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Archive for July, 2016

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A video montage of my recent trip to this beautiful city

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Body image and confidence is a growing issue for women in modern society. Our media is inherently biased in propagating unattainable standards of beauty to impressionable females which misdirects their concentration and focus so they, and their male counterparts cannot or will not distinguish between realistic and airbrushed body images leading to a dangerous mindset in the youth of today.

A lot of the current dilemma stems from the male gaze used to portray women in media in an unapologetically misogynistic manner. The success of this kind of branding and advertising has retained its popularity in modern society despite the very real dangers it catalyses. Today, Feminism is frowned upon in order to continue the subjugation of women and female role models succumb to the pressures to conform to standards of beauty that are unrealistic and unattainable by women who don’t have a group of hair stylists, make-up artists and photo shoppers are their beck and call. There are role models that do resist the pressure to conform and they face backlash by the same media that delight in reporting cases of celebs going under the knife. A great example of this was when there was a media furore about Renee Zellweger’s face and every media outlet was asking, “What happened to her face?” Life happened!

We need to be the change we want to see in setting the benchmark for what the next generation see as confident desirable and attainable in terms of body image. We must educate our boys, instil confidence in our girls, empower young women and reassure all women that they are more than enough just as they are. A great first step is to encourage women to stand up for other women. A recent Instagram picture posted of a model with unshaven legs resulted in many disparaging comments from women as well as men. That picture is most of us in real life! So why do we feel the need to insult her picture for reflecting that reality?

When we increase the dialogue of confidence for women by reinforcing all body images as beautiful, we also impact men. We decrease misogyny through education which can ‘cure’ the male gaze and also hopefully curb male entitlement when men are taught to see women as more than objects that sell chocolates and cars on television, magazines and movies. When men learn to respect women, Individual women for who they are and not what they wear or do for a living, this will have a profound impact on lowering the ridiculously high domestic violence and rape statistics around the world.

Women also need to be mindful of the pressure we put on ourselves and other women in the way we comment on people’s dress sense and physical looks. The ‘hot trends’ or ‘must haves’ such as big lips, big butts, slim waists are all passing fads which are hyped up by gossip magazines written by women for women. This can result in an increase in women who doubt their self-worth based on their appearance and resort to plastic surgery. It has become easier to change what you have then love what you are blessed with. Women who dress nicely and look after themselves by keeping fit and healthy and investing in their appearance are labelled shallow and those who don’t are labelled anything from hobo to feminist or even lesbian. Why do we as a society encourage such negative criticism of each other and the misuse of such labels?

If we collectively eat well, sleep well, be disciplined in fitness and get enough sunshine then we can all emulate the positive body image that will make our world a better place. We could learn from our counterparts in rural areas whose lives are not saturated yet by media propaganda and thus they have more confidence in their natural bodies. We need to revert to being confident in our natural state and reinforcing to women that they are special in their own way and that no woman is desirable by every beauty standard so it is pointless to use them as benchmarks.

We should encourage boys and girls to stay fit and healthy to bring confidence and peace within them. There are people who have something they severely dislike about their body that isn’t a result of trying to please others or look like a model. If you are one of those people, do your research, consult your family, friends and doctors and make a decision based on their support and wisdom. If surgery is what is good for you and will make you happy then do it for you. Beware though, it’s a slippery slope when you make one change, one cut – it’s easy to keep digging yourself deeper and deeper in that hole.

The key to rising above social pressure is to stay educated. Keep reading, learning and knowing so that you can distinguish fact from fake and not get sucked into the fake reality sold on TV and in magazines. If you take care of yourself and eat well you will look well and it will rewire the way you think of beauty even if magazines everywhere tell you otherwise.
It’s up to us women to be confident in our varied body types, promote that confidence to other women and together stand united so that the male gaze and the media gaze can’t faze us.

Beauty.jpg

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Enjoy and leave your comments below!

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The short winter days have made the month of Ramadan as easy as it will ever get this year in Australia. In contrast, there are Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere (such as Iceland) who are fasting almost 20 hours a day! With less than 12 hours of fasting, Australian Muslims have more than half their day to make the most of a month that demands the believer dig deep and cleanse their core in order to be deserving of the celebration at the end of the journey – Eid-ul-Fitr.

To understand and appreciated Eid, a culmination of a month’s efforts, the month itself needs to be understood. Like all major religions, Islam asks its followers to abstain not merely from food but from distractions for a regulated period as a beneficial practice. Ramadan is very important to more than a billion Muslims around the globe because:

  • All the Books in major religions (Torah and the Bible) were revealed to the apostles in their time in Ramadan. Muslims believe that the prophets of Judaism and Christianity are also Prophets in Islam.
  • The Divine communication from God was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a cave close to Makkah, Saudi Arabia in the month of Ramadan
  • All these books and the communication therein is a mercy from God to his creation to inform us of our past and reveal secrets of His creations and that which shall occur in the future and it guides those who believe and accept the divine communication to follow a path from darkness to light and thereby become successful in this world and the hereafter.
  • The Holy Quran states, O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. [Surah Baqarah: 183, 184]

The verses allude to the wider requirements of fasting such as charity and self-restraint in addition to the health benefits of intermittent fasting, which modern societies are still discovering. The popularity and proven benefit of the 5:2 fast diet, the experience of non-Muslims who fast and are surprised with the results on their health and wellbeing are seeds of proof that are garnering belief in a practice Muslims follow with blind faith. Fasting is also abstinence from daily distractions and the negativity of bad practices we indulge in throughout the year. Fasting is about regulating our excesses and becoming both physically capable as well as spiritually improved. Ramadan is the Muslim month of detox and Eid is the day we celebrate successfully completing the detox program. The efforts of the month result in an Eid that is a celebration of the improvements we make on ourselves and the hope that we can maintain the good practices we’ve adopted till the next detox month.

But Ramadan is more than just fasting and abstinence from food and bad habits. It’s also disciplining ourselves and striving to feel closer to Allah spiritually. Allah has specified that the first ten days (1-10 of Ramadan) are the days of Mercy and Muslims should seek Allah’s Mercy in these days. The next ten days (11-20 of Ramadan) are the days of Forgiveness and Muslims should seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent for sins in those days. The last ten days (21-30 of Ramadan) are to seek Refuge in Allah from the Hellfire and thereby remind Muslims of the finiteness of this life and the repercussions of our actions in the hereafter. All of this is seen by Muslims around the world as a blessing from Allah and the excitement, love and care between Muslims and all we come into contact with multiplies in Ramadan when we all break our fast together and stand together in prayer.

Fasting allows us to broaden our perceptions and empathise with others who cannot enjoy the privileges of food and shelter we take for granted. When our world view broadens, our problems become smaller and we have time and scope to acknowledge and address the problems of others. Ramadan is a time to give generously to charities at home and abroad and to share what we have with the less fortunate. Celebrating Eid with Muslims and non-Muslim alike gives people a chance to learn more about each other’s faiths to bridge the cultural and religious gaps, and in doing so shed our prejudices and phobias. A festival is a great start to that journey of knowing.

On Eid day, Muslims will get up early to bathe and cleanse themselves, put on new or special clothes, perfume themselves and attend the Eid prayer. This year Eid falls on a weekday and many Muslims will go into work after their morning prayer. As a Muslim, this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate Eid with colleagues and tell them about the month just passed and what it’s meant for your personal growth. Telling your story and showing the precious care Islam affords its believers will go a long way to dispelling the misconceptions, mistrust and hate that surrounds Islam today. It will set up our society to be more understanding and respectful of each other.  If we all become the best person we can be, Muslim or not, if we can all understand and makes space in our hearts for each other, then hate will have no place in society.

Eid then is not so much about the activities we indulge in but rather the people we share it with. People strengthen their ties of family, friendship and community, through rituals of prayer, gift giving and parties. Communities create an identity for themselves and a legacy for their children in a country so open and welcoming to us and our way of life. Eid is about sharing what we have and caring for who we are with. And most of all Eid is about being grateful to our Creator for all the bounties and blessings he has bestowed upon us – a celebration of the life he has endowed.

Check out your local mosque or community centre and attend the myriad of festivals and fairs that are being held in your locale. The food, festivities, clothes, henna and general air of merriment and togetherness will warm your heart.

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