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"I am a woman of many headscarves" My interview with Alison Jarret

Thursday, 5 August 2010

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

This isn't all important news - but I know it is for Alison Jarret who is a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics and Political Science, studying Global Media and Communications (she's a nerd and we love her for it). Alison found my bloggery kingdom through Muslimness.com and contacted me for her dissertation about young British Muslims who create and maintain their own blogs and websites, why they write and what kind of responses they receive.

I wanted to share a few interview questions from Alison which were deeply smart and very interesting to answer: Alison if you're reading this - much luck and success to you! Insha'Allah - God willing. (:

Alison: What sort of feedback do you get from your Muslim community/Muslim family about keeping a blog that talks about Islam?

Me: The Muslim community around are encouraging of my blog (www.zaufishan.co.uk), they want to share their stories and events with me. In truth, many of them aren’t bothered as much since I write nothing controversial, I do not criticise sects, groups or write about major Muslim events – unless they’re positive. Branching outwards, the Muslims from around the world are more encouraging as for some of them an online blog is their only source of a ‘Muslim’ community. They get to see what’s happening in UK Muslim lives, see, my blog is not so much ‘about Islamic beliefs’ as it is about ‘living as a Muslim’ and therefore trying to develop good character, studying Who God is, the 5 pillars of Islam, belief, life and death. My family and parents see my blogs (www.muslimness.com) as a hobby, which it is, and my form of ‘Muslim’ expression to learn about Islam and teach others; my mother actually works with me on Muslimness.com, writing about parenting and teaching. With the introduction of networks like Facebook and Twitter, many of my extended kin have joined the online communication world. I make comics about Muslims and my grandmother who, in her traditional ways, like to teach me the domestic ways to spirituality – she doesn’t mind!

As a Pakistani Muslim sometimes I do hear the question ‘why are you wasting your talent online?’ but that’s from individuals who forget that the www is a stepping stone. I don’t mind being the small blogger/writer from England and as I said, it is my job but mostly a hobby. I could quit anytime!

Alison: In what ways does your blog and how it’s compartmentalized represent you as a person?

Me: Like all creative people, what we create with our tools and skills is a reflection of our current creative mindset; my personal blog is a small fraction of my personality, learning techniques, social conduct and ideas “offline” – it’s an ideal world “online” – easy to manipulate, “undo” and “delete”; it works slower than real life where you have to reply almost instantaneously, defend your identity or integrity to a cause. However, blogging forces you to also move faster in that as soon as I learn something about an Islamic shariah – I feel I must share it to enlighten others; if Muslims in the media are promoting a project (inspiredbymuhammad.com) or creating new media (littleexplorersmagazine.com) I find out fast and share it with several thousand people in a few clicks. In short, my blog is what a piece of my diverse life, belief system and ideas look like.

Alison: Is there value in dialogue between believers and non-believers? If yes, how do you address this in your content?

Of course, this goes without saying: Any open dialogue with a resolve at the end, or at the least, finding common ground in disagreement, is a step in the right direction for the world’s progression. I do imagine a person reads each piece I create whom has never heard the words ‘muslim/islam/Allah etc’ therefore I translate phrases, I write ‘lighter’ toward a more approachable style instead of the heavy Arabic filled articles you find on ‘pure’ Muslim sites. I live in a diverse community in North England where even my neighbours living 100yards away think my skin colour (brown-ish) and dress (khimar = headscarf) means I am a slave to a man and I will have many, many children (they have said this to me). On the other hand, the Muslim community, masjids, cosmopolitan-university lifestyle similar to London allows for huge “PDOs”: Potential Daw’ah Opportunities. If I find an opportunity for dawah (inviting people to Islam) through my writing and comics I WILL take it.

The value in this is that I am strengthening what I believe to be the absolute truth in a temporary life, accountability of all my conscious actions and an all-Loving God, while introducing others to this peaceful and content attitude. Plus, people are so angry in general, you look at them and they’re just miserable, even with that Aston Martin, the billion dollar house and that fine paying job. When the average person reads some horrific headline of Muslims behaving incorrectly (as humans do) it adds to their anger and now many of them have a cause for the recession, for war, for global warming – “it was the Muslims!” I have the greatest conversations (I often start them) at bust stops, queues, outside churches or the local Ukrainian club (it’s awesome) about how ‘they’ perceive me and why ‘I’ am usually not what they expected. I aim to completely abolish this mentality and begin from scratch. Simple questions and conversation on day to day problems works best.

Alison: Do you think it’s a good thing that anyone can produce content?

Definitely not. We are a world where every mouth wants to speak but without the control device on. It is good that more people are being creative, that more industries are developing, that productive Muslim influences are reaching even New York catwalks, that more Muslim writers, singers and Muslim women are being recognised for their contributions, but it is not a good thing that every person with access to the internet will load any nonsense they have. All content is not good content. And that’s where the point of contention lies: What is good? While more Muslim blogs are popping up, the mortality rate in Africa, poverty rate in South Asia and crime rate in America has not gone down. Again, it’s a huge ambition to put on a blog; but that is why a Musim blog is above average – I actually try to change the negative into positive, this is not to say everybody else doesn’t, but we can see it is not a priority for everyone who creates something. I could easily rant about family trouble, the new shoes I bought blah blah blah. However, more good comes from sharing news on the orphan I am sponsoring, the conversations I had with a gay Muslim, the questions I am asked about living better and aiming for unity with all people. Even the BNP.

Alison: Is there anyone you would not want to read your blogs?

Good question. No, not really. Oh, actually, sometimes I talk about relationships and sex and will write sidenotes to my father in particular if he’s reading – such as ‘…I may turn into a lesbian… Dad, if you read this, I’m just kidding!’ But my own blog (www.zaufishan.co.uk) is not a personal blog, it’s more social, open with articles, news, research, promoting other sites etc.

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I do find however I will replace my virtual ‘Muslimness’ headgear (khimar) with my Pakistani salwar kameez when I’m writing about Pakistani culture; I will replace my global-unity-headscarf with a British Union Jack when I feel I have to defend my land of birth (I do get told to go home or that my home is where my forefathers came from – Egypt?!), and I will replace my neutral coloured work-shift headscarf with a rainbowy silver one with yellow stars and blue moons (seriously, I made one like this) when I am trying to get everyone’s attention over a serious/entertaining issue. I am a woman of many headscarves. Alhamdulillah for that.

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Rukhpar Mor said...

You're awesome=)

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Thank you. Have you read Muslimness.com?