Saturday, 25 June 2011

sad about a dog

the last few days i've been busy with community stuff. on thursday night, i attended the ethnic communities listening forum that is organised annually by the ethnic communities liaison staff of hamilton city council. it's quite a useful event, in that there is an opportunity to provide feedback on a majority of issues. the mayor was in attendance as well as a few city councillors, although the former did look quite bored with the whole thing.

i don't know that i gave any particularly useful feedback, other than wanting something to be done to stop sky city casino being open all night, and asking for the council to have 2 funding rounds during the year instead of only 1. as to the former, it appears sky city already have consents for opening all night - these were obtained quite some time back. so i'm not sure that the council can do anything much about it. and the latter was brought about by the fact that the funding applications have to be in by march, so i didn't get an application in this year for the next national interfaith forum because we weren't anywhere near organised by then, and next year's round will be too late given the event is in february 2012.

today was the workshop i'd organised for muslim women, as part of my taku manawa commitment. we had someone from the human rights commission & a police officer both there to talk to the women about how to access support from those organisations if they were harassed or abused in public. i thought it went well, there was a lot of positive feedback.

but the day didn't end so well. as i was driving home on a dark and rainy night, a black dog jumped in front of my car & i hit it. it was awful, the poor thing was yelping in such an awful way. luckily someone else driving past stopped to help out, and someone living nearby came to help. we couldn't locate the owner for a bit, until an old lady driving past stopped to see what happened. turned out it was her daughter's dog, so she took him in her car to visit the vet.

i'm personally not a fan of pets, never having had one. and i'm not good with animals generally. i can understand why people would want one (well theoretically i can understand, emotionally i just can't connect with the idea), but one thing i feel strongly about is dogs. i just don't think it's fair to keep dogs in a city. they aren't city animals - unless it's those little ones that look more like guinea pigs than wolves - because they need space and the freedom to run around.

i hate to see dogs tied up or fenced in, in the sense that it's unfair to the dog. of course i'm glad to see them tied up or fenced in regards my own personal safety, because i really do hate to be anywhere near them. and it really angers me that this particular dog wasn't tied up or fenced in. there is no way it should have been free to randomly run across the street, for me to hit it at 50kms. it was so truly awful.

the poor old lady kept apologising to me. even as i was driving off (once the dog had been settled in her back seat), she came back to me saying she hoped i wasn't upset. at that point, i just wanted her to get back in the damn car and hurry to the vet. she said a couple of times that the dog had been very naughty, which is sheer nonsense. the dog just did what dogs do: bound around. it's the owner who has been naughty by not securing it properly.

i'm sure the animal is going to be ok. i wish i'd taken her number so i could ring to be sure, but i was too shaken at the time and i wanted her to hurry. but if anyone is remotely interested in taking advice from me, it would be this: if you must have a pet, get a goldfish and put it in a LARGE aquarium with a lid on it, inside your house. animals shouldn't be caged up or fenced in. dogs should be on farms. if you're keeping one for security reasons, an alarm is much cheaper and just as effective.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

joie de vivre

i've had another lovely evening. i was at the waikato interfaith council meeting tonight, and we were hosted by the mormon community out in templeview. before the meeting started, the director of their visitor's centre gave us a short tour with a bit of background on their beliefs.

i knew most of the stuff he told us, having visited the centre several times before. but i find it interesting to hear people speak about their religious beliefs - the spiritual aspects of it anyway. i like to know what it is that connects them to that religion, the underlying values and the things that inspire them. i realise that people very often don't live up to these ideals, and that the practicalities of it all can be problematic. but at the theoretical level, i find hearing the things that inspire others are always really useful for me to reflect on where i'm at & how i need to improve.

after the meeting proper, we were entertained by a barbershop quartet. four teenage boys sang us a couple of songs, and they were wonderful. one of the songs was "i've been working on the railroad", complete with actions. they were so full of joie de vivre, so much enjoying themselves and had lovely voices. i know i keep saying this, but i don't think i can say it enough: we really don't appreciate our young people enough, and we don't praise them enough. we just don't think as well of them as we should. well, these boys deserve all the praise they get, and i'm still on a high from their performance.

i've said this before as well, but i really enjoy interfaith meetings. it's so nice to be in a room full of people with diametrically opposed worldview, but full of goodwill and friendship. yup, you can actually feel the love in the room, it's almost a physical thing that envelops all of us in it's warmth and comfort.

RIP clarence clemons

i mentioned a while back that i'd written an article for indian newslink on MMP. so here it is.

and in memory of clarence clemons who passed away yesterday, here's the bruce springsteen classic "born to run", which i still love:

it so happens that the saxophone is my favourite musical instrument - not that i'm in any way musically inclined. the only instruments i learned to play were the recorder at primary school, and a brief but failed attempt at learning cello in 3rd form. but i've always loved the sound of the saxophone. here's an old clip of mr clemons on dave letterman's show - the sound quality is pretty bad though:

Sunday, 19 June 2011

some wins

i have to say that i've had a pretty productive weekend. i was away from home, attending a two-day meeting, and i'm not going to breach confidentiality. let's just say that there were two main goals i had in mind before i went, and togther with others, we managed to achieve both of those. these gains will have longlasting impact, so yay!

i have to say that hated having to be away this weekend, i wasn't looking forward to the meeting. i resented the time i was having to give, i hated being away from family, i hated not getting a rest after a pretty busy week & another busy one coming. but having achieved these wins for the benefit of a community (and therefore the whole community), i'm reminded why i do the things i do, and why it's definitely worth the trouble.

the other feeling i had, and this was even before we got what we wanted, was an incredible feeling of belonging & of feeling proud of my identity. personally, it's one of the most precious things i took from the weekend, because there aren't a lot of places where i truly feel i belong.

it's because i'm such an odd mix of things - not quite a migrant, since i came here when i was really young so sometimes i don't fit in too well with migrant communities; not very indian because i don't identify with so much of indian culture, history or present-day society; a feminist liberal muslim, which isn't as common as it should be; and not quite kiwi, because there are certainly bits of kiwi culture that i don't identify with either. in plenty of the spaces i move in, i feel so much like an outsider - and i suspect some of that also has to do with how i see myself. i probably belong better than i think i do, and some of the alienation is more to do with my past than my present.

so it was nice to be inspired this weekend, and nice to be part of something good. and certainly very nice to make some positive gains.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

ash cloud

nothing much to say for today, except that i very selfishly hope the ash cloud in chile continues to grow, just for another day or so. that will mean i get to stay home & relax this weekend - and attend a couple of meetings that i'd otherwise have to miss.

but one issue that arises is the need to develop some reliable forms of local & international transport for when nature causes a big fail. when europe had to stop for a week last year, it was a huge stress, both economically & socially. it's time we had some innovation in transport. seriously, how long has it been since we've had a major new invention - like rail, the bicycle, motor cars, air planes. we haven't had anything spectacularly new for decades.

a quick link to my latest post on the hand mirror on gift duty. and looking forward to a quiet & restful night. sweet dreams to all of you.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


yeah, so i did a little venting today. i won't link to it, since it's hardly my finest moment, but i do believe it needed to be said. i feel a little like i did back in 2005, when i was publicly debating winston peters on tv & radio - it had to be done, but i felt sick in my stomach while doing it. it's not that i'm feeling sick right now, but not particularly happy either.

on to more coherent matters, i'm in the process of doing my will. yes, i know it's appalling that i haven't done so yet, but since i'm comfortable with the default place my money would go if died right now, i haven't made it as much of a priority as i could have.

under islamic law, a person can do what they like with 1/3 of their estate, but the distribution of the remaning 2/3 is tightly prescribed. which means that wills are much less likely to be contested (at least if people follow the rules). i love the fact that a persons estate is widely distributed across surviving family members, and that there is no scope to build empires by cheating some of your children out of their inheritance.

even though it is so prescriptive, there's a lot to think about: guardianship of children, what to do with the 1/3 i have discretion over, who the executors will be, whether i've considered all eventualities (& there are so many!). still, as my lawyer says, a will is a living document & i've got to make sure that i review it regularly - i'm thinking every 5 years.

i also want to keep it pretty simple. i've seen examples that are so prescriptive, and detail, for example, all the funeral rites. i think that makes it more difficult for the people you leave behind, so i'm going to leave all that out & ask that the nearest muslim organisation to the place where i die be asked to ensure that the proper rites are followed.

the thing about muslim burials is that a person is supposed to be buried at the place they die & not transported back to their place of residence or place of birth. there should be no headstones or other permanent markings on the grave, so the grave doesn't become a shrine. your memory lives on in the minds of people you have touched and through the contributions you have made to society. if you haven't done much of either, then i guess you'll be quickly forgotten.

the deceased should be buried as soon as practically possible - the same day if it can be managed - so there is no waiting for relatives or friends to get to the funeral. this is because prayers for your loved departed ones can be made at any time & any place, and be equally valid.

if there's one thing the writing of a will does, it's that it makes you confront your mortality. and given what i've written above, for many muslims it also causes us to think about our legacy - not in terms of the wealth we've amassed but more in terms of the intangibles. in other words, not about what we have amassed but more about what we've given. very often it makes us aware of just how much we have fallen short.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

women in the media

part of doing the taku manawa human rights facilitation course is actually going out & facilitating human rights in the community. or at least facilitating discussions about human rights, creating awareness & encouraging action.

so i had one of those sessions tonight with a women's group in hamilton, co-facilitated by another taku manawa graduate. it was focused on women in the media, and we asked participants to discuss 3 questions:
  • how are women portrayed in the media?
  • how do these portrayals make you feel?
  • what can we do about such portrayal?
i'm not going to tell you their answers, because that would be breaching confidentiality. but even though we didn't have much time, it did generate a lot of discussion & it's an issue that these women did feel strongly about.

one of the problems in dealing with negative & damaging stereotypes in the media is that the complaints process is neither easy nor is it always fair. for a start there are four different organisations, depending on what type of media you're dealing with. they each have a different set of standards/principles. two of them are not independent statutory bodies, but are industry organisations.

the complainant has to put their name out in public, and is often then subject to significant harassment by commentators in the media or by the media outlet that is the subject of complaint. the complainant is written of as "too PC", "prudish", "unable to take a joke", out of touch, and so on. the complaint is a great opportunity for the media outlet or the advertising agency to gain heaps of free publicity, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the complaint.

of course the best option is to vote with your eyes (& your money), and ignore/avoid media that have negative portrayals of women. that requires collective action & oraganisation to have any meaning at all. let's see if this particular group will be able to organise around the issues they have raised. it would be great if they did.

Monday, 13 June 2011

thinking of christchurch, again...

i'm struggling on very little sleep today. i didn't manage to sleep til about 4am last night & was up by 7.30. the insomnia was probably a combination of a too-busy weekend & stuff going on at the hand mirror. i'll possibly have more to say about that at a later date. just at the moment, when i'm feeling very tired and cranky, it's probably not a good idea.

the good news is that i've managed to catch up with a lot of the volunteer work that's been such a huge burden on me. there's still some more, which i hope to get on top of over this week. and then i need desperately to slow down. not sure how i'm going to make that happen exactly, but it certainly does need to happen.

in the meantime, while i'm having my little moan about my life, i remember the people of christchurch who are struggling yet again. while mayor bob is trying to put a positive spin on things (and i know he absolutely needs to do that, to keep up morale if nothing else), life is really tough for so many people in that city. businesses are really struggling, people are finding it difficult to cope and there have been significant numbers leaving the city.

of those numbers, migrant and refugee communities have definitely been on the move. i guess it's because they are already used to packing up and starting again in a new place, so leaving seems more of a favourable option. also the fact that they don't have the deep roots, that local connection, quite as strongly as people who have lived in a place for many years. for myself, the thought of permanently leaving hamilton seems like an impossibility. i am so deeply rooted here, and feel such a strong sense of belonging to the place, that i couldn't think of calling anywhere else home.

regardless of the length of stay, the people of christchurch have had an extremely difficult time, and they have been in my thoughts all day.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

no racism in nz? yeah right.

today has been "deal with racism" day. started off with the stupid waikato times front page cover about the fact that *shock, horror* tainui aren't paying any tax on their business ventures. because they are a charitable organisation and not required to do so.

the times has been consistenly running negative stories against tainui for quite some time now. if it's not about the the maori king, tuheitia, it's about the tainui parliament or about maungatautari ecological island. the source this negativity? the best description i've heard describes it as the waikato land wars between tainui and business owners in the CBD.

with their treaty settlement, tainui have invested in and built up a major shopping centre at "the base", being a former air force base just out of hamilton. because parking is free and there are a whole heap of shops altogether in one location, the base has drawn a lot of business from the city centre. the city council got into the act by trying to restrict development through their processes, but tainui took them to court and won.

this is a charitable organisation, this is a maori organisation using the laws of the land and carrying on business in a perfectly legal way. not only that, but they are contributing hugely to the local economy through the shopping centre & through their other activities. they are also providing benefit to their own community, and building up their asset base. if the city & business people want to bring business back to the CBD, why don't they do it by being competitive? the council had trialled free parking on saturdays over the last year but have now decided to scrap that. they need to provide cheaper rents, better products and i'm sure there are plenty of other measures.

these attacks on tainui aren't going to be bringing business back to the city centre, and they aren't going to do anything for building a cohesive society. if this is news, i don't think it's the kind of news that merits a huge front page that has nothing else on it but the headline on it, and much more inside. it's nothing short of malicious.

so that was first thing in the morning. then i attended a consultation meeting which was even worse. i had to sit there and listen to people saying beneficiaries spent all their money on drugs & alcohol. and some comment about how a woman visited ethnic women found that they were all quiet & let their men speak for them, and wouldn't take up leadership positions. and of course the whole tainui thing about not paying tax. i couldn't believe the level of judginess and stereotyping. i have to say, it makes me laugh when a group like this then wonders why young women & ethnic women aren't joining and participating in numbers. who wants to put up with that kind of crap?

and if that wasn't enough to spoil my day, as i was shopping at pak'n'save, i got to the halal meat section. some twisted soul had decided to put a big chunk of pork (in a packet) on top of a packet of halal meat. it's a deliberate act of nastiness, and coming after the trials of the day, i don't know, just very demoralising.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


it's a crazy week this week. i have a funding application that needs to be filed tomorrow, as well 2 sets of accounts for a meeting on sunday, all voluntary. the weekend is packed, as is the following & i'm feeling just a little swamped.

i've also been busy in the last couple of weeks trying to support a couple of organisations to present at the diversity forum happening here in august. one project i'm particularly excited about will deal with the intersection of poverty with race & ethnicity. if it goes to plan, it should be an interesting interactive session that provides various mediums for people to contribute or just quietly attend.

i'm also organising a workshop for muslim women on 25 june, which will help them to deal with harassment and bullying when they're out in public. any time i've raised this issue, muslim women all have stories to tell of unpleasant experiences. i think it's important they have the tools to deal with this kind of thing, so a person from the police and another person from the human rights commission will be there to share information. it will also be an opportunity for them to share their own experiences.

in mid-july, i'll be going on a ski camp for muslim girls, and i'm really excited about that. i have to say i'm hopeless at skiing, as i am with most sporting endeavours. i've actually had one lesson, but it didn't go too well. i spent most of the time on my bum with my legs at odd angles. but i'm ready to have another go. it does look like a fun activity when you know how to do it.

speaking of sports, i'm pretty annoyed at the barriers for muslim women to participate competitively in sport. if you don't want to bare all, many of them don't want you to participate. for example, there's this case of the muslim weightlifter in georgia (USA) who is being prevented from competing because she wants to wear hijab.

then there is FIFA, banning the iranian women's football team from a qualifying match because they want to cover their hair & necks. it's sickening that some sports are allowed to force women to bare as much as possible (women's beach volleyball, anyone) while others will deny women the chance to play if they want to cover up. all ensuring that women continue to be the sex class, rather top performers in sport. and just to show you what we're talking about, here are the uniforms that FIFA has banned:

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

a piece for nz book month

i finally came across the piece i wrote for nz book month. i'd always wondered what they'd done with it. they have cut it down alot, so i'm reproducing the full piece below. also, i don't really qualify as a celebrity, and the only claim i have to being an author is my blogging, op-eds & speeches. one day i hope to write a book, but i don't know that i'm quite ready yet. anyway, here's the full piece, as it was when i wrote it:

New Zealand Book Month is coming up, and I’ve been asked to write about a book which has changed my life in some way. The trouble is that it is so difficult to pick just one book, when there are so many that informed my thinking and shaped the way I see the world.

I’m going to pick a book that influenced me a lot, though I have some real objections to it. The book is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, which I read first in my teenage years, and have reread many times since. It’s a strange choice for a Muslim woman living in New Zealand I expect, but both the positive and negative aspects were really important to me. To start with the positive influence, the story is about a pampered young woman from the southern states of America, and covers the American civil war.

What struck me most was the complete change in the life of this woman, from living in a rich, slave-owning family and never having to do any physical work to a woman struggling with poverty and struggling to survive in a world that was turned upside down, in a way that she didn’t foresee and certainly didn’t prepare for. This was a strong message to me about the uncertainty and unpredictability of life, and while we may be in a very strong and secure position, it takes just one major adverse event – totally beyond our control – which causes us to struggle. No matter how comfortable life seems, it is ultimately about survival. For me, this was a realisation that I needed to develop the strength of character that would help me to survive the most adverse unforeseen events.

Another positive was that the main character was a strong woman, but flawed. She was often selfish and didn’t care how much she hurt or used others. While this may not seem to be a good thing, it at least meant that the character was a well-rounded one, and I was certainly tired of reading about too-good characters who appeared to have no flaws at all, or only minor ones. The characters in this book were real, and I found that I could relate to them, even the negative ones. It was also nice to read a book written by a woman that centred around the experiences of women.

The most negative aspect of the book was the author’s treatment of slavery and her portrayal of African-Americans. I found it disturbing that the descriptors used for the black characters were animalistic, and that they were portrayed as having little intelligence or ability beyond the most basic manual labour. I also didn’t have time for the notion that African-Americans were better off when they were slaves, and the justifications for the existence of the Ku Klux Klan were weak.

I’m particularly glad that, at this time of my life, I was also reading books like Roots by Alex Haley, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to gain a much better perspective on issues of race and oppression.

Finally, the book also dealt with issues of class, though not in a positive way. There was a segregation of characters by class, and those of the lower classes were definitely written about as though they were inferior. One result of the American civil war was that those previously in the upper classes were stripped of their wealth, yet the author continued with the notion of their superiority to those of the lower classes who subsequently became wealthy. The superiority was determined by upbringing and etiquette rather than in relation to wealth. However, I still found this disturbing and believe a very different story could be told, using the same plot line but having the point of view of a poor white person. The author didn’t try to critique the way society was structured, nor to consider institutional injustices which allowed the rich to keep their status while making it extremely difficult for poor people to improve theirs.

Again, I’m glad that I read books like Silas Marner by George Elliot to give me an alternative perspective on class issues.

I think the most important thing about a good book is that it challenges your thinking, makes you change the way you look at the world, and inspires you to read more on the various topics that were treated well or poorly. Gone With the Wind is an important historical record, even if told from the perspective of someone with significant prejudices, and it certainly challenged me in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it has taught me never to take things for granted and to appreciate all the good things in my life before they might be taken away from me.

Monday, 6 June 2011

a relaxing weekend

it's the end of the long weekend, and i haven't got nearly as much done as i needed to. on the other hand, i've had a reasonable break which i very much needed. i did get my tax return done & filed online (yay, i love the internets), i watched water for elephants, and finally got around to watching a few episodes of little mosque on the prairie.

the film wasn't too bad. the story wasn't particularly original, but still it was well done. and rpattz was looking nice, i have to admit. to me, the underlying issues rather than the main plot were what kept me interested. the setting of the depression and its effects on working people, as well as the various levels of exploitation of people and animals were well-presented. the only thing that annoyed me was the cliche of hero saving the princess from the monster: i much prefer the stories where the princess saves herself. but i guess you can't have everything.

i have to say i loved "little mosque on the prairie", mostly because it is sooooooooooo easy to identify with the issues. it's very cleverly done - perfectly captures life of muslims in the west, and the characters are brilliant. i can pretty much point to people in my community who fit them exactly! i'm definitely going to try to catch up on more episodes when i get a chance.

i've also managed to get some posts up at the hand mirror: one on the tragic accident in onehunga & what it says about workplace safety in this country, another on some wonderful contributions by women of colour (directed to a couple of these via facebook), and one on the outgoing chief human rights commissioner, the absolutely amazing rosslyn noonan.

finally for today, i'm sharing this song by annie lennox, because she is fabulous and because dangerous liaisons (on which the video is based) is my favourite ever english-language film:

Thursday, 2 June 2011


tonight was the graduation ceremony for the taku manawa human rights facilitation course i've completed. it was quite lovely, and well attended. lovely to catch up with chief human rights commissioner, rosslyn noonan, who is a treasure. it's so sad that she will coming to the end of her time at the commission soon - she's done such a fantastic job.

one of the best parts of the graduation was that we didn't just get a certificate, we also got a lovely pounamu necklace, with a koru engraved in it. it such a lovely momento, and i love the feel of pounamu against the skin.

i have another piece that isn't as nice looking as this one but still extremely valuable to me. i received it some years ago, when i gave a sermon at a unitarian church in ponsonby. i know i've written about this before, but it was such a powerful experience for me. i can't imagine there would be many faith groups that would allow someone from another religion to give a sermon as part of their weekly service, so i was really touched to be offered the opportunity.

then on top of that, they gave me the pounamu. it's a reminder to me of the power of sharing and acceptance, of the ability and willingness to see the good in others and to learn from them. it's a reminder of the warm feeling of being welcomed and made to feel special. and it's a reminder of beautiful old building in the heart of auckland.

this new piece will remind me of many things as well. it's hard to sum them all up in blog post. it will remind me of seven of the most powerful days of my life, sharing some amazing experiences and learning about the difficulties that so many people deal with on a daily basis. it will remind me of a group of people who give their all to serve their communities and try to improve the world around them in whatever way they can. it will remind me of loving and caring, of opening the heart and reducing the focus on self.

it will remind me to be strong and to keep fighting on behalf of those who need my support. it will remind me to be an ally, to listen carefully and to step aside when required. it will remind me that it isn't always my job to take up the fight: sometimes it's my job to make it easier for others to step forward and speak. it will remind to never give up, to never accept that "nothing" can be done.

it's a reminder of the inherent humanity and intrinsic value of each and every human being on the planet. it's a reminder that every effort made to be respect the differences of others and to cater to their needs can never be a wasted effort.

yes, this new pounamu is just as precious as the other one. the value lies not in their appearance but in the meanings they hold and the messages they give. i think today i have truly understood the meaning of taonga.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

things are looking a little different

when i started updating my blogroll last night, i couldn't resist looking at new blog templates. i've been wanting to change the annoying pink colour for quite some time now, and i've finally managed to change it to whatever this colour is. something on the red spectrum, which is good, though it too may get annoying after a bit. i always try to use bold for my posts because one of my readers early on found it difficult to read with the old background. i've been forgetting to do this a lot lately, which is not good. i shall try to be more vigilant, as i suspect trying to read white on this odd colour is probably even harder.

and now i have the problem of my blog header clashing with the rest of the colour scheme. but i'm loathe to give it up, since a very kind person donated it to me very soon after i started the blog (you can see her kind offer in comments here). so yeah, i'm just going to live with the clash and subject you all to it as well. sorry!

i've added a few new blogs to the blogroll, along with the link to the MMP campaign. three of these are women writers, all ex-hand mirror & still producing wonderful posts. the other is muslimah media watch, which i should read more often because they have some really good stuff. i really recommend this one (which is actually by a guest poster, but still good).

and finally, a link to a statement issued by manal alsharif, the saudi woman who was jailed for driving in saudi arabia & posting a you-tube video of this. i just hate to think what she has gone through in jail and i pray for her safety. it's such a difficult fight for these women to get such a basic right. here a facebook group supporting ms alsharif, though many of the posts are in arabic (which i don't understand either), most of it is in english.