Freethinking Stokie

A blog by a British, Pakistani, North Staffs woman providing analysis and discussion on the issues that our local media struggle with.

Midnight’s Children by Deepa Mehta.

Odeon Stoke does not appear to be screening this movie which makes an important contribution to the world’s understanding of the partition of India and what it meant for millions of Indians, both Hindu and Muslim.

I suggest that Stokies who wish to watch the film contact Odeon Stoke via this link. http://www.odeon.co.uk/fanatic/contact_us/

You will need to select GUEST SERVICES and STOKE, provide your email and write your message.

This is one movie that all children of Indo-Pakistani immigrants to Britain need to watch. It’s also a movie that those alive at the time of the partition may wish to watch.

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Insaani Haqooq Ka Ilmi Manshoor (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Insaani Haqooq Ka Ilmi Manshoor (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Urdu. This is a PDF file.

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Fighting to marry outside your faith? Whether you’re a man or a woman, perhaps your family need to see this.

Imam Khaleel Mohammed’s defence of inter-faith marriage. Read it below in the language of your choosing.

English

Urdu

Arabic

Click here for access to this document in more languages.

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When fundamentalists strike, women’s rights are always the first to go.

When we politely remain silent in front of fundamentalist inspired thinking, we are facilitating people to reach the final step – terrorism. As outlined in my post on Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Saeed (a Pakistani academic) sees suicide bomb attacks and bomb blasts as step 10, the final step of terrorism. She comments that steps 1 to 9 are what facilitate that terrorism and these are the steps that Stoke’s Muslim communities need to pay heed to.

 

Muslim communities in Stoke-on-Trent seem to be all too happy to give away the rights of Muslim women in a plight to seek approval from their peers. A man’s honour is judged by how effectively he manages to control the women of his household. Whether it’s the right to move freely, to go swimming in a mixed area, to hang out with friends, to educate oneself, Stoke’s patriarchal Muslims will restrict their females from doing it. All that matters is what the neighbours think. Not what is right, what is wrong, or what is truly in the best interests of the family member that they seek to subjugate in exchange for status in the community. They will agree with the fundamentalists that for a woman to be considered “virtuous” and a “good Muslim” she should neither have nor express  sexuality in any way and she mustn’t ever answer back to her father or her elders in general, no matter how unjust or cruel their words or actions might be. A Muslim woman in Stoke these days must tolerate the possibility of her husband wanting to engage in polygamy and must abide by what the men in her family tell her. End of story.

 

What people don’t realise is, this is precisely how it all starts. In countries like Iran and Afghanistan, the fundamentalists first attacked the rights of women and the men were like “it’s ok, it’s only women”. When men became the target of these fundamentalist human rights encroachments, only then did the patriarchs realise what they’d done. Only when men were beaten up in the street by fundamentalists for wearing a t-shirt or for not LOOKING Islamic enough, did those men realise what a Pandora’s box they had opened. The same will be the case in Stoke’s Muslim communities. The fathers, brothers, husbands and uncles who are today giving in to the ideologies of people who seek to tell them how the women in their lives should be behaving, will one day be the victims of their own moral cowardice.

 

The fact that we live in a relatively stable society with (mostly) well constructed laws does not mean that fundamentalists are not a credible threat to our freedoms. THEY ARE. The UK Government is IGNORING the fact that when one goes to a Sharia Council affiliated mosque to get an Islamic divorce that men are being charged £200 and women are being charged £400 AND told to give up their dowry! It’s not legally binding, but the leaders of Muslim communities have so much influence and power over people that they dictate what is the Muslim way to live. British Muslims know that if they don’t submit, they will become outcasts. The laws of the UK are failing to act against this kind of discrimination whilst hiding behind the veneer of “religious accommodation”. In a few decades time, there will be more Muslims in the political sphere since the Muslim population of Britain has already gone from 1.9 million in 2004 to 2.6 million in 2010. That’s a 36.7% increase. Muslims being in politics is not a problem, however the views that these Muslims have is most definitely a problem. Most of Stoke’s Muslims I meet are anti woman, anti-gay, anti-education, pro-conspiracy theories, anti-freedom, anti-democracy, anti-free speech, anti-music, anti-British, anti-anything that embodies a genuine willingness to see humanity in others, yet people like me are the ones who are told to “watch what we say”. What kind of a nightmare are we living in? And what kind of nightmare are we creating for future generations by allowing fundamentalists to hijack our lives without even challenging them?

Women’s rights are ALWAYS the first to go, because fundamentalists know that nobody cares about women enough to speak up about their rights. They know that most societies are led by patriarchy and misogyny and that couldn’t be truer of Stoke’s Muslim communities.  Republicans in the US who know that Evangelicals don’t give a rat’s ass about women’s rights, use this apathy and lack of ethics to keep attacking women’s healthcare, cancer care and reproductive healthcare services. Stoke’s fundamentalists act similarly. They know that many of Stoke’s Muslims hold patriarchal and misogynistic views, that verbal, emotional and physical abuse of women is tolerated and concealed within these communities. As long as these views which perceive women to be inferior beings go unchallenged, the fundamentalists’ rhetoric will continue to penetrate Stoke’s Muslim communities at deeper and deeper levels.

 

Mark my words people, if Stoke’s Muslims (religious or just cultural) do not physically organise and mobilise against fundamentalists in Stoke, if people do not speak out against those who accept fundamentalist encroachment on basic human rights, we will have more and more terror cells being found in Stoke-on-Trent.
Bomb blasts are the final step, and we all have a responsibility to prevent people from reaching that final step. When we fail to challenge the yobs that distribute hateful content outside mosques or when we fail to challenge those who call a handshake haraam and tell us how to discipline our daughters, we are no better than the mafia wife that watches silently and thus facilitates the bloody end. If the ideology isn’t challenged, how can we condemn a person when they reach step 10?

 

It’s much easier to stop a steam train when it’s just started moving, not when it’s gained momentum.  There needs to be a comprehensive and organised effort against fundamentalists in Stoke. Fouzia Saeed is 200% correct.
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Our Tradition : Struggle Not Submission

Our Tradition : Struggle Not Submission. A brilliant piece by Gita Sahgal (former head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit, co-founder of Women Against Fundamentalism, Southall Black Sisters and co- founder of the first anti-racist, women’s rights movement in the UK. A woman to be deeply admired for her work within the human rights domain, particularly against fundamentalist encroachment of rights within the UK.

“Women’s voices are largely silent in the debate where battle lines have been drawn between liberalism and fundamentalism. Often it’s been assumed that the view of vocal community leaders are our views, and their demands are our demands. We reject this absolutely. We have struggled for many years in this country and across the world to express ourselves as we choose within and outside our communities. We will not be dictated to by fundamentalists. Our lives will not be defined by community leaders. We will take  up our rights to determine our own destinies not limited by religion, culture or nationality. We believe that religious worship is an individual matter and that the state should not foster one religion above any other. We call on the government to abolish the outdated blasphemy law and to defend without reservation, freedom of speech.”

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Why Pakistan is where it is today.

An interview with  Tarek Fatah  (in Urdu/Punjabi). I don’t see eye to eye with Tarek on some of his positions as they inadvertently pander to the whims of right wing extremists and hurt his cause, however, he has some interesting and valid observations on why Pakistan and Pakistanis are where we/they are today. Both within the country and abroad.

Another interview on a similar subject, this time in English. Both are worth a watch.

 

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Happy International Women’s Day to fellow women of Stoke-on-Trent!

International Women's Day 2012

“International Women’s Day is not about asserting the superiority of one gender over the other. It is not about petty quarrels about who gets to do the dishes after dinner. The United Nations instituted International Women’s Day to commemorate the contribution of women in the socio-political sphere as well as in global peace and security.

Historically, women have been suppressed and treated unfairly. Even in the West, women were not given equal opportunities for work. Women were not given voting powers and they could not participate in political activity. Relegated to the hearth and household, women had little else to do other than raise children.

International Women’s Day can be traced back to the women’s suffrage movement in the late nineteenth century. Over two centuries, women achieved tremendous progress in every walk of life. Women’s emancipation took new meaning when women traveled to space, and fought alongside men at battlefields.

Yet we find many pockets in the world, where women are suppressed and demeaned. Gender bias exists at every social stratum, even in the most developed societies. In some regions, patriarchal societies diminish the role of women in important matters. This masochist thinking has brought about a serious economic and social downfall.

Whether you are a woman or man, you must know that International Women’s Day celebrates your emancipation. Had it not been for women’s emancipation, free thinking would be impossible. An educated woman can raise intelligent children, which in turn creates a self-reliant society. Celebrate the spirit of womanhood with insightful International Women’s Day quotes. Reach out to your women friends and touch their life with these International Women’s Day quotes.”

Source: http://quotations.about.com/od/womensday/a/International-Womens-Day-Quotes.htm

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