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Archive for August 2012

The Ramadan diaries #4

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I won’t lie – it’s been a tough month. When I wake up I think to myself, “oh this is eeeeeasy, pfft, I don’t feel hungry at all”, but later I end up eating my own words when I’m sitting opposite my colleagues who are munching away.  I literally have no thoughts in my head all day and find it hard to concentrate on anything.

All week I’ve been bombarded with one question: ‘When’s Eid?’ As I write this, Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, has been announced for tomorrow (Tuesday). Before you wish me ‘Happy Eid’ I still don’t know when we’re celebrating it. Confused? Let me explain. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle we have to wait until the new moon is sighted. In some countries it is visible in other it is not. And that is where it begins: the Eid controversy.

Every year the same debate crops up over when Eid is. Some choose to celebrate it when Saudi Arabia sights the moon and declares it to be Eid. Others will do it the day after when the moon is visible in their country or just to stick it to the Saudis. “We don’t follow Saudis!” is what some of the local imams here will declare. As a result, no one celebrates Eid on the same day. This is clearly inconvenient for some people who need to cook a feast on the day. By some I don’t include me of course…

Controvery: Moon sightings, which markt he end of Ramadan, are always a source of arguements and debates

Eid at our home is very boring. Ditto when we see the relatives. We see each other nearly every week anyway and I’m always left to entertain the under-12s (how fun!) while the women discuss really interesting topics such as dinner sets and brand new cutlery, ingrown toenails and who’s divorced who. Sometimes I’ll venture into the other room where the men are sitting when I’m bored, as their conversations are less dry. We don’t believe in segregation by the way but when there are so many people in the house that’s when women will sit in one room and men in the other. This is how it usually goes:

Uncle 1: (Having spotted me in the doorway) “You ok Iram?”

Me: “Er…yeah…” (All the men will then stare at me as though I came down the chimney)

Uncle 2: “Ok…is the food ready?”

Me: “Er, no.”

After another 30 seconds of awkward silence and staring, I will then slinker off back to the women’s room where the topic will have moved on to bunions.

As mundane as it is, I still prefer it to going to the movies or cruising down Rusholme, like many of the youngsters do nowadays. God I sound old, don’t I? I don’t know who started these trends but they’re rather embarrassing to Muslims or South Asians, more precisely. While they’ll have been exercising restraint throughout Ramadan, they’ll let loose and drive around in cars with flags flying and drunk or stoned. Give me a boring dinner with the aunties any day!

My non-Muslim colleagues and friends have been asking me if I’ll miss Ramadan. It’s a hard one to answer if I’m very honest. One the one hand it will be great to have regular eating and sleeping patterns again but on the other hand, it is a great month for contemplation and seeking inner peace. I did not find much peace this month, nor did I get find the answers that I’ve been searching for. While others will say “ah well there’s always next Ramadan” I’ll use this month as a stepping stone instead of waiting another year. For who knows what will happen tomorrow.

Anyway! I wish all Muslims Eid Mubarak/Sa’eed (Blessed Eid). I know that on my way to work the day after, there’ll be a large cup of mocha with my name on it.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

August 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Posted in islam

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Another angry woman

I think I might make a semi-regular feature of people I would never have sex with, ever, given the internet seems to be riddled with the fuckers. This week’s fucknozzle is a pick-up artist named RooshV whose advice I would seriously recommend not following if you ever have any intention of ever having sex with a woman.

The thing about dear RooshV is I suspect he’s profoundly dimwitted. I suspect this because he’s seen fit to explain a relationship between “femininity” and education level, by means of a graph. The relationship would be a negative correlation of the statistical holy grail of R=1 were it not for the following criticisms:

  1. He has conflated education level with current career.
  2. “Career” appears to be a categorical variable, and thus it is inappropriate to use correlational analyses in the manner outlined by the author.
  3. It is unclear precisely as to how femininity…

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Written by Iram Ramzan

August 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Shafilea Ahmed: it is not politically correct to continue ignoring the plight of ethnic minority women

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“We must not allow political correctness to lead us to moral blindness” – Mike  O’Brien, former Labour MP.

 

On Friday, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed were found guilty of brutally murdering their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea Ahmed, whose dismembered body was found in Cumbria eight years ago.

Sentencing them to life imprisonment at Chester Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Roderick Evans told Ifitkhar and Farzana Ahmed:  “Your concern about being shamed in your community was greater than the love of your child… You chose to bring up your family in Warrington but although you lived in Warrington your social and cultural attitudes were those of rural Pakistan and it was those which you imposed upon your children.”

Mrs Ahmed told the jury that she was very traditional: “In our culture, a wife doesn’t question her husband.”

It may be astonishing to some that such beliefs are still strong today, but to those in the Asian communities these views are all too familiar; they are the norm.

Shafilea Ahmed’s murder is labelled as an ‘honour crime’ – two words that should not go together, for there truly is no honour in murder.

Hannah Irfan’s article, ‘Honour related violence against women in Pakistan’, defines and contextualises this notion of ‘honour’ perfectly:

 

Crimes committed allegedly for honour are so defined because they occur in a social setting where the “ideal of masculinity is underpinned by a notion of ‘honour’ – of an individual man, or family, or community – and is fundamentally connected to policing female behaviour and sexuality.” Honour of the male members of the family is understood to reside in the bodies of the women of the family, and in protecting this honour the men aim to regulate and direct women’s sexuality and freedom to exercise any control over their own choices/lives.

 

Although many like to believe that ‘honour’ killings are practiced mainly in Muslim communities, such crimes occur in various states and regions around the world, including  Latin America and Africa, as well as amongst the Hindu population in India and the Christian population in Pakistan.

We like to think that these horrific crimes happen in far-away lands where there is little respect for the rule of law. But what about when such crimes happen here, in a so-called ‘democratic’ nation?

Too often, authorities take no action for fear of ‘offending’ minority communities. As Sara Khan, of Inspire, wrote in the Guardian, “as a British woman of Pakistani origin, I find the argument of ‘not wanting to offend cultural sensitivities’ offensive in itself”.

It is outrageous that the parents’ feelings and sensitivities are placed above that of the victims’. When white children are thought to be abused by their parents, social services are quick to step in. When Shafilea Ahmed complained to a teacher that she was to be married off, no action was taken.  In a desperate cry for help, she even drank bleach in Pakistan, for which she needed several treatments back in England, to no avail.

If these were white, English girls, would so-called cultural sensitivities or political correctness factor into the equation? I doubt it.

In a country which prides itself on its liberal values and rule of law, there should be absolutely no place for ‘honour’ killings, forced marriages or female genital mutilation.

We do not discuss these issues out in the open, for fear of being labelled as ‘racist’ – that there are groups within our towns and cities that refuse to integrate into their new country, creating ghettos and enclaves for themselves and their children, away from corrupting ‘westernisation’. Ironically, the same people move to Western countries in order to create better lives for their children, who would not have had the same opportunities in their own countries.

Dishonour can be brought about in a number of ways: from ‘serious’ actions such as having pre-marital relations, to small misdemeanors such as smoking. It is usually the women who get into trouble for doing so.

The men are permitted to do as they wish (they are never accused of being ‘westernised’), either openly or on the basis of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, whereas the women are constantly monitored and given strict curfews, because their actions affect the entire honour of the family.

Take Ifitikhar Ahmed, Shafilea’s father. After the trial, Ahmed’s ex-wife, Vivi Lone Andersen, said Iftikhar was “a very happy boy” who enjoyed dancing, drinking beer and going to discos when he lived with her in Denmark.

Ms Andersen left the UK the same month she had arrived and recalls conversations with Iftikhar in which he said he could leave his son to grow up without his influence because he was a boy. He said, if they had had a girl, he would not be able to allow her to grow up “without his guidance in the Islamic ways”.

Again, men are able to enjoy the benefits of living in the liberal West, but heaven forbid if their women were to enjoy those same benefits. Such a thought, to them, is repulsive, downright ‘disrespectful’.

This view might be repulsive and shocking to those reading it – we are living in the 21st century, are we not? – but for many South Asian communities, it is the norm. Men can do whatever they wish without the burden of bringing ‘shame’ on the family, whereas it is the exact opposite for women. And some women have, grudgingly, come to accept it.

We are quick to condemn the atrocities of other nations with appalling human rights records such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, countries where women are treated as second class citizens, yet when the same happens in this country, we are greeted with silence. Here, we are told, we must be ‘culturally sensitive’.

These girls are British-born and bred, yet subject to different rules and values. Their parents, one or both of whom will have been raised in another country, tell them otherwise: you may be British by birth but our values, culture and history lie elsewhere.

So what happens now? The nation will remain outraged for a few days, weeks at the most, and then the matter will cease to be important. There will be many more Shafilea’s, many more girls and women who feel trapped with no one to turn to in tough times, because no one really cares enough to actually do anything.

Exactly how many more girls and young women must suffer before we do anything? They say that charity begins at home; so must democracy, human rights and self-empowerment.

Countless women have been left marginalised by their society and political representatives; this must change. Public bodies and organisations must be set up, working at the heart of certain communities to ensure this never happens again. The year is 2012 – we should not, still, be having this conversation.

Written by Iram Ramzan

August 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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