MY CULTURAL WEEK AS A MUSLIM

It can be rather overwhelming trying to keep up with all that is going in the world. I find it difficult enough trying to keep with everything going on in the Guardian newspaper. So, what to do? Especially when you want to highlight certain news stories that you think others may have missed? A possible solution is my attempt at a newsletter. Please find below a handpicked selection of my cultural highlights from the past week or so. The aim is to perhaps highlight stories that either passed you by or were lost in the sea of digital information that washes over us on a daily basis. Anyways, here goes…


My Week As A Muslim…

My Week

One of the most controversial programs on British TV this year has been the Channel 4 documentary My Week As A Muslim. The program followed white 42 year old Katie Freeman, who now works as a healthcare assistant in the NHS. Katie lives in Winsford, Cheshire, and is frightened of Muslims. So how does she try to overcome this? She ‘brownfaces’ to become a pretend Pakistani Muslim and lives with a Muslim family for a week to see how the other half live.

Some people hated it, other loved. Reviewing the show in the Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson said it was:

A cynical concept…a documentary so spectacularly odd in every respect that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t conceived as a dare. – Rebecca Nicholson

However, the producer of the show, Fozia Khan, in response to all her critics said (again in the Guardian):

Our use of ‘brownface’ is nothing to do with mockery – it’s about opening the eyes of someone who has misconceptions about Muslim life…I wanted the new show to bring to a wide audience the harsh realities of what was happening…I was determined to make something that would reach people who wouldn’t normally watch a programme about Muslims…People have suggested that we could have used a different approach – such as giving Muslim women hidden cameras to show their experiences. This has been done before, and we wanted to try something different. Something you are taught as a Muslim from a young age is that intention is the foundation of every action. We were very clear what our intention was in making this programme, and I believe we achieved what we set out to do. – Fozia Khan

My personal opinion is that, once you get past the controversial ‘brownface’ make up and prosthetics applied to a white woman, this is a brilliant documentary that truly does change perceptions in the right way, and it does so right in front of our very own eyes. If you get the chance to see it please do.


American politics is broken…

If you follow American politics you will know who Republican Senator Jeff Flake is. He is one the many thorns currently in the side of President Trump. The good senator recently announced he will be stepping down after finishing his current term, and he did so in rather spectacular style. Not only did he verbally broadside Trump in a speech on the senate floor, but he also wrote a cutting opinion piece in the Washington Post:

There is a sickness in our system — and it is contagious. How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced? How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off? How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it? How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage? Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough…more is now required of us than to put down our thoughts in writing. As our political culture seems every day to plumb new depths of indecency, we must stand up and speak out…It’s time we all say: Enough. – Senator Jeff Flake, 24 Oct 2017, washingtonpost.com


Hollywood is also broken…

I find it interesting that the Islamic world is criticised for how Muslim women are treated. Such criticisms strongly imply that the west is somehow better in the way they treat their women compared to how we Muslims treat our women. And then along comes Harvey Weinstein. Whilst much has been written about power, privilege, the casting couch, the male dominance of Hollywood, and much else besides, I found this article from Ezra Klein to be worth a read:

When a culture produces this much sexual assault, it’s not an accident…This isn’t just about Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump…It’s America that has the problem. Pick an industry and you’ll hear stories…There is a pervasiveness to sexual assault in America that defies the word “problem.” When a system creates an outcome this consistently, this predictably, in this many different spaces, you have to at least consider the possibility that the outcome is intended, that the system is working as designed…something must be done, and it needs to be bigger than a few scapegoats. – Ezra Klein, 23 Oct 2017, vox.com, from an article entitled When A Culture Produces This Much Sexual Assault, It’s Not An Accident


And social media is broken as well, and it is scary…

The brilliant British comedian Russell Howard commented on his recent TV program about how pressure on young girls, mainly in the form of social media, is taking a dangerously unhealthy toll…


America now has a female Muslim superhero…

Tala Ashe

The always on point Dean Obeidallah wrote an interesting article in which he mentioned the popular American television program DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow. The show is cashing in on the current popularity of awesome superheroes and as such features many of them. However, one of the most recent additions is rather interesting. Only last week the show unveiled a character called Zari Adrianna Tomaz, a Muslim female superhero who also happens to be played by the Iranian-American actress Tala Ashe. This caused Obeidallah to comment:

So Trump can decertify the Iranian deal all he wants, but he can’t stop Zari. – Dean Obeidallah

Later on in the article Obeidallah also mentions how Zari will be a break from the stereotypical norm of what we currently see on TV:

Zari will not have Muslim-esque super hero skills like the ability to haggle endlessly over prices…you won’t see the cliché American TV depiction of a Muslim woman in a burka and silent. Instead, you will see Zari—a person who is proud to be both Muslim and American. And that is big step for both American television and for American Muslims…Today it’s a Muslim superhero, tomorrow it’s a Muslim president! – Dean Obeidallah


And Israel honours a real life Muslim hero…

During World War II the Egyptian doctor Mohamed Helmy, based in Berlin, risked his life by hiding several Jewish people from the Nazis and thereby saving their lives. Such was his bravery that Helmy was recognized in 2013 by Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust) as a Righteous Among The Nations (an honorific used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis). Helmy was the first Arab to be recognized as such and only recently did he posthumously receive his award.

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