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Diary of a not-so-baby BarriSTAR

An alternative perspective

Delighted to have been featured in the British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration List 2017. The list is a celebration of 100 leading figured who are helping shape Britain for the better with their ideas, example, talent and success. 

“Zeenat is using her personal experiences to challenge hurdles facing women and minorities in the legal profession and continues to lead by example having recently been awarded a scholarship to fund a placement at the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York.” 

It’s Only a Genocide when we say: The Rohingya

The Rohingya struggle is one of the starkest embodiments of the failure of international systems and international law. There are a number of legal and normative frameworks that ought to apply to the Rohingya plight, including international human rights law, international criminal law, international refugee law and the responsibility to protect. Yet there is no relief, no remedy and no effective recourse.

The phrase “never again” is often espoused on genocide commemoration days when we talk about preventing mass atrocities. But, in so many cases such as Myanmar, Palestine, Syria and Yemen “over and over again” is more accurate. Language, labels, and legal definitions are selective because they reflect oppressive relationships of power that enable human rights violations to begin with. Too often, oppressed people have to wait for their suffering to reach an arbitrary threshold imposed by those complicit in their oppression. Consequently, their struggle is appropriated and their suffering is colonized, just like their existence. Just like their place in history—a history that is simultaneously being erased and rewritten.

To navigate within an unjust system, we must first recognize that the political system and the law will never be enough. We must raise our consciousness on an individual level and in community with one another. We must identify shared struggles when we try and support groups in elevating their voices. When we talk about Palestine, we must talk about the Rohingya. When we talk about Standing Rock, we must talk about the Rohingya. When we speak for Syria we must speak for the Rohingya, whose decades long struggle has so often been silenced. We must not be selective in our outrage or condemnation.

We must universally stand with all oppressed people, if we are truly committed to every individual’s right to live in their full humanity, in dignity and with freedom.

An extract from my blog for the Centre for Constitutional Rights. 

#NoBanNoWall

no-ban

Trump’s #MuslimBan is a codification of islamophobic sentiment that has been rocketing post 9-11. That sentiment is becoming institutionalised and now legalised. The law is racist, discriminatory and wrong. It must be called out for what it is- an affront to human rights and moral conscience.

These policies and laws are just the beginning of yet another dark dark chapter in history. The Holocaust didn’t happen overnight.

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.

I wear my name with pride. It is my faith that teaches me compassion, equality and to demand social justice for all.

I am Muslim. Unapologetically. #NoBanNoWall #Resist

Why I March

Today, I was honoured to be apart of an immensely powerful movement and one of the biggest mobilisations of people across the world in history. 

The Women’s March movement represents day one of the resistance against not just the Trump presidency, but what that represents across the whole world. 

Too often, I am asked “what difference will it make?” By family members, friends and even the stranger on the street today who was frustratingly trying to push through the throng of protestors. 

When he couldn’t get through to where he needed to go, I invited him to join the protest. He said “I don’t want to join the protest, what’s it about anyway?” I explained that it was a global response to the inauguration of Trump and the wider significance of that. He responded “this is the wrong country, he isn’t here, he’s already in now anyway.” He then pushed through to wherever it was he was trying to go.

I reflected on this exchange and this man’s attitude to people like me. People who cannot believe that we live in a world where Donald Trump has become president. People who are sick of oppressive systems of power and what they create. People who choose to take to the streets as part of their personal resistance against systemised inequality and injustice.

He was white. And male. With no insight into his privilege.

I was reminded that it is this attitude of indifference and apathy that is the problem.

And also the reason why people like me and so many others choose to march. For ourselves, for others, for our communities and for humanity. 

So many people have to fight for the right to exist and to be. It is for the rest of us to join that fight. 

To suggest that movements like these achieve nothing, is to delegitimise and fundamentally misunderstand the power of people. History has shown us what movements can achieve.

Yes, Trump is in. Yes, Brexit is looming. Yes, intolerance, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia are real and rife. 

But the question shouldn’t be “what will this achieve?” But rather, “how are we going to fight back?”

The answer is in unifying, organising communities and intersectional movement building. One people, shared struggles. 

For those people asking what’s the point- check your privilege.

Thank you 2016

Grateful for so many wonderful high points in 2016. Just a few: 

  1. A reflective trip back to one of my favourite cities in the world, Marrakech. A reminder that with sunshine, waterfalls, colourful rugs, Moroccan plates & friends, life is fabulous.
  2. Fulfilling one of my life long dreams to visit the holy land, Palestine. A magical and spiritual journey which has been truly lifechanging. A lesson in how oppressed people demonstrate sheer strength despite adversity. 
  3. Croatia annual sister holiday but this time with a twist- a babymoon for my lovely sis in anticipation of our bundle of joy. Reaffirmed that even in thunder storms, and with no touristy things left to visit we will still always have the best time as long as we are together. 
  4. NYC! An absolute blessing to have received funding to spend time at the CCR and explore the city that never sleeps. Biggest lesson learnt – how to be alone, and happy. 
  5. Niagara Falls ticked off the bucket list. Such immense natural beauty and so much of the world that I hope to be able to see. 
  6. Meeting some of the most inspirational people including Linda Sarsour and Vince Warren. Their words and example have helped reinvigorate my journey in social justice work and how my role as a Muslim shapes this. Two key lessons: justice is possible and power must be challenged.
  7.  My beautiful brand new niece Aaminah to finish off a year that I am truly thankful for. 

Looking forward…

In 2017 there is much that I hope to work on and do in terms of; spiritually, family & friends, professionally, health and wellbeing, social justice work and personally. However we catalogue our hopes, aspirations or goals- to reflect is to grow.

In a world where so many people are deprived of the opportunity to fulfil their hopes and dreams -for those of us that can – we should try. 

Every day is a new day, and a fading opportunity. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age; your health before your sickness; your wealth before your poverty; your free time before your workload, and your life before your death.” (Ahmad)

A Sky Free of Bombs 

As the sun sets in a sky free of bombs and where birds can fly, I think of my beautiful big sister who travels to Greece tomorrow to provide urgent dental treatment across refugee camps. Every day this world becomes a more difficult place to live in, where for some just being who they are is a threat to their existence. Everyday I battle with what my role is supposed to be in this world and how I can better fulfill it. The last few months have helped remind me of two things. Who I am and who I want to be. I have learnt that each and everyone of us has a role in maintaining the light in this increasingly dark place. Those roles vary and are for each of us to find.

For those who know me well, I love the sky, the water, sunrises and sunsets. As my return back to the UK is just days away, I chose to say goodbye to NYC here. Somewhere beyond the glits and the glam, somwhere I am reminded of God.

In belief, that whilst there are still people who care, there will always be hope. 

I am so proud of you big sis.  Xxxx

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ferdaus-islam-1 

Sanctuary in Death

Today feels different.

As I walked to the subway to get to work, the sun was shining. What a beautiful day.

I wonder if the sun is shining in Aleppo.

Despite the corpses littering the streets.

I thought about how many absolute truths we share as humans.

The sky.

The air we breathe.

The blood we bleed.

Yet, how our humanity is qualified. Contingent. Conditional.

On,

Geography.

Colour.

Politics.

Ethnicity.

Faith.

Power.

 

Scrolling through social media feeds.

Aleppo has fallen.  Civilians shot dead. Children burnt alive. Scores of men disappeared. The rebels are baddies too. MPs are holding an ’emergency’ debate. The UN says atrocities are being committed.

“A Meltdown in Humanity”

Nothing in actual fact is particularly different today. Innocent people die every single day at the hands of oppressors in this increasingly dark world.

But today feels different.

I hate the international community, governments, the UN every day.

But today feels different.

I feel anger, sadness and helplessness every day.

But today feels different.

Today the tears fall.

Today, I struggle to find hope.

 

“Families in Aleppo are asking religious scholars if it’s permissible to kill their daughters before they are captured and raped.”

 

What must one have endured, what must one fear when killing your own child is the better option?

My heart doesn’t just break for Syria. My sadness today isn’t just for Aleppo.

It is for an existence where the only sanctuary for some is in death.

I know for some, they choose not to read what is going on, because it is too sad. Because we feel helpless.

But we must

Read.

Watch.

Feel.

Over and over.

It is the least we could do.

 

I want my sadness to consume me. 

 

The only glimmer of light I have felt today came from what I paste below.

Even if you categorise yourself as an unbeliever, it is at times like this that a belief in eternal divine justice can provide even you, some hope- because what else is there?

 

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

“When the believer is about to depart from this world and go forward into the Next World, angels with faces as bright as the sun descend from the heavens and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits at his head and says, ‘Good soul, come out to forgiveness and pleasure from Allah!’ Then his soul emerges like a drop of water flows from a water-skin and the angel takes hold of it.

“When he has grasped it, the other angels do not leave it in his hand even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and place it in a perfumed shroud and a fragrance issues from it like the sweetest scent of musk found on the face on the earth.”

“Then they bear it upwards and whenever they take it past a company of angels, they ask, ‘Who is this good soul?’ and the angels with the soul reply, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so,” using the best names by which people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be opened for him. It is opened for him and angels who are near Allah from each of the heavens accompany him to the subsequent heaven until he reaches to the heaven where Allah the Great is. Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says, ‘Register the book of My slave in ‘Illiyun and take him back to earth. I created them from it and I return them to it and I will bring them forth from it again.’”

*Image via Alaa Basatneh

There is only One

I was reminded today at Jummah and following yet another beautiful khutba delivered by Khalid Latif, how blessed I am to be Muslim. Whilst the world increasingly becomes a more sinister place to live in, where your skin colour, ethnicity and religion dictates whether you live or die – I am reminded that my faith is one for all.

I am reminded that when the Prophet SAW’s sunnah, which proscribes equality & justice for all is properly followed – Islam necessitates social justice.

In a room filled with Muslims from all walks of life today after Friday prayer, a black brother took the shahada. The declaration of faith – to one God & His last messenger. I was truly moved. I remembered the Prophet’s choice of who should make the first call to prayer. Bilal ibn Rabah. An emancipated black slave.

Whilst black people are shot dead on the streets of America, I am reminded of the beautiful message well over a thousand years ago which allowed all people to live in their full humanity.

He is sent here for nothing else but a mercy.

How will you bring the Prophet into your life? Where are the lessons of compassion and mercy?

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