Friday, 28 February 2014

Aaargh!! Muslim Phobias!

After reading this article about 5 frightening Muslim phobias it made me think of writing my own list. It seems that there's more than one irrational fear prevalent in some Muslim communities, some of them more amusing than harmful but others are downright unislamic and do nothing but give Muslims a bad reputation! So, without further ado, here is my list of Muslim phobias:

Anuptophobia - Fear of Staying Single
Is it just me or do Muslims have an somewhat unhealthy obsession with marriage? We all know that it completes half your deen, and of course we all want to find a loving, committed relationship, but reaching the age of 25, or 30, 35 or older without being married is nothing to be terrified or ashamed of! Please, enjoy your life in the meantime, stop feeling so sorry for those poor old '30 year old pensioners who surely must be infertile by now', and once you do get married, we're happy for you, really, there's no need to show off with hundreds of wedding photos and lovey-dovey status updates....*shudder*

Andro/Gynophobia - Fear of the Opposite Sex
I have literally seen people jump and hide behind objects, insist on avoiding eye-contact whilst performing an eye examination and even heard of people who would prefer to let someone of the opposite gender *die* than risk going too near them whilst they're not properly covered! Sure, segregation in some cases is a good thing (like public toilets.. or changing rooms at the gym... definitely changing rooms!), and we're not supposed to touch/flirt/stare at/be alone with a member of the opposite sex but, and this may come as a surprise to some, simply passing near to a man/woman will not cause you to be pulled together into an unescapable embrace (unless they have that giant magnet from Breaking Bad hidden in their jacket and you're on your way to a fancy dress party in an Ironman costume) nor will laser beams shoot from the eyes of any man who happens to glance in your direction and burn you to a cinder.

Bidaphobia - Fear of Innovation
I read an article the other day which made me laugh - scholars declare that breathing modern air could be bidah and haram since it's not the same air the prophet (saw) breathed and is thus an innovation! Although this is clearly a joke some Muslims really do go too far with this and proclaim that everything from quranic calligraphy to singing nasheeds for children is bidah.

Some even extend the innovation concept from acts of worship to all other acts in our daily lives (including anything modern in general) - using electricity, cars, aeroplanes, modern medicine... Ok yes all these things are bidah technically, but they are not haram - those are only the ones which go against or somehow alter the command of God... such as terrorism for example... seems pretty straight forward to me!

Homophobia - Needs no Explanation!
Ok so we all know that homosexual relationships are not allowed in Islam, just like a relationship outside of marriage for example, and I feel it's perfectly fine to have this belief. However, some Muslims take this to the extreme and go out of their way to hate, avoid at all costs or even deny the existence of homosexuals altogether! Some people also seem to have this ridiculous notion that gay people hit on every person of the same gender that they come accross and therefore it's vital to keep away from them before they try to seduce you! I even had to reassure one Muslim girl that she could still talk to her friend who had recently come out because yes, I was pretty sure she would not try to grope her if she stood too close!

On a more serious note these irrational perspectives are extremely unhelpful to any Muslims who experience homosexual feelings, and to non-muslim homosexuals whose private lives are really none of our business. Islam promotes tolerance and kindness not harsh judgements and prejudice.

Karifophobia - Fear of Non-Muslims
This is related to the fear of innovation in that some Muslims are so paranoid about 'not imitating the disbelievers' that they again extend this from acts of worship to everything! Wearing jeans for example, or celebrating... anything. Wedding rings, honeymoons, going on holiday in general, making any kind of musical tune with your voice/hands/feet... since music is haram and the way of the kaafir...

Some even say we shouldn't associate with people who aren't Muslim, we shouldn't be friends with them and only talk to them when absolutely necessary. It is better to avoid them as much as we can, in fact, it is better to just emigrate to a Muslim country as soon as possible!

Thank God the prophet (pbuh) didn't have that attitude or there wouldn't be any Muslims!!

Jinnophobia - Fear of Genies
Jinn stories are the Muslim staple for round the fire ghost stories, and unlike in Aladdin these jinn aren't friendly or funny and don't come to grant you 3 wishes!

The stories always start with something that happened to my best friend's cousin, or my aunty's hairdresser... or my dad's friend's niece.... when she was taking a shower and suddenly felt something touching her back....!! (maybe it was the shower curtain..?? no?) or somebody was driving at night and suddenly a person was standing right in front of their car and nearly made them crash!! (maybe it was an actual person...?).

Sometimes it gets more dramatic or just downright strange; people becoming possessed and attacking others or themselves, people turning into horses legs, jinn riding bikes, eating ladu, hiding in trees, hiding in dogs, in snakes, in bathrooms... the bathroom thing still scares me to this day, I daren't look in the mirror if it gets past a certain time in case there's a jinn behind me... in fact... I'm going to stop writing this post right now as apparently just thinking about them attracts them to come to you..... this stuff isn't made up you know!! (ok so most of it is... but there's some truth in it and the scary thing is... you never quite know which parts are true....!!)

Jujuphobia - fear of black magic
Ok why did I decide to write about 2 scary things in a row late at night when I'm sitting on my own and it's relatively dark (ok there are two lights on in the room but its still feels too dark and the lights are giving a somewhat eerie glow which I never noticed until just now...).

Juju, or black magic, goes hand in hand with jinn, especially people using jinn to do black magic... can't get much scarier than that! Now as with jinn, there is some basis for black magic in Islam as far as I am aware, for example we shouldn't participate in it ourselves and there are cases of it actually working. However, some Muslims become paranoid they blame every ailment and misfortune on black magic! Have a headache? Someone must be sticking pins in your voodoo doll. Stomach upset? Someone must have hidden some potion in your food in revenge after you broke off your engagement to their son. Late for work? Well it's not your fault that you neighbour called upon a jinn to delay you....! One should also be extremely careful when accepting gifts. Unless it's from an immediate and trustworthy family member it's better to be on the safe side and throw it away, you know, just in case they cursed it with a magical spell to make you late for work for ever....!!

 - fear of eyes
Not just the 'evil eye', which, granted, is pretty scary when you think about it, but eyes on teddies, on dolls, in photos, in cartoons, on smiley faces...!! Yes you are not supposed to make statues and worship them but personally I'd rather not have any animal/baby toys at all than have all my teddies and dolls with their eyes gouged out!! I'm sure a train set would be a perfect replacement for example... just make sure it's not thomas the tank engine!!

Questionophobia - fear of questions
This one actually annoys me a lot, it seems strange but a lot of Muslims (mainly the older generation) really don't like it when other Muslims (mainly the younger generation) ask questions about Islam.

Ask a question such as 'does God exist?' 'how do we know', 'why do we pray', 'do we have to fast', 'how do we know Islam is the right religion and not another one?' and you will be faced with a look of panic and stern reprimand to do as you're told and stop asking stupid questions! It's as though these people are worried that they won't be able to find a satisfactory answer and that the questioner will decide not to be Muslim anymore if they look into it too much! Yet why should anyone follow something they don't understand or really believe in?? That's just stupid, why did God give us brains if we're not meant to use them? Adnan Ibrahim has a good video about this here.

Zoophobia - fear of animals
Finally, this is something that makes me pretty sad. Hmm, this was meant to be a funny post but some of it has ended up being rather serious! The classic Muslim animal phobia of course is dogs; you'll see fully grown Muslim men actually jumping out of the way or crossing the street when they see a dog coming, even on a lead, even a small poodle or shi tzu....

The teaching that dogs are impure has lead to Muslims becoming fearful of them and wishing to avoid them at all costs, seemingly forgetting all about Qitmir; that dogs are perfectly acceptable companions for hunting, guarding etc; that not all schools of thought consider them unclean; that at the very least their fur is not unclean, so no you don't need to dry-clean your cost 7 times if a dog brushes past you (I actually heard of someone doing this!) and that dogs are mentioned in a positive way in the Quran not a negative one.

Ask many Muslims and they will inevitably have a had a 'bad childhood experience' when a dog chased or tried to bite them. Well I was almost bitten by a dog as a child, I'm allergic to them and I have been chased by a lion...!!! Ok so it was just a cub but I was terrified at the time! But the point is I'm perfectly fine and I still like them so I feel that these are just excuses! To me this is rather sad as dogs can be such amazing creatures mashaAllah.

However what I find even worse is how some Muslims seem to extend their hatred of dogs to all other animals as well. Ok so pigs are forbidden to eat (so you can kind of see why Muslims seem to hate them in general even though I don't personally see how some Muslims jump from 'we shouldn't eat them' to 'they should all die', which is what a Muslims guy actually once said to me during a visit to a zoo) - I mean, do they think all other animals that we don't eat should also die?? what about Humans...?! Maybe we should all become cannibals to avoid the issue... but, I digress....) and snakes can apparently be possessed by jinn as I mentioned (and Voldemort apparently) but what about cats for example? I was so upset to see cats in Masjid-al-Haram, of all places, being beaten with shoes, or a tiny kitten at Mount Arafat running in terror from two boys with sticks. There are even well known hadith about the companions of the prophet being kind to cats (one of them was even nicknamed the kitten man! may God be pleased with him).... yet they are still treated badly. Sorry dogs, you've got no chance!

How could anyone want this to die??

p.s. I just came across this book, looks really nice. I might get it for my lb  - animal stories of the Quran

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

World War Z

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*warning some spoilers*

A rare movie for me - 5 stars!! This has just the right amount of action, suspense and kept me on the edge of my seat for 2 hours; there wasn't really any 'this would be a good time for a toilet break' moments. It was kinda like an extreme version of The Walking Dead (to which I am somewhat addicted) - zombies taking over the world due to the spread of some virus, except unlike most zombie films, these ones can *run*.... Which makes more sense, and makes it more scary!

I don't remember any bad language being used, and there are no dodgy sex scenes or anything, so it's a good movie to watch with your family (though perhaps not for young children as there is some violence of course with the zombies) and it has a good storyline - something which a lot of action movies seem to lack; just the right balance of action and acting for me.

It was also cool how they filmed some of it in Jerusalem (I'm sure I recognised some of the streets they were being chased down having been there twice myself) and interesting to see the use of the 'apartheid wall' in the movie - useful for keeping out zombies as well as suicide bombers apparently... or not! Totally pointless it turned out to be just like in real life... I hear the movie has received some criticism from pro-Palestinian activists for showing the wall in a positive light and somehow drawing a parallel between zombies and Palestinians, but I didn't see it like that when I was watching as there are both Palestinians and Israelis inside the wall together. A scene of unity between the two groups is portrayed as though they put their differences aside in order to survive the zombie attacks. Surely this is a good thing?

It has also been criticised for making the 'apartheid wall' into a symbol of peace rather than one of conflict as it is in reality, or that Israel is put in an unfairly positive light in the movie as it is one of the only 2 countries to survive the zombies. Again however, I saw it in a different light. The only other country to survive the zombie attacks was North Korea because they pulled out the teeth of all their people! So to my mind Israel is being compared to this - only countries with harsh regimes and military force are surviving, I don't think they are necessarily saying this is a good thing! And the failure of the wall to keep out the zombies in the movie, yet the success of dealing with them in another way (which I won't give away but it doesn't involve extreme Israeli-style force) just shows that these strategies do not bring peace. What do you guys think?

Monday, 24 February 2014

Islam - Positive or Negative?

A while ago on facebook I saw the picture below appear on my timeline. I'm going to give whoever made it the benefit of the doubt and assume they ad nothing but good intentions to remind women of how to behave in a good manner as required in Islam. However, my first impression of it was very negative - and to tell the truth it made me feel rather angry and upset. I see the reason for the use of the street signs to communicate 'street etiquette' but to me all it does is reinforce the negative stereotype of the oppressed Muslim women, a stereotype I do my best to dispel!

Now, I'm not saying that the information on the poster is false (well, I found that some of it has more evidence than others in my research but overall most of it has at least some grounding), but what I object to is the way in which is it presented. I often find this in Islam, something that is actually good is presented in a very negative way. So, I decided to make my own version to show that the same information (I excluded the less well evidenced stuff) can presented in a positive light and that actually women are not oppressed but highly respected in Islam. Let me know what you think!

"Women have an honoured position in Islam. Allah and his prophet provide specific advice to women to help them maintain their respect and dignity. Among these things is to dress and behave modestly, to avoid attracting attention to oneself, to respect each other’s personal space in the street, and to save your love and beauty for the man that is committed to you. Equally men are taught not to check out women in the street, not to speak to them disrespectfully, to protect them from harm, to provide for them, to make them happy. May Allah guide all of us to be the best to our husbands, our wives, our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters in Islam. May He put strengthen and bless our relationships with each other, let us see the best in each other and don’t let us divide the Ummah"

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Pacific Rim (2013)

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I really enjoyed this movie too! Seems like I'm seeing some good movies recently, another action/sci-fi type so somewhat like Elysium. No inappropriate scenes or bad language so great for family viewing. I just took off one star because there were a few too many fight scenes for me. I know I know, it's meant to be like that, but I felt like I was squinting to see what was going on a lot of the time especially as it all seemed to be in the dark - don't the Kaijus ever come out in the day?? I would have liked a little more story, and also the geographer in me was somewhat unsure about the whole concept of aliens coming out the ring of fire... ok yes I know it's made up of course, but as far as I could tell these monsters were coming out somewhere near Japan, in which case how were they coming out of a destructive plate margin?? Surely they should have been coming out of Kilauea or something, now that would have been much more believable!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Elysium (2013)

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I really enjoyed this movie! Husband did too until the end when he decided he hated it... ok so there were a few things that could have been better - the bad guy wasn't scary enough (according to my husband) and there was one scene in particular which was pretty unrealistic. In fact, the whole plot seemed a little weak - that a whole 'planet' could be reset with some sort of computer virus - they were so advanced they could cure cancer in 30 seconds yet their security systems were totally flawed. However, in a way it kinda reflects today's technology reliance - what would happen if the internet was hacked into/shut-down on a large scale. And I liked the geography theme with the over population and environmental destruction. But nah, couldn't give it 5 stars due to the plot weaknesses but, it is a movie and I did enjoy it, so I reckon it deserves 4 stars, let me know what you think!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

End of Watch (2012)

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Haven't done a movie review for ages!! And I've actually watched quite a few movies since my last review (well, it was a loong time ago!) so thought I'd add the last 4 I've seen. These were not at the cinema as I have sadly stopped going since having a baby. I just never seem to have time and feel bad leaving my lo for 3 hours to see a movie when I already leave him when I go to work! Now and then is ok I admit but the other reason is we bought a projector last year so we have a kind of home cinema experience in our lounge - since the projector cost us around £250 I want to make use of it! It's not perfectly clear like the cinema by any means but it's good enough for me, plus it's free and I can sit in my pyjamas, have intervals whenever I want and home made snacks! 

So my hubby chose this movie, I'd heard of it before but it's not something I would automatically go for. However, it turned out to be pretty good. There wasn't that much of a storyline compared to say, Elysium or World War Z, which are on a much bigger scale, but it's main strength was how realistic it was, just two normal cops in LA and the experiences they face. I would say it's an action thriller, lots of action but kinda scary edge-of-your-seat stuff too. The acting is excellent from the two main actors (Gyllenhaal and Peña) they have great chemistry between them you really feel like they're best friends. 

I minused a star due to the unnecessary amount of swearing (mainly the f work), apparently it comes in
top ten for movies that use the f-word, a bit ott for my taste! I have this thing about swearing that the more you do it and hear it the more normal it becomes, when it shouldn't be, it's horrible and I don't ever want to become immune to it for mine and my lo's sake. But other than that I'd definitely recommend it, just don't go and watch the other 9 movies all at once!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Memory Jar

I saw this idea posted on facebook and decided to try it, sounds like a nice family tradition to give you something to look back on and hopefully laugh/smile about and remind you of the good things in your life. However, without the time required to keep a diary, which I used to do but can never find the time for anymore. Even the baby book I was planning never materialized, but this needs only a minimal amount of effort. I also like the way the notes are secret, only to be revealed when the jar is opened at the end of the year/when it gets full, and that anyone can post a note inside, all the family can contribute and you're not influenced by reading what other people have written, like you would in some type of book. Actually this could be a good alternative for a wedding guest book! You could even ask guests to your house to contribute if they wish. 

Making the jar in the first place does require some effort, unless you don't mind it plain or you just buy one, but I wanted to save money and I wanted it to look pretty, so this is what I used (everything was stuff I already had):

Large pickled onion jar
Dried flower petals
Wooden clothes peg
Instant coffee
2 cotton face pad things (ordered these accidentally one time thinking they were something else!)
Pendant from an old necklace
Bit of ribbon from a clothes tag
String of beads from an old broken bracelet
Piece of white felt
Pomegranate tea bag
Elastic band
Coloured sugar paper

I put some flower petals at the bottom of the jar, discarded the lid and covered it with a piece of pink felt (it was white but I dyed it pink with the pomegranate tea as it had gone a yellowish grey colour having been lying around in my cupboard for years!), secured in place with an elastic band. I trimmed the edges and also secured a wooden peg (dyed with coffee, though this didn't work too well and it hardly changed colour, i originally wanted a dark brown peg but never mind).

I hung a pendant from an old necklace along with two cotton face pads dyed pink/brown by threading a piece of ribbon through them. I then covered the elastic and felt edges by wrapping round a long string of tiny beads (thanks Hana!) and draped the last part down around the jar. I cut a hole in the felt for posting and secured pieces of different coloured sugar paper (pink/red/yellow/orange/brown) to the side with the peg.

I plan to attach a pen to it too when I find a nice one, maybe wooden, but haven't got that far yet! You don't really need to attach a pen or the paper but it just means it's easier to use and hence people are more likely to use it, no one will bother if they have to hunt around for a pen and paper first!

Please tell me what you think! I realise most people won't have the same things at home as I did but I hope I've given you some ideas about to make your own, let me know if you do I'd like to see it!


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Depression Cake

It was the day before our big monthly shop so we were running low on food and ingredients, no biscuits, no fruit, no cake to have with my tea! Fortunately, I did have some flour, sugar, cocoa and vinegar, which is all you need to make this amazing cake!!

Check out the recipe here, it is so easy, you don't even need a bowl! (although i used one cos i wasn't sure if I could mix it properly in the grease proof paper). It doesn't take quite as rich as a cake with milk and eggs, but it's really soft and moist and definitely chocolatey! Great for people with dairy/egg allergies too. You can also make other flavours, might try the lemon one next...

Oh, and it's name - this is the last thing that would make you depressed! Although maybe it's supposed to be made for depressed people to cheer them up? That would make more sense, but the name actually comes from the Great Depression in the US, which is when this cake was invented, I guess necessity really is the mother of invention! Now just need to wait another 1.5 hours before i can break my fast and eat some!

Fresh out the oven...

Ready to enjoy...!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Breastmilk Sweet Buns

So I had some expressed milk that needed using up again; after my recent discovery of how easy it is to make bread rolls I thought I'd use up the milk by making some for my lo.

Same recipe except I used the milk instead of water and also added an egg, a large spoonful of honey (instead of sugar) and some chopped prunes and dates. Also I couldn't be bothered to leave it to rise twice so just shaped the rolls straight after kneading and then let them rise.

Fortunately they turned out really nice (better than the biscuits which went kinda hard and stodgy after a few days unfortunately) and, most importantly Isa liked them, yay! So now I have something yummy and healthy to give him for lunch at nursery the next few days =)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Morning Rolls!

I met up with a dear friend a few days ago whom I hadn't seen for a long time and she gave me a recipe book. In it was this recipe for morning rolls, and since we had run out of bread this morning I thought I'd have a go.

Unfortunately I had neither bread flour nor light brown sugar but decided to have a go with what I had - normal plain flour, soft dark brown sugar and a decent attempt at kneading and I got some surprisingly nice rolls!

They were so easy to make, all you do is add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 of salt to a third of a packet of plain flour (500g) along with a 7g pack of yeast, mix in warm water until you get a soft sticky dough then get a good work out by some vigorous kneading for ten mins.

Leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours which you get whatever else done that you need (laundry, breastfeeding, lesson planning....) then, give another couple of minutes kneading, divide into small balls on an oiled tray.

Leave to sit in the oven for half an hour or so before turning it on to let them rise up again, then bake at 200C for 20mins (or till they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and are slightly golden) and there you have it, warm freshly baked bread, delicious! And perfect for any time of day, breakfast, a snack, an accompaniment to lunch or dinner. Plus they make your house smell lovely!

I've been inspired now so hopefully will be trying out some more bread recipes soon, and these will definitely become a regular staple to our diet - fresh, cheap, delicious and I'll get nice toned arms hopefully!