Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Barbie in Hijab Represents Oppression or Empowerment?

Last week, Mattel’s newest Barbie doll was released, as part of the Barbie Sheroes collection. The new pretty Barbie is dressed in a fencer’s suit, got a brown skin, and wears hijab. She is created this way to celebrate the accomplishment of Ibtihaj Muhammad; the American 31 years-old Olympic fencer.

I got very excited to see the new Barbie because it simply acknowledges the women who do not conform to the strict standards of the so-called “western” beauty. Imagine how this little doll can inspire millions of young girls in Muslim families, not only in the United States but all over the world, to realize their utmost potential when they grow up, regardless of what they look like or the way they choose to dress. 

But, Maureen Callahan, a columnist at the New York Post, who is also a woman and an American – just like Ibtihaj – was offended by the new Barbie for having dark skin and modest hijab! Rather than celebrating the accomplishment of Ibtihaj as an American woman, she just wrote a long article attacking Ibtihaj and her background as a Muslim woman! Unfortunately, she was the only one to do the attack in American media. 

In this short video (watch above), I am trying to explain to Ms. Callahan, and all those who think like her, what hijab really is and how a piece of cloth cannot create or implicate oppression. 

I hope you find it useful and I look forward to your comments and discussions. You can always contact me on my email HERE, comment under the video on Youtube, or visit my pages on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Heart-breaker's Monologue on Love, Life, Time, and Freewill

It is amazing when life reveals one of its deepest secrets to you! 

In two months, I will be completing my thirty fifth year on Planet Earth. I never realized how beautiful life is until only three years ago. I met a man who taught me how to love every single bit of my living existence. He was the male copy of me. He was the mirror projecting my inner self that I had been hiding deep within, out of fear of being hurt. I had enough bruises to inhibit me from taking further risk. He healed them all, so I was able to play the game of living once again.  

Ironically, we met at awkward crossroads of life. I was on my way in, while he was on his way out. But love does not understand the workings of time, age, and social obligations. Neither of us had the power to control time, so we decided to control love. 

We broke up and went on our separate ways trying not to look back. We tried for three times to pursue life without each other, and it was impossible. We preferred staying at this awkward crossroads, rather than living within what people call a normal time and social context. We were happy to be the exception for the rule. This was not the kind of love to walk on.  

In the process, it was impossible to ignore the amount of damage we were causing to everyone around us. By staying in our awkward crossroads, he was destroying all those whom he shares his life with. By leaving our awkward crossroads, I walked over three amazing men, whose only guilt was to fall in love with me. I called off a wedding ceremony only fifteen minutes before it starts, I broke up with a fiancé only one week before marriage, and manipulated a long time friend-zoned lover. 

I know sincere apology could not make it up for them, but I am really sorry for breaking their heart. They must be thinking of me as a mean person with cruel heart. But no! My heart is the most fragile of all. I am only a woman in love, who is going through a very tough battle with time and society. I hope one day they would understand and forgive me. 

Only today, life decided to reveal one of its secrets to me. That is: love is not a burden to resist, but an empowerment tool to hold. Real love is the only thing that can control time, break all fences, and re-write our whole destiny. Lovers exist in life only when they embrace love; otherwise their existence does vanish when they sacrifice love to time or social norms. 

Love is the one and only thing that empowers us, humans, to realize our utmost potential to practice our freewill and enjoy the life that we always wanted to have. 

Therefore, I decided to never ever resist love or let go of the man I loved the most just because we did not meet on the right time or context! I will never ever give up on living the life I want. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Terrorism and Human Rights; What is the Link? (Hint: There isn't any!)

In this video, I am trying to answer the burning question on the relationship between advancing human rights and fighting terrorism, based on my experience as a human rights activist and researcher on fighting Islamic extremism since 2006.

It has become a trend! Over the recent few years, we have been listening to world leaders talking about the two topics – human rights and violent extremism – as if they are two ends of the same spectrum. 

The United Nation’s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued several fact sheets explaining the link between human rights and terrorism. Several analysts from think tanks and academia have issued a tremendous number of papers on the so-called “interdependent relationship” between fighting terrorism and human rights. 

Their arguments usually deal with fighting terrorism and advancing human rights as two ends of the same spectrum. Pursuing more of one side should necessarily mean losing more on the other side, so they argue. If you want more security and success on fighting terrorism, you have to stop achieving progress on human rights. Vice versa, if you want more progress on human rights, then you have to stop speaking about terrorism as a threat to human security and be more lenient on fighting violent extremists out of fear of being “islamophobic” or not “respecting other’s religion!” Some analysts have gone as far as giving excuses to terrorists by claiming that they adopted terrorism as a reaction to not have enough human rights in their countries. 

In practical reality all those arguments have been proven wrong. We have seen French, British, and American citizens turning into terrorists despite the fact that they grow up in liberal democratic nations, which cherish individual freedoms and respects human rights. 

I do believe that linking human rights and terrorism in the way we are doing today is a fatal mistake. By playing the spectrum of fighting terrorism versus advancing human rights, we lethally empower terrorists over national states; and thus making it impossible to put an end to terrorism or achieve any tangible progress on human rights. 

Advancing human rights and fighting terrorism are like water and oil. They are two objects (or topics) from two different spheres. They are neither interdependent on each other nor linked to each other, despite the fact that they can exist and develop at the same time and the same place. 

On one hand, human Rights, in its essence, is an international law of idealistic goals that human beings have been trying to realize for decades, and have not fully realized, yet! National states are abiding by the international human rights law. National states are obliged to take all necessary measures to apply those rights on the humans (citizens) living under the governance of those national states. 

On the other hand, terrorism is a criminal action committed by non-state actors, who are not committed to any laws or rules that dignifies human beings. They do not have a common identity or an organized body to force to commit to any agreement of any kind. Killing human beings and destroying national states is their ultimate goal. 

National states can sometimes fail on advancing human rights. This is a mistake that can be corrected by time and cooperation with other states or with the United Nations. We have seen countries, especially in my Middle East region, turning from authoritarian dictatorships into open democracies. 

However, National states do not have the luxury of trial and error on fighting terrorism. Failure is not an option here, because it means the end of the national state. Syria, Yemen, and Libya are clear examples on this. Fighting terrorism is a criminal action that requires an immediate reaction, while advancing human rights is a process that takes years if not decades to be accomplished.    

In that sense, we should understand that terrorism is not a threat to human rights, but a threat to human existence. If humans are killed, there won’t be human rights. For humans to practice their rights, they need to exist in a safe context first. Terrorism is only one of many obstacles in the way of progressing human rights. Yet, terrorism is not an equivalent to human rights. i.e., one of them is not interdependent on the other. Likewise, Human rights are not a luxury but at the same time, human rights should not be used as an obstacle in the way of fighting terrorism. This distinction is extremely important to consider, while looking at how national states should be handling terrorism and terrorists. 

I hope this video and blog post initiate an international conversation on the lack of interdependence between advancing human rights and fighting violent extremism, in a way that ends the current state of polarization that is pre-occupying our world, today.

I look forward to hearing from you. Write m your comments or questions under the video on Youtube. Or, drop me an email by clicking here.