Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Blogging Sites

It's official. I've moved- * gasp* well over 8 months ago now- to wordpress which is a easier to use.

All the blogs and comments have been moved across and the official site for all my freelance work is now: http://arwafreelance.wordpress.com/

I also recently started blogging/dumping interesting stuff at: http://arwaaburawa.wordpress.com/

Just thought I'd let people know.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Financial Lesson No.1: You are not lucky...

This is a really random article I read in Crain's, the business paper, about some research which found 53 per cent of those surveyed in the North West said their financial circumstances had deteriorated over the last six months (10 per cent worse than the national average).

The interesting bit. The YouGov survey also found that:

"31 per cent of people in the region propose to improve their future financial position by winning the lottery, but only four per cent plan to seek professional help."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Hijab in art, orientalism and the public sphere

During some research for an article on Parisian guerrilla artist Princess Hijab (see here and here), I stumbled across another guerrilla artists, this time from Italy, who was using the image of the hijab.

BR1 ( not sure what that stands for although strangely, in the UK it's the form that migrants have to fill in so they can work), states that his work is about normalising Muslim women by placing diverse poster-images of them on walls in the street: “My Muslim women are represented in daily life situations: they are mothers, grandmothers and daughters, smoking, taking pictures and smiling. My message is: pointing out that Muslim women have the same needs and necessities of the majority of Western women. Certainly, the only exception is the veil.”

BR1's work however has faced some serious criticisms. In his bid to draw similarities between Western and Muslim women, BR1 seems to have fallen into the patriarchal-view-of-women trap. One blogger, 'Killing denouncement', noted that BR1's images are too narrow and fit neatly into the patriarchal ideals of womanhood- i.e childcare, raising families, taking pictures and smiling. “Nevermind seeing any Muslim men (not exotic or fetishisable enough? too dangerous?), it would have been nice to see hijabis in other situations outside the traditionally feminised. Like perhaps working, or, I don’t know, holding AK-47s?”

His wide range of beautiful and bold posters also fail to, even once, represent the non-hijabed Muslim women which leads onto the issue of: is his work riding on the isn't-she-exotic-orientalism which seems to have flourished post-9/11? One comment on his flickr account made my this pop into my mind: “I love the way you're challenging the imagery of muslim women in our occidental society. Please keep up the good work!” *cringe*

I always find this issue of representing Muslim women without fetishizing them a really difficult issue to resolve. As yes, it's great to have them out there in the public sphere but it really does need to move forward from them just 'being' there to giving them the power and freedom to do stuff which is important to them. For example, in Europe there is a lot of talk of getting Muslim women involved but I don't see how the recent hijab banning spree, which seems to have hit Europe helps this.

We all know, that they only thing that this achieves, is pushing more and more Muslim women away from the public sphere back to their homes where they have the freedom to (legally) express themselves. Whilst some take off their hijabs to go to school, I always wonder how many more simply don't attend?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The conspiracy of birth

Exactly tweleve days ago today, I watched my sister gave birth to beautiful baby girl named Leena. In all honesty, it was horrific.

Now, I know it wasn't me giving birth (and it will now NEVER be me) but it was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It was probably the most disturbing experience of my life. Even now, writing about it on my computer, it's pretty difficult to go into detail as I honestly don't want to remember.

I think I just get flashes of things that happened, like the shreaking, the desperation and just plain old feeling sorry for her when she cried with tiredness and begged us to push for her. It was so weird watching her reduced to just emotions of pain and suffering. And god, can she scream!

I remember talking to her about it later (when we both got teary-eyed again) and she was fuming that it was all a conspiracy. 'No-one ever told me about this!' – yeah, well I can guess why!?! No one in their mind could consent to giving birth if they knew what it was like! (clearly some people do but they by default must be insane..).

It part of Muslim culture that you don't openly discuss personal experiences of sex or birth, periods etc with women unless you know that they have been through it themselves. I guess it so they don't get freaked out by it or something but it does leave you a little shocked when it happens.

Even so, I think it's wider conspiracy than that, I remember asking a friend about it and she distinctly said it was 'spiritual'...HELLO! Was she even at a birth, the only thing spiritual about it was that my sister kept telling us she wanted to die.. not really the deep-breathing-lavender-scented-spirituality I had in mind.

Then there's the TV and movies. Rachel in Friends didn't scream, or seem to be in labour longer than around 20 minutes. And in the films, its all waiting outside and she's squeezes the guy arms (a little angrily- admittedly) but its soon over and then aren't they happy!! I mean what happened to the screaming, amply drug taking and the real gut-wrenching tiredness of having woken up in the middle of the night and the desperation. What happened to the desperation?!? It got conveniently forgotten that's what!

Putting it all into perspective now, I realise that it wasn't that bad. Her first contraction was at 2am and she gave birth at 10.31am. That's only eight and half hours- her friend was in labour for three days. My sister was also fully provided for, professional staff at her side and the relevant drugs administered (when she would stay still for long enough, that is).

After she gave birth, I also finally got the courage to read this article I had put to one side about mothers who die giving birth. It was pretty grim reading.

- 1,500 mothers die giving birth every day

- 30, 000 suffer from side-effects which can leave them shunned by family/community

- In the Global South--> 1 in 8,000 women die whilst giving birth

- In the Global North--> 1 in 76 women die whilst giving birth

- At the either ends of the spectrum: in Ireland the risk is 1 in 47,600 whilst for women living in Niger the risk is 1 in 7

- 1 in bloody 7! That's just not good enough... I couldn't imagine what it would be like if it was 1 in every 7 women I knew..

- The solution: Professional staff at the birth, and I'm sure you can guess why that doesn't already happen... yep, money.

Facts from New Internationalist article by Chris Brazier 'The Heartbreak' March Issue 420, 2009.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The easiest way to get to Gaza?? Join the Ultimate Mission to Israel...!!

Travelling to Palestine and Israel is a pretty amazing experience..it's something that will stay with me for sometime. The people, the conflict- all of it. I used to think it would be pretty impossible to travel to the country and to 'miss' the fact that something was oh so very wrong. But if you never leave Israel this would be a whole lot more likely to happen. It would also be very possible if you decide to take the “Ultimate Mission to Israel”

Do you want to 'observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court'?
What about 'first hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points'?
How would you like 'briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet'?
What does a 'live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory' sound like to you?

Fun?!?!? Well, all this is possible if you take part of an intensive eight day exploration of Israel’s struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today!!

I shit you not.
This is the actual advertising material for the Ultimate Mission to Israel advertised by Shurat Hadin- an Israeli law center which is (and I quote) 'Bankrupting Terrorism- One Lawsuit at a time'. I guess that occupation is the whole shebang, military, economic, social and let's not forget a specialist tourism industry and all.

On my way back to Manchester from Jerusalem, I happened to be get into a Neshar (small minibus) driven by the rudest, angriest, cursing (in Arabic, Hebrew and English) taxi driver ever. He was so obnoxious, it was funny. I mean he swore at everyone: poor old ladies crossing the road, Arab taxi drivers, customers who were a little late. I mean he really did abide by the 'I don't discriminate, I have everyone' motto.

Anyway, I digress. This taxi drivers rather 'typical' behaviour was a conversation starter with the women who I had happened to share the taxi with. I asked Rachel about her time in Israel and how she had found the country. She said she had really enjoyed it all and loved Jaffa in particular.

I asked whether (coming from Manchester as she did) she found it weird to have to carry her ID with her everywhere. She had not. She explained that she didn't carry her ID with her as she never really needed it.

Hmmm. That's weird. I don't think I could have got very far without mine.
I asked whether she had visited Bethlehem- testing the waters over whether she had even gone into the West Bank. She had not.

To be honest, I couldn't really get my head round this. Sarah (the ever knowledgeable guide) would tell me not to talk about Nablus or the West Bank when I was in Israel as many people would never have been to these places and would also think it was very questionable that I had. I understand when its Israeli citizens as they are not actually allowed into the Palestinian territories (thats another story) but why had Rachel never even bothered?

Maybe she had been on the “military, humanitarian, historical, judicial, religious, and political reality check” that is the Ultimate Mission to Israel..
Yeah...let hope she made the 'required tax-deductible donation to Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center to aid in the fight against Arab terror'....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The kind of PC-Madness I'd love to see

I really have NO idea what the background story on this cartoon is, but it really cracked me up as I contemplated another day at uni and thats got to count for something. hehe he, a man in a headscarf...never fails to amuse me somehow...
Another Fab cartoon from Bendib

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lessons from India's Climate Movement

All right, a really quick post about Climate Justice from really fab article from latest New Internationalist. NI can be a bit of a hit and miss most times, but what stops me from canceling my sub is that they get it spot on sometimes, plus gotta support the thinking press out there. Sunita Narian, one of India's leading environmentalists writes really honestly about climate change and how the movement's developed differently across the globe and the fact that real fundamental changes are needed in the ways that we respond to climate change.

“There is a fundamental difference between the rich and poor's response to climate change. The environmental movements of the rich world emerged after periods of wealth creation and during their period of waste generation. So they argued for containment of the waste, but did not have the ability to argue for the reinvention of the paradigm of waste generation itself. However, the environmental movement in India has grown in the midst of enormous inequity and poverty. In this environmentalism of the relatively poor, the answers to change are intractable and impossible unless the question is reinvented.”

The reality remains that people are not interested in sacrificing anything to secure the future of this planet. Economic growth is everything and possessions, money and luxury lifestyles are somehow god-given rights that people feel they shouldn't be forced to trade in for anything. I was talking to Marc recently who argued that maybe environmentalism was an extreme policy as it really tackled the very foundations of what of our world is based on... sadly, consumption. Narian declares this very boldly:

“the environment movement of the relatively rich and affluent is clearly looking for small answers to big problems. Today, everyone is saying, indeed screaming, that we can 'deal' with climate change if we adopt measures such as energy efficiency and new technologies. Their message is simple: managing climate change will not hurt lifestyles or economic growth. It's a win-win situation where we all benefit from green technologies and new business.”

“It is ironic that, despite the science telling us that drastic reductions are needed, no country is talking about limiting its people consumption. Yet efficiency is meaningless without sufficiency.”