Sunday, 22 November 2015

Protect Us Muslim Women Mr Sadiq Khan - Before Asking Us To Step Up For Brits

(I provided a separate edited extract to British newspaper Independent on Monday 23 November) - here


Me With My Muslim British Bangladesh family on Umra Hajj - part of my religious induction

I just read Labour Party’s Mayor of London candidate Sadiq Khan’s astonishingly, accurate but highly expedient speech on how nearly 2.7 million of British Muslims have a ‘special role to play in combatting radicalisation as well as of course societal integration. I read it. And then pondered sadly.  Why? First, the biggest threat to our society is in fact Islamaphobia.  Next, all my tears are spent having tried to tackle communities like mine who refuse to progress and expel bad ideology. With no avail.

I also smiled, as I don’t think Mr Khan’s campaign office has informed him of the countless many times that I, as a ‘new to Labour’ and ‘new to politics grassroots woman’ have tried to contact his office to discuss this matter of stamping out bad ideology. Not to mention the countless many other fellow politicians I wrote to, to talk about what I have seen, reported and experienced as a lone woman, suffering the consequence of attempting to expel tribal, ancient customs that are freely practiced by a minority of British Muslims in my own community behind their very British closed doors.  The very ones Mr Khan wants us Muslims to tackle. 

I too, like Mr Khan, can speak of knowing very well, of the very tiny community of those narrow minded Muslim folks, who having gotten to second/third generations – are still busy everyday force feeding hate, intolerance, misogyny and ancient barbaric stupid customs fused with rituals ripped out of context from the Qu’ran - that have no place in Islam.  Nor in any good Muslims' hearts.   

Shockingly these same Muslims I battle, were born and were even educated in the UK and seem outwardly to have integrated into UK society but secretly are not.  And I can tell you they do not possess the feminist and humanitarian values our Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and Islam is so passionate about.  Yes – they look Muslim, speak Muslim, define themselves as Muslim but are not following Islam. They wear the beard while many of the women often wear the hijab.  Every other word is ‘Allah Akbar’ and on the surface the regular rituals of praying, fasting, being teetotal, celibacy until marriage appear to always honoured. They will even go to Hajj and moan about Islamaphobia.  More worryingly will cheer for England in World Cup, cry at the Olympics and watch Coronation Street. Yet these same folks I know for a fact are not at all subscribed to Islamic values let alone British values. They hide behind closed doors feeding new generations of youngsters sick, tribal culture.  And if you dare speak out, you get expelled and shunned. As well as ignored by Muslim establishment too scared to tackle this problem. 

So how do we identify these Muslims? Listen to the testimony of women like me.

All my life I have been a Muslim. As a young girl I was force-fed a false version of Islam - an ideology that just did not make sense. Reading the Qu’ran as a little girl aged 5, rocking in my hijab on my neatly folded legs, learning by rote huge chunks of text to get to the impossible heaven I was told I must worry about.   I had no idea as a child that what I was being taught was not Islam but a mish mash orthodox, evil cultural belief system blended heavily with misogyny, tribal customs and five pillars from the Qu'ran - mixed into a deadly cocktail which I supped on as a little girl. 

I now call it ‘Wicked Tribalism’ and it’s stinking, evil diatribe is practiced widely across my diaspora of a community who are not only in UK but in USA to Bangladesh.   This belief concept is then passed on and on – and woe to anyone who dares object. As to do so is to face instant ridicule and hate and often fear and expulsion.

So was I taught by my religious Muslim family that boys are better than girls? Yes.  That men must inherit all the wealth? Yes, despite this being strictly against Qu’ran. As well as devotion to Muslim supremacy? Yes. Did I witness girls being forced into marriages? Yes. Men hitting women - yes.  As well as the fervour to be devout.  Yet I was never taught this clear message that does exist in Islam which is this: there is no compulsion in religion. And so I sat quietly – observing.  Saying nothing for decades.

Nor was I ever taught Islam’s feminist agenda and the amazing incredible legacies of Muslim women like RAH Khadijah Bint Khuwaylid and RAH Ayesha, wives of the Prophet Muhammed who are often hidden away in Islamic oral folklore - read here.  I was never told of how in seventh century, Islam had already worked out that unless a woman is guaranteed her own independent economic wealth – her life could soon fall victim to misogyny and bad patriarchy.  So Qu'ran came along and made provisions to stipulate women get access to various pots of wealth – all of which are hers alone and nobody else’s to touch. As well as giving her serious rights that meant cannot abuse her.  Can you imagine or find a a more feminist ideology - which pro-actively insists on the right for women to access wealth and separate income? I cannot. 

Let me present the evidence to you. 

First an Infographic. Can you count how many pots of income or wealth a Muslim woman could potentially access? 





Next. In my opinion the Qu’ran addresses many of the issues affecting protection and empowerment of women in its crucial fourth chapter: Sura Al-Nisa (The Women). 

Here are instructions for men to provide women with ‘Mahr’ dowry (4:4)
in Sura Al-Nisa (The Women):




On the economic rights of female inheritance (4:7) (note the way it refers to men and women in the same sentence - with no preference). 



On the economic rights of female inheritance split  (4:11)



The Qu'ran excerpt below asks men they must always maintain/provide for women's basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, education etc), which is why Islam arranged that men end up receiving double that of a woman’s share of inheritance (4:34). Yet women - need not pay a thing and get to keep all their wealth.  Is it any wonder why I hear many of my Muslim women chant cheekily at their husband but very correctly 'What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine'. 




But before you balk at the sentence above in Qu'ran which refers to 'striking' a woman. Note - I disagree with the translation. Which I deal with in the next paragraph. It is interesting is it not how the Qu'ran can be explicit in its choice of words guiding followers what not to do.  And when it is not explicit - it leaves the reader to interpret in context. So this passage above which contains what many non-Muslims claim is the horrific so-called instruction to ‘strike’ one’s wife. - I will now set about refuting.  Here is my take.  

It all stems from the one word ‘wa-iḍ'ribūhunna’ which is also derived from and shares the root of the same word, which can mean ‘put forth’ and ‘cast away’ – in essence for men to move on and away. A good example is in fact the english word 'strike'.  It can mean to hit or if in an employment context to remove your services or self from the field of engagement. Hence the Qu'ran, having extolled the virtue on gender equality (see 3:195 below), as well as passionate speech from Prophet Muhammed to be kind to women (where no reference is made of hitting a woman) - to then rely on this one verse (4:34) with the reference to 'strike' as a clear instruction to hit a woman - is utter ridiculous nonsense. But of course such dangerous translations of the Qu'ran perhaps are a clever way for bad Muslim men to oppress women by quickly promoting the text, stripped of the background, context verses I have just laid out to you.  So that men can oppress women. This is wicked and is a travesty on the legacy of Prophet Muhammed and all that he stood for.   After all if Allah wants husbands to hit wives – surely in ancient Arabic there is a direct way that could have been used.  Such as punch/slap/hit/attack. In fact why no explicit instruction for ‘men hit your wife's bodies’? Yet the Qu'ran does not say this? Why would this ancient text be coy when in other subject matters it is very clear and uses harsher words to talk about the punishment intended for transgressors or wicked and cruel people.  

           
As for gender equality, this to me is remarked on in the Qu'ran to in Sura Al-Imran (3:195) - 'Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female — you are equal to one another/you are of one another."

Sura Al-Imran (3:195): 


Prophet Muhammed's Last Sermon -The World's First He for She? Yes.  

Next, the last sermon delivered by Prophet Muhammed, (PBUH)  is here. The key points I observe are these. Why did he make it a point to ask men in the Seventh century, when women were deemed two a penny these words of advice:

All mankind is from Adam and Eve" - clear reference to gender equality. He then goes on to say:

O People! it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste."

His advice above is being given to those married or soon to marry Muslim men who were expected to protect and guard their women and wives in seventh century desert Arab peninsula. A region rife with inequality, rape, female infanticide, slavery. Remember - here was Islam which had already revealed verses of instructions from Qu'ran clearly stating it will stand up for us women. By insisting women be given her own independent access to money via inheritance. As well granting her permission to marry - as without her consent the marriage is not valid.  Blimey. Can you believe that? No - not many in the world do today because they do not bother to look or read  - and instead love to feed the narrative that Islam is a religion practiced by knuckle dragging gibbons. When in fact this is farthest from the truth as I present the evidence which I share here. 

Why is Islam giving women their own economic wealth as financial status? Because such a status is critical in helping women lead a free, fulfilling life of respect free from violence and bad husbands.  Mahr (wedding gift), maintenance, inheritance  - thanks to all these rights listed in the Qu'ran, a Muslim woman stood to potentially be independently self-sufficient. In fact I would go further to say it was a welfare system designed to make women profitable at the expense of men.  Which I expect must have irritated the hell out of a lot of Muslim men in Arab peninsula back in seventh century. It still does rankle among some Muslim men who I have heard whisper "Bloody hell - world thinks Muslim women are oppressed - they need to come talk to me my hair is falling out just paying up and out.  

Islam demands men pay up as well as - wait for it - ensures a woman's own money is ring-fenced.  No man is allowed to touch it - unless she gives of her wealth out of her own free will.  "I pay for her and she gets to keep all her wealth' is what some Muslim men I know might be thinking.  Well Islam's view and Sharia is clear - break the code and Muslim men are deemed to have sinned and broken Allah's covenant. 

I often sit and read the guidance in his last sermon from Prophet Muhammed and feel sad how misunderstood he has gotten.  I often wonder if the Prophet was seeking to sooth and quell those men who may be perhaps concerned the wife they are paying out for - might need calming down.  In his sermon, he talks of women duty towards men. Of being tempted into bringing bad influence into the home. After all a Arab Muslim woman in seventh century who was left alone with money, while her husband was away on trade or war meant she can buy stuff. Be it drugs, drink, company of other men.   Hence our Prophet's decision in this sermon is perhaps to balance the idea that men might be taken advantage of by women. Hence is is stating he also supports a husband's expectation wives remain monogomous to their man. And that they do not bring bad influence into the home (as after all Muslim men were often away for periods of time) nor betray a good man who is having to support her financially.  

Anyhow. For anyone still reading this, can you now see proof that with Muslim women being given their own protection and income, consent for marriage - and right to divorce - can we not expect Muslim men in seventh century might feel unhappy to find they could not treat women as disposable garbage anymore? Gone was the custom for men to have sex, run loads of harems, abandon pregnant women and slaves without having to be financially responsible. All such good times were limited and stripped away from men by the Qu'ran? So that sentence and sermon from our Prophet now makes fair sense and all part of the gender parity I keep spotting in Qu'ran. Which is why Islam is huge passion of mine today as it gave more women rights than any other concept thereafter.  Which is why I now laugh at non-Muslims who claim Islam oppresses women - it does not. Bad, ill informed 'Muslim' men who edit the Qu'ran do that - not Prophet Muhammed. Not Islam. 

The original Muslim Feminists
Finally the rights and roles of women in Islam. The original feminists who are often hidden away as non-Muslims - often the world does not know of them. They helped Prophet Muhammed and were certainly active, intelligent and defended and supported him to establish Islam.  Without them there could be no Islamic legacy.  Funny that Isis do not mention these women. 

Here is a visual I did of some of the women, we the world need to profile. And teach young Muslims to honour and accept as role models - aside from the Prophet Muhammed's male companions.  










This is why I know Islam and Prophet Muhammed is afeminist.  The world's first He For She.

Yet all these verses above I listed, Prophet Muhammed's Last Sermon and the feminist and economic rights for women were stripped out and missing from the educated British Muslim community I was born in.  It is also stripped from ISIS/Daesh mantra.   My family kept it deliberately hidden away from me. Instead choosing to focus on my modesty and lack of hijab (which in my opinion is a red herring - and why it irritates me when men talk down to us about it which I talk about over at my YouTube Channel MsYiY here). Isis do it the same but on a more wilder, crazier, stupid, evil level. And it is why I now speak out. And call for the reform of how Islam is taught. I want to make sure no other woman goes through what I went through. 

My campaign 
Currently there is a horrific statistic that reveals that only one per cent of women globally have access to titled property. 




So now, I am working to change that – by daring to claim my own land shares due to me under Islamic Qu'ranic inheritance that spans assets left by my father in Bangladesh and UK - at great personal risk. Just to prove a point so that more women must put aside the debate about to wear hijab or not and instead talk about the empowerment Islam gives to women by ring fencing her wealth and providing for female economic independence. A frightening concept for any male led society as after all - if the hands that rock the cradle rules the world – imagine those same hands economically independent? I think society everywhere could change overnight including radicalised jihadists who could also be inspired and prevented towards a life of hate by an army of empowered Muslim mothers, wives, aunties, sisters.

Back to why I am proof of attempting to change badly taught Islam.  After my father’s sudden death in 2004, I slowly began to wake up.  And it was only in 2012 I started to challenge my own family and community on their version of Islam. I demanded to know why only men should inherit, when in fact the Qu’ran gives women a myriad of economic rights and is in my opinion the first feminist ideology to help rescue millions of women. I never ever got a reply. I got hate. And was met with hysteria which soon turned to punishment. 

I attempted to object, to stand up and say to my community both in UK and Bangladesh ‘let us return to the real Islam – one which is feminist, philanthropically humanitarian, peaceful?’ of course the horror started.  Today my community has expelled me.   The consequences upon me have been horrific.

On this issue of hate from fellow Muslims- Mr. Khan is correct. The greatest battle Muslims like us seeking change is often from our own kith and kin. I have had my own personal and business life destroyed by my family.  I have been threatened. As have my volunteers.  My small charity research base in Bangladesh destroyed.  Wild rumours spread about me of being linked to innocent men, of cavorting with them and that I must not take ‘selfies’ and to go and ‘wear the hijab’. 

More over, I have had British Metropolitan Police do little to help us women speaking up and out. They have simply ignored me when I begged them for help.  Worst still officers unwittingly began to compound abuse upon me by in turn becoming my community’s Rent-a-Police by a faction intent on undertaking collective punishment to quell progressive women like me. I have had to listen to wildly inaccurate Met Police reports of false accusations being lodged by my family about me, despite showing proof and of me being the victim who has been reporting abuse since 2012. 

Such is the hate and horrid treatment inflicted upon me for daring to question my family’s twisted version of Islam that during Ramadan, while I was fasting, my family called in Croydon Met Police to evict me from my mother’s house, threaten to arrest me leaving me homeless to live out of a suitcase.  I have been physically and verbally assaulted with threats from my own mother that my younger male relatives should beat me up and ‘kick my head in'.   As well as having Brixton Police insist I stop writing to my brother asking for my share of inheritance and refusing to allow me to question my brother on why as a man he was singularly allowed to inherit wealth and I am not.  Now I am looking at letters from a British solicitor firm threatening to take me to high court because I have published my story on my own website - which I will continue to do so as I believe this is a matter of public interest for British society. All part of the collective punishment us Muslim women face for daring to make a stand when tackling bad ideology and a wicked version of Islam that has been twisted, so as to prevent the outcome of a society filled with just  good Muslims. 

It’s why I ask that perhaps Mr Khan can start a dialogue with the Met Police, as to this day I have had no answers on their actions to support British Muslim change-makers? How can this happen to innocent women like me?

So, until I see money, these are just quick win, rich words coming from nice Mr Khan. Who is a decent chap I am sure. Who is heard urging us 2.7 million British Muslims to step up and seem to be have become a darling now of the right wing press for these comments alone.

It’s why I also now say this to my fellow Muslim women: don’t step up, as there is no support whatsoever for women like us.  Whose only crime was to ask devout bearded and hijab clad community like mine ‘what happened to the real Islam – and when it goes missing what can we do to get it back?'

Today if Mr Khan is asking British Muslims to step up. I say – yes we will but why not fund us and protect us first? Then we’ll be there in droves.  Until then, when we do speak out, there is nobody to catch us.  No British Police who seem to understand. While domestic violence charities, who having been stripped and starved of funding – are full to the rafters and from my own experience show they do not exist to equip to prevent or stop or manage the abuse inflicted on change-makers like me when working in our communities to bring about change. 

I often wonder, perhaps those in power are simply busy chasing sound bites and media platforms.  I guess I can say this as I am looking at my foot long list of public figures, charities, feminists, media, Muslim establishment, politicians – stretching from Labour to Tory – all of whose doors I knocked on – asking “help me help me’.  None of whom replied or just shrugged their shoulders as it did not fit their political agenda at that moment in time. 

But if like me, you agreed with what Mr Khan did have to say, here’s what I say could be done?  And what should be funded.  British Muslims are good folks who I suspect are as shell-shocked as I at the unfolding ghastly way our religion has been infiltrated by evil scum.  After all the process of calling oneself Muslim is straightforward.  The barrier to entry is pretty low, you just need to have Imam and witnesses see you recite the Kalimah and to promise to sign up to follow code of conduct laid out in the Qu’ran and the Sunnah.  But being Islamic is something different all together.  And it is why the education of beautiful Islam, of how the interpretation of the Arabic in the Holy Qu’ran is being taught must be reformed – starting with the whom, the where and the how.  While at the same time driving for the grassroots empowerment of Muslim women - economically and educationally.

I am passionate that real change can only come when more Muslim women get involved within the Muslim establishment. That we then start helping the British Muslim community turn the existing infrastructure of the 1,700 or so mosques across the UK into open community led, dynamic spaces so more families including women and youth can access the holistic and correct Islam. And also of this one other change that I am making my life's work.  

Sign My Petition 
How I have launched a Change.Org petition asking that the roles and rights of women in Islam be taught as well as the famous women who Prophet Muhammed relied on to build his legacy – and that a more inspiring Islamic syllabus which includes a feminist agenda is available everywhere at the hands of visionary Sheikhs and Imams. So we can avoid young men and women growing up with terrible hate fuelled ideology cocked up by a bunch of bearded men with little scholastic integrity – often misogynist at heart.

Will it happen? Unlikely.  I often suspect women like me rarely get a voice as I don’t fall into either super pro/anti Muslim narrative camps. I just love Islam and worry as to why the true, peaceful Islam has become hidden away from mainstream society.  I want to prove just how progressive Islam is at its core and does sit very well in a secular society. But of course that is not helpful narrative in an ever-increasing Islamaphobic world where everyone seems to be on edge and getting hysterical.   Which is why I suspect I have had to suffer and campaign alone.   And will continue to do so. 


But I will not stop. I will never stop. I just wish likes of Mr. Khan spent their time listening and protect existing British Muslim men and women like me who have already contacted their offices – who are fighting for change.  Until then – it’s all just sound bites in the race towards a political office I think.  Unless of course they read this and really put their money where their mouth is.  Go on Mr Khan – do that for us and I will be there shoulder to shoulder with you.



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Friday, 6 November 2015

My Alternative Xmas Gender List.

Seriously the idea of doing business in a niqab is getting quite attractive to me.

Friday afternoon. And this is my Xmas list. - 2015  Tongue in cheek, as well as I hope weirdly inspiring? I will let you judge.

After all if John Lewis can do it - so can I. Start the Xmas banter/debate early that is - and the shenanigans and tomfoolery.

So here goes.  Things I really do not want... and all delivered to me in time for Xmas.  I repeat.  Items on my Xmas List I do not want to see again.  NO. I DON'T. 

And as you can see I am fair to both genders. I am simply calling out experiences with both men and women  that I loathe - so here goes things I do not want to see happening in 2016.



Sunday, 6 September 2015

How Can YOU & I Help Refugees Via Grassroots?


Moved by Aylan Kurdi? So was I. So let's get together good people.  Ignore our Governments. Bypass them to go and help the grassroots way. 

So much op-eds/articles out there right now.  Blah, blah, blah.  If you are like me you don't want to read or hear about refugees anymore.  You want to DO. 


It is hard to know how to help. So this is what my latest post is about. Grassroots activism. Collating links to charities and folks at grassroots struggling to get voice as often are drowned out by the bigger charities (who let us face it have overheads and budgets to spend on PR and marketing).  I want this post to support ordinary people who are stepping up to help.  As well as thinking about all the options out there you can take to help. 

(Photo shows march in London being planned by Stop The War).






Monday, 20 July 2015

Open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron - ISIS and extremist ideology

My cheeky open letter to PM David Cameron ahead of his Keynote speech on extremist ideology and my reply to the Guardian article written by Francis Perraudin here

Hi Mr PM

Life is tough eh.

I should know.  I am a British Muslim woman. Born in London too. While the sun was sunny there's you and I locking horns with the devil. Different ones of course - but still - toughies.

I do welcome much of this stance from you our PM albeit some of it is also worrying. Maybe the No 10 board table missed some polish and the writing of your advisors was hidden by dirt? I know it happens to my laptop.  I know all about grime you see  :)


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Open Letter To My Family Part I (Third Generation British Bangladesh youth)

My rally call today to all Muslims & Brits - as part of Eid Mubarek is to say enough is enough - let's kick out evil patriarchy & oppression once and for all please?‪#‎equalityforall‬
(Now - for a series of open Choudhury letters from me. One of many to my British Bangladesh London based Muslim family who are utterly UnIslamic).

Open Letter From An Aunt To The Next Generation
Imtiaz Choudhury (20, nephew Brunel University), Nadia Choudhury (19 niece Graveney School), Mikhail Choudhury (16 nephew at Harris Academy, Mitcham).
As I have been kicked out and expelled/ostracised by my #British & #Bangladesh family and community - I wrote via iPhone on low battery. Hence excuse typos or grammar errors. Also I may have your ages wrong as being your aunt. That is not my fault.  You will recall that I was cut off by your parents Nazmin Choudhury and Enamul Haque Choudhury because I dared to once have a relationship with a white man. Who, even though he converted to Islam was never accepted nor welcomed by your parents.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Many Faces Of Abuse

Welcome to the Choudhury family - direct family members of mine who have worked together to bully and destroy my research base in Bangladesh.

Both in the village of Ali Nagor in Beani Bazaar and in the District City of Sylhet in Amberkhana.

Women like me are not welcomed by my family.  We are subjugated.  And such was their collective horror at finding I had set up a British charity and using a room on my late father's estate -  without first asking the permission of my elders and the men - my entire base was smashed and looted.

You see men must rule even when my father has died - that's what they taught me. It's this type of thinking that I plan to destroy.





Wednesday, 3 June 2015

My Family & Other 'Monsters'



This is my story of British domestic honour based violence now gone international. 

I am Yasmin Choudhury.  I am a social entrepreneur.  I live in London and am British. 

I am the founder of Lovedesh (social business/enterprise) and Amcariza Foundationa British charity. The former is launching the #LTTTW campaign  which will showcase my heritage nation of Bangladesh and other nations in August 2015 at a top prestigious venue in London.  Both are designed to make the rest of the world fall in love with 'Third World' nations and to buy from the artisans out there - so that more pennies can be put into the pockets of local people.