Wednesday, 26 January 2011


well, the holidays are definitely over & life has come rushing right back at me, with all it's demands and expectations. i've been busy this week with responsibilities to community radio, to shama and to another of the NGOs i work with. as well as a busy time at work with a reasonable amount of urgent stuff on my plate. can't wait for that long weekend!

i've been posting at the hand mirror in the last couple of days, with a post on media speculation surrounding the death of ranjeeta sharma and another summarising the conference over the weekend.

along with many others, i'm gnashing my teeth at media coverage of phil goff's speech. or the lack of it really, because our reporters can't seem to get past the fact that he has dyed his hair. because that's important for the running of the country, or something. that will help to pull people out poverty, help to balance the government books, help to ensure that there will be no cuts to public spending on vital social services, help to prevent the sale of valuable state assets. yup, the state of mr goff's hair is the most pressing political issue of the moment, and totally what we were begging to hear about. that sound you hear is my head hitting the desk, while i wonder what it will take to get some decent reporting in this country of the issues that actually affect people's day-to-day lives.

Monday, 24 January 2011

in which i appreciate my teenage daughters

hamilton hosts the islamic women's council annual convention every 5 years. this is because the conference rotates around the country, so that women from every centre have a chance to attend without having to spend too much on travel. this is the fourth time it's been in hamilton, and the first time i haven't had to be the main organiser.

but still, it's a lot of work. i'm glad to say the conference was very successful, and i hope that participants felt it was worth attending. there was a dedicated group of wonderful women who were worked off their feet, but i'm sure they all feel it was well worth the effort. as for myself, i could barely walk by the time we'd finished on saturday night, and came home and crashed yesterday when it was over. i'm especially proud of my daughters, who not only worked extremely hard but also tried to look after their mother as best they could. there are (many) times when having teenaged daughters is a wonderful thing.

having a mother is a wonderful thing as well. i've used up much of my writing energy on a post at the hand mirror about my mum. so i'll refer you to that for tonight, and write more about the conference later.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

back to work blues

sigh. my holidays are over, and it's back to work tomorrow. i'm really not looking forward to getting back to the daily grind, and i haven't managed to get done all the things i wanted during the break. still, i got through some of them and had some wonderful times with the family.

this week i'll be busy with the muslim women's conference in hamilton, starting this friday. so it'll be a little light on the posting. i've had a few posts up at the hand mirror the last week or so that i haven't linked to here. there's
one on women in haiti, another on sole parents becoming political targets as poor policy from the government means higher-than-expected deficits, and a third reacting to an article in the wall street journal about "chinese" mothers.

ETA: a few links of interest to share, which various people have directed me towards:
- this on global capitalism, in relation to recent natural disasters
- this which has a video clip of 2 muslim women speaking about wearing niqab & hijab
- this from kenneth leong, in response to an anti-immigrant flyer being distributed in christchurch
- this about the situation in tunisia (go the tunisian people, i hope they get to reclaim their country and turn it into one with more social justice & the freedom to practice their religion)
- and finally this rather brilliant piece of satire at the dim post, clearly better than my approach of dealing with the subject seriously.

Friday, 14 January 2011

daily miracle

yesterday i did a basic first aid course. i've done first aid courses before of course, but not for many years. in fact, the only one i can remember is when i was a girl guide (yeah, really, i was!). anyway, i sat through the course & practiced the compressions and breathing on the dummies, as well as various other stuff.

i can't believe how queasy it all made me. just the mention of the various types of injuries had me developing mental pictures that really were inducing nausea. i'm thinking that i'm probably not the best person to turn to in case of an emergency. i hope that i never do have to face one, but if it does happen, i also hope that i will be able to put all squeamishness aside and do what needs to be done. maybe i should go volunteer at a hospital or something, just to build up some toughness around these things.

but the most overwhelming thought i had as we went through the various topics was this: it is a pretty big miracle that so many human beings get through their day without any serious hurt or injury happening to them or to their loved ones. i thought about how i really don't appreciate that anywhere near enough. i've had to deal with my kids breaking bones & chicken pox, but thank the Lord, that is really the worst of it. for myself, i've had the odd medical thing happening but haven't had anything more than an overnight stay at hospital (not counting childbirth, and i didn't have any complications in either delivery).

considering all the different ways that things can go wrong, whether by illness or accident, it really is a wonderful thing when we can go through our day without having to feel pain or grief.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

cooking for royals

another masterchef post today, for those who are following the UK version that's screening on tv1 these days.

tonight's episode had the constestants travel to india, to cook indian cuisines in a variety of settings. really happy to see the show go in this direction, present another country & it's cuisine to viewers in a pretty positive way.

but. while they dealt so positively with diversity in one way, i was really frustrated at the way the show dealt with class issues. the first task for the contestants was to cook breakfast for "VIP" guests at an outdoor location in jaipur. these guests very presented as select & very important, and wouldn't you know it, they consisted to a large part of successful business people.

my beef (pun intended) is with the definition of important here. these people aren't any more important than any other person in jaipur, or anywhere else in the world. i know i'm not in the majority here, but as far as i'm concerned the street sweepers and rickshaw-drivers of jaipur are just as important as these business people, and just as deserving of a fine-dining experience. possibly they wouldn't be as good in terms of being food critics (which is what the show is looking for), but i'd even dispute that for this challenge, as the menu was pretty standard indian fare with the pooris, parathas and kachauris.

but it got worse. the third challenge had the contestants cooking for the maharajah of jaipur, and if they all weren't practically in tears at the end because they had cooked for "royalty" and royalty had approved of their food. again with the royalty. born into privilege, with no requirement to show any kind of talent or ability. i'm not sure what kind of political power the maharajah has, nor what he contributes to the community. but even if he did, the fact that he is royalty makes him no better than the waiters who were serving his food. what he does with that position and privilege would certainly be a cause for respect if he used both in the service of others, but not the mere fact that he is royal.

i'd really love to live in a world where these same contestants were moved to tears because the waiters had liked the food. i know there are cultural factors at play here, and that someone growing up in the UK would have a different view of royalty than us in nz who are so far away from our sovereign. even so, i found it difficult to watch.

i'd compare this to cooking for professional food critics, who have a considerable degree of knowledge & experience, and possibly talent in terms of their palate. it's possible that the maharajah had developed all these, from the fact that he can afford fine dining and appears to indulge in it (based on what was shown in the programme). in which case, just present the guy as a food critic, and stop fawning over his royal status.

another thought: while they showed some really beautiful settings in the show, particularly the maharajah's palace, it would be nice if people actually got to see how the chefs live & how the waiters live. i know that's not what the show is about, but a quick 2 minute look at how the other half lives could have added a lot more to the experience of watching the programme. cooking as social commentary.

i'm surprised at myself that i haven't really noticed the whole class thing inherent in masterchef -whether it's the aussie, nz or UK version. it is all about expensive ingredients, expensive restaurants and an experience that is restricted to a small sector of society. until now, i'd focused on the skills, the artistry and the talents that contestants display.

this doesn't mean that i'll stop watching - there are so few shows i enjoy on tv as it is. but i'll definitely be watching with a much more critical eye.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

all things are not equal

just a few links to put today. i'll start off with this one from paul krugman, on the arizona shootings:

The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials....

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement....

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

i'd really recommend reading the whole thing. for those who might still be under the misapprehension that "both sides are just as bad", i'd also recommend this and this.

keeping to the same topic, it's frustrating the way mental illness is being linked to violence. i agree with QoT on this one, and also found this roundup of links raising this issue.

on a more positive topic, and just to show that world isn't completely going to hell in a handbasket, there was this news from egypt:

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

i think this is what it comes down to. when you replace hate-filled rhetoric with positive messages of people working together & supporting each other, the world can only become a better place. if only we could get media organisations & personalities, and political figures to move in that direction. maybe recent events in america might cause some of these people to reassess their behaviour, but things aren't looking too hopeful just yet. just like in egypt, it's not until we see massive public pressure pushing for something better that there will ever be change.

ETA: i just had to share this comment over at shakesville:

Europol's statistics of terrorist attacks in Europe 2006-2009:
Total number: 1770
Right Wing Ethno-Nationalist and Separatist: 1596 (90.17%)
Left Wing: 106 (5.99%)
Islamic: 6 (0.34%)
Other/Not Specified: 62 (3.50%)

Monday, 10 January 2011

death of a non-violent protester

i got back home yesterday, after spending 3 nights in napier with my family. it was a lovely time away, swimming at westshore beach & taking a trip out to cape kidnappers to see the gannett colonies. the latter was just wonderful. we rode on the back of a tractor across the shoreline, and often through the water. it was a bright sunny day, with lovely views.

i'm back to a glut of emails & a list of things to get done this week. while i'm not yet back at work, there's plenty to keep me busy, with accounts & gst returns to get done for the various NGO's i work with. also, our muslim women's conference is coming up in 2 weeks & there will be plenty of work to be done for that. we've managed to get an australian speaker,
silma ihram, as our keynote. i'm really looking forward to meeting her, as she appears to have achieved a whole lot, and i love the description of her on the wikipedia page as "erin brokovitch in a hijab".

i'd like to include a tribute i received by email last week to another muslim woman who passed away recently:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please light a candle in Jawaher’s memory and leave a few words of condolences by going to our
web page. When you enter the website, just follow the instructions and don’t forget to initial your candle and enter the group initial JAR so the candles for Jawaher can be all grouped together. These cyber candles can be lit from anywhere in the world. This can be our way of showing solidarity with all the women who will gather in Bil’in on Friday, 7 January 2011 at 11.30 to express grief and sorrow for the loss of the gentle and courageous Palestinian woman and nonviolent resister, Jawaher Abu Rahma. The call has gone out: “Our goal is that our silent vigil will be heard like thunder around the world. We shall pay homage to Jawaher and all Palestinian women who struggle for their people’s right to freedom and self determination and for the end of the occupation, in order to enjoy the rights that all human beings are entitled to.”

You can read more about Jawaher’s death from the deadly tear gas used by the Israeli army during the nonviolent demonstration against the Apartheid Wall and the theft of Palestinian land on Friday 31 December 2010 on our

there are more details of the attack
here, which is taken directly from the new york times.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


oh my aching legs. yesterday i went for a walk called (i think) the manuka trail, out on the way towards kawhia. it involved a lot of going downhill, then a bit of flat walking, then a pretty big climb. the bush was lovely, and we stopped by a pretty stream as well. then we drove to ocean's beach, which was really lovely but also involved a pretty steep climb both to get to and to leave the beach. it wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't just done the other walk, but as it is, i struggled.

it was worth it though. the beach is beautiful, not too calm but not very strong waves. quite different to raglan, where we go more often. i love to swim in the sea, i love the waves and the sounds and smells. i can't really persuade myself to go to public pools because they just seem to unhygenic. but the sea is something else.

i remember one summer we spent in perth, and travelled along the coast to stay at a beach somewhere (it's a few years ago now, so the names escape my mind). the beaches of western australia are also gorgeous, but the most fun would be catching the sunsetting across the ocean. it has to be one of the most spectacular visual sights in the world, with the colours of the sky reflected in the water, and the burning red ball slipping slowly down behind the horizon.

we didn't stay long enough yesterday to catch the sunset, but it's something i'd like to do soon. in the meantime, i've not managed to do anything much today because my legs are so sore. i've been reading the 19th wife by david ebershoff, which is really quite good & provides a really good background into mormon history. i had to google brigham young, and found out quite a few interesting things. the whole polygamy thing, as described in the book, is quite horrific particularly as it relates to the forced marriages of young girls. ugh.

i've finished the margaret attwood book, which turned out not to be so bad, but i found it really depressing. maybe because it brought back some not so nice memories of bullying at school, not nearly as harsh as what she wrote about, but still it was familiar in the sense that it was the non-violent, under-the-radar, constant digs that over time are really destructive.

this will probably be my last post for this week, as i have other things on. hope the holidays are going well for you, though i'm thinking of anne else who has just lost her husband, and others who are also suffering loss at this time. i hope things get better for you soon.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

comic relief

a bit of comic relief today, having talked about comics yesterday. i've just been alerted to russell peters, a canadian indian comedian. and when i say indian, i don't mean first nation but a child of parents born in india who migrated to india. anyway, thought you'd enjoy this clip:

i was also sent this one about a year ago, from a different guy, which was also quite funny, though a warning if your fussy about language:

Saturday, 1 January 2011

on comic book superheroes

yay, my first post of 2011! happy new years day everyone, hope it's a great one for you and a great year as well.

via hoydens, i found this post about the right wing reaction to a new french comic book hero appearing as part of the whole batman thing by DC comics. sorry, i'm not into comics so can't sound technical about it all. but the problem right-wing bloggers have to this new superhero is that he "is French, an Algerian immigrant, and – cue the melodrama – a Muslim".

which means that somehow bilal is somehow not a "real" french person, and of course can't possibly be on the side of good since muslims are those people who all just go about killing other people. a "fact" which an anon commentor felt the need to point out on my post about the death of the 30 refugees. no, i didn't post the comment, and i can't believe that anyone would have this reaction to the deaths of people fleeing from war zones, but such persons apparently exist & need to share their miserable heartlessness with others.

but the post at racialicious is well worth a read, especially in regards to conditions in the slums of paris. and i love the way the post ends, with that well documented "undocumented immigrant superhero", superman.

while on the theme of comics, i also wanted to share news of two comics in development. there's this one featuring:

... a Muslim boy in a wheelchair with superpowers.

The new superhero is the brainchild of a group of disabled young Americans and Syrians who were brought together last month in Damascus by the Open Hands Intiative, a non-profit organization founded by U.S. philanthropist and businessman Jay T. Snyder.

The superhero's appearance hasn't been finalized, but an early sketch shows a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after discovering he has the power to control metal with his mind.

and i also liked this one:

Even if you deliberately set out to try to dream up the least probable superhero ever, it's unlikely that you'd manage to come up with a character as far-fetched as Batina the Hidden. Forget Wonder Worm, or a man born with the powers of a newt, Batina is a superhero of a kind the world hasn't until now seen. It's not just that she's a Muslim woman, from a country best known for harbouring al-Qaida operatives – Yemen – but that she wears an altogether new kind of super-person costume: a burqa.

yup, that i'd like to see.