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Archive for October, 2010

Fantasy

If we don’t believe in fantasy
then how will it become?
Hope Love and Justice

Fantasised ideals, non-existent
in the molecular structure
of the earth’s composition.

And yet we hope
we believe in fantasies
so that they may become.

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Where’s the cricket at?

Cricket is well past its glory days, let’s admit that straight off the bat. As a young girl I grew up watching and learning from Mark Waugh’s impeccable elegance and timing, Mark ‘tubby’ Taylor’s captaincy, Brian Lara’s perfect batting technique and Wasim Akram’s flair. 

As I grew older it seemed cricket was getting weary as well. Football (soccer) fever had converted many fans who preferred the fast pace and excitement as opposed to the staid pace of test matches. Twenty/20s initial years created a furore, but on the whole – several factors led to the decline of the cricket mania I grew up with in the 90s. The first reason had to be the decline in form and eventual retirement of several cricketing greats. The Waugh brothers, Lara, Taylor, Akram and for me Gilchrist was the last straw. The second reason was match-fixing, while a bit of controversy surrounding any game increases its allure and heightens interest, the constant bickering and match fixing allegations took away the passion for the game itself. After all, if the players are not playing for the love of the game, why should the audience love the game?

The last and most annoying reason was Australia’s domination of Cricket during Ponting’s captaincy.  While initially it was a great feeling of success, the Australian team’s arrogance and domination mixed with rumours of slagging on field and racist slurs led to a gradual disinterest in cricket. Very few cricketers took this as a challenge to their game… but those that did have created a hype that looks to breathe fresh life into the gentleman’s sport.

Sachin Tendulkar. That name alone is enough to make almost any man woman or child in India or the subcontinent break out into a proud smile. At an age where most batsmen think of retiring, Sachin has taken the challenge to revive cricket almost single-handedly! His current form against Australia has helped him return to top of Test batsmen rankings for first time since 2002. Tendulkar’s man-of-the-match display in the second Test against Australia was enough to secure him the No.1 spot eight years after he last occupied it. The 37-year-old’s 214 and unbeaten 53 inspired India to a seven-wicket win over the tourists and secured a 2-0 victory in the series. Tendulkar has jumped from fourth to edge out Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and compatriot Virender Sehwag and top the ratings for the ninth time in his career.

And if that wasn’t enough to put a smile on a desi dial, the underdogs have taken up the challenge to reinvigorate cricket and keep the more established teams and players on their toes. Bangladesh have won the series against New Zealand in an attempt to establish themselves as worthy contenders.  Bangladesh played like spirited tigers to win at home for the first time against a full fledged opponent. 241 wasn’t a match winning score by any means but the spinners pegged the New Zealand middle order with some disciplined bowling. They didn’t really allow the game to slip at any stage despite a good partnership between Williamson and Nathan McCullum. Their talisman cricketer Shakib has once again proved why he is the Number One all-rounder in the ICC ODI rankings and he won the Man of the Match for his knock of 106 and his bowling figures of 3/54.

This amazing performance by Bangladesh was by no means a fluke. New Zealand put up a good fight with a maiden century from Kane Williamson but it wasn’t enough to guide the New Zealand cricketers to victory in their fourth one day international against Bangladesh. New Zealand needed 242 to win after winning the toss and electing to field, but they got off to a poor start, losing their first three wickets for a measly 35 runs. Williamson kept the Kiwis hopes alive with a world-class performance, becoming the youngest New Zealander to reach an ODI century in the process.

New Zealand needed 16 runs from the last over with just one wicket in hand, but Williamson was caught out on the boundary with three balls remaining. Williamson top scored with 108, while the debutant Hamish Bennett was the best of the New Zealand bowlers, claiming 3 for 44 off his 8 overs. Bangladesh won by 9 runs, to claim their first series victory against a top-flight opposition. Bangladesh should be proud of their performance played out in front of packed crowds that went wild with celebration.

This is what Cricket needs, good performances by upcoming talented players with immense potential to create exciting competition and reinvigorate the age old gentleman’s sport.

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The involvement of migrant women in Sydney’s low paid labour work force has been a gradual and consistent development. Married mothers with a low skill set and familial responsibilities have felt the need to support a sole income or better themselves through involvement in an income generating activity. The subsequent entry into the economic field catalyses developments within her socio-cultural field and transform her way of being in the world which French theorist Pierre Bourdieu terms – habitus.

The migrant woman of today is encouraged to adapt to modern society, learn English, participate in the workforce and contribute to the economics of her household. In doing so, she is granted respect, autonomy and agency by her family and friends and she herself recognises the empowerment within her, granting her increased self confidence, self respect and happiness.

However the migrant woman is not always paved an easy path to employment. Many cultural, economic, religious and familial constraints can and are placed on a woman striving to provide for her family. Women of the subcontinent struggle with the cultural perception that a woman’s place is in the home while also realising the need to contribute to the household in an economy where the price of living, working and even studying in Sydney is very high.

The results of an anthropological study of migrant Bangladeshi females aged 30-50 conducted by myself in June 2009, showed that women proved to be quick learners and willing to adapt to tough situations in order to help their family and provide a future for their children. Women acknowledged the increased respect and value of their opinion from within the family as well as from members of society and friends.

Women are adapters. They are taught from a young age to be caring and thoughtful of those around them. Women, especially from the subcontinent are brought up with the mindset that they will become wives and mothers and will need to nurture and provide for their loved ones through household chores. Increasingly though the impact of the recession, the price of living in a western society and the expenses of raising a family have proven that a single income can no longer comfortably sustain a family. As a result women have had to adapt again. They venture out of their homes and they add to their identity and habitus by learning to work and being a worker as well as a mother.

The Bangladeshi women interviewed worked in a wide variety of labour from pillow factories to pastry making to hotel room attendants. They ventured outside the comfort of their homes to learn English, learn how to communicate, pick up skills in their new environment and sustain a new identity as a financially empowered woman alongside their traditional role of motherhood.

The women work within Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of the economic field and interact within their fields of interaction to increase their agency and autonomy within their personal and private spheres. Through their engagement in low-paid labour, the women are encouraged to push the boundaries of normative actions and ingrained habitus by their work practices, colleagues and even family members. They develop a habitus which correlates to their economic activity and subsequently impacts on their familial relations in the personal sphere and social standing in the public sphere. The women utilise their agency to explore their individuality and questions the norms of gender and religion which they hitherto deferred to.

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Why do I wear the hijab?

I have been asked this question countless times by countless people and the answer always has been and always will be the same – because God tells me to.

I find it funny (in a very sad way) that there are so many varying opinions on the topic; my style of hijab is ‘moderate’ to one of my friends and ‘extreme’ to the other. Some people might even look at me and think I am oppressed and am forced to wear it. For all of you – here is my first and last clarification.

I wear the hijab because Allah swt says in the Quran, “Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…” (Qur’an 24:30-31)

These verses from the Qur’an contain two main injunctions: (1) A woman should not show her beauty or adornments except what appears by uncontrolled factors such as the wind blowing her clothes, and (2) the head covers should be drawn so as to cover the hair, the neck and the bosom.

It does not specify hijab,abaya, jilbab,niqab, beret, scarf or any other material or specifications of any kind. The emphasis is on modesty and covering, not the extent and the type. For me the message is clear – a woman’s beauty is her property to treasure and disclose at her discretion. She should guard it carefully from those that are not her near and dear. Whether or not I agree with this statement, as a Muslim I must respect it because it is the word of God.

But why wouldn’t I agree? Shall I disagree to the fact that my beauty is a treasure? Shall I disagree to the fact that my beauty is my property? That revealing it should be at my discretion? When a woman is covered, others cannot judge her by her appearance but are forced to evaluate her by her personality, character, and morals. It keeps me protected from outside factors, from prying eyes, from the pressure to conform, from the fashion industry. The hijab liberates me from the media’s coercion into a certain way of dressing or acting. It also keeps away unwanted attention. Superficial people who make friendships based on looks will not bother with a hijabi.

A sister Syed once said she is astonished at the behaviour of some women who claim to want “freedom”. She can’t understand how going topless, for example, represents equality. “People have to understand that we (males and females) are not equal in body image but we should be equal in rights, in justice. Taking off your shirt will not make you equal to a man. Why? Because the woman’s body is created differently.”

Amani Elkassabany, 30, who is not presently wearing the hijab, has a different view to which I also agree. She applauds those who wear the hijab (especially those who wear it for God and with good intentions), but feels that it is not necessary to wear the hijab to gain respect. “Just because a woman covers, doesn’t mean she is automatically entitled to respect, or has already proven the worth of her mind. Respect must be earned regardless of one’s appearance and it is not earned through a dress code alone.”

Elkassabany sees advantages to wearing the hijab, but thinks that having internal modesty is more important than external modesty. “This external covering is really just a reflection of an inner commitment to dedicate oneself to the worship of the Creator,” she comments. It is important to note that both men and women are told to lower their gaze and both men and women are told to dress modestly.

Regardless, it is disappointing that people love to jump to conclusions about veiled women. Assumptions of oppression, force, submissiveness and ignorance are rampant. Teachers have been known to express surprise at a vocal and well spoken hijabi, friends have been known to show surprise at an educated woman’s choice to cover and men have been known to show surprise at the choice of their loved ones to reserve their beauty.

Why though? Isn’t my beauty mine? Is it not up to me to show and reveal it as I please? Why then should men see it as a commentary of their manhood? Of their opinion? Why should it reflect if a man is forceful or not? Is this not a commentary on the patriarchal nature of a society that STILL defers to men over women EVEN when the topic at hand is women?

What is at stake here is freedom of expression. I am not allowed to wear the hijab because OTHERS might think I am oppressed, because OTHERS might think my father or husband forced me, because OTHERS might think I am ignorant, oppressed and uneducated. How is this my fault? Should I have to limit myself because society and OTHERS are narrow-minded? No. I won’t. I shan’t. I am a liberated, educated, western woman making an informed and educated decision to safeguard what is mine in the way I see best and no one should have the right to dictate otherwise.

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Hanging in there

With the viral spread of the Burqa ban (acutally a ban on the niqab but hey BB sounds much catchier), there has been an explosion of media activity on the subject. Some I find funny, some inspirational and some plain exasperating.

In France, two French students have discovered a creative way to protest against the burqa ban in France — walking around the streets of Paris in a niqab, high heels and mini-shorts. Read the article and watch the video.

In Australia, we tried with words and posters at parry park – read the acticle

In Britain, the University of Nottingham’s Official Student Magazine asks, Is it British to Ban the Burqa?

Reuters does an analysis – Analysis: Burqa bans: France, then Netherlands – who’s next?

The Wall Street Journal prints an opinion which state that, The Burqa Ban is about Security

 Wear what you like, when you like, how you like – but don’t push the limits of the society you live in – unless society pushes you first.

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Hope

I was at the doctor’s on Saturday to get my flu vaccine, as I sat down in the waiting room I noticed a little blue and white sticker that said – Got the blues? You are not alone contact the hotline now – It was a sign I had never seen before. A Sign that is in no memory of my childhood, a sign that is a sign of the times, of the society we live in.

I wondered as I sat there what it means to be blue. What measurement is used to define the sadness which one can overcome and that which is unsurpassable without assistance? And what ways are there to avoid this? As I watched the slightly aged, slightly chubby 40 something year old next to me flip through a 3 month old issue of Women’s Weekly, I wondered what made her happy and what made her sad. I wondered what made anyone so desperate so as to feel that they had no other choice but to call a hotline and share their woes with a stranger.

I thought about my friends. The myriad of problems and issues and situations we discussed on a daily basis. The parental issues, the romance issues, the sibling rivalry, the work related stress.. and the inevitable escapist attitude vocalised through comments such as, ‘I am sick of this’ and ‘I wish I was on  beach somewhere’ and ‘This is the last thing I need’ and ‘Why’…. why?

Why indeed. Why is it that when we are faced with adversity we love to see the glass half empty and wallow in its emptiness? Why can we not absorb negativity and transform it into hope? There have been countless times when I have dropped everything I am doing at home or at work and turned to someone next to me and said, ‘I’ve had enough. I want to go on a holiday’… but when I really think about it.. what have I had enough of? My 9-5 job in a great environment with great people? My loving family that stick to me like glue? My friends that annoy me with their jokes? What do I have to complain about? At most that I missed a train? That a friend pissed me off? Why is it that when I throw my hands up in the air and say ‘Why me?’ that I don’t think of the people in this world that have a more substantial claim to that exclamation. People with no food, no shelter, no protection from war or natural disasters. People with no parents to irritate them with their clinginess, no friends to annoy them with lame jokes, no livelihood to cause them stress. Things that I see as negatives, things I could do without… are actually things others would crave.. a parent’s worrying phone call, a friendly banter, a livelihood.

Everyone focuses on being positive and the power of positive energy – If I am stuck in a traffic jam and I decide to be positive about it and listen to music or talk on the phone, then I won’t get frustrated at the traffic and the roads, and if I don’t get frustrated at the traffic and the roads then maybe I won’t get worked up enough to write a letter, design a plan, to actually DO something about the situation. Negative energy breeds as much action and determination as positive energy – if only it is harnessed with hope.

If your glass is half full, then you focus on the fullness… on what you already have and know. But if you focus on the fact that your glass is half empty, then the desire to fill that emptiness – the hope and determination to do so can be more fulfilling than staring at the glass half full.

 I’m not dismissing the power of positive thinking – not at all. I am however advocating that hope springs eternal and that it can catalyse the bloom of a rose in the most barren of wastelands – a forlorn and depressed mind.   As Alexander Pope said, ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest.’ Why then can we not focus on the hope that springs eternal and instead give way to the emptiness we feel?

Being in a state of misery and being miserable are two different things; one has control of the latter. If only one can have faith, have hope and instead of saying WHY ME exclaim WHY NOT ME? Then one could easily take charge of one’s life, a life in which adversity merely becomes a glass half empty– waiting to be filled. As Martin Luther said, ‘Every thing that is done in the world is done by hope.’

Being miserable is a state of mind. The mind is an attic and it can only think of what we store there. If we store it with positivity and hope then even in the most miserable of situations the mind will think only of positivity and hope. No matter what your situation may be, there is always someone out there worse for wear than you. Always. Think of them. Draw hope and determination from such a negative thought and feed it into the positive. Take care of your mind and your body, surround yourself with good things and good thoughts and good friends and when misery comes knocking on your door you will be equipped to address it without the need for a hotline.

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