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5 Islam-affiliated Buzzwords most feared by the west

The post 9/11 era has been marred recently by protests, Islamophobia, Populism and the growing support of the far-right across Europe and the US. Hostility and discrimination against Muslims in the UK has peaked, manifesting in hate crimes with 1260 incidents recorded in the 12 months to March 2017 by the Met police. Undoubtedly, the promoters of anti-muslim sentiment across Europe and America stretch wider than Donald Trump to EDL’s Tommy Robinson & Co. But there is no flame without fire- the media’s role in misreporting Muslim-related stories has created a culture of fear, capitalised on by so-called terrorism experts and pundits. The media have become a vehicle for all types of extremists to target anything associated with Islam to the  extent that they have created some of the most feared buzzwords in the west. Here are a few common buzzwords we come across everyday:

Islam/Muslims

When you come across the words Islam or Muslim, one’s mind is typically filled with images of brown-bearded men, burka-clad women, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and so on. A search on Google images will confirm these perceptions and, it is so because of the context in which they are portrayed and interpreted in the West. Looking past the sensationalist headlines which often shape our perception, only then can one appreciate what Islam is truly about and how the World’s 1.3 billion Muslims desire to live in peace.

We are all too familiar with tabloid headlines including The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express in misreporting the facts. Such deliberate acts has led to increasing hostility toward muslims as suggested by a report published from the university of Cambridge and the university of Leicester earlier this year. Those who argue that Islam and Violence are mutually exclusive  often dismiss the fact that Islam originates from the Arabic root word ‘Salaam’ which translates as peace. It is peace acquired by submitting one’s will to Allah (God).   For Muslims, Islam is not a political ideology but a way of life through adhering to the 5 tenets of faith; belief in God, Fasting in Ramadan, making pilgrimage, giving charity and praying 5 times a day. Muslims are not a homogenous entity, they come in many forms ranging from different Islamic philosophies to rating the importance of faith in their lives. Some may be perplexed but, Muslims even believe that prophet Muhammed is also a direct descendant of Abraham through Ismail and, that Islam runs many parallels with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Therefore, it is uncanny that Muslims, or anything related to Islam are viewed in isolation compared to other groups of people.

‘Allahu Akbar’

‘Terrorist shouted Allahu akbar’ often make headlines on the newspapers. It has become an infectious phrase amongst extremists, politicians  and the media. Miqdaad Versi, who works for the MCB and the man behind identifying and correcting stories about Muslims makes a key point that ‘Such blatant misrepresentation of the facts has real consequences’ as it tars the credibility of journalists and puts a dampener on Journalism, a profession that has long been scrutinised for mistrust . Just last year, Greater Manchester police apologised for using the phrase in a terror attack simulation as part of a training exercise. Critiques condemned them as reinforcing stereotypes and provoking Islamophobia. Speaking then to Aljazeera, Versi, said “by using this word [in the terror training], Muslims around the world are being associated with terrorists”.

Whether in Canada, Sydney  the UK or US, the phrase has been co-opted by terrorists and far-right extremists as a war cry and,  stripped of it’s innocent meaning. It is commonly referred to as ‘God is greater’ in Arabic however, it is connected more deeply to Muslims whilst seeking peace in prayer and as the call to prayer 5 times a day.

Burka

 

The Burka is the subject of oppression in the West but it suddenly seems glamorous when adorned by celebrities. The muslim women’s modest dress sense has long been under scrutiny through the orientalist lens which has often depicted them as creatures of intrigue and mystery. Such vague understanding has facilitated and empowered a culture of fear and hatred of the visible Muslim women. The burka remains a contentious topic and has been over the past decade where countries including the UK, France, Germany and other parts of Europe have wrestled with the issue of banning the Burqa. But where does this irrational fear of the Burqa come from? Often, critics of the Burqa-an oversized maxi dress, relate it as either a  security concern- like Pauline Hanson’s recent stunt, a hindrance to integration or as conducive to liberal democracy. But, there are barely any data that support such claims. Although there is no ban on Islamic dress in the UK, remarkably, a 2016 YouGov poll found that 59% of Americans opposed a burka-ban compared to 57% of Britons who supported it. Such intolerance transcends beyond the burqa for Muslim women who often fall prey to the Islamaphobes and bigots of our time.

 

Jihad 

By far, jihad is probably one of the most controversial buzzwords that has been taken out of context many times. last month, Linda Sarsour, an American Muslim activist saw herself in the midst of this controversy. Delivering her speech to a predominantly Muslim audience in an Islamic convention in Chicago, Sarsour quoted a line about the prophet Muhammed’s reply to the best form of jihad ‘A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad’. Sarsour faced backlash amongst the conservative media, misconstruing her words as ‘waging war against the trump administration’.

 

She clarified that this meant standing up for those who are oppressed by their leaders locally and globally, that includes the Islamophobes, fascists and white-supremacists. Nowhere in the Quran are the words ‘holy war’ equated to jihad but it is to strive and struggle against one’s self to lead a virtuous life. To understand Jihad, it must be contextualised as it has far more depth to it than its literal meaning such as the guidelines to a defensive jihad. The earliest Quranic verses referencing Jihad was after the prophet’s emigration to Medina whilst fleeing persecution in Makkah (22:39-40) and its nature is described in (2:190). Today, most Muslims use it to describe their personal struggle  such as waking up for the early dawn prayers or giving up a bad habit. Continue reading the chapter and you’ll find that the Quran underscores peace as the norm, not violence or warfare. So what’s you Jihad?

Terrorism

 

Terrorism is the context in which muslims are often talked about be it in the media or a in a Hollywood movie. It is no stranger to the feared vocabulary list and seems to be exclusive to crimes committed by those belonging to the Islamic faith. Fear no more of the ‘Muslim threat’ as a recent US report by the Investigative Fund at the national Institute revealed that “right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents” as terror acts associated with those identified as “Islamist domestic terrorism”. Between 2008-2016, the report identified 63 incidents motivated by religiopolitical ideology committed by groups such as ISIS while white supremacists were responsible for 115 incidents. Yes- white angry men get radicalised but are we talking about their radicalisation or proposing a ban ?

It is unfortunate that such facts go unnoticed by our governments and society as the threat of ‘radical islamic terrorism’ is only acknowledged when convenient and, used as a tool to alienate the ‘other’ whether through domestic policies or embargoes and sanctions on a nation-state.

It is time to take a stance against these fallacies and reclaim these concepts to their original glory that has been hijacked by bigots and extremists who have instilled fear in our hearts for too long.

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Trump delivers his speech after defeating Clinton

After a lengthy bitterly fought campaign, Americans finally have their new president, Donald J. Trump who will be the 45th president. 9/11, although understood as the bombing of the twin towers, has a new significance which marks a milestone and a turning point. It is a defining moment in the US culturally, politically and economically.

It has been unconventional, unprecedented and somewhat entertaining to witness the journey to who would win the race for the white house. Despite the election of ‘the lesser of two evils’ fused with the divisive nature of the 2016 US campaign, it has undoubtedly brought more women, young adults, Latinos and fringe minorities voting than any other election. This was highlighted by the national exit polls which show that 54% of women backed Clinton compared to 42% for Trump. Clinton was rather popular among voters under 30, 55% of whom backed her while Trump gained the support of the older sections of society with 49%. Undoubtedly, demographics and cultural impact have determined the votes for both candidates such as the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin where Clinton was susceptible to working class votes.

This election has also highlighted that Americans are not content with the presidential candidates nor their policies as over 6 million people voted for a third party candidate and 46.9% of eligible voters abstained from voting. In spite of Trump’s derogative comments about women or his abrasive rhetoric regarding Muslims, African Americans and disabled people, Many Americans voted for him because he is NOT a politician and repudiates the Washington establishment. People wanted change and Trump is an instrument of that. He has been transparent on many issues such as questioning US foreign policies since 1945, something which traditionally would been swept under the carpet. Unconventional, he may be but that can also be a good thing for many people because, his election proves ‘an unmistakable rejection of a political establishment’ as labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn puts it.

What does Trump’s election mean?

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Protestors march outside of Trump Tower, changing the slogan ‘Not my President’

For some, this election highlights a resurgence of right-wing politics seemingly because of the racist, anti-immigration, sexist and discriminatory language used by Trump gaining him popularity. It even gained him a friend, Marine le-pen from the French National Front congratulated him three hours before the confirmation of his presidency-both harness similar ideas on anti-immigration. However, it is not about left or right but about offering an alternative that will provide change for many disillusioned Americans.

On Europe, the US relationship has always been strong and evolving however, not limited to mocking Trump. Trump may have triumphed in delivering ‘America’s Brexit’ but it’s questionable whether they can work together based on certain liberal values. Prime Minister, Theresa May has been careful not to make any rash comments throughout the campaign, unlike her predecessor but looks forward to working with him. Although a pragmatic response from Chancellor Angela Merkel, the transatlantic region is one of key importance as Merkel congratulated Trump and offered ‘close cooperation’ dependent on his commitment to equal rights and shared values.

And for those protesting against Trump, it is unhelpful to feel disillusioned when democracy has spoken. Rather, reach out and understand what conditions led to this climax and why. Trump provided a change and an alternative to a political system that failed to connect with people. Like him, many Americans are free to challenge that through a national dialogue and offer alternatives which is something this election has highlighted. For now, internalise that “Donald Trump is going to be our president and we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead” like Hillary Clinton.

Although, Trump already intends to trash the Iran deal, repeal Obamacare and dismantle the climate change regulations-almost erasing any trace of president Obama’s legacy. For some world leaders, Trump is deterrent enough, given his unpredictable nature, so they’ll be approaching him with caution.

What unfolds in the next few months will be crucial as the world awaits to watch president-elect Trump’s policies on world trade, Syria and the Middle East, Asia and a renewed relationship with Europe, particularly Russia however, a lot can happen between now and his inauguration on 20th January 2017.

 

 

The 2016 US Election and the chance to be lead by president-elect Trump

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The Panama Papers: All will be revealed

Recent days has seen the unfolding of a dozen documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca detailing the secrets and dealings of evading tax, dodging sanctions and helping clients to launder money by individuals and companies.

Russian president Vladmir Putin, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif are just a few of the heads of states to name and shame as revealed by the Panama papers. However, British MP’s have also been linked to the clandestine networks of tax havens including three conservative MP’s and six members of the House of Lords. Prime Minister David Cameron has been calling for reforms and transparency however fears arise that Tory MP’s were receiving donations from offshore tax havens leading up to last year’s general election.

Unsurprisingly the allegations have been denied as “a series of fibs” by the Kremlin and as “ridiculous” by FIFA however countries including Britain and France have vowed investigations for possible tax evasion.

It has been made apparent that these individuals and companies have not done anything wrong or illegal but the debate revolves around the ethics and legitimacy of how these tax havens operate and whether this will bring transparency into light in the future. The law firm denies any wrongdoing despite doing business with dictators, oligarchs, companies blacklisted by the U.S and terrorists as confirmed by Washington.

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The Prime Minister’s late father has been revealed to have run an offshore fund to avoid tax

More importantly, it has highlighted that billions have been robbed in unpaid taxes by wealthy individuals and companies which brings this debate home in the UK where hard working British citizens pay their taxes, are expected to declare their taxes through HMRC tax returns while a dozen companies listed on the document are registered in the UK and its overseas territories. This begs the question of when David Cameron, whose late father has been revealed to have run an offshore fund to avoid tax, will shut down tax havens under British territories as proposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This is where much of the frustration and anger comes from. Not just in the UK but more globally as in the case of Iceland where protests are underway calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister. The anonymous nature of these clandestine operations has fuelled the flames of one of the biggest data leaks in history and answers will be demanded by the people for truth, transparency and justice.

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BRUSSELS ATTACKS: HOW REAL IS THE THREAT?

Cassidy-Brussels-Attack-On-All-of-Europe-1200

 

The Brussels bombing last Tuesday claimed the innocent lives of 31 people in Maelbeek metro station and Zaventem airport. Since then, major anti-terror raids have been underway in Belgium while two brothers, Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui have been identified to have carried out the attacks. The attack has been linked to last year’s Paris attacks and the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Once again, these terror attacks raise the terror threat level to ‘maximum’ but what does that actually mean and should we be worried?

One may often come across titles such as “Britain may be vulnerable to terrorist attacks” across newspapers however, this has repeatedly been the case during the Olympics in 2012, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, after the Paris attacks and once again after the recent Belgium bombings and surely it won’t be the last. However, it is this type of rhetoric that the press and politicians often use to blow the risk of terrorism out of proportion because Terrorism pushes our emotional buttons, when in reality, say in the case of the US, you are more likely to die from gun homicide than become a victim of foreign-inspired terrorism. The statistics are actually alarming when the hazard is compared to the total fatalities from 2001-2010 which have been reported in The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Then what does this actually say about the threat of Terrorism – yes it’s real but it does not affect the western nations as the predominant victims of terrorism are those in the Middle East and Africa, specifically in Iraq and Nigeria as revealed by the Institute for Economics and peace.

The attacks in Belgium, Turkey and France have raised the terror threat levels in several countries but at what cost do we pay for our safety and security given that post-9/11 laws and policies such as the PREVENT strategy have governed our freedom of speech and movement, especially for those who are Muslims or the many who are viewed as ‘potential suspects’? It was just last year when chancellor George Osborne promised to spend an extra £3.4bn on counter-terrorism following the aftermath of the Paris attacks, giving the military more equipment whilst simultaneously making cuts to frontline policing. However, this defeats the strategy of fighting terrorism in the UK because the socio-economic factors such as youth unemployment and drug-related crime drives terrorism in the West but this will be difficult to combat when such cuts are being made.

The terror threat level in the UK has been at ‘severe’ since 2014 and security has increased in airports with more border force officers and transport hubs since the Brussels attacks but that does not mean that one has to be returning from a ‘terrorist hotspot’ when home-grown radicalisation can also lead to individuals carrying out the same type of attacks. Although little press attention was given in comparison to the Brussels attacks, was the threat not real enough given the attacks in Istanbul and Ankara just days earlier?

The threat level shouldn’t just be raised when such unfortunate attacks occur but should be dealt with promptly therefore, should we really be surprised when the attackers are known to have criminal records and have been warned by foreign authorities? This not only highlights the incompetence of European intelligence but also seems to suggest that even some western nations do not perceive the threat real enough for them to act before the unimaginable takes over.

 

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Paris attacks: United we stand, divided they Win!

It was that Friday when I was returning home from an inspiring lecture by Yasmin Mogahed, a guest speaker from the US, that my phone started buzzing continuously. I started scrolling through my watsapp messages. I was shocked and appalled to find links to news articles regarding a bomb attack in Paris. Bewildered, I continued reading the texts and all they read in common was ‘I hope it wasn’t a Muslim’. My initial thoughts were that maybe it isn’t a Muslim because then it would have been called a ‘terrorist attack’ but I knew that it was too early to state anything, hoping deep inside that it really wasn’t a Muslim. I said to myself that It’s sad to think that when such nefarious crimes are committed, we, even as Muslims have our own reservations about the perpetrator because we know the backlashes we will face individually and collectively as such was the situation earlier this year with the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

It was later confirmed that this was a terrorist attack by a group of men who carried out multiple terror campaigns against a civilian population. Firstly, I condemn these terror attacks along with the majority of Muslims. My prayers and thoughts are with those who lost their lives in Paris and in Iraq on the same day and in Lebanon just a day before, all whom were victims of terrorism.

I have come to the realisation that when attacks like this occur on European soil, Muslims have to constantly reiterate that ISIS is not Islam and neither does it reflect them. Let me make it clear: groups like ISIS have an intolerant reading of the scriptures when Islam itself states “Whosoever kills a human it is as if he has killed all of mankind” (Al-Mai’dah 5:32). Rather, such groups behave in such way as part of their political strategy as indicated by Robert Pape’s study on suicide bombings. They are politically motivated attacks disguised under the banner of Islam to establish some sort of legitimacy and empathy from Muslims worldwide

Unfortunately, this misconception seems to generally be ignored no matter how often you repeat it. It is for such misunderstanding that anti-Muslim sentiment is felt across Europe and Muslims now fear reprisal attacks. The growing numbers of far-right groups have already taken advantage of last Friday’s attacks such as France’s Front National headed by Marine Le Pen. The blame has extended from ‘extremists’, ‘Islamists’ to even refugees fleeing from ISIS. What happened in Paris transcends beyond boundaries as PM David Cameron is already considering increasing defence spending while Islamophobia in London is already rife as a number of incidents have been documented by groups like Documenting Oppression Against Muslims (DOAM).

So what do we do? Uniting as a nation against Terrorism is the way forward because these terrorists do not discriminate in killing their victims. In fact, their political strategy behind the terror attacks is to recruit sympathisers and gain credence for their narrative; thus, declaring this an ‘Act of war’ works in their favour. Flying French sorties to bomb the living daylights out of Raqqa will serve as a political tool by ISIS to recruit sympathisers. Furthermore, implementing draconian laws such as the counter-terrorism and security Act suspects every Muslim as a potential terrorist, further isolating and alienating them to the extent that some even fall in to radicalisation. The responses from governments are counter-productive in fighting and uniting against a common enemy- ISIS!

The days ahead will be tough for ordinary people as the political responses unfold in the midst of a relentless ‘War against Terrorism’. The world will watch closely to see if the self-styled seemingly invincible ISIS can be defeated now that the military campaign has been reinforced against them. It is time for all to stand for peace and unity at this time of adversity in defeating such abomination on Earth!

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The battle for Syria

Picture from the Independent

                                Picture from the Independent

The perpetual Syrian conflict has come under the spotlight in recent days as Russia flexes its military muscle in the war-torn country which has already claimed the lives of over 220,000 civilians and is responsible for the displacement of thousands of refugees. Moscow’s initiative has been profoundly criticised over the last few days by western powers that are at odds with Moscow’s military strategy.  Russia has conveniently taken the lead at a time when western and gulf leaders have unanimously agreed to build a future Assad-free Syria.

The question of Syria and ISIS has shot up on the US priority list now that Moscow’s throwing in some weight. The Obama administration has been reluctant to deal with the crisis in Syria over the last few years where US foreign policy has been of little progress. However, this new intervention changes things a lot.

Although, the broader western policy on Syria has proven to be a failure over the years, Russia’s military intervention is a far worse strategy, counter-productive to any long-term solutions in a country that is already a breeding ground for international terrorism. IS could potentially (and probably would) use this response to recruit foreign fighters which would have grave consequences for many in the East and West.

So what are the viable options and how should we respond? The issue is that combating ISIS has seemingly proven to be an insurmountable problem for the multinational coalition over the past four years where different options were explored.  Firstly, diplomacy and soft power failed to deter Assad and those bolstering the regime. Secondly, the US lacked the political will for a ground assault to defeat ISIS , essentially because repeating the blunders of the ‘War on Terror’ was not an option even if it took the US-led coalition three weeks to crush Saddam’s army back in 2003. Lastly, we are divided on how to respond. On the one hand, there is general unanimity amongst US, UK, Turkey and its Arab allies while on the other, Russia, a P5 member and Assad’s only European ally is now backed by Iran. This proxy war, reminiscent of the Cold War days, will not lead to a peaceful solution through its military operation  but will only exacerbate violence and tension amongst opposing rebel groups  and between the multinational coalition and Russia.

Lessons from the past

Rather, devising a comprehensive political and diplomatic strategy would have been a wiser option for Russia than resorting to a military strategy. As Washington has clarified to Moscow, they will support the strategy only if it targets ISIS stronghold however, they have done quite the opposite over that last few days. The US have trained and armed the Syrian rebel forces to confront and fight Assad’s army while they have become the target for Russian airstrikes. In its second day of running its military air campaign, Moscow has admitted to targeting groups other than IS. The US have accused Russia of “indiscriminate military operations against the Syrian opposition” like the CIA-trained Suqour al-Jabal rebel group however, Russian defence claimed to have hit 12 ISIS targets in the IS stronghold of Raqqa but also Homs, Hama and Idlib which have so far claimed 40 civilians lives, 8 of whom are children.

Tensions will remain high between the two states whose political and military views are polarized on the battle for Syria. But regional allies play a crucial role in these campaigns as Iran backs Russia, both who claim US-trained Syrian rebels as terrorist groups and are Assad’s only allies. This can potentially change the landscape of the Middle East like it did in Iraq and Iran. So far, this proxy war seems like a lost cause with no real solutions and ultimately civilians will pay the price. If the past has taught anything, it’s that War is a dirty business and those who intervene will only do so if it’s in their national interest.  They are not concerned about fuelling terrorism or the internal affairs of the country (take Iraq as an example).Unfortunately, when it comes to such Wars; it’s about sticking by your friend or foe no matter how long the battle continues.

 

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End of Young Muslim Leadership Programme reflections.

YMLP 2015 cohort

YMLP 2015 cohort

During the past two weeks, I attended a prestigious leadership programme run by the University of Oxford’s Centre for Islamic studies (OCIS). My first impressions of the programme? Well I thought it would be a laid-back two weeks with swanky banquets, sightseeing the much revered Oxford, dress to impress evenings, and fine dining with high profile guests. Fortunately, it was all that and yet so much more.

 

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Where do I begin to talk about such an insightful and heartening experience? It has been remarkable, momentous and one that will be highly unforgettable. I initially thought that the success of the programme somewhat lies with its invitations to high profile speakers and its ability to amass an array of individuals from divergent spheres of professions/industries ranging from academia, politics, media, finance and NGO/community organisations. . However, that perception changed for me by the end of those two weeks. I realised that success is what you make of it and how you benefit from those around you in order to make an impact on the lives of others. This was evident from the success stories of Baroness Warsi, Rushnara ali and many others however, the participants themselves also contributed significantly towards the success of the programme.

Baroness Warsi gives us some inspiration

Baroness Warsi gives us some inspiration

So what have I learned from this experience you may ask? Well to start with, Harry Kreamer’s words resonated throughout those two weeks that “If you are not self-reflective, how can you know yourself?  If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead others?” .I thought deeply about this and realised that I do not truly know myself because I haven’t always been self-reflective but I’m willing to turn that around and it starts here with this reflective piece. This experience has given me an excellent foundation to start and from which to develop and achieve my future life aspirations. This is how I view my leadership potential building. But new lessons had to be learnt like the importance of emotional intelligence and understanding each other’s sensitivities. As a leader, you need to be able to identify and manage the emotions around you. Fortunately, I saw that element of leadership amongst one of my peers and someday I hope that I have the courage to act the way she did. More importantly, the statement that “everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” (Carl Jung) couldn’t have been more accurate. This is life, you learn about others but you learn more about yourself through others and that characterizes who you are.

I’ve also learned that you can either be a follower or a leader. Which one am I? Initially I thought that being a leader is a huge responsibility and it is but the more I thought about the world and its problems, I realized I had to be a leader. I am the people and I want to empower and inspire change. I take full responsibility that this change starts here with me. So I’ll answer the question posed to me on our business session, “What is it about who you are and what you do that people will follow you?”. I’m a giver, I want to give a voice to the voiceless and inspire young people to channel their discontent by joining a platform that will shine the light on their views.

What else?

Karen Armstrong giving a seminar on Religion and Violence

Karen Armstrong giving a seminar on Religion and Violence

Q&A with MP Steven Timms

Q&A with MP Steven Timms

Other aspects of the programme included seminars, workshops and institutional visits which were very much informative and had stimulated my intellectual curiosity. It was an amazing opportunity to learn something new, meaningful and profound, particularly the life of Abdullah Quilliam, Shaykhul Islam of his time, which I believe has inspired me in some ways to become an active citizen of my community. Most interestingly, recollecting this day a week ago, although now seems like a distant memory, we engaged in a business planning session and undertook the ‘Myers Briggs’ personality test. Despite how people felt about the class being designated as ‘introverts’ and ‘extroverts’, we can’t deny that it taught us so much about ourselves, our emotional intelligence and of course, that of others.

My highlights

Guess who's line it was...

Guess who’s line it was…

There were many highlights to the YMLP but one which we’ll always remember is the YMLP inside joke along the lines of ‘you’ve done well for yourself’. It was humorous until it lost its authenticity as many others started using it on guest speakers. However, there were many profound moments throughout the programme that were heartfelt to the extent that tears flowed, particularly hearing from Naeem Raza and Mr.Iqbal Khan. I guess the beauty of that is that we all shared that special moment.

Friends for now…..and forever

The dream team

The dream team

Fun times with the crew

Fun times with the crew

This programme has been a breath of fresh air for me at a time when I needed it most. I’m glad to have met a group of people who have the kindest of hearts, sweetest of words, best of manners and a great sense of humour. After two weeks of dining, praying, laughing and learning together, I can now call them my friends and vow to support each of them in any way can. I’ve seen their leadership potential over the past two weeks and have no qualms about their futures. We are all in contact with each other and will potentially meet soon to work on a post YMLP long-term project.  As for my long-term goals, I’m taking it step-by-step to further my ambitions so hopefully one day (God-willing) I’ll get there. Last but not least, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all the staff of OXCIS.  They have made this a truly memorable experience for me and I thank each and every single one of them from the bottom of my heart.

Dr. Asma and 2015 cohort

Dr. Asma and 2015 cohort

Thank you.

Sharmin  YMLP 2015 cohort

 

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