“We prefer our women naked”…

…now if that isn’t a misogynistic anti-feminist statement, I don’t know what is.

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France has banned the Burkini in a few cities and police have gone as far as ordering a woman wearing this modest swim-outfit to undress . They fined her, so why force her to undress in front of her children, shaming an innocent woman?

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France claims to be liberating women from the enslavement of modest dress – for France, wearing a Burkini shows sympathy for ISIS and is incompatible with French values.

What about these nuns???

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The first time I heard the word assimilation was in history class in grade 9, where we were discussing colonization. While many colonizers like Britain for example, were content to colonize an area, steal its wealth and subjugate its people, France always seemed to want to go a step further.

The French so prize their culture that they attempted to force the colonized to assimilate, to become French in as many ways as possible. But no one could ever be French enough. The standard was impossible to meet. The high and mighty French wouldn’t accept people as French enough, but they wanted people to give up their own cultures to try to be more acceptably “civilized”. What happened to those who then ended up in a cultural no-mans-land?

An article in The New York Times says “The obviousness of the contradiction — imposing rules on what women can wear on the grounds that it’s wrong for women to have to obey rules about what women can wear — makes it clear that there must be something deeper going on.” It seems France is having an identity crisis and some arrogant French people are too pathetic to deal with cultural difference.

I often wonder what would have happened to Africa and so many other developing nations if they had been left alone, to “civilize” at their own pace. What would have resulted may have been better systems than the West have engineered. Maybe some countries would have come up with superior political ideas and systems (different to democracy and what is seen as correct by the global powers) but better nonetheless.

These imperial powers came to civilize us poor little non-westerners, but in the end, we have been left as developing countries, still not completely caught up.

In another article that I wrote on English people’s reluctance to correctly pronounce non-English names,  I find the same one-sided relationship again…we must bend over backwards for the big guys, and they won’t even afford people the common decency of saying our actual names.

Cannes, one of the French cities that has banned the Burkini, also recently banned ladies from walking the red carpet at the Cannes film festival if they weren’t wearing heels.

Who makes women a slave to fashion, really?

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Reading Roald: Deliciously creepy short stories

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It felt like a cockroach had crawled across my brain. How could these words have been written by the pen that inked James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG? This was my first encounter with a Roald Dahl short story.

And then I remembered: The Witches. An orphan boy, told tales by his grandmother of witches with deformed feet, bald heads and a hatred of children. Dark and sinister, the clue that the story was written for children evident mainly by the happy ending. It made sense to me then. The Roald Dahl of my childhood is the same as the Dahl of my adolescence and adulthood, appropriately creepy to suit any stage of life.

Paging through the Penguin anthology of Ten Short Stories by Roald Dahl, I looked closer at the creepiness that seemed to be ramped up a notch for older readers. I realised that it had always been there, in his stories for children, but that the true starkness of Dahl’s uncanny imagination is laid bare in his short stories.

The cockroach feeling reminded me that almost every short story I have ever read has been eerie and unsettling in some way, never just a quick diversion on a sunny day, but a murky meander into the complicated dark places of human existence. I experienced this sensation before, as a child encountering an anthology of short stories for the first time, but it was Dahl’s collection that really lodged the idea into my consciousness, this belief that short stories were peculiar, something that I would not like to overdose on for fear of the disquiet that was left hanging at the edges of my mind each time I came to the end of a climactic, disturbing tale.

At times I gave up on reading short stories altogether, because I would rather avoid excessive bizarreness.

But the concentrated punch of a story with few words is narcotic even to a reader who loves to fall deeply into long drawn out novels. Sometimes a masterpiece is worth 10 pages, sometimes over 1000, but even Vikram Seth apologises in A Suitable Boy for his long-windedness by quoting Voltaire: ‘the secret to being a bore is to say everything.’

With a Dahl short story, it is often what is not said that is most disturbing. The conclusion is inevitable, but forcing the reader to put their own words to the finish involves the reader in a way that leaves you unsettled, complicit in the darkness of the ending.

Why do we love morbid tales, why are we fascinated by the ugly side of human nature, and why do we come back to these disquieting stories again and again? A master of the craft, Dahl seems to know implicitly that understatement and euphemism can knock your imagination over the edge better than any blunt force explanation could.

The scribble 

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Hmmm, so what have you been reading this week?

There’s so much interesting stuff out there, it’s hard to filter everything and choose what to read and what not to.

A few things I found interesting recently:

Let me know about any other weird and wonderful articles, on any random and odd topic, in the comments!

 

 

Sleeping patterns of a noonoo

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I wrote something a while back about optimal sleeping habits and research that shows ideal sleep patterns: basically, sleep from about 8pm till midnight, wake up, then sleep again from around 2am till sunrise.

I was amazed at how similar this perfect sleeping pattern is to a schedule that allows for sleeping after esha, waking up for tahajjud, going back to sleep and then waking up for fajr.

Now that there’s a noonoo in my life, it seems he’s got the memo too – he loves to wake up super early to talk to himself and to talk to a sleepy me, intently looking at his hands as he tries to figure out this whole new world.

Do we really need 7 to 8 hours of sleep? Well, that doesn’t seem to be on the cards for me any time soon – so I’ll console myself with the thought of something I once heard – I can’t remember where I heard this or if it’s authentic but … Muslims leaders (the Caliphas maybe?) did not sleep a lot – there were too many important things to be doing so they only took catnaps here and there.

There’s also been research around splitting up sleep into a few 20 minute naps a day. Maybe that’s another option.

On the other hand, Arianna huffington is trying to create a sleep revolution because she fears we are all under-sleeped. She got this wake-up call after collapsing from exhaustion and breaking her cheekbone. I guess corporate types wear their lack of sleep as a badge of honor. But moms of young tots know that every sleeping second counts.

Halaal food around the world

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When the bro and I travelled around Europe a few years ago, halaal food was not easy to find.

Maybe we didn’t do enough research beforehand, so we sometimes munched down on kabob or other non-local food, often from shops owned by immigrant Egyptians or Pakistanis.

Or we snacked on coffee shop tidbits.

Luckily, in London, we had a very sweet cousin who sent us off on our daily adventures fully stocked with home-made snacks.

It’s kinda sad not to be able to taste all the local food, but I guess we just have to focus on the people, the sites and the experiences, since halaal food is not always available when you’re not travelling around a Muslim country. I at least seek out the local teas, coffees and juices, to get a little taste of local fare.

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Even when there are options available, like the myriad interesting halaal places in South Africa, foreigners may not even know they exist.

Too late for me for now, but hopefully this list will help me on future travels : if you’re off on a European adventure, here’s a list of halaal places to eat at in 10 European cities, an article by Muslim Travel Girl.

Enjoy, I hope it’s useful.