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Myth of Perfection – The Disease of Domestic Violence

 

Following the recent deaths by murder-suicide of Sania Khan and Alwiya Mohamed, both in the US, the Female Scholars Network issued a statement via Muslims Matters on the Islamic responsibility to work against the “disease of domestic violence”. This violence is widespread in all communities around the world, both religious and non-religious. Its prevalence was reflected in the statement’s 100+ signatories, all prominent female scholars, academics and students representing different countries and backgrounds within the Muslim community alone.

Sadly, this endemic violence is something to which Amina MWRC as an organisation can both bear witness and confirm exists across Scotland. In the past 10 months, 22% percent of our Helpline clients’ cases have involved a component of domestic abuse.We would ask you to please take a minute of silence to reflect on and resolve yourself to act against the injustice that you can see in your own circles. Consider the ways in which you personally can make meaningful and lasting change in the life of another woman.

Lastly, please consider reading and sharing the statement and engaging with Amina’s work in Scotland where/however you can. Together, we are part of the solution to the inequalities in education, access, support and rights which lead to devastating consequences for women and girls who are victims or survivors of abuse.

Statement Against Domestic Violence: The Female Scholarship Network

The Myth of Perfection Series – The badge of being a divorcee

Two gold rings lying on a page of an open dictionary next to the word Divorce and it's meaning

When contemplating writing this blog, it filled me not only with anxiety but also a feeling of actual dread. The myth of perfection…
For me, a more accurate description would have been ‘The Pressure of Perfection’  and being free of my internal critic. It has been like a dark shadow that’s followed me for most of my life. Some might look at me and presume I’m confident, gregarious and overall a happy and positive person.  On the whole I do fit this description, but at times I feel like an imposter as I wear the badge of being a divorcee.

For me, the breakdown of my marriage was one of the hardest experiences of my life. I married for love, I married for life. I was going to be the best wife, and try to be the best daughter in law I could be.  I was going to make my parents proud, have a loving marriage and live happily ever after.

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).

Qur’an 30:21

Its only later on in life when I’ve looked back that I realised the pressure I’d put myself under. Working hard and achieving success in my career came relatively easy to me. I wanted to do well, I enjoyed my career and so I found myself excelling in my professional life. However, my marriage was falling to pieces. Living in a toxic environment was taking a real toll on my mental health. I didn’t see my friends and I changed myself to fit in with the ‘ideal’ my in-laws and husband were looking for. I would agonise over ‘that look’ my mother in law gave me…what had I done to make her so unhappy with me? Why did they all stop talking when I walked in the room? It was agonising and exhausting how I would scrutinize my own actions over and over trying to work out where I had went wrong. In reality, I most likely didn’t do anything wrong. I just didn’t fit with their perception of what a daughter in law should be.

 

When the reality of marriage kicked in it was a very rude wake up call. In my naivety, I didn’t realise that not everyone feels the same way about their marital vows. Fast forward to over 10 years later and here I am, divorced with children, the ultimate in failure as far as the South Asian community is concerned.

 

People generally are obsessed with ‘what happened?’ – as if it were one thing that that led to the decision of divorce.  For me, it was a persistent drip of things that chipped away at the love, communication and the union of  our marriage. Post-divorce I found myself living in survival mode.  I had children to raise, provide for and to make sure they were emotionally damaged as little as possible. The noises I heard from people around me were things like ‘Your kids will grow up to be junkies”. “Your kids will end up in prison because they don’t have a dad”. Others would lament about how I was never going to be considered as being marriage material. Who would want to be with a divorced woman, one with children no less?

 

When proposals did come forward, I would hear things such as ‘I can only accept one child’ or ‘Would you consider being a second wife’ and, in one case, a third wife! Not that I oppose polygamy; it’s just not for me.  Overwhelmingly, I felt that as a divorced woman with children I am considered to be at the bottom of the barrel. Therefore, a woman of my status should accept less than what she deserves.  As if we can’t be complete as women without the badge of “marriage”. What most people fail to realize is that most divorced women with children wear multiple hats and play multiple roles. We are providers, care-givers, home-makers, we take care of the bills, shopping, kids’ education, activities. We multi-task effortlessly and many of us do it without the help of others. In my view this is strength and tenacity given to me by above, without the help of the Almighty in every step of my life I could not have endured it all. I am not less than I was before.

 

Presently, I find myself in love with my divorced, single life. I have children that I adore. They are happy, fulfilled and more importantly living in a loving and nurturing environment, as opposed to a toxic and angry one. My children are highly intelligent, well-mannered, funny, well-adjusted kids and are my proudest achievement to date. I still get asked ‘would you re-marry?’ and my answer has always remained consistent; if the right person came along I would always consider it. However, compromising my happiness and the happiness of my children will always be a big fat NO. I’ll happily wear the badge of being a divorcee and I’ve learned to shed the pressure that comes with living up to the impossible expectations that society places upon us.

The Myth of Perfection Series- Healthy relationships in the early years

Over the years at Amina, our work in schools has evolved. We used to be funded only to support conversations and connections to be made about how people who are Muslims are perceived in Scotland.
The goal has now evolved to supporting healthy relationships more broadly with individuals themselves and each other.

What we do now

Our work is developing into longer-term work with one school at a time, over a period of 6-8 weeks. We can still provide the option to build connections and answer questions as Muslim women, but the core of our work is now supporting young people to have conversations about who they are with themselves and their peers/ teachers. Weeks 1 and 2 focus on introductions, respect and boundaries. Weeks 3-6 are focused on topics that affect everyone such as healthy relationships, heritage, body image and choosing our role models.

Last week was the third session with Primary 7 at St. Albert’s Primary School in Pollokshields where we are piloting this new way of working. A group of 12 children, all aged around 11 years old are in front of me and telling me how they felt about discussing relationships.

“Awkward”, says one pupil. Fair enough.

When did you start discussing relationships?

Often, how we build relationships is only dealt with in hindsight or when there are problems. But these young people used the space to celebrate what they bring to their key relationships, and what needs to built on in order to experience the safety and loyalty and kindness that we all crave. It was a rare, vulnerable and sometimes ‘awkward’ space to be in.

However, the pupils can now share some of the positive things that they each felt they could bring to a relationship and some of the things they would like to work on. Have a read and let us know your thoughts:

“Most of my friends are Pakistani but I am Arab. I love teaching them about my culture and what I do.  I’m also quite sensitive so arguments start frequently.”

“I’m comfortable showing people that I care about them. I want to get better at being trustworthy”

“I think that I can make people laugh. {I could be better at} providing advice when someone needs help”

“{I’m good at} making things fun. {I could do better at} doing my fair share of the work”

“I’m confident. I could work on responding in the right way”

What do you bring to your relationships and what would you improve? Do you like this programme for young people? Please get in touch and let us know!

For more information on the Amina Schools Project please contact info@mwrc.org.uk
Our roster for longer-term work is filled for the current and the next academic year but we are open to work starting Aug/Sept 2023

The St Albert's Primary logo. An emblem with a cross on it. Underneath is the schools name and the words "Creating Conscience-led Communities"

The Myth of Perfection is online campaign for the year 2022. We are encouraging people to share their journeys with us in a 500–800-word blog or short video up to 2 mins in length. The aim is to discuss a significant part of the process behind reaching a goal or an ideal and/or the beauty in the of what we eventually achieve. Submissions can be in any language, captioning and/or translation can be provided.
New blogs are out on the last Friday of every month. If you would like to contribute, please email info@mwrc.org.uk for more information. Check out our earlier blogs here

The Myth of Perfection Series – Ramadan Reflections

Ramadan Reflections

This was my first Ramadan in twenty years – I grew up in more of a cultural Muslim family than religious – I was a teenager when I last fasted.

It’s been a month filled with challenges.

I felt like a fraud.
I’ve never prayed on my own before. I had to pray with YouTube playing, so I’d know what to do.

I went to buy a jahnamaz (prayer mat) right before Ramadan and wished Ramadan Mubarak (have a blessed Ramadan) to the shopkeeper, to which I was looked at with disdain and no response. I am mixed race and don’t wear a headscarf. My visibly Muslim friend was wished Ramadan Mubarak by the same shopkeeper.

After my first Rosa (fast), I tested positive for COVID. I tried to fast a few days even when I wasn’t feeling up for it, because I knew that my menstrual cycle was on its way and felt a bit like a fraud – I’d be missing the first half of Ramadan if I didn’t fast with COVID. While I know I was exempt if sick, it still felt a bit like a cop-out because my symptoms weren’t too bad.

The West is not very accommodating to Muslims.
Despite many workplaces claiming to put DEI at the top of their agendas, most offices are not Muslim friendly.

-Wudu is very difficult to do in the office
-We are lucky enough to have a prayer room – except not a single person could find it!
-At events and meetings, despite being told beforehand there were Muslims fasting, the events still focused around the food, with those fasting told to ‘go outside while everyone else eats and join us for the next workshop’.

Friends & Family
I live alone across the city from my relatives, and most of my Iftars were done solo. On the few occasions I was able to be with others during Iftar, it really felt special.

I’m still learning. When seeking advice on certain elements of fasting, I was given totally different rules depending on who I asked – often told things that made me feel like an utter failure. On many occasions I thought “wow, I can’t even fast correctly”. Others were more supportive, reminding me that it’s all about intention, and when I was struggling with my fasts, someone told me to “remember why you started”.

Successes
During the final two weeks of Ramadan, I:

Prayed at the masjid for the first time
Went for Taraweeh (extra night prayers)
Did Jummah prayer (congregational Friday prayer) for the first time

There’s lots still to learn. Inshallah (God willing) I’ll bring these lessons with me through the rest of the year and be stronger and more prepared for next year.

 

This blog was written by Ayeesha.

The Myth of Perfection Series – #Just Breathe…

#Just Breathe…

All young people in academia have felt the weight of endless deadlines, exams, feeling constantly behind, and the struggle to balance social life, school and sleep. My experience is no different. As a young woman from a low-income background, I’ve always felt the pressure to be an achiever and continuously, I put other external validations above my well-being, and it has cost me my happiness and my passion for life. As depressing as this introduction sounds.  I’m here to remind you, that if you’re going through the same, you’re not alone so don’t be so hard on yourself.

It can be difficult navigating life as young person, but mental health is extremely important. It’s imperative that we take time for ourselves to enjoy life, to sleep and focus on our well-being. First, I found opening about how I was feeling to friends and other adults in my life who encouraged me and reminded me that my worth is not defined by what I do. That I am enough as I am, and I found this extremely refreshing. Now, I am not here to lecture you on hard work or balancing education whilst maintaining a social life… To be honest, I have not yet mastered the art of that.  Or to tell you that it’s going to be an easy ride because it will not be. As you know, mental health is something that requires constant nurturing. There is no quick fix. We’re all honestly just doing our best.  What I am here to do is remind all young people in school, or not in school, that’s it is okay to struggle, it is okay to be confused, most importantly it’s okay to get it wrong. Take a break when you’re feeling burnt out. I remember times when I would have countless of work to do and get stressed, and. End up procrastinating. Avoiding deadlines until the last minute, taking me much longer to complete work because I didn’t think what I was producing would be good.

During the first year of university, I would get sudden bursts of energy and be extremely productive for a week or two, and then be so overworked that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for weeks on end, and the work would just pile up. I would feel depressed because I felt like I had failed myself. It became a cycle of being burnt out, procrastinating, feeling stressed and completely disregarding my mental and physical health. The reality is, as much as we want to think we are, we are not machines, we are human beings with fears, dreams and passions, and we need time to recharge… to take a minute to breathe.  So, this is your reminder, that not everything needs to be perfect or worked out right now. In a world of fast pace and constant movement, it’s okay to slow down.

You need to allow yourself time to recover. Something I tried recently was taking a day in the week to do anything I wanted, even if that was absolutely nothing. I went out with friends, laughed, and I also tried to get a good sleep. Now, by no means am I saying that I’m okay right now, I still have a hefty workload, but this year I’m remembering to put myself first, and prioritise my health and well-being. That’s the first step. And always remember that you can talk to someone when you’re feeling overworked; sometimes just asking for  help is revolutionary enough. Remember to do the things you love, spend time with friends and spend time with yourself. Take regular breaks, and remember when the going gets tough, just breathe…

 

This blog post was written by Elohor Efakpokire, Intern at Amina MWRC.

You Can Change This Pledge

     

    You Can Change This Pledge

    Click here to sign the pledge.

     

    Muslim and BME men take action to end Violence Against Women and Girls

     

    We use VAWG to refer to a range of actions that harm, or cause suffering and indignity to, women and children. These include but are not limited to:

    1. physical, sexual and psychological violence in the family, general community or institutions. This includes domestic abuse, rape, incest and child sexual abuse

    2. sexual harassment and intimidation at work and in public

    3. commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography and trafficking

    4. so called ‘honour based’ violence, including dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation, forced and child marriages and ‘honour’ crimes”

    Every 10 minutes, there is domestic abuse incident reported in Scotland. Over 850 Muslim and BME women in Scotland have contacted the Amina Helpline from March 2020 to March 2021 to seek support with issues related to domestic abuse. On average that is 16 women per week. In the UK, violence against women kills two women a week, making it a bigger killer than cancer. Domestic abuse affects all communities, including the Muslim and BME community.

    Men are victims of abuse. However, statistics show women are still disproportionately affected by abuse.

    Prevalence of abuse experienced by women:

    74% of reported domestic abuse related crimes were of female victims. On an average, a woman is killed by a man every 3 days. Women experiencing abuse have higher rates of mental health issues, the abuse contributes to women suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, self-harm, and suicide. For children, the emotional effects of witnessing domestic abuse are very similar to the psychological trauma associated with being a victim of child abuse.

    We cannot remain silent on an issue which is continuing to destroy so many lives. We are calling upon Muslim and BME men in our community to show their support for an end to abuse in all its forms and uphold and promote the following values to help achieve equality for all women:

    1. We do not and will not tolerate abuse against women and girls

    2. We believe it is the abuser who damages family honour (izzat) and should feel shame not the innocent victim

    3. The Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him) said “The best people from among you are those who are best to their wives” (Tirmidhi)

    4. The Prophet (peace & blessing be upon him) said: “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” (Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh). This hadith emphasises that we should be active in ending oppression whether it’s within the household, community or globally.

    Calling upon all Muslim and BME men!

    Use your voice and speak out against injustice and fight against all forms of abuse and oppose the false notion that any culture allows violence against women. Join us and show your support to this pledge by signing below. Please distribute this pledge link widely to your friends, family and colleagues.

    Amina MWRC Statement

    Amina MWRC’s statement regarding the current humanitarian crisis, escalating protest over the continuing illegal settlement, oppression within the Palestinian territories and occupied East Jerusalem. In particular at Al Aqsa mosque, the 3rd holiest site in Islam, and the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

    Our hearts are with those injured in the attack at Al Aqsa just days ago, those forcefully removed from their homes and those protesting. We wish them safety and recovery.

    International human rights organisations have declared the treatment of Palestinians illegal according to international law. Continued action towards a tiered system of rights that already exists will meet the international definition of apartheid.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/01/chapter-3-israeli-settlements-and-international-law/

    We can push for political change by raising this with our MPs. Please find the attached link to an email template which you can use: https://www.foa.org.uk/campaign/save-sheikh-jarrah/

    Amina MWRC will not support or condone antisemitism in any form.

    Ramadan Recipe: Sheer Peera Afghani

    Some of our community champions are chosen because they have made brave choices to participate and give back in whatever way they can. They inspire us by being themselves and showing up. This month we’d like to thank one of our service users and friends, Zahra, for enriching us with her participation and continuing to do so by sharing a Ramadan recipe with all of you.

    In many cultures people celebrate, show love and devotion or share blessings with something sweet. Take this from Zahra and from Amina to you with all our best wishes for your success and happiness.

    Ingredients

    2 /cups water

    2 / cups of sugar

    2 /cups of Nido milk powder

    1 TSp of cardamom powder or pistachio powder, for decoration

    Half small bowl of nuts.

    Method

    At a high temperature bring to boil water and sugar. Let the sugar thicken well.

    Turn off the temperature and add the milk powder and nuts little by little and mix it well.

    Apply some butter or oil in non-stick pan, and transfer all the nuts with your hand.

    Add on the pistachio powder too, leave it for one hour, then cut to a small size.

    I Speak for Myself – Training Program

     

    REGISTER HERE FREE!

    The first in the series of sessions for women who want to access support to make a change in the world. With the help of our guest facilitator, Fatima Joji, this session we’ll be working on identifying what motivates you and what additional experience you may need to make change happen.

    You can also register in advance for our other sessions using the same link.

    Fatima Joji bio: Fatima is currently a Constituency Caseworker for Richard Thomson MP at Scottish National Party (SNP) and is running as a regional MSP in the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections. She is a volunteer director with 50:50 Parliament, working to get more women elected in parliaments across the UK and co-chair of the Aberdeen Independence Movement.  She holds a post-graduate diploma in International Development having graduated with honours in Journalism at Robert Gordon University and has previously worked for a leading national newspaper in Nigeria both writing and producing video footage.

    REGISTER HERE FREE!

    The second session in our series is space for reflection and support to help you move forward in making change.

    There will be no set structure for this session. Participants are encouraged to make use of this opportunity to network and to ask for support from Amina staff and fellow participants.

    If you consider any new changemaking project as your baby, then you should know it takes a village!

    REGISTER HERE FREE!

    The third session in the I Speak for Myself Changemakers program focuses on how you can create shared goals and stay true to yourself when working with others.

    Our guest facilitator this week is Kimi Jolly from East South-East Asian Scotland (ESAS), an organisation working to support asylum seekers, refugees and victims of human trafficking among others from an incredibly diverse geographical region. They also provide culturally sensitive support to ESEA communities who have experienced hate crimes and racism. Her unique perspective on advocating on behalf of these specific racialised communities in Scotland brings significant information and experience to the table that we can all learn from.

    REGISTER HERE FREE!

    The fourth and final session in our program will focus on how we can collectively work to reduce the risks of sharing a public face online as women from racialised backgrounds.

    Amina MWRC sought training from Glitch* to properly introduce you to their new resource around tackling online gender based violence. We’ll also be taking note of issues participants and facilitators have faced with online discrimination of all kinds as part of an anonymous evidence gathering exercise.

    * Glitch is an award-winning UK charity that is working to end online abuse – particularly against women and marginalised people. We were founded in 2017 by then local politician, Seyi Akiwowo, after she received a flood of abuse when a video of her speech at the European Parliament went viral. Through training, research, workshops and programmes, we’re building an online world that is safer for all.

    REGISTER HERE!

    Paid registration – £25 per slot*
    Concessionary rates available
    **If you are concerned about human rights issues and would benefit from this session but are not in a position to pay, please contact us confidentially through social media, email at mahrukh@mwrc.org.uk or phone on 0808 801 0301**

    This media training course will be delivered by Talat Yaqoob FRSE who has many years of experience on media commentary and campaigning. The session will provide practical skills and knowledge on how to take part in media interviews including TV, radio and newspapers. We will discuss setting your own boundaries and will have opportunities for 1 to 1 practice. We will reflect upon issues within media (such as false equivalence and hostile interviewing) and how we can respond in such circumstances. The session will operate under Chatham House rules i.e. all shared discussion with participants remains within the session and will not be shared beyond it.

    We are prioritising interest from women from racialised backgrounds. This does not exclude individuals who also fall under any other protected characteristics. There will be space to explore intersectionality of being a Muslim woman in media of any background.

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