Our Voices

Regretfully Dad-Abu.

Regretfully Grandad,

I couldn’t attend your funeral

I wasn’t sad enough.

Not that I was short of love

Or you never let me feel,

I just wasn’t yours grandad- you were never a part of the deal.

Regretfully grandad I forgot you,

Shunned away from the responsibility of being like

You. Of being with you- because my life could never mix with yours.

Kismet.

There’s no room to spare-

There was never any conflict- I just wasn’t there

In that foreign terrain I’ve been made to call home

 

And you speak Punjabi Granddad.

I can’t and I don’t.

 

Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is the Creative Writing Editor for I RISE Magazine. 

Ostracising Communities: An Ofsted-Approved Guide

Some weeks ago the head of Ofsted, the government-run department in charge of overseeing state schools, announced that inspectors would now begin to question young girls who wore hijabs to class.

The word ‘question’ in and of itself is an outright understatement. Perhaps ‘interrogate’ or ‘grill’ would be more accurate, since the intent behind this questioning is clear. Ofsted are looking for signs that the girl has been forced into wearing a hijab and that she has had no say in the matter. They are looking for indications that the child will become radicalised or, potentially, has become so already. Apparently it is not enough to scrutinize every adult Muslim you see walking down the street—now you must question the intentions of every six year old you stumble across as well.

These changes in Ofsted ruling play into the government’s recent policies regarding the Prevent agenda, a strand of their counter-terrorism strategy. In theory, Prevent was put in place to provide support for those who are at risk of being radicalised, but in reality it has resulted in Muslim students and young people feeling even more isolated from modern British society, thus having an entirely counterproductive effect. The more the government singles out and discriminates against young Muslims, the more ostracised they will feel and the more likely they are to resort to radical means.

In the same manner, the singling out of young Muslim girls, especially at such a young age, will result in them feeling the same way—that they are not like the other children, that they are different or somehow in the wrong, and it is likely that they will not even understand why. It is ironic that politicians and various right-wing parties make arguments about Muslims not integrating into British society, when the reason Muslims feel ostracised is largely due to the doing of the government itself.

Ofsted’s argument regarding their decision is that young girls wearing the hijab promotes their “sexualisation,” since the hijab is not usually worn until the onset of puberty, but this is not always the case. For myself, and many other young Muslim girls, the hijab is an article of clothing worn to convey their cultural identity or simply so they can look like the other women they know. In the same manner that young white girls put on oversized heels and messy lipstick to imitate their mothers, Muslim girls do the same by wearing hijabs, and they should not be singled out because of this choice. There is no malicious intent nor secret agenda behind it.

This is not to say that some Muslim girls are not forced to wear the hijab. In certain families, cultures or locations, this is the unfortunate truth, but very rarely is this the case for most young Muslims in the UK. The actions of the few should not become a standard upon which the government can judge the actions of the wider community, and this applies not only to the hijab but also the broader issues that affect the Muslim community. The more the government puts into discriminating against Muslims, the more stifled Muslims will feel. It’s as if they are Britain’s dirty little secret.

I find it difficult to imagine that a young Sikh boy who wore a turban to school or a young Jewish boy who wore a kippah (skullcap) would be asked the same questions or treated in the same way—or indeed that their clothing would be a point of conversation at all. This is where the problem lies. It is always, always Muslims, and the same issues are stressed and laboured upon over and over again for no good reason; it is merely scapegoating, the act of having someone to point a finger at when things go wrong.

You could argue that I’m overreacting, since I do have a personal stake in this. I was one of those girls, who wore a hijab to school, except back then it was only a piece of clothing and not a political statement. Unfortunately, now, we live in a climate where every step, every breath, every move a Muslim makes is questioned and questioned until they are either convicted—falsely or otherwise—or they are scared into giving up their identity, their spirit, and melding into the meaningless grey masses.

Bareerah Sayed is a third year English student at King’s College London, and the Political Affairs Editor for I RISE Magazine.

An Ode to Robina

 

Robina was a 70s dream,

Who lived for hot buttered toast and

Michael Jackson LPs.

Her first car was crashed by her dad when she was just eighteen

And she believed powerfully in her own daydreams.

 

Robina was a free-thinker, a dreamcatcher,

A go getter. She walked around her neighbourhood

With a bucket of toy soldiers in one hand and a pic ‘n’ mix in the other

And she adored her father and mother.

Whom she cared for like no other.

 

Robina was an amorous Walter Mitty,

Who dreamt of Darcy and Gilbert Blythe,

And of her place in their classic lives,

Roaming moors and mansions alike

As queen of the castle and as wife.

 

Robina was a smart arse

Guaranteed top of the class

Polite in every conversation

Ready and willing for confrontation.

 

Robina was a killer queen,

Dynamite with a laser beam

But now she’s got five mouths to feed-

 

So she gave me all those books to read.

 

Aqsa Ahmed is the Creative Writing Editor for I RISE Magazine.

Featured image credits.

My Week as a Muslim: A futile attempt at addressing Islamophobia in Britain

The first time I tried to watch My Week as a Muslim, I cried during the opening scene and slammed my laptop shut within twenty minutes.

It would be easy to dismiss this Channel 4 documentary as a misguided, shambolic failure and sweep it under the rug with a roll of the eyes and frustrated exasperation as we wonder when mainstream media will represent the Muslim narrative accurately. But I hesitate to do so. My Week as a Muslim has served as a troubling platform for bigots to validate their pre-existing Islamophobia, whilst undeservedly being allowed a voyeuristic view into the lives of a loving British Muslim family.

My Week as a Muslim follows the journey (read: series of racist monologues) of Katie, A Normal White Woman™ from Cheshire. Katie is welcomed into the home of Saima Alvi who is a British hijabi living in Manchester with her four children. Their two worlds collide and a shocking revelation sparkles in Katie’s newly racist-free eyes: Muslims are people. Before Channel 4, I didn’t know that.

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It opens with Saima and her family, standing side-by-side in their living room as they prepare to pray with an uncomfortable Katie looking on in silence. Saima’s youngest child begins the prayer in Arabic, proclaiming ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning ‘God is Great’. Katie’s face crumples into fear, her jaw hanging open in shock and disgust. The scene is heart-breaking and infuriating. Katie has the gall and entitlement – awarded to her by a lifetime of being white – to stand in the living room of her host and openly prickle with fear at the phrase, ‘Allahu Akbar’. It’s not news that this phrase has been tarnished by extremists – terrorists and The Sun alike – to harangue Muslims. But if the intention of this documentary was to dispel the misconceptions Islamophobes cling to, why re-enforce these misconceptions? Why construct a blatantly fake, gratuitous situation which only deepens the very wounds which it seeks to heal? Why remind British Muslims watching that our faith is inherently feared and shunned?

The programme continues to follow Katie as she attempts to assimilate into the Birmingham Muslim community with the guidance of Saima. But nothing stops her from spouting her vitriolic abuse at and about Muslims: ‘banning burqas, banning headdresses would make people feel a lot happier, a lot safer’ because, as she admits, ‘I wouldn’t want to sit next to them [visible Muslims] because I would automatically assume they’d blow something up’. It always shocks me that women who claim to be so liberated, so free, so equal to their male counterparts – let’s not even get into their fear of the word ‘feminism’ – are so quick to ban burqas and impose clothing rules on women. Isn’t that exactly what they are so proud to represent: freedom? So why aren’t Muslim women free to wear what makes them comfortable? We don’t all need to be wolf-whistled on the street to feel confident and comfortable in our bodies. But that’s Western Enlightenment for you.

But the most infuriating and politically-deaf moment of the programme – and that which has received the most attention – is the moment Katie was brownfaced. Brown foundation is sprayed onto her skin as yellow teeth and a large nose mould are fitted onto her face. It is a disrespect on so many levels. Not all Muslims are brown Pakistanis. As a Pakistani Muslim myself, I was enraged at the effortless conflation of Pakistani and Muslim, validating the assumption that brown = Muslim. Sometimes, yes. But the producers conveniently forgot about black Muslims, white-passing Muslims, and white Muslims, in order to fulfil their controversial-for-a-good-cause martyrdom. The producer Fozia Khan oversimplifies the issue in her Guardian article, writing that Katie only ‘puts on makeup and changes her clothes to pass as Muslim’. It is not simply makeup; it is a symbol of oppression, ridicule, and a dismissal of centuries of racism – all the more pertinent considering British colonialism. It is not simply clothes; it is a signifier of faith, of modesty, of commitment – all values which Katie only two weeks ago would have assumed was a cover up for an explosive device.

It completely erases the authentic Muslim experience and instead places an undeserving bigot in the centre of a pseudo-emotional journey of self-improvement. Instead of educating viewers and curing ignorance, it selects an overt racist who is all too quick to change her views and is therefore painfully inaccurate compared to its thousands of viewers who are most likely unconvinced. In doing so, My Week as a Muslim perpetuates a over-valuing of racists and a de-valuing of real Muslim stories: we are encouraged to not sympathise with the words of Muslim women, but with the words of a white woman whose mother cried in fear when she saw her wearing a hijab.

My Week as a Muslim is a disappointing and counterproductive representation of the Muslim experience. But, since it is so detached from the Muslim community, there is one thing I am looking forward to: the intelligent, thought-provoking responses of Muslim women across the country who are righting this wrong.

(One example of this is Sabeena Akhtar’s collection of essays written by British hijabis, Cut from the Same Cloth. Fundraising page here: https://unbound.com/books/cut-from-the-same-cloth)  

 

Sara Malik is a BA English graduate from King’s College London, and is the Assistant Editor & Photographer of I RISE Magazine. 

Chuskipop – Celebrating Desi Feminism

Modern India has been ravaged by rampant misogyny – from the abominable rape culture to the hypersexualisation and objectification of women in the Indian Film industry. Every chauvinistic nook and cranny found in India stems from deep-rooted cultural issues, unfortunately imbibed in Indian society today.

Although there are a myriad of intersectional feminists who are fighting to dismantle the pillars of patriarchy, they seem to lack a certain brand of feminism that has been missing from India for so long – a brand of feminism that combines fighting against the oppression of women in India and simultaneously fighting for the sexual freedom, financial independence and greater recognition of the strength and power of your average Desi woman.

This void is steadily being filled by Chuskipop, an hour long, biweekly podcast by Sweety and Pappu, two proud Indian women who are unapologetically vocal about their body, sexuality, intellect and the power they yield as brown women.

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Chuskipop, “the Brainchild of Sweety”, as Pappu endearingly calls it, was created by Sweety as a “creative outlet to deal with the stress of moving” to Canada, far away from loved ones. Sweety, an artist based in Canada, decided to reach out to Pappu, a writer based in the Middle East and a childhood friend, to create something special, something that would help them connect with other Desi women all around the world. Pappu recalls being initially terrified and simultaneously flattered that Sweety chose to reach out to her. “I tend to be an introvert and I’m not the kind of person to openly voice my opinions a lot – but something stirred inside of me, which prompted me to say yes”.

We wanted to create something entertaining, raw and rebellious – something that celebrates Desi Female friendship”, quips Sweety. “We did this so we could create a safe space online, to voice our dissent through creativity”.

What’s interesting, puzzling and slightly melancholy is both women have decided to remain anonymous, adopting traditional Indian monikers Sweety and Pappu. “Well, both of us were born in the Middle East so we still have family there and Pappu still lives there – living in the Middle East, it’s kind of scary”, Sweety ponders, with slight discontent. The lack of freedom of speech and oppression against women in many parts of the region discouraged the Chuskipop duo to openly speak out. India’s conservative nature acted as an added deterrent – “a lot of our topics may not be taken the right way, especially in relation to relatives; we just didn’t want to run the risk of rubbing someone in the wrong way”.

Chuskipop’s popularity is evident from its steadily increasing social media following, which is no surprise at all. The hilarious, authentic podcasts range from topics about periods to the archaic concepts of marriage in the Indian community – topics that are incredibly relevant and relatable to the majority of Indian women, who want to speak up but may be scared of the repercussions it may bring. When talking about the possible expansion of the Chuskipop brand, Sweety mentions working towards making short films and animated shorts while Pappu talks about wanting to collaborate with specific charities who are involved in elevating the already powerful feminist movement in India.

The Chuskipop duo are also incredibly passionate about helping social causes, ranging from women’s empowerment to increasing the rights of the LGBTQI+ community in India. When asked about whether they had any interested in joining the Indian political scene, both of them fervently deny having any interest. “India has a very intense and frightening political landscape that neither Pappu nor I see ourselves being a part of. Although, we absolutely want to be part of the overarching social justice movement and fight alongside our peers, who need our support” muses Sweety.

In addition to the podcasts, Sweety also creates a very distinctive flavor of artwork that is inspired by 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Bollywood Heroines. The backdrop of the artwork consists of these golden divas, draped in heavy kajal and colourful prints, is fronted by powerful quotes such as ‘A woman does not have to be modest in order to be respected’ and ‘Behind every successful woman in a tribe of other successful women who have her back’. “We have been getting so many requests for prints, so we might work on that”, says Pappu.

 

The juxerposition of the quotes with the many actresses representing the stereotypical, submissive Indian woman is a direct hit to the Indian film industry and to the patriarchy that is, unfortunately, ruling India today.

Talking about 90’s Bollywood Heroines leads to Sweety reminiscing about her childhood and how almost every Bollywood movie was written through the ‘male gaze’ and male point of view – “it was honestly exhausting and boring. Growing up in the 90’s and being exposed to rape scene after rape scene was incredibly harmful for young girls – I grew up feeling very confused about sexuality and couldn’t process as to why men kept on physically abusing women in every single Bollywood movie I watched”.

“What frustrated me even more was every movie showing the Indian hero stalking his heroine until she succumbed to his advances and magically fell in love with him. The violent rape scenes, men slapping women to put them in their place or trying to steal their honor – it was horrifying. If this is all Indian men watched growing up, no wonder they feel like they are entitled to a woman’s time”.

Talking about whether the Indian film Industry has been sexually empowering towards woman, Pappu adds that the difference between objectifying women and sexually liberating them is “simple a matter of finding out who is writing/directing the specific movie and who its being written for. More often than not, Bollywood masala films with “Item songs” are written and directed by men, with men in mind as the audience”.

Although, Sweety does mention watching positive Bollywood sexual role models such as Helen, Rekha and Sridevi, woman who would “dance and strut around, blending naturally refined sexuality with power, humour and a whole load of sass”.

One of the aspects that are admiring and refreshing about Chuskipop is how sex positive if is – India, like most South Asian countries, is a very conservative country, where sex is a taboo subject in most households of almost every socio-economic level.

Sweety believes that India has a long way to go to become a sex positive nation for both men and women. “The nation harbors a very sexist and uninformed idea of women’s sexuality and it shocks me that we come from a culture that used to be very sex positive but is now so fearful of discussing a subject that is so natural and primal – sex plays such a big role in our daily lives”.  Although, she has hope that things will eventually change, Pappu adds that India needs a massive overhaul in social norms and the media’s portrayal of women. “The government can possible play a bigger role in education people about human sexuality, as long as they are well informed about it.”

But, for India to move towards becoming a more progressive, sex positive society, the horrifying and uncontrollable rape culture needs to end. “Sex being a taboo subject does play a small role in fueling rape culture, but it stems more from our patriarchal society and a strong desire for Indian men to be in constant control. The average Indian men is raised to believe that they are entitled to a woman’s body and her time whereas the average Indian woman is raised to be quiet and subservient”, says Sweety.

“Also, there is a strong tendency for victim blaming – the fact that the Indian legal system does not even recognize martial rape shows how broken our system is”, says Pappu. She adds, “When it comes to consent classes in India, our sex education does not impart clearly instructions on asking for consent and giving consent. We constantly mention on our podcast of how traumatic the extended rape scenes of 90’s Bollywood were – it was such a weird, hypocritical time where natural acts of showing affection were considered scandalous while no one batted an eye over rape scenes. Although, I can’t really say that the movies nowadays are any better”.

Marital rape not being considered illegal in India, when a spouse is over the age of fifteen, a fact which has sent shockwaves of disgust all over the feminist movement in India. It is also an issue that visibly angers the Chuskipop duo very much.

“Honestly, I’m used to conservative Desi women playing into the patriarchy”, sighs Sweety.

Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet minister for women & children has justified this (might I add pathetically) by stating that the international definition of marital rape ‘can’t be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs etc.’. Sweety adds, “I’m not sure why illiteracy and poverty should be an issue, because martial rape can happen to anyone, regardless of their caste and creed. Obviously Maneka Gandhi has it very, very wrong, either she’s incredibly uninformed or playing a political game of chess. I know she used to be against marital rape, so I wonder if someone is pressuring her to say otherwise. There’s definitely no exceptions when it comes to marital rape – a man does not have any right over a woman’s body, no means NO. I’m not sure when it will be overturned, but from reading the news, there’s enough dissent around this issue so I’m hoping that things will change soon.

Pappu explains that “The most dangerous tide against the feminist movement in India is in the form of those who knowingly or unknowingly prescribe to an inherently patriarchal view of the world. Their inculcated social mores and codes are from a patriarchal standpoint. The fact that Maneka Gandhi, as the Minister for Women & Child Development, with her inherent patriarchy fails to recognize the basic human right for example the right to your own body, is shameful to say the least”.

Pappu and Sweety are also invested in changing the racist and ridiculous standards of beauty, embedded in Indian culture. Sweety described not even being shocked at VOGUE India’s decision to put Kendall Jenner as the cover model for their 10th anniversary.

“They’ve always been tone deaf when it comes to women of colour. VOGUE India is fixated on the same archaic concept of beauty – that light skin is more attractive and that brown, Desi women don’t have a place in this world. They are perpetuating the concept of India women, with their brown skin, curvy bodies and thick lips are just not good enough.”

Sweety also outlines the inherent misogyny in putting Sushant Singh Rajput, a Bollywood actor with Jenner. “Why did they replace Rajput with Channing Tatum – oh yeah, Desi men have to have a place in Indian society, why not cater to Indian male ego”.

I ask whether we’ll be able to know the identities of these two modern day Jhansi ranis.

Sweety answers, with a lot of conviction. “When we are ready to come out, we will”.

“I guess anonymity does have its inherent benefits – one of them is that the listener to place us to be anyone. We could be that girl riding next to you in the subway or that someone sitting across you at a café”, Pappu mentions.

Hopefully, one day, their candor will bring eventual change in India, enabling them to express their thoughts openly and freely.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

All Photos by Sweety and Pappu of Chuskipop

You can find Chuskipop on social media:

Website:  http://chuskipop.com/

Instagram: @chuskipop

Twitter: @chuskipop

 

Antara Dasgupta is a third year Chemistry student at King’s College London, and the Culture Editor for I RISE Magazine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Seat at the Political Table

Upon scrolling through the barrage of messages left on the myriad of political tweets you can easily find on the internet, you are most likely to note a furious battle between liberal and conservative politics, harsh battle lines drawn between left and right, and, far too often, a belittling of any political opinion that does not correspond to the original author.

Yet, despite the unexpected British election dredging up the same worn-out issues between left and right with no true way of reaching compromise, something far more sinister and shocking evolved from this year’s political campaigning. And it went further than attack ads. Instead, we were all witness to a vitriolic attack on a black woman’s character.

Diane Abbott exceeded all expectations by gaining a coveted place at Cambridge in the 1970s, she broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first black female MP, and she recently stated that she joined politics to “make things better for people like me” – strongly advocating diversity in our political system.

When Theresa May stepped up to the lectern strategically placed outside of 10 Downing Street on the 18th April, I do not believe anyone could have predicted the chaos that would ensue. But in all the bickering, campaigning and promises of strong and stable leadership, racial and gender-based hatred proved the winner in an election with no true outcome. Despite not being naïve to the levels of abuse women of colour face daily, I could not have fully understood the level of hatred spewed out towards one woman who misquoted her numbers.

With a numerous amount of racial slurs and gender attacks hurled at her on Twitter and historically being subjected to ridicule by fellow MPs – David Davies the Brexit Sec. texted a Conservative MP to say he ‘would not hug’ Abbott as he is ‘not blind’ and Jess Phillips told her to ‘f*ck off’ after Abbott raised the issue of a lack of female representation in politics – Abbott was eventually forced to temporarily step down from her position due to illness, a move that has not been seen in British politics for a long time.

We can all probably agree that in the case of the ill-fated LBC ‘car-crash’ interview, Abbott deserved to be critiqued. And if critique falls upon others in equal measure, I will not take issue. But the truth is, it doesn’t. In fact, Boris Johnson, often lampooned as an idiot or buffoon, is praised, and could well find himself as the next leader of the country. This is evidence in itself – as long as you are a white, upper-middle class man – mistakes are just mistakes and nothing more. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, the relentless virulence Abbott was subjected to was out of proportion, and appears to speak to the attitude the general public appear to possess towards women of colour in authoritative positions.

Attacks on Abbott have reinforced facts the community of women of colour across this country have known for years. Echoes of familial words of wisdom instilled in me from childhood often came to the forefront of my mind when reading the latest attack ad, or noting the latest unflattering picture splashed across a tabloid front page: ‘You have to work twice as hard to achieve just as much.’ And as a dark-skinned, proud, strong black woman, the cards were stacked against Diane Abbott. She continued to show strength in the face of adversity. However, as she later announced at the #AbbottAppreciation event held in her honour by a group of well-meaning Twitter supporters, “Even strong black women cry, even strong black women feel alone…”.

Although the negative side of this election has proven to British women of colour that gaining a seat at the table is a battle hard-won, the victories made by ethnic minorities in mostly Labour constituencies significantly pave the way for young women of colour who seek to advocate.

Nevertheless, misogynoir and racism was highlighted as deep-rooted within our political system this election cycle.

It’s time to weed it out before it affects us all.

Rebekah Evans is a student at King’s College London, studying English. 

The Good In Me

The good in me is so breathtaking
The good in me is so mesmerizing
When I started to see the good in me and the value of my worth
I found it hard to stay around
People who didn’t
The good in me is sharp
Like a sword
Like an arrow it pierces
Every negative force that
Does not see the good in me
The good in me is so great
The throne of greatness
When somebody says they
Cannot see the good in me
I hug them with pleasure and
I say,”may the good Lord restore
Your sight for I see
you have lost it”

I cannot wish to be somebody else
To wish you are somebody else is
To waste the person you are
I am happy to be me
The good in me is powerful
I may not be perfect but
I am loving
I am honest and happy
I am what I am because of
The good in me.
I can breath and yes I am living
I am not dead like a stone
I can see the good in me
And it shines like the sun
Very bright and radiantly

The good in me shines so much
That it can give light in darkness
Can you see the good in me?
Yes or No
If yes I am grateful and if no
It is still a fact
The good in me is powerful
The good in me gives me
Wings to fly.
I fly high like an eagle in the skies
Above my enemies and challenges
I fly high above my problems
The good in me gives me courage
It reminds me everyday
That I am a victor not a victim
Blessed and not cursed
That I was born for
A purpose not by mistake

The good in me reminds me that
I can do anything
That I am unstoppable
That I am a winner
That I am victorious
Even if I stand in Africa
Somebody in Europe can see
The good in me
The power of the good in me
Can cause an earthquake
The power of the good in me
Can cool a volcanic eruption

The good in me is a warrior
It chases away my fears
It defends me against those
That critisise me
The good in me gives me confidence
I never feel insecure because
Of the power of the good in me
The good in me chases way
My fears and insecurities
Like a dog chases away a thief
The good in me is my advocate
My commissioner of oaths
The good in me reminds my enemies
That their negative opinion
Towards me is completely
Null and void
The good in me is valid
Do you see the good in me?

©Nancy Kili 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Nancy Kili is a Ugandan poet and Lawyer based in Kampala. She performs poetry performances in Uganda under the Ministry of Education and Burundi. Her poetry book is called “Failure is a wizard” with a version in French called “L’echec est un socier”.

Image credits can be found here.

VOGUE India X Kendall Jenner

Recently, out of sheer boredom, I was starting down at a magazine aisle in IGI airport, where ridiculously inane tabloid headlines and pictures of an imposing zigzag splitting happy-looking couples covered the rack – but only one cover managed to dominate. The gleaming, glossy center of attention was propped up, piercing through my eyes, making me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

There the cover was, constantly reminding me that my brown skin, curvy body and thick lips were just not good enough.

I’d like to start by saying that I fully understand and acknowledge that as a socio-economically privileged non-resident Indian, I have definitely not faced the brunt of the devastating effects of the permanent colonial hangover the empire has left us – one of their many parting gifts.

But as a young brown woman, an Indian woman, it bothers me that VOGUE India, a so called progressive, liberal and most importantly, feminist magazine, decided to celebrate its 10th anniversary by parading Kendall Jenner, a flag bearer of white feminism and intersectional racism. Jenner, by the way, was hot off the Pepsi commercial gaffe, where she and Pepsi managed to commercialise and trivialize strong, pure movements such as Black Lives Matters and the Women’s March.

Oh! – Let’s not forget, she still hasn’t issued a simple apology.

When my melanchochic eyes loom at the Glossy VOGUE cover, Kendall draped in chic black lace, collarbones daintily out, it reminds of my uncle asking me whether I hadn’t washed my face the night before as it was looking grimy and dirty – not ivory-like and unpigmented.

It wasn’t looking white enough.

“Ato Kalo kaano lagche toke?” (Why are you looking so black today?)

I was looking ugly and unkempt because my skin was looking particularly brown today.

Looking at the cover also brings back haunting memories of relatives telling me that I looked as pretty as a Meimshahib, which translated to ‘white girl’.

Was my beauty only justified when I resembled a white woman? Could I not looking beautiful and still be a brown skinned woman at the same time?

What VOGUE India doesn’t recognize is that when you are willfully choosing a white woman to cover an Indian magazine, you are inadvertently, yet essentially sending a message to all Indian woman: You aren’t really attractive if you don’t have fair skin.

The incredibly frustrating issue with VOGUE India is how they incompetently tried to justify their decision by using pathetic statistics. Telling us that 90% of the covers already feature Indian models and therefore giving the coveted spot to a white woman is a frankly ridiculous and a woefully insufficient explanation.

I’m not disappointed in Kendall Jenner. I’m disappointed in VOGUE India.

By plastering a white woman on a coveted issue of an Indian publication, read predominantly by Indian women, reminds us of the narrow standards of beauty that have ravaged Indian women for eons.

By placing Kendall Jenner, a privileged white woman on a cover of an Indian publication, they are essentially being fixated on the same archaic concept of beauty.

When publications such as VOGUE India give preference to white woman over brown woman, it is reminiscent of how Indian woman feel outside of India – marginalized, stereotyped and unattractive.

Outside of India, Indian women are stereotyped as hairy, submissive, with thick accents and slated for an arranged marriage.

Once, someone in London had the audacity to tell me that I smelt like curry.

I shouldn’t feel marginalized and unattractive in my own country.

Publications such as VOGUE India should use opportunities to celebrate all types of Indian beauty so that Indian woman are able recover from the colonial hangover and remain confident of their beauty – no matter how many relatives describe us as wheat-ish or the number of sales assistants hounding us to buy the new and improved whitening and brightening skin cleanser, we should remain confident of the fact that we are strong Indian woman, proud of our bindis, headscarves and melanin.

 

Antara Dasgupta is part of the Editorial Team at I RISE magazine, and a Chemistry student at King’s College London.

The woman behind the ‘Pink Ladoo Project’

Traditionally in Punjabi households, and in a wider South Asian context, the birth of a boy is celebrated with sweets, typically ladoo: a ball of sweetness, usually made with flour and sugar.

However, if a girl is born, there is no designated sweet to celebrate their arrival.

Enter in Raj Khaira.

A British-born Sikh, raised in Canada, Khaira is the creator of the Pink Ladoo Project. Inspired by the negative reaction to her sister’s birth, particularly when contrasted with the reaction to the birth of her brother, in 2015 Khaira began her project to celebrate the birth of baby girls with a pink ladoo.

This may only be a small step, but it helps to meet the campaign’s broader aim of eradicating the sex based prejudices found originally in British Asian households. The campaign has since spread worldwide, to places with a large South Asian diaspora such as Canada and Australia. In taking this step, Khaira has helped start the conversation about this issue in the Punjabi and wider South Asian community.

It’s a conversation that needs to be had. The issue of sex based oppression is overwhelming in areas like the Punjab, which has one of the highest female foeticide rates in India, with a staggering 892 girls born in comparison to every 1000 boys. This is despite the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism. He stated that men and women are equal and established equality of the sexes as a fundamental principle of Sikhism.

Whilst practices of female foeticide may not be so common in the diasporic communities, the idea of baby girls as unwelcome and a burden persists.

Therefore, it is important that women like Khaira rise up and challenge the patriarchal norms of society, proving that women, especially South Asian women who are often portrayed as passive, can and are able to make positive changes.

By turning South Asian cultural expectations on its head, Khaira has not only inspired numerous Asian women and men to celebrate the birth of their daughters, but also started a desperately needed conversation on a very sensitive topic.

Pink Ladoo Project is full of ordinary people’s stories who have experienced a similar story to Raj Khaira.

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Isha Sohal is a third year History student at King’s College, London

World Hijab Day Is A Load Of Tripe

*Disclaimer: I wrote this back in 2015. I still believe this to be true, especially after the horrifying campaign Middlesex Uni SU have recently devised, titled Walk In Her Scarf , which basically allows non-Muslim white women to act as though they support the struggles of Muslim women. However, and funnily, chances are, they don’t stand in solidarity with Muslim women in the past, so why now? It’s stupid.* 

Every year on the 1st of February, it’s known as the so called ‘World Hijab Day’.

Immediately, you think it’s a good thing, people going round wearing a headscarf to see what it feels like, but there is something about this that I find distressing. I’m not a fan of ‘World Hijab Day’ and here’s why.

Firstly, appropriation. Muslim women wearing the hijab is something that is highly criticised, from Islamophobes to so called ‘liberal’ feminists. There seems to be a notion that women who wear the Hijab are subject to oppression and misogyny. So are all these labels dropped for a day just to see what it’s like to have a piece of cloth over your head? Suddenly, you’re praised. You’re championed as brave, courageous, curious, whilst those who wear it on a daily basis for religious purposes, THE ACTUAL REASON YOU WEAR IT FOR, are constantly harassed.

Why is this?

Why should it be okay that someone who isn’t a Muslim wear a hijab for a day and get praised?

Last year in the UK, a Muslim woman was murdered for wearing the full Islamic dress. Murdered. Some are constantly abused for covering their heads, and some need to choose between wearing the hijab and financial SECURITY. This ISN’T RIGHT. If we live in a liberal, progressive society, why are this happening and how are people getting away with it? It isn’t okay at all, and events such as World Hijab Day perpetuate this hugely.

Secondly, the Hijab is way more than a fashion accessory that you wear just for a day. By wearing something as symbolic as the hijab just for ONE day, you’re not really learning anything. You will not fully understand the purpose of why the hijab is worn. That’s just impossible. Wearing the hijab requires both dedication and getting used too. You will not achieve your desired aim in just 24 hours. Going around town to see what people will say about you doesn’t prove anything. If you really want to know what it’s like to wear a Hijab, ask a woman who wears one.

I understand that this campaign was first established to serve good, and to perhaps educate people about issues surrounding the Hijab and celebrating those who decide to wear the Hijab, but I feel that there are some issues that people (particularly Muslims) do not want to confront, hence brushed under the carpet. This won’t solve the problem. What people need to understand is that wearing the Hijab is a very personal matter for a Muslim woman, a lot get

bashed for not wearing it (which really isn’t your business) and some get slammed for not wearing it properly (once again, none of your business). It’s a deeply sensitive issue, and I think that this one day event is more detrimental than encouraging, because these issues that people just don’t want to speak about are directly under the spotlight. Perhaps it’s about time that we all spoke about this, openly and honestly. It’s about time we confronted our critics about this properly, rather than this one day business which in my mind doesn’t serve any real impact or purpose. Dialogue and rational thought is the way forward, not more abuse and appropriation.

Regardless about what I feel about ‘World Hijab Day’, solidarity to all those who wear the hijab and those who don’t!

World Hijab Day is complete and utter bullshit.

 

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Rahma Hussein is a second year History student at King’s College, London. 

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Statement In Response To Remarks Made By Dr Adam Perkins About The Somali Community

TW: racism, anti-blackness (especially relating to Somali communities) and Islamophobia. 

I would like to bring to everyone’s attention an incident which has taken place this weekend on Twitter. An academic by the name Adam Perkins, a lecturer in the Neurobiology of Personality at King’s College London, posted a series of racist and incredibly insulting remarks directed at the Somali community.

He stated that “Trump’s ban makes sense on human capital terms… people from ‘banned nations’ tend to be over-represented in crime and unemployment stats”. The fact that he refers to the vulnerable lives as “human capital” is distasteful in itself, but then goes on to imply that Somali’s chose to live in countries that will guarantee them social welfare (such as benefits in the UK) so that they don’t have to work – and ridiculously thought that providing Danish data would suffice.

This is absolutely absurd. Additionally, according to him, Somali’s also don’t possess the “Scandinavian work ethic” that will supposedly allow them to work in the Nordic nations, and that Somali unemployment in the USA is 50%. There is absolutely NO evidence for this, and what on earth is meant by “Scandinavian work ethic”? Lastly, he states that Although crafting his tweets carefully, evidently attempting to avoid any critique of his statements, saying “Danish data suggesting that welfare benefits taste sweeter to some cultures than others” is downright wrong and insulting. Also, why Danish data? Too lazy to find any British data?

As a British Somali, born from Somali refugees who have worked since DAY ONE upon entering this country, haven’t claimed a single penny in social benefits from the government, speaking little English, the fact that this lecturer can generalise is the most angry I have felt in a very long time. How dare you. Further statements which he has made which are completely untrue include: “Somalians don’t perform well either side of the Atlantic”, and that “if a migrant group is bad news I doubt national governments care much about the causes…”. Who said that the Somali migrant group was bad? Where is the evidence for this? The fact that he chose to pick on Somali’s alone says a lot.

As a magazine, it goes without saying that we completely disagree with the comments made by the lecturer, and absolutely does not represent the views of the institution. Academics must understand that they are utterly responsible to whatever they post on their social media channels just as they are for the words they say in a classroom, and such reckless tweeting, clearly made by this lecturer is a prime example that some may be unaware, or indeed neglect their duties of responsibility when expressing one’s views. Additionally, the

Somali community at King’s now feel even more vulnerable to violence whether that may be physical or verbal, escalating the fear they already feel by recent events, especially with the rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia that has risen in the UK since Brexit, and now in the US by the inauguration of Trump.

At this crucial time, we must support ALL communities which are now subject to intense scrutiny and discrimination due to the actions of certain individuals with power, and would appreciate that ALL lecturers understood that whatever their comments, they will be held responsible for their remarks given their position of authority and trust. At I RISE magazine, we demand that Dr Adam Perkins immediately apologises sincerely to the Somali community at King’s for which he has caused immense distress, and that he apologises for his offensive remarks about Somali’s without consulting solid evidence. We as I RISE extend our full support and solidarity to the Somali community at KCL and beyond with the distress caused by recent events.

With solidarity,

I RISE magazine

Please sign this petition

*Article written by current BME Officer for IFemSoc*

The Break-Up

I have come here, to tell you to fuck – right – off.

Those bloody fire escape stairs creak as always as I pull them down –

You’ve probably heard me now.

Water from one of those leaky pipes drips as I climb

And a freezing drop falls onto my scalp.

Why did I love this place once?

 

The smell of damp flows past me and lingers,

Your door’s locked. That isn’t a problem. We’ve hotwired cars before,

You and I. Snuck into the bourgeois penthouses.

You’ve made this easy really. I still have your key.

 

I turn the door handle as Mavis from next door smiles at me –

Winks – she thinks I’m getting lucky tonight.

I touch my finger to my nose as she disappears into her cave.

 

I always snuck into your place to surprise you – somehow though, right now –

I feel at my best – blood pumping furiously and all that.

Like Bette Davis in All About Eve, I’m Margo Channing, with more oomph.

 

So, I can’t say I’ll take you back, because that’s fucking wack,

And I can’t say I love you more than life. No. I can’t say that.

But I have a lighter in my hand. And I sure did love this place once.

 

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