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Parental Guidance

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Being an avid animation fan, I find
myself tuning in from my seat height as an adult down through my toddler’s eyes. Cartoons are not automatically okay to plant your child in front of the screen with full consent; PG is not just a suggestion, your guidance is needed.

Provided the most family friendly movie, there remains some themes and ideas that as a parent you may choose to highlight or talk about. It’s such a great way to bond with them on those favourite characters given your approval, and fair enough to take time and discuss what might be underlying through that 90 minute feature. It’s your responsibility to try and make it fun and safe.

Even with U rated cartoons,  there could be some crude humour that they don’t have to pick up. Subliminal messages sent range from body image to obsessing over the franchise merchandise, so it’s not really over after the movie. Though girls are very much more empowered than they were in the first ever Disney’s Snow White, there are mixed messages on dress codes that are hindering your hijab advice at a very young age.

As a Muslim, it remains a challenge to find representation in animation; so trying to keep up with the glitz and glamour of those Disney and Dreamworks heroes with real life narratives of our Islamic role models is proving ever so difficult.  Not just on screen, but also on page, despite having a growing base of brilliant Islamic books for the younger ones, tweens can be a target audience worth reaching for.

Of course there are other parents who would rather put a ban on the screen altogether which I totally respect; but as far as a balance may be possible, I hope to be able to watch responsibly and find alternative animations that tell our stories too. I wish to get him more off the passive production and into the  creative world of reading allowing his imagination to bloom and blossom. Finally, I pray may Allah guide us to inspire a generation happily ever after.

Dawah for Dummies

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Dawah, often defined as preaching to Islam; yet as the Arabic meaning holds it is more of an invitation to understand Islam for those who are yet to know it, yet to accept it. Yet, we mostly as Muslims find ourselves somewhat lost in translation, adopting a “hit and run” approach where we count a revert ‘Shahada’ as the end goal and that’s that. However, if we are to convey the true message of Islam especially in the face of an ever discouraged environment, we may as well adapt to a more holistic strategy of Islam as a lifestyle, as it should be. Now I am no certified ‘da’iah’ preacher, yet the responsibility of marketing myself as a Muslim is beyond self-branding, and I pray that I am not a contradictory ‘fitna’ to the Non-Muslim onlooker.

Perhaps my readers by now have sensed my love for alliteration, the choice of the title serves the double meaning for this article. Firstly, dummies in a US English sense, as in me being a complete beginner to the practices of preaching. So note here without taking the words on the offensive, you the beginner preacher are the –ehm- dummy to the ways of the trade. Through trial and error, and first-hand experience I aim to give a humble incomplete guide to how to confront the reasoning of your Non-Muslim acquaintances in an inviting manner. With a little help from a marketing background, I pray we may be able to learn how to dawah to prospective customers.

For my encounters with curious friends and colleagues about Islam, I find many of their concerns arise from three main points; Women’s rights, animal rights, and diversity in Islam. For a born and raised Muslim, these may seem like givens. But to an apprehensive audience who are bombarded with media suggesting an abusive ritual against all these rights, a clear understanding is in need. I remember a friend of mine referring to Eid Al-Adha as the “sheep murdering bayram”… it did sound harsh, but I genuinely cared for her concern. I tried to explain how the true teachings of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) enforce a clean swift cut where the animal is submitted and unseen by its sheep kind as not to strike fear. I further highlighted the research proven benefits of blood drainage of the meat yet to be eaten. And I even went to further readings on the yet disputed rulings of pre-stunning that is sometimes allowed in a context of “Halal”. As for women rights, it seems essential to differentiate between backward culture and sound Islamic guidance. With all the radical killings and ill-practiced misinterpretation of extremists at the time it is an ongoing effort to prove that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, accepting peaceful diversity and coexistence.

All in all, to the dummy little me I found there are a few “Do’s and Don’t’s” to help with the process, so the ten countdown is as follows:
Don’t Judge: in fact, let go of any feelings of superiority or “kibr” as they may not only ruin your “niyyah” and intentions, but they would also show in a rather uninviting tone.
Don’t take the Offensive: this is not a matter of clearing your name or defending your clan, but rather prove your point as objectively as possible.
Don’t give Excuses for not doing Dawah: you may spread the word in the most unconventional of media, in your own pace in your own context, yet don’t do like me and resist for so long the responsibility of simply showing Islam 101.
Don’t get Lost in Priorities: whilst it is true that the five pillars of Islam are what the building firm and strong, they may not well be the very first thing you should present. The most inspiring of all is Ja’afar ibn Abi-Talib’s speech as he eloquently and concisely presented Islam to the King of Abisinya: “We were an uncivilised people. God sent us an apostle who commanded us to speak the truth, be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, and to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women. He commanded us to worship God alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, alms and fasting [enumerating the commands of Islam]. So we believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah; and we follow what he asked us to do and we avoid what he forbade us to do.”
Don’t Lie: it may seem very obvious, yet often we might sugar-coat the truth to appeal to our audience. Big mistake! Learning from the preaching of Abisinya, Ja’afar did not for once confuse the fact that Islam believes in Jesus as the apostle, but not the son of God. Half-truths are worse than lies. You may well try to explain the virtues of the veil to an unassuming free spirited bikini wearer as that it would eliminate sexual harassment altogether, but unless you are keen on sharing the utmost importance of lowering the gaze responsibility on men, you are effectively victim-blaming women; and offering a confusing communication on how veiled women are still harassed and raped.
Do as you Teach, Practice what you Preach: there is nothing more confusing than a non-practicing Muslim; I confess that it is a daily trial to not give mixed messages. Though of course Islam is not Muslims, not imperfect and faulty, but there is a thin line.
Do your Research: relying on your information is one thing, yet as new questions surface you should always try to refer to resources for your message.
Do your Targeting right: for every target audience there is a fair way to handle the positioning. Neighbours differ from colleagues differ from wondering walkers asking about your veil. And build on the base of beliefs for each group, where again the example of Ja’afar when he was asked to recite verses from the Quran he carefully chose Surat-Maryam, touching the heart of the Christian King.
Do keep up to date: try to be proactive to the counter claims and “Halal” hysterias as they arise, showing your side of the story without being rude… simply cursing at the “Daily Mail” is not going to get you anywhere.
Do your After-Sales Support: if God-willing your efforts are blessed with a Muslim convert taking ‘Shahadah’, know that this is just the beginning. Keep actively in touch supporting your new sister through the calamities and trials she will face. Remember, retaining a loyal customer is far more important and rewarding than attracting new ones. And Surat-Abasa is an everlasting reminder of how the Chosen One (PBUH) was advised to attend to the blind revert, rather than invite the leaders of Quraish.

Secondly, and in conclusion, the “dummies” as in the UK English dictionary meaning, of baby soothers, we may well be reminded that teaching our children about Islam is an inviting involving process that starts very early at age, rather than “because I said so” sort of strategy. I pray to teach my son to love Islam as it should be, not merely a culture or an arguable way of the family.

Trending: Her Stealthy Freedom

 

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Coming across the new BBC Trending for the day, I found the trend most intriguing. http:// http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-27373368 The title of “Women taking off their hijab in Iran” just did not sound right. Though the efforts of a somewhat Islamic state bans women from walking in the streets uncovered, Iranian women have only grown ever more defiant of what they see as an oppressive rule. As outspoken as social media calls can get; the hashtag #MyStealthyFreedom spread quite quickly despite the controversial billboard campaigns otherwise encouraging hijab across Tehran. Yet a question comes to mind, who are we defying? And what is freedom in Islam?

 

Never seeking to target these individual acts with any sort of hate messages; it only seems fair to wonder under that hijabi head of mine. A Muslimah is ordered, not by state, nor by male guardian, but by Allah SWT to cover-up; where many benefits would be sought as piety and modesty as well as striking a divine order to balance the role of both men lowering their gaze and women wearing hijab.  The Ayah in Surat al-Noor as translated by Pickthal; “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.”

However, the debate of obeying the command is a century old,  as multiculturalism somehow introduced an alternative to the veil; be it a full-face cover or a head cover. Associations with feminism were bound to “liberate” women from these oppressive coverings. Or did they? For as long as perhaps thirteen centuries, the dress code of a free Muslimah was respected, adorned and woven into culture. This does not mean that history might not hold stories of an opposite; yet it was an entire clash of civilizations that brought more commands of Islam to a debatable table. As an era of Golden Islamic Empire lost its glimmer and glow; a Westernized version of civilization seemed to grow as reference.

From a marketing perspective, it is quite evident how fashion covers less and less. Though a market gap proved profitable for designers to “halalify” attire and brands to be more “Hijab-friendly”, an ever growing trend of secular state calls slip the scarf off. Personally, I have seen my country through waves of tide, back and forth to the conservative commands of Islam. While I might recall my hijab as an awakening, others viewed it as a “fad”. Many a time when campaigns for hijab only backfired, as they prove too insensitive, controversial or just short-sighted. As a hijabi myself, I remember first seeing the poster above. Though the marketing message attempts to build on the strong reasoning as to “control” any forms of sexual harassment; the offensive representation of both sexes was the only thing that came across. And in a country where sexual harassment targets victims both hijabi and niqabi, this picture was worth a thousand words of imbalance. Yet if we are less obsessed with the “why” we obey and focus on “who” we obey, we would better fight our inner demons.

A true believer gives in to the undeniable faith that Allah SWT is most gracious most merciful, his orders us for what’s best for this life and the hereafter. This very belief stands against “freedom”. And where a dress code may not be enforced by a law of court, you are truly choosing to obey a law of Allah. In conclusion, I declare I am not oppressed, and only pray to be a more modest hijabi for the sake of my Creator.