rise. Whilst only around a fifth of victims of human trafficking are adult men, if we look at the rate of trafficking for the purposes of forced labour: 40% of human trafficking victims from the period 2007 – 2017 were subjected to forced labour and two thirds of these were men. In fact, trafficking for the purposes of forced labour is so widespread, it’s second only to sexual exploitation.

3. Child victims are increasing

Children worldwide are being trafficked for forced labour, use as child soldiers, begging and sexual exploitation. Over a quarter of trafficking victims are children, with numbers ranging greatly depending on country of origin and gender (20% girls, 8% boys) (2014). As a child you’re mostly likely to be trafficked to Central America and the Caribbean where here, rather shockingly almost two out of every three detected victims are under the age of 18 (2014).

4. Domestic trafficking is becoming more common

Whilst most trafficking involves crossing international borders, this is by no means defines human trafficking. As a victim of human trafficking, you could be moved from one town to another inside your own country. In fact, the sad reality is that now trafficking within the same country is also on the rise. Recent figures (2012-2014) show that 42% of cases of human trafficking were domestic – that’s almost half!

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5. Female traffickers are growing in number

Whilst six out of every ten traffickers are male and most people convicted for trafficking are in fact male (63%), the number of women involved is increasing. What’s more, if we compare the number of women involved within human trafficking to those with other crimes, the number is sadly relatively high (2014). Imagine women exploiting their own gender for money, despite the horrors that lie ahead…

Clearly, human trafficking is a heart-breaking complex issue but the old-age common idea that human trafficking simply constitutes criminal gangs transporting women across Europe for sexual purposes is an outdated reality. Movements are changing, age groups are changing and so are the numbers. It’s crucial we follow these key trends to understand the wheres, “whys”, hows and whos to raise awareness of this terrible crime, lobby governments, spot the signs within our communities and say “no” to human trafficking and “yes” to equality and freedom.

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12 Essential recommendations for UK-based mosques

There was a recent conference held by the Muslim Council of Britain last January called “Our Mosques, Our Future“. The conference was based around the idea of “#morethanaprayerspace” – looking at the role of Britain’s 1,500 mosques today compared to how they were in Prophet Muhammad’s time and examining if they are fulfilling their multi-faceted roles and meeting the needs of their communities.

I unfortunately did not attend the conference but have myself become increasingly fed-up by certain obstacles/patterns of behaviour. At the same time, I have also been inspired by the great examples set in other places of worship such as churches and synagogues. Based on personal and non-personal experiences, I therefore present 12 essential recommendations for UK-based mosques – in no particular order.

1. Childcare facilities 

A mosque should be a community space. At the same time it should allow space for quiet prayer and reflection. Especially during busy periods such as Friday Jummah prayers and Ramadan, something as basic as a crèche would avoid clearly distressed children having to be in the prayer hall and disturbing other sisters.

Childcare services would also ensure that women have easier access to mosques. The choice should be mother’s to either to stay at home and build prayer around child caring duties at home or if they so wish to be able to pray at the mosque without yet another obstacle in their way.

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2. Interfaith programmes 

Interfaith programmes are a must for any mosque, in particular in multifaith societies such as Britain. It’s crucial that Muslim communities learn and reach out to other faith (and non-faith) communities. This is especially important in relation to the Jewish community.

Such programmes should however not simply utilise members of boards/management committees – they should be open for members of the local congregation/community to participate and learn for real maximum effect.

3. Women co-leadership

The sad truth is that some mosques do not even have prayer spaces for ladies. I’ve seen some wudhu (ablution) “facilities” that were so dirty I could not wash. This is abhorrent. Islam is for everyone – men and women. This is just the basic level.

Moving onwards and upwards, women must crucially be more greatly included. They must form part of leadership committees, educational programmes and local initiatives. They must be given a platform to share their voices – and with real roles not simply a token platforms and gestures.

For the sake of equality and to ensure that women’s needs are met, women must be included. The lack of women’s leadership and instead great number of all-male committees is a sad reflection of our community and not representative of Islam.

4. Marriage counselling 

Marriage counselling both before, during and even after a marital split to ensure cooperation and mutual respect is essential. Marriage is a big commitment and cultural barriers, communication issues, family tensions and a number of other potential “problems” can create significant tensions and misunderstandings in a marriage. To ensure that couples know what to expect and what is expected of them, pre-marital counselling must be openly available – and be highly recommended to couples prior to their marriage.

Counselling is an excellent form of therapy for couples experiencing problems but is often expensive, comes with stigma or feelings of failure/shame and may lack religious expertise. Mosques must ensure that they can provide a good quality professional service with staff sensitive to religious needs/understandings. This could be through a referral network and in many cases these services may offer a more professional/adequate service.

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5. Women’s support services 

Girls and women at risk of FGM, domestic abuse or any other issues must feel that they have somewhere to turn to seek confidential advice and support. Women experiencing any forms of emotional, sexual, physical, physiological, financial, spiritual or physical abuse will feel frightened, confused and alone. An additional range of cultural, linguistic and social barriers or simply a lack of knowledge of services out there which can help, means that a dedicated support team for women who (are able to) attend the mosque will ensure that these vulnerable women and girls have a greater support network.

Through either dedicated staff or a strong referral network, safeguarding mechanisms, counselling, protection and reporting, legal support and guidance can be offered and protect women at risk or subjected to these unjust and brutal forms of violence.

6. Social justice initiatives

A mosque should not simply be a place of prayer – we may all know that. It should serve as a community centre which helps both its own and other communities, as part of a wider society. That’s why food banks, charity (sadaqah) funds and a whole range of social initiatives are a must.

Help and support should reach those of all faiths and none, regardless of sexuality, gender, age, nationality or ethnic background.

7. Khutbahs in English 

I think it’s rather sad that in my entire experience of attending khutbas in the UK, I have only ever understood the sermons in one mosque/community centre. The khutba should serve to teach Muslims about important issues. However, I see two problems here:

  1. Most are not in English (instead in only Arabic or another language)
  2. They generally are repetitive in nature and do not address a wide enough range of (current) issues

We need to engage people to take action against injustice, to utilise the wisdom of the Holy Qur’an and to do good as Allah wills. This is not simply through “religious ibadah” (worship) but through taking action against injustice, giving in charity and building bridges amongst other communities. Khutbas should therefore be accessible to everyone in terms of language and content, regardless of age and ethnic/linguistic background. The use of interpreting headsets/subtitles is one way to address the linguistic challenges. I also urge leaders to reflect upon their sermons and further reach out to the younger population.

8. Adequate facilities for the disabled

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It has been pointed out to me by the Open My Mosque initiative something which I sadly failed to notice for myself – and this speaks volumes: the lack of facilities for and measure to promote inclusion for Muslims with physical disabilities.

We must ensure that sign language interpreters are available as well as hearing loops, ramps for wheelchair users and adequate disabled toilets and parking. Consultation with communities, families and service providers should ensure that peoples voices are being heard and their needs are being met in the best, most professional, sensitive and inclusive way possible.

9. Youth clubs

It is critical that younger members of the community (especially teenagers) have creative and social outlets, such as craft clubs and sporting initiatives to offer space, productive and inclusive spaces to make friends, spend free time and learn new skills or simply get some exercise!

Having a stable community network with respected role models, people to turn to in times of trouble and meet like-minded young people is important. Mosques must offer this community element, not simply a prayer space for religious purposes.

10. Social clubs

As with youth clubs, social activities to bind the community together are essential. This is particularly important if we consider new arrivals to the UK/refugee communities, converts, stay-at-home or single mothers and other groups to whom we should be offering a strong social community network. The mosque should offer a home, a safe space of understanding to come together and enjoy being Muslim! The greater the cultural diversity the better!

11. Intrafaith inclusion

I’ve talked about interfaith work and bringing different cultural communities within the Muslim community together but here’s one essential critical need which is simply a “no-go” for some people. However, it cannot be escaped. Prejudice, discrimination and intolerance must be broken down and dismantled. We must unite as a community. Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Ahmadi Muslims must work together.

If you cannot work together as a religious community within Islam (and yes Ahmadis are Muslim and who are you to question!), then how can you reach out and build stronger bonds with other religious communities (e.g. churches, synagogues and gurdwaras) and the wider community? It’s hypocrisy. Plain and simple. Harsh words but this needs to be said. No one is saying you have to have exactly the same beliefs and practices, but you should be welcoming to others, share dialogue, shared events and never turn people away. Simple.

12. Good referral network of NGOs and service providers 

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No one can expect each and every mosque to have an infinite amount of financial and professional resources. That is why it’s crucial to build good referral networks with local and national charities, governmental and non-governmental organisations and services providers.

Some of the organisations/local government departments with which mosques need to build, strengthen or maintain links include:

  • ESOL services: Refugee, asylum seeking and migrant communities may need linguistic (and cultural) support. Local refugee organisations and colleges often offer (free) English classes, whilst the Refugee Council can offer advice and support
  • Hate-crime reporting bodies: Islamophobia (as with anti-Semitism) is on the rise and Muslim women in particular are experiencing the brunt of this. Mosque committees need to know what constitutes hate crime, how to report it and how to support their community members by building links with organisations such as Tell MAMA and the police
  • Mental health services providers: We need to end the stigma and reach out to people in need of support – but with professional qualified counsellors and therapists from organisations such as Mind and local community providers
  • Financial advisors: Free debt support services provided by charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau can offer critical practical advice to families in crisis, greatly impacting upon their physical and emotional wellbeing
  • Immigration advice: Visa worries, asylum claims and anything immigration related can be very confusing, worrying and at time incredibly complicated. Local charities specialising in immigration advice and support can be a lifeline for community members – including people who are undocumented
  • Crisis housing: Homelessness is becoming an increasing problem across the UK and can affect anyone who has fallen on hard/uncertain times. By having the right networks with local councils and organisations such as Shelter, mosques can help an individual/family off the street or falling into homelessness
  • Local foodbanks: For smaller mosques who may not have the resources, local foodbanks will be able to assist members of their congregation and/or offer critical advice/signposting

Now, I’m not saying that all mosques lack these facilities, approaches and services, nor am I saying that all mosques – no matter how small – must have an endless supply of resources – financial or otherwise. However, all mosques must be inclusive, approachable and welcoming for everyone and offer as much help as possible. I do however believe that these recommendations can offer a good conclusive set of guidelines for British mosques.

Through direct service provision and better networking with service providers, facilities can be made available. And when it comes to gender, age, cultural and religious inclusivity and welcoming those with extra access needs, there must be no excuses. Islam is for everyone and mosques must represent that. Mosques – as many are already calling for – must also work as a community centre not an “in and out” prayer space.

Salam

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My faith is not only empowering, but my crucial driving force

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Image credit: Fahrurrazy Halil (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Empowerment and faith.

For many people, the idea of self-empowerment and faith may seem anything from clear, to complex or even contradictory. For me however, these two concepts merge in something incredibly powerful and beautiful.

Empowerment signifies hopeenergy and self-determination. It means being who you are in confidence and with a sense of self-ease. Yet for many it almost implies a lack of higher authority, not simply self-independence.

So where does faith fit into this? Doesn’t faith imply simply submitting to a sense of authority? Isn’t faith about following “rules” not “what we want”? Well as a woman “of faith” I feel self-empowered and here’s why!

Spirituality and self-empowerment

Firstly, I find nothing more empowering than feeling I know where I belong within myself and the Universe. It truly is empowering to know that God is with me every step of the way, even in my darkest moments. It is this sense of solidarity, support, love and mercy that sustains me, gives me hope and encourages me that I am worth it – no matter how I may feel! After all, God purposely created us all.

So for me, acknowledging God’s existence is not dis-empowering – it’s comforting. I’m not perfect, I’m human and far from flawless but even in sinning/”doing wrong” I can ask God for forgiveness. Ultimately, it’s down to me to “rise up” and not pull myself down. That in itself is a lesson of self-confidence, growth and self-empowerment.

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Life as a Muslim woman

Secondly, as a Muslim woman, I feel that the words of Allah Almighty in the Holy Qur’an inspire such self-empowerment in more ways than one.

Despite the continued abuse of women’s rights worldwide – often falsely in the name of “Religion” or through cultural practices such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence – I know 100% in my heart and soul that as a woman I am the equal twin half of humanity and that God would never call for such brutal unjust violence.

As a woman (and a strong one at that!) I believe that I am designed exactly the way that God willed. In the Qur’an, Allah Almighty says: “… be you male or female – you are equal to one another” (3:195).  To cite merely a few examples of female emancipation and equality in Islam, in the early days of the mission of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), female infanticide and forced marriage were outlawed and in his final sermon, he specifically urged his community to respect the rights of women for they are equals, worthy of dignity and respect.

More broadly however, I think that, regardless of gender – the words of Allah give me a message to follow, a meaning and a purpose in life. Not only this, they place me inside a community of people within the same mission. For me in particular though this mission is for all those striving on the same path regardless of their specific faith. So what is the mission? Well it’s simply to believe in a (single) Creator, to look after His Creation and to do good deeds. United in faith and under God’s guidance, this is our purpose as stated in the Qur’an:

“The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakah (obligatory charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Almighty, All-Wise.” (9:71).

The Believer as described here has achieved their ultimate relationship with Allah, God, The Creator. I however am far from this almost flawless observance. I have a long way to go (and may never fully get there) but this is the inspiring destination. I’m taking steps and that is to me what makes my faith – or any faith for that matter – truly empowering and an essential driving force. I know that each and every day of my life I am wanted, accepted, loved and watched over by our loving Creator, my God.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Credits and acknowledgments:

This article was first published by Three Faiths Forum on 08/03/2018 (author: Elizabeth Arif-Fear).

Image credit (feature image): Aslan Media (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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#HeForShe – Meet anti-FGM activist Tony on why men must take a role in combatting violence against women and girls

International Women’s Day is 8th March. This day represents a time to come together to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide but to also remind ourselves of the fact that that there is much more that needs to be done to protect, enforce and encourage women’s rights locally, nationally and internationally.

One particular issue which affects millions of women and girls worldwide is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). According to UNICEF (2016), more than 200 million women and girls in the world today have been cut across Africa, the Middle East on Asia. This is a serious issue with devastating permanent consequences.

In a previous blog I outlined the risks associated with and the myths behind FGM. Here, I want to highlight how men must engage in the fight against FGM. FGM stems from sexist, patriarchal norms around modesty, sexuality and social freedom. To end this struggle, boys and men have to engage in the struggle and say enough is enough.

With this is mind, I’d like to introduce Tony Mwebia an online and off-line advocate primarily focussed on ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other harmful cultural practices. In his online campaigns he mainly focuses on rallying policy makers, NGOs and government agencies to engage more men in the fight against FGM as he strongly believes engaging males will help catalyse this fight. Offline he engages men and boys through dialogues and discussions aimed at changing their perceptions and attitudes towards this harmful cultural practice. Here’s his story.

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Discovering FGM: Where it all started

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Image credit: MONUSCO (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You may be shocked to know back in 2012 I had no idea about FGM. It was all by coincidence, while volunteering with an organisation dealing with urban refugees in Nairobi, that I was given a chance to work as a project assistant on an FGM project. My turning point was when one Somalian refugee narrated how he lost his wife and baby due to complications related to FGM.

I then realised that men also had many stories about FGM but they rarely shared them. Men were living with spouses who had suffered fistula, whilst the economic burden that comes with frequent hospital visits due to complications was also heavy. I was shocked to learn how men could not enjoy sex with their loved ones and that they instead opted to look for women from other tribes who had not undergone FGM. This then became the start of my #MenENDFGM online campaign.

FGM in Kenya: The figures speak the real truth

In Kenya FGM is illegal under the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (October 2011) which sets out several offences and punishments for offenders. The national prevalence of FGM according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) (2014) stands at 21%. Despite this figure though, the reality on the ground is entirely different. The rate of FGM can be as high as:

  • 94 % within Somali communities
  • 86% among the Samburu population
  • 84% among Kisii tribes
  • 78 % among Maasai tribes
  • 31% among the Meru and Embu

This a clearly indication that FGM is still a major issue of concern and is affecting thousands of girls – especially in rural Kenya.

Many communities in Kenya, as in most African societies, are patriarchal in nature. Men yield immense power over numerous aspects of women’s lives as husbands, politicians, religious leaders and key policy/decision makers.

In rural settings where FGM is mostly carried out, men have no idea of what happens during “the cut”. They are not allowed to attend the ceremony which is kept solely for women. This creates a big gap in the fight against FGM as most men are made to believe FGM is just a rite of passage meant to beautify and prepare girls for marriage. This calls for massive sensitisation and engagement of boys and men in dialogues to clearly enlighten them and bring them to speed with the actual repercussions of FGM.

Bringing an end to “the cut”: Where do we go from here?

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Image credit: DfID (CC BY 2.0)

Informed men can easily influence policies and decisions right from the family level up to national and international levels on issues such as FGM. If all men said no to FGM today, then our work would be decrease greatly as this practice would reduce to insignificant levels all over the communities where it is currently practiced.

Remember: most – if not all – of the reasons behind FGM point directly or indirectly to increasing marriageability of local girls. So who are the potential husbands? What if they said they will not marry girls who’ve been “cut”? In doing this though we need to be careful not to discriminate against women and girls who have already been cut as most of them are either forced or coerced to undergo FGM.

In conclusion let me say that the estimated 200 million women and girls alive today who have undergone FGM are not just a number. This figure represents the millions of women and girls who were born perfect but have instead been subjected to a lifetime of suffering due to having been forced to undergo this prolific harmful cultural practice.

This number is also a rallying call to humanity to join hands in ensuring that no other girl becomes an FGM statistic. Remember: no single individual, gender, community, organization, country, region or religion can end FGM alone.

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tony.jpgTony Mwebia #MenENDFGM is an award winning online and offline activist fighting against FGM and other harmful cultural practices. He is also an active as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocate.

Find out more at tonymwebia.co.ke
Follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyMwebia

 

Credits and acknowledgments

Thank you Tony for your sharing your inspiration and great work with us. All the best with your campaign in the future!

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Times up and so is the volume! Here’s 10 top feminist anthems to get you prepped to fight for women’s equality

It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th and this Sunday here in London there’s a Women’s March, so in preparation for this very important time of the year, I’ve drawn up a top ten list of invigorating, inspiring feminist anthems to motivate and remind us of just why tackling misogyny, sexism, patriarchy and the abuse of women’s rights worldwide is just so important!

Check out these gems and find out who’s number one!

10. Alicia Keys: “Superwoman”

Top inspiring lyrics:

For all the mothers fighting
For better days to come
And all my women, all my women sitting here trying
To come home before the sun
And all my sisters coming together
Say: “Yes I will!”
“Yes I can!”

9. Jill Scott: “Hate on Me”

Top inspiring lyrics:

You cannot hate on me ’cause my mind is free
Feel my destiny, so shall it be
You cannot hate on me ’cause my mind is free
Feel my destiny, so shall it be

8. Cheb Khaled: “Aicha”

*Bear with me on this one – it’s a surprising find. Make sure you’re following the translation!*

Top inspiring lyrics:

She said: “Keep your treasures
I’m worth more than that
Bars are still bars even if they’re made of gold
I want the same rights as you
and respect each and every day
I only want love.”

7. Barbara Streisand: “Don’t Rain on My Parade”

Top inspiring lyrics:

Get ready for me, love
‘Cause I’m a “comer”
I simply gotta march
My heart’s a drummer
Nobody, no, nobody
Is gonna rain on my parade!

6. Helen Reddy: “I’m A Woman”

Top inspiring lyrics:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

5. No Doubt: “Just a Girl”

Top inspiring lyrics:

‘Cause I’m just a girl
I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive
Late at night
Oh I’m just a girl
Guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes
Oh I’m just a girl
Take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype
Oh, I’ve had it up to here!

4. Eurythmics: “Sisters are Doin’ It for Themselves”

Top inspiring lyrics:

So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen
‘Cause there’s somethin’ we forgot to say to you (we say)
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves
Standin’ on their own two feet
And ringin’ on their own bells
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves

 

3. Dolly Parton: “Just Because I’m a Woman”

Top inspiring lyrics:

My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well, that’s a different situation

2. Nina Simone: “Four Women”

*Trigger warning*

Top inspiring lyrics (apart from the whole song!):

My skin is yellow
My hair is long
Between two worlds
I do belong
My father was rich and white
He forced my mother late one night
What do they call me
My name is SAFFRONIA
My name is Saffronia

1. Lesley Gore: “You Don’t Own Me”

Top  inspiring lyrics:

You don’t own me
Don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay
I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

BONUS SONG!

Yes, wait for it! Here’s one extra song to push you to action as it shakes every cell in your feminist body for all the wrong reasons…! (Gah, frustration!)

James Brown: “It’s a Man’s Man’s World”

Top head-against-a-wall lyrics:

This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl
You see, man made the cars to take us over the road
Man made the train to carry the heavy load
Man made electric light to take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark
This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl

So, ladies and gents, as we continue to say “Times up!” to sexism and patriarchy, turn up the volume and tune into these great anthems to inspire you in whatever way you’re working/looking to make a difference.

Simply standing out and spreading, declaring “Time’s up!” is in itself a great way to show the world that we recognise that women have rights (many in fact!) but that there’s also sadly so much more that needs to be done to fight sexism, misogyny, patriarchal practices and attitudes and the gross violation of women’s rights worldwide.

In the meantime, enjoy the tunes! 🙂

Salam, shalom, peace! ♡

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What if it were you…? – A poem dedicated to the Syrian people

What If It Were You

As the sun rises,
As the new day awakens,
There’s no morning cheer,
No blissful glowing sky,
No bright new day of life, hope and possibility.

No, as the sun rises,
So do the bombs,
The shells,
And the bullets.

As the sun rises,
So do the screams and the heartbroken cries
Of a mother whose baby lies lifeless in her arms,
Of the orphaned child whose hopes and dreams are snatched away so cruelly in a single second,
Of a husband whose heart has been twisted, crushed and shattered into a million pieces…

No, no blissful glowing sky.
No hopes,
No dreams,
No possibilities,

No cheer.

Instead, there lies a bloody cursed battlefield

Where the streets cry out with waves of blood,
Where the walls crumble with sorrow and fear,
Where the earth knows nothing but death and destruction.

No, instead here lies a blazing battlefield a million miles away.

A million miles away from your shores,
A million miles away from your doorstep,
A million miles away from you.

But what if it were you?

What if it were your mother,
Your child,
Your soul,
Your heart,
Your everything…

What if it were you…?

What if it wasn’t them.
What if it wasn’t “the other“,

The “stranger“,
The “foreigner“.

No.

What if it were you…?

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Dedicated to the global Syrian community, and in particular those in the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta.

Take action

Support families in crisis across Eastern Ghouta, sign and share the petition calling on the Syrian and Russian governments to immediately lift the siege on Eastern Ghouta.

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16 Inspirational quotes to feed your inner peace activist

There’s a lot of hatred, discrimination and violence on every level in our societies – within our communities, towns, nations and across national orders. Standing up for peace is vital. But don’t be disheartened, it’s not all doom and gloom! We can make a difference by spreading a much-needed message of peace, tolerance and love (not as cheesy as it sounds!) to unite communities and remind our fellow human beings of the need for non-violence, tolerance and respect for human rights.

So with that in mind, here’s 16 famous quotes to feed your inner peace activist and inspire us all, courtesy of Postcards for Peace.

1. “The greatest problem in the world is intolerance . Everyone is intolerant of each other.” (Princess Diana)
2. “Race, gender, religion, sexuality, we are all people and that’s it. We’re all people. We’re all equal.” (Connor Franta)
3. “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation” (Mahatma Ghandi)
4. “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” (J.K. Rowling)

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5. “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” (Maria Montessori)
6. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela)
7. “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
8. “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” (Gautama Buddha)

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9. “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing.” (Albert Einstein)
10. “We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help free the other half.” (Emmeline Pankhurst)
11. “I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” (Rosa Parks)
12. “Each of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace and the message will spread quicker than you think.” (Yoko Ono)

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13. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” (Mother Teresa)
14. “When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” (Malala Yousafzai)
15. “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” (Jo Cox)
16. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” (Jimi Hendrix)

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Credits and acknowledgments:

Featured image: Celeste Damiani (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thanks to Postcards for Peace for their inspiring selection of peace quotes. The full presentation can be downloaded Postcards-for-peace-inspirational-quotes.

You can find out more about Postcards for Peace via their website and social media – check them out!

Twitter: @postcards4peace
Facebook: @postcardsforpeacecharity

Salam, shalom, peace! ♡

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