Wednesday, 27 July 2011


another of the "i'm too tired to writing anything decent" posts, wherein i link to some interesting stuff (or at least interesting to me). i've spent another chunk of my day dealing with media issues, as well as getting a GST return done for a voluntary organisation and attending an afterwork meeting. the pile of stuff to get done never seems to get any smaller, and i'm feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.

so, some interesting links i've been directed to: first a report concluding that pakeha child abuse is ignored in the media:

Almost 9000 children were victims of physical abuse between 2000 and 2008, yet only 21 became "household names"' in the media, she said.

Just one-third of child deaths were reported in the press, and they were predominantly Maori cases...

Merchant found physical child abuse was largely related to poverty, poor housing, inter-generational abuse, poor parenting and drugs and alcohol abuse.

also from the same piece, the minister for social development asks:

The example you could use is that mental health services be prioritised to mothers and fathers with small children.

"Does that mean other people wait longer?

"Should they be able to jump the queue because they have young children?"

really, minister? does it not occur to you that we should fund services to the level that there is need, rather than make people jump queues? but that would mean raising more income, which might mean reversing personal tax cuts, or making polluters (rather than the taxpayer) pay for their pollution, or making companies a pay fairer share of tax. these are possibilites our minister couldn't possibly contemplate, so better to make people compete against each other for very limited services, thereby pitting one group against another to the extent they forget there's a third option. it's typical divisive politics and disgusting to watch.

on another topic, there's this piece about the policing of women's reproduction as part of anti-immigrant policies:

... how women become framed as reproducers of a nation, fertile bodies that mark distinct nationalities from one another. Thus, a citizen woman may be valued for her ability to reproduce; likewise, a “foreign” woman’s body is a threat, a possible breeding ground for more “foreign invaders.”

...As Susana Sánchez wrote in a recent critique, “there are racial prejudices central to a political campaign aimed primarily at vilifying the re­production of immigrant women, who are for the most part women of color.”

Citizenship is still one of the clearest markers of recognition and belonging in today’s world. Rejecting citizenship for a woman’s child, no matter her legal status, is refusing to acknowledge the mother’s right and legitimacy to reproduce. Moreover, it implies that her offspring are in some way detrimental to the society where she resides, an implication that dangerously invites and supports anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalist sentiment.

some good news from the british advertising standards authority:

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has run a long campaign against unrealistic images of women in advertising.

Her recent complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) alleged magazine spreads for L'Oréal-owned brands Lancôme and Maybelline featuring Roberts and Turlington were misleading and fake, the Guardian reported.

She complained that images of both celebrities had been digitally manipulated and were "not representative of the results the product could achieve", it reported.

The ASA backed her allegations - ruling both ads breached advertising standards and banning them from future publication in recently released decisions.

and finally, a must read post from shakesville on income disparities in america. here's a picture that speaks volumes:

i wonder what a similar picture for nz would look like.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

learning from history

i've seen very little commentary anywhere about the documentary that screened on sunday night, tv1, regarding the cold case investigation into the death of Jesus (AS). i thought there would be a lot more noise about it or objection to it than there has been. of course this may well be because of other tragic events around the world.

i found it really interesting, though quite a bit of it was familiar. muslims have always believed that the bible wasn't an accurate account of the life of Jesus - that the gospels were changed & didn't reflect actual events. we've always believed that Jesus wasn't crucified (and i guess that ties into the fact that we don't believe in the whole atonement thing). i'd read about the council of nicea and the destruction of all other gospels back in my teenage years.

bryan bruce made a good case, with the nub of the issue being that jews have been unfairly blamed for the death of jesus, or at least that the gospels were deliberately changed to give a better impression of pontius pilate than he deserved, and to place more blame on jews than they deserved. even if none of that is true, it seems inconceivable that a people would be collectively punished for an alleged crime committed by some few of their ancestors. collectively punished for centuries.

i have to say i enjoyed the bit about the physical appearance of Jesus, of whom there is actually no physical description nor any accurate drawing. though it's quite common for the features of religious figures to be depicted based on the cultural and physical characteristics of the local population. this is especially common with the depictions of buddha who was indian, but is often depicted with very non-indian features. i guess the depictions are made to increase the accessability of the religious figure in question, so it's hardly surprising that so many depictions of Jesus are often more closely resembling europeans than arabic jews.

regardless of one's viewpoint, i think this documentary is essential viewing. the historical lessons are pretty universal.

Monday, 25 July 2011

in the waikato times

so as i was saying yesterday, i'm expecting a couple of pieces in the media, and this is the first one to be published:

the angle is that muslim women are subject to abuse, and we deserve better. which is true. but the frustrating thing is that i'm tired of portrayals of muslim women as victims. either we're victims of male oppression or we're victims of an intolerant society. so when do we get to be human beings with talent, skills, agency, or even just human beings?

we gave the reporter a lot of information about the positive and active work that is being done in hamilton, especially for and by young muslim women. and to his credit, he has included some of that in the story. and because the story grew out of the incidents of burqa-wearing women being denied the right to use public transport, that framing was always going to be paramount.

still, it's a story. a story where we get to speak about our experiences and where we are talking about ourselves and our experiences rather than having others speak about us. this is good, and i want to give due credit to the times for giving us the opportunity.

the young women featured in the photograph are champions. four of them are part of the leadership group that aliya danziesen has been working hard to develop. all of them shared some wonderful stuff with the reporter, though only one of them has been quoted. i have to say, looking at and listening to this group of bright young women, the future seems very bright. i wish the public could have heard more from them, because (and yes, i know i'm so very repetitive on this point) we need many more positive stories about our young people. they are a treasure, and some day we will be relying on them.

it really should have been aliya in the photograph rather than me, but she wasn't able to be there. she is the one with the vision and the organisational skills to bring together these young people, nurture them and broaden their horizons. me, i just tag along and help out in what little way i can, which is not much at all really. so it feels a little fraudulent to be sitting up in front, when i have so much of a background role.

another weekend gone

it was supposed to be a quiet weekend, with nothing much on. but i ended up spending less than an hour at home yesterday, between the hours of 10.30am and 9pm. and today i was out for the whole afternoon as well. things just keep cropping up & its hard to say no.

dealing with the media has taken up a bit of time, and i'm hoping for a couple of stories to come out in the next week or so. last week i did a spot on the asian radio show, with one of my favourite columnists, tracey barnett. we talked about the slut walk & burqas, and issues around that. i've been trying to create space to talk about something other than burqas, and to have some coverage that doesn't depict muslim women as helpless victims but as strong human beings with agency and ability. i think i'm going to fail spectacularly in one case, but am hopeful that a second piece will be a lot more positive.

underlying the whole weekend is the tragedy which happened in norway. i haven't seen any tv coverage of it, not being near a tv for much of the weekend, but i've read a few newspaper articles and blogs, as well as being part of some discussions on facebook. i've just written about it at the hand mirror - a little nervous about that post, i'm not sure i got it exactly right.

a couple of other things happening over the weekend: we went out for a visit to church college, owned by the mormon church but no longer running as a school. this is going to be the venue of the next national interfaith forum, to be held on 18 & 19 february 2012. the mormon community are letting us have use of this wonderful facility at very low cost, which includes some pretty cheap accommodation. so i hope people will make an effort to come along. the theme for the forum is "spiritual identity in a secular society", and it's shaping up to be an interesting programme.

also attended a health workshop for muslim women, which was quite useful. and did some phone-canvassing for the labour party. i hate doing it, being a person that doesn't handle rejection well, but the stakes are just too high and this is an election that, if national win, will be terrible for the country. so, while i'm not planning to play a big role this year, i'll do what i can in my own small way to work for a change of government.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

not good enough

i have to say i really feel like swearing at campbell live at the moment. for all the good stuff they do, the piece they aired tonight on the "obedient wives club" was pretty crap. they couldn't get a nz'er to talk about it so they aired overseas footage. in response, they didn't have any local muslims or muslim organisations speak about this, but a woman in the country on a speaking tour. they ignore local muslim organisations and local opinions.

the stupidity of the "obedient wives club" (who i'd only heard of in the last month because i was reading the local paper while in malaysia) is pretty easily pointed out. forget about women being "whores in bed", a muslim woman has the right to sexual satisfaction in her marriage - a right protected by law. sex, for her, isn't about pleasing her husband. in fact, it's her husband who has the responsibility of ensuring that she gets pleasure from the experience. if anything, he's the one who should be a whore in bed.

i can understand why a group like this comes to being. it's part of the anti-feminist backlash that is happening not only in the west but with a vengeance in the east. the reason for it is tied up in cultural and military dominance & hegemony ie its an eastern reaction to repudiate anything western, and feminism is definitely seen as originating in the west. which, in itself, is stupid. the east has a history of strong, educated women and women's participation in leadership positions. it has a history of women having legal and political identities long before the west got to this point. but of course people forget their own history, often very deliberately, because it's inconvenient to their partriarchal agendas.

the "sisters in islam" group gave a presentation in auckland tonight entitled "muslim women's rights is human rights" (sic). they already managed to annoy a lot of the muslim community with comments to the herald about the burqa. basically, they were probably responding to questions without any idea of the local context and probably not knowing much about what has gone down here in recent weeks. while their comments about women being forced to wear it are spot on, i would have hoped that they would think about the impact their comments would have on the women who choose to wear it. and i'd bet most who chose to wear it in nz aren't interested in belonging to the "obedient wives club" either. they showed little understanding of the battles muslim women are fighting in this country - which is still basically to be allowed to choose what to wear, but from the opposite angle.

i was planning to go to the auckland meeting, but had childcare issues as well as the lack of energy that has been dogging me this week. i can't imagine how it went, but no doubt i'll hear about it from someone. it's such a pity, because the topic itself is such a critical one and the issues need to be raised. but it's a different thing to be fighting for rights as women in muslim majority country to fighting for rights from within a minority community living in an external environment which can be pretty hostile. the same techniques aren't going to be effective, and more harm than good can result.

i certainly can't see any good coming from the campbell live piece either. it was just badly executed. i can see how a fringe wierdo group would be of interest to the media (and i have to say that i'd be extremely disappointed if they are going to be speaking at 2 mosques in nz). it's more the fact that they didn't provide the opportunity for effective and local response to that group. in effect, the piece was more like the kind of scaremongering that belongs more to talkback radio or tabloid newspapers than to what campbell live likes to present itself as.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

the "not all terrorists are muslim" edition

i seem to be suffering from the exhaustion of not having had a break this last weekend, coming off the back of a week of jet-lag. hopefully i'll be bursting with energy soon, but until then it's hard to write anything very meaningful.

last night we went to see the final harry potter, & really enjoyed it. i can't say i've liked all the films - no 4 really dragged & i wasn't a huge fan of no 7 part 1. but this one was good, although a little too full of action. there was a bit after the first hour when i thought they needed a little bit of calm, time to catch the breath. well, it's all over now and ended on a high.

a couple of links for the folk who trot out the "all muslims aren't terrorists but why is it that all terrorists are muslim" line (yes, i have actually had to listen to that line not too long ago). the first is this clip via facebook:

the second is this interview with a former tamil tiger on radio nz this morning (nine to noon, 10:10am). it's an excellent interview by kathryn ryan, that really gets into the complexity of issues around oppression and violence. particularly where ms de soyza speaks about empathising with the people while condemning the violence, because she knew them and could understand their cause. also when she talks about her path towards the tamil tigers because of the violence surrounding her, and the perceived hopelessness of her own situation. there's so much sadness, whichever way you look at it.

which is usually the case, where ever there is violence.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

turning 45

yesterday was my birthday, and i'm now 45 years old. which, of course, reminds me of this:

which i have constantly running in my head. i spent my birthday at turoa, on a ski-camp for muslim girls, but more about that another day. today, i'll reflect on being 45 (and 1 day).

in previous years, i've taken the opportunity to reflect over the past year on my birthday. but i'm not much in the mood for doing that just now. i'm more into thinking that i'm now truly middle-aged, and it's beginning to show. despite the young woman at a stall in malaysia telling me that i look more like a sister to my daughters than their mother. i know she was flattering me to get a sale, and i'm also sure she was able to say that because she couldn't see my grey hairs.

there are a reasonable number of them now, mostly near my face. since i cover my hair, they really don't bother me too much. but even if didn't cover, i don't think i'd want to hide them by dyeing my hair. each one of them is a symbol to me. a symbol of lessons learnt, experiences gained. they represent the tears i've shed and the nights i've lain awake. they represent the years i've been on this planet, and the wisdom i've gained just by being here, watching, doing, learning.

each grey hair is precious to me, and i want to celebrate them all. in the end they represent life itself. i have grey hairs because i am still alive after 45 years, i've lived long enough to age, and how can that be anything but a wonderful thing? my grey hairs connect me to the people closest to me, and the number of years i've been able to share with them.

i couldn't bear to cover them up, and i refuse to take on board all those messages telling me that signs of aging are terrible things that need to be hidden. no way, not at all. they are a celebration of life, they are an essential part of our natural selves, they are old friends to be welcomed with joy and embraced, to be worn with pride.

the irony is that mine are hidden. but soon i'll have the other signs: wrinkles and creases, maybe age spots. because these are visible, people will react more to them & i wonder how that will go. i guess that's one of the benefits of hijab: it builds immunity to negative reactions. but that immunity is built on inner confidence, on a firm belief and a sense of this being right. i know i'm right about aging as well, regardless of what other people think.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


having studied french all through high school, up until 2nd year university, i can't help the fact that 14th july reminds me of bastille day. unfortunately, given the things happening in france over the last few years, i can't say that the remeberance is a positive one. while i used to have a love of french culture, history and films, it all seems to have dissipated now. it used to be a dream of mine to live in paris for a couple of months, and explore the city. it's just that i don't know how welcome i'd be these days. or how much i'd want to be in a place that doesn't really seem to want me.

so congratulations to the french, but excuse me if i sit out the celebrations.

last night i went to see a spanish film called biutiful, which was nominated for a couple of academy awards, including a very well-deserved best actor nomination for javier bardem. i can't say it was beautiful at all; in fact it would have to be one of the most thoroughly depressing and dreary films i've ever seen. which is not to say that it didn't raise some important issues - it certainly did. from mental illness, physical illness, fatherhood, exploitation of foreign workers, immigration issues, and child abuse, it covered a whole lot of ground. what made it so difficult to watch was that there was no let-up. there were very few moments of joy or hope, very few scenes that had smiling or laughter.

and i know that's my privilege showing yet again. that this is the reality of so many people's lives, where there is no let-up and precious little to smile or laugh about. i can't even begin to imagine what it's like to live with the hopelessness, the filth, the ugliness that comes with poverty. in the middle of the film, i was thinking to myself how extremely thankful i am to be protected from all of this and how extremely lucky. i think i really do live in a cocoon, sheltered from so much of the nastiness that exists in the world. i've managed to make my little world safe, and this film reminded me once again just how precious that safety is.

so yes, i'd recommend you get to see this film if you can. go prepared, but also ready to take it all in. to understand and to empathise, even with the worst of the characters. because this is humanity after all, and we are all a part of it.

Monday, 11 July 2011

what i've been reading lately

my sleeping patterns are still very off. managed to sleep around 4am last night, don't know if i'll do better tonight though i did get a nap in after work. it's probably because of this that i'm feeling a little down about comments i've seen around the whole burqa issue on other blogs. it makes me angry, then i get that old feeling of depressed helplessness. nothing that a good night's sleep won't cure, i hope.

so. i'm going to write about something else altogether. about books i've been reading lately. after putting up the piece i wrote for nz book month about "gone with the wind", i thought i'd go back to it. but i've found the racism so much deeper and so much harder to bear. and something i've missed from previous reading (and God knows i've read it enough) was the author's casual dismissal of native americans and their alienation from the land. it was mentioned in passing a few times, the notions that the land had been cleared of "indians", as if it was nothing really. ugh. i still like how she writes about the lives of women, and pokes fun at the culture of the time, but somehow i think i won't be reading this book again. not for a long time.

at the moment, i'm about half way through "interview with a vampire" by anne rice. i've seen the film - a while ago now - but never really liked it. this is mostly because i am really not a fan of tom cruise or brad pitt, and my dislike of them tends to overshadow any interest in the films they're in. the book is interesting enough, and so much better than the twilight nonsense. it's a lot more creepy, more of a horror than a romance. i am finding the portrayal of claudia, the child vampire, a little disturbing - the sexualisation of a child character, even if it's a child vampire & there's no actual sex involved, is quite unsettling. which is the point of a horror novel i suppose. i'm thinking this is another book i won't be reading again.

i managed to get through the "diary of a wimpy vampire" in a couple of hours on the plane back home. it was definitely funny & i quite enjoyed it. might have to get the sequel, although i've really had enough of vampires now. and that's when i don't even watch any of the vampire series on tv, nor could i be bothered to watch the last film in the twilight series.

and finally, while i was away, i read "the appeal" by john grisham. i don't always like his novels, mostly i'm disappointed in them. and he writes with this strange kind of cynical earnestness that i find irritating. this one was good, not because of the plot or the writing style, but because of his expose (can't do macrons, so just imagine one on the last e) of the judicial voting system in america. and the corruption thereof. it was a real eye-opener of how exactly justice is being bought across that country, and i hope that we never get to the stage of electing judges in this country.

when i get around to it, the next books on my list are "under the tuscan sun" by frances mayes, "love in idleness" by amanda craig, "the murder room" by p d james, "the red queen" by philippa gregory, and something by jodi picoult (can't remember the title just now). they are all deliberately female authors, because i've decided i need to read more books written by women. once i've finished with that lot, i'm going to look for more books by asian, african & middle eastern writers. i've realised i read too many books by white people, and i need to widen my perspective a bit more. and one day, some day, i will get around to writing that novel in my head.

in the meantime, i haven't linked to the stuff i've been writing at the hand mirror for a while, so i'll do that now. i wrote this one on white privilege, this one on proposals in australia regarding the testing of judges for mental illness, these three on alisdair thompson who is finally gone, this one on the burqa furore that has risen up yet again, and finally this one with some awesome poetry on black women.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

glad to be home

things have been a little quiet here for a reason. i've been overseas in malaysia, having a wonderful 10-day holiday. well not so much a holiday as a shopping excursion. the days were pretty full on, and much as i generally loathe shopping, i tend to do a lot of it overseas. mostly it's because i can't find clothes here that are the right size and style for me, so a trip overseas is a chance to renew the wardrobe, both for myself and the girls.

it's also a chance to get a tummy-full of halal fast-food. not healthy i know, and many people here will be thinking that we don't miss out on much when we don't get halal big macs or those whopper things. nonetheless, we like to try out this stuff as well as the laksa & satay. the best meal we had this time would definitely have to be beef ribs at tony roma's in sunway plaza. yum!

and as always, it's very nice to be in an environment where being muslim is just a normal thing. no stories about women in burqa's being refused entries on buses, for example. lovely to see all the beautiful mosques, hear the adhan being called. i love the plurality of malaysia, the variety of people and experiences.

of course that ability of various groups to co-exist peacefully is something that comes at a cost. the number of ads on radio promoting patriotism was definitely something i'm glad we don't have to listen to here. compared to many other countries, we really don't do that kind of nationalism & it's a good thing. coming up on july 9 is a day of protest, and there is a lot of activity going on around that. there have been various arrests already, and i know that political dissent is a much more difficult thing to partake in there.

so despite all the positives of malaysia, i'm very glad to be home, and hoping the protest against ECE cuts will be well-attended this weekend.

and if you're wondering why i didn't mention that i was away on the blog or on facebook, it's because i don't blog anonymously and i don't feel safe giving out that information. especially given the abusive comment i got when i was away, & other comments in the past.