Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Prize presentation for Luton's Zahra competition

Another fun day in Luton. This time went to present the prize to the winner of the town's Create a Character competition.
10 Year Afzol Hussain from Beech Hill Primary school won for his creation Aliyah, an orphan who is very helpful. A very shy boy, Afzol seemed mortified to come to the stage for his prize and pics with me and Luton's mayor.

Also spent the morning at Oakwood Islamic Primary school doing a reading from 'Zahra's Great Debate' and Q&A about being a writer. Such a bright bunch!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A little extract from my new book, 'Zahra's Trip to Misr'.

In the third installment of my Zahra series, Zahra and her school friends are on a school trip to Egypt visiting the land of dead pharoahs and pyramids. The following is an extract from the chapter 'The Runaway Camel' where Zahra and her best friend Marya decide to take a ride on the humpy animal.

Zahra and Marya climbed on the camel together and held on tightly to the reins they were given. Marya wrinkled her nose in distaste.
'Boy he smells bad,' she said. 'Why can't they give it a bath?'
Zahra laughed. 'Because he's too busy carrying tourists like us over the desert who moan about how smelly he is ... oh, here we go ... it's so bouncy.'
The camel ride was going to be the distance from the pyramids to the sphynix, the half man half lion statue at the bottom of the hill.
'You want camel run?' the camel owner asked.
'No! No!' Zahra and Marya cried in unison. 'Just walk.'
The man shrugged and continued to lead his animal.
'I'm Ali,' he suddenly said.
'Peace be with you. I'm Zahra and this is Marya.'
'Where from?'
'Britain,' Marya replied.
'Your friend - England.' Ali said, pointing to Zahra. 'You, no.'
'Oh, he knows I'm from Scotland! Marya gushed.
'You,' Ali said, pointing to Marya. 'Pakistan.'
Marya looked puzzled. 'Yes, she is from England. I'm from Scotland. Not Pakistani.'
'You no English,' Ali insisted. 'You Pakistani.'
'He is judging you on the basis of your skin colour,' Zahra said, trying not to laugh at Marya. 'You're hardly a Scot are you? Your ancestry is Pakistani.'
Ali caught Zahra's last words. 'Yes, you Paksitani!'
'Actually,' Marya said haughtily, offended at having her identity challenged. 'I am British Muslim ... what the ...'
Marya's voice trailed off as the sight of a fleeing camel passed them with a girl in the Academy uniform holding on for dear life. A second later, an Egyptian man ran after his camel, his white turban unravelling off his head and gliding like a wave on the desert sand. Behind him ran another two men, trying to catch up with the runaway camel.

This is the third book in the series.
The first title is 'Zahra's First Term at the Khadija Academy' and the second is 'Zahra's Great Debate.'
To find out more, go to my website www.bibipublishing.co.uk

You can also hear a reading of the above extract plus the first chapter at the following link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001d7n9

Friday, 9 October 2009

An honour killing

A few years ago I was sat around a dinner table with a group of professional women friends. We were a mixture, descended from different parts of South Asia with a few things in common - we were Muslim, British,university educated and financially independent. I remember the conversation of that evening well and the revulsion I felt for some of the women whom I regarded as friends.

A few weeks earlier a man of Pakistani origin had murdererd his young daughter in my part of London. He had caught her with a boyfriend and feeling 'dishonoured' he had strangled her. On the same day he drove up to the local police station (one that I had walked past for years on my way to school with classmates) and informed the police that his daughter's body lay in the boot of his car. He confessed his crime.

Sitting around the table I expressed my horror at what had been done by a parent to a child but the reaction of some of the western educated, highly articulate women chilled me more.
The response was something like this, 'this is what happens when you step out of line.'

There was no condemnation of the crime, both in legal terms or in Islamic terms.
There was no sympathy for the murdered victim.
There was no sense of a higher moral ground.

There was only an acceptance that this is what happens to Muslim females who step out of line.

My response had been something like perhaps the poor girl should have just been murdered at birth. I mean if her life had such little value why bother to raise her? Have we really come far from the barbaric practise of killing daughters in pre-Islam Arabia that the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) so tirelessly preached against? I was told in no uncertain terms to get off my high horse - oh and that I would never understand because it was not part of my culture.

Too right I would not understand!
What could possibly excuse and justify the murder of an innocent girl by an enraged man?
And why and how were these Muslim women so accepting of the whole situation? What if it was their daughters and sisters that were murdered? What was with the apathy?

As Muslims doesn't our faith teach us to speak up against crime? Against a wrong committed against the vulnerable and innocent? And this young girl from my part of London was vulnerable and innocent and did not deserve to be throttled by her own father.

The newspapers this morning all carried the story of a man in court who is accused of killing his daughter ten years ago. Tulay Goren was 15 years old when she disappeared. She had been trying to marry a man she fell in love with but her family disapproved because they were Kurdish Alevi and the man a Turkish Sunni. Now her mother alleges that her husband and brother in law killed Tulay and buried her in the garden. It has taken Tulay's mother ten years to speak up because she says she feared for her safety. She also has three other children. The case continues.

My heart goes out to Tulay's mother. Imagine knowing that your own husband has killed your own daughter and having to live with it and carry it around as a secret for your own safety and that of your other children. I have no idea what this poor woman's situation is. I can only imagine that she has left her husband and has some protection. But it has taken her ten years to raise the courage to pursue justice for her murdered daughter.

I am left to wonder if it would have taken this long if women like my educated Muslim ex-friends were a little less tolerant of the crimes against women.