Ramadan as told by Usman 

 

the lovely Usman

 

In order to gain a better perspective, I asked my good friend Usman to write about what fasting and Ramadan truly means to him. Here it is, enjoy. 

 

When thinking of what to write about Ramadan, the following came to my mind;

Family, generosity, friends, selflessness, piety and determination. 

These are the values that are more or less enshrined by a Muslim during the month of Ramadan while fasting. It is a reminder of everything worldly as a blessing from God. It is appreciating life and the sustenance provided to us. It is a time of coming together as friends and peaceful human beings, to overlook differences and be generous, merciful and calm. Ramadan is just a window into the life of how a Muslim should lead his/her life, and a practice that they should follow to be more respectful, generous, and selfless. 

Fasting is not a unique concept in Islam, rather a common practice in the monotheistic religions and Hinduism. The underlying concept; to allow oneself to appreciate the value of food, the suffering of those less fortunate is similar among these religions with the difference lying in as to the duration and manners of observing them.


This is my second Ramadan away from home and is a time when there is no immediate family for meThere is a considerable difference from how fasting is done here and back home. Although this might be part of growing up and learning to live on my own, it is a reminder of how the things we take for granted should be valued. 


In Pakistan, the family; and by Asian family standards I mean extended families, and relatives you never knew existed until now, are an important aspect during Ramadan. Working hours are considerably short which means people get to spend time with their family more than usual. It is a time when people host more feasts, a real festivity. It is a celebration of the life we have, and including those near and far in our celebrations. One thing I do not miss is the heat, even though fasts are longer due to long days in the summer in the UK, they are made bearable by the weather.


Food has a rather important role to play in forming families and cultures at home and sacrificing something that forms bonds, can make us really understand the importance of it and each other.

However, those values of generosity, friendliness, selflessness are translated across borders where friends have replaced family at iftar. There has not been a single day when I have not been blessed to break my fast without friends, furthermore I have been able to inspire a close friend to try fasting as a means of improving her eating habits. 


While living in the UK, it is quite common to be with friends who aren’t fasting. It is definitely tempting to have the odd ice cream when it’s sweltering hot (like it recently was), grab a coffee while out in town, or go out for lunch with friends. It’s hard to describe how one feels when others are eating and you aren’t, but it’s something fasting teaches; to have a degree of self-control. Though my friends have been really accommodating and have asked permission in the past if they know that I am fasting, it makes it worthwhile to know that someone appreciates and respects your choice to fast.

 

The process of fasting is rather enlightening, humbling and more fulfilling than it might come across initially – with the thought of not having to eat or drink from dawn to dusk. Contrary to it, the body is instinctively capable to handle such prolonged periods of abstaining from food and water. It is completely eye opening and something worth experiencing yourself – just like my friend who believed it, tried it and hopefully benefited from it. If one can fast for a continuous period of time, one can be determined enough to do more than just fast.


I think having inspired one person to try to fast, even though for health reasons, is in my view an act of showing just how peaceful and beneficial the values of Islam are, and can have a positive effect on one’s outlook on life, and our purpose. 


  

‘you look so smart, let me take a picture with you’

  

‘if you stand there. Fab’

  

‘et voila’

 

our friendship is based around food!

 

food food food

  

breaking the fast with Usman

  

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7 days of fasting reflection 

Written last week but due to no internet I’ve unfortunately experienced a delay in publishing. Enjoy! 

It’s officially been one week since I’ve begun fasting for eight hours throughout the day. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I became inspired to fast (for non religious reasons) after speaking to my Muslim friend Usman who was committing himself to Ramadan. Usman is originally from Pakistan, so whilst he is not at university, he would find himself to be fasting in much tougher, more testing conditions (just look at Pakistan’s weather forecast to understand exactly what I mean) – I found the whole idea to be incredible and Usman’s dedication to be amazing. Although Usman does not fast for dietary reasons, spirituality and an improved sense of character definitely comes into it for him and this is where I felt encouraged to try it out.

So I’m seven days in to the fast, which involves me fasting after breakfast for about eight hours a day. For four of these days I have been in full time work, so to reduce a significant depletion in energy or risk of endangering myself whilst I burnt calories walking around all day, I would allow myself one coffee during the daily fast and nothing more. This proved a lot easier whilst I was able to keep myself busy as I was unable to examine the contents of my fridge on a regular basis – I’m guilty of doing this often.

The results have already been amazing. Although in terms of weight I still feel reasonably similar to how I was before, my self discipline and relationship with food has become a lot healthier. Previous to fasting, i would find myself consuming entire tubs of ice cream after snacking on chocolate, biscuits and a various assortment of carbs (some healthy and others unsurprisingly not). This behaviour made me feel sensations of depression and despair, so I was aware that this had to change before I damaged my mental and physical health. After a long term break up I was unfortunate enough to experience ‘comfort eating’ at its best and as a result, I would often find an excuse to eat unhealthily – ‘I deserve it, I’ve had a hard week’ and so forth. 

I found the first few days to be incredibly testing – as soon as your stomach begins to rumble you subconsciously tell yourself ‘I guess it’s time to eat again’. Pushing through this hunger was very difficult – revealing the first test of determination and control. 

After a week of refusing free samples at coffee shops, as well as offers of ice cream during the biggest heatwave Britain has had for a long time and watching my friends eat lovely lunches whilst I continued fasting, I feel as though I have made significant progress and it’s very rewarding. 

It suddenly occurred to me recently that I had not eaten sugary treats for the entire first week that I had begun fasting. This quickly allowed me to realise that the fasting process had already killed my detrimental sugar hunger pangs that had previously lead me to the kitchen cupboards at all hours of the day. Not only had my cravings calmed down, but my general hunger and capability to scoff down a big meal, had also begun to seize. On top of this, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt bloated or unattractively full. As someone who suffers with symptoms of food intolerances, this was a huge plus for me. 

My second week of fasting has commenced and so far I have only managed to experience one mishap – one day I broke the fast after six hours. Another element of this process that has presented itself, is the idea that healthy meals enable this process to be much more beneficial. Not only do you feel better, but your body thanks you for it. I will be in the States this week, so fingers crossed my diet doesn’t completely fall off of the wagon!  

This hurts my heart

“Then the train left, and I walked away, and waited for the next train. I went home and didn’t mention what happened to anyone, not even my wife and children.”

‘What was I meant to say to my children? That Dad was pushed and shoved in the Metro because he’s black? That’s hopeless.” ….

This is what was said by a black gentleman in Paris after a carriage of racist Chelsea Football Club fans refused to let him board the train by shoving him off the train whilst chanting ‘we’re racist’. He later admitted that he didn’t understand English, so was unaware of what was being said specifically. However, he did say how he was fully aware that he was being racially abused because he had experienced it throughout his entire life. It came across as if this was something that he had to face on a regular basis in life – which is so hurtful to even try to begin to understand.

Reading this quote genuinely hurt my heart, bringing tears to my eyes. The fact that people are treated like this during a time when as a society we are experiencing so much difficulty and need to come together, is so disheartening. There are people all over the world who don’t have a place to call home, a family to confide in or a meal to eat. I’m sure many of these people still manage to respect members of society and appreciate the little they have – I’ve come across some for sure. So, why do people continue to spread hate to those who least deserve it?

If you can do anything today, send positive thoughts for this poor man and his bravery to keep on going and to not retaliate to this group of heartless thugs. Do a nice thing today, even smiling at someone passing by, you’ll be surprised by the effect it can have on their day.

X

Vogue and Equity agree new model ‘Code of Conduct’

For many years (more noticeably recently), there have been individuals who have been concerned about the welfare of models within the fashion industry. Connoisseurs, stylists, designers and professionals involved with fashion in one way or another, have always flirted with the idea of a ‘code of conduct’ for models and it appears that a series of guidelines have finally been produced. Vogue and Equity have been the first industries to sign a ten point code of conduct (created by Equity themselves),  that will support the welfare of models.

I will briefly explain the content of the codes presented by Equity.

1. Working hours and breaks

  • Mentions models should have proper breaks and work no longer than 10 hours within one shift of modeling. Only 5 hours of these ten worked can be consecutive

2. Meals

  • Models should be provided with adequate food and beverages (taking into account dietary requirements)

3. Travel and Transportation

  • Travel expenses (when outside a 10 mile radius of the studio) shall be covered 

4. Respect and Dignity

  • ‘No one will ask or impose upon the Model any action or activity which is dangerous, degrading, unprofessional or demeaning to the Model’ (Equity)
  • The model shall be treated with respect and professionalism

5. Change of Appearance

  • Models cannot be required to make drastic changes to their appearance for a photo shoot

6. Nudity

  • The nature of the shoot will be explained to the model prior to the shoot and before the contract is agreed
  • Semi nudity/nudity will be agreed by the model before the shoot

7. Changing Area/ Bathroom Facilities

  • A private changing facility will be provided
  • Adequate bathroom facilities with hot water will be provided where it is practical to do so

8. Temperature

  • If a model is required to be in little clothing or semi nude – the temperature cannot fall below 21 degrees centigrade 
  • A studio will be kept suitably warm in the winter and suitably ventilated in the summer

9. Insurance

  • Over the contracted period the model must be provided with adequate insurance covering all areas of concern
  • At the end of the contracted period the model must be paid promptly

10. Use of models under the age of 16

  • Models under the age of 16 shall not be used to represent adults
  • Models under the age of 16 shall not participate in semi nudity/ nudity
  • Models under the age of 16 shall be accompanied by a chaperone

 

Although it is agreed that the modelling industry should have set out these (sometimes idealistic) standards prior to the use of a model for a shoot, it is positive that certain individuals are allowing there to be progress in such a strict industry. It will be interesting to see which companies chose to sign up to the code of conduct as it is clearly essential when representing any kind of morals or values within any respectable company. With Vogue being such a powerful fashion house, it clearly demonstrates their dedication to the welfare of models within the fashion industry.

I’m hooked on the Olympics!

2012

I’m hooked on the London 2012 Olympics

So the Olympics has officially kicked off and I am hooked. As I have a job I have missed quite a far bit of the events. However, I was lucky enough to catch the opening ceremony which was fantastic. I think as a British nation we like to place doubt on ourselves and there was a swarm of negativity before the events had even started. However, Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony left people stunned. It did our country justice and I think it made everyone slightly emotional. Now, I am the least patriotic person you will come across (I won’t get into that one now), but I enjoyed the ‘Lefty, multicultural’ performance of the history of our country.

When I’m not working, I’m trying to catch as many events as possible. It’s clear we are struggling slightly however, our athletes are doing us proud by achieving gold, silver and bronze medals. My favourite events have to be the athletic events and I do enjoy the gymnastics and swimming. I think you can guess why, have you SEEN the men?

What have you guys been glued to? Hope you’re all having a good week.

N X

Should we be less forgiving of drug slip-ups?

Flipping through my fabulous fashion mag, i discover a 6-page spread of none other than Kate Moss. Well who else would we chose to demonstrate our British pride with the 2012 Olympics approaching? Of course the magazine mentioned other fine women such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexa Chung and Adowa Aboah. The mag also included a sporting yearbook ( which is highly populated with women) to congratulate our contestants for the Olympics. However, all this brilliant ‘Britishness’ occurred after a 6-page spread of Kate Moss. Of course the spread was beautiful with a nautical twist but my attention was caught with a close up shot using a low angle of Kate’s face. It was from this viewpoint that i noticed it. After Kate’s eyes, her collapsed nose caught my attention. The make-up was faultless, the hair was perfect and the lighting emphasized her exquisite cheekbones. It was here that i started to wonder should we be able to glorify someone with a bad drug history? Someone that is such an inspiration to young models and girls worldwide, who is considered a ‘role model’.

In 2005, a well known British newspaper ran a story with accompanying pictures of Kate Moss’ first drug scandal. For some strange reason, Britain was in shock. I have nothing against her as a model but as a role model I think she offers a poor demonstration. Why should, not only Britain but the world, chose to celebrate a person who has such bad drug slip-ups? What kind of message does that send to our young society? That ‘Drugs are OK, it’s socially acceptable’.

It was reported that former Babyshambles manager James Mullord, sold the photos of Kate to the newspaper for £150,000. The money was supposedly spent on his heroin. This is a fine example of the kind of people Kate Moss chooses to socialize with and use to mould her identity. Kate was dropped by H & M, Chanel and Burberry as a result. Yet we still choose to use her to display our British pride. Now what does that say about us as a nation and what we stand for?

Is it just me?

So I’ve recently watched a second installment of a British program called Make Bradford British. It is based around the concept of attempting to get different cultures to integrate with each other within our current society. During the first episode a highly diverse group of  British adults began to cohabit with each other in order to gain a little of an understanding of each others’ lifestyles and cultures. At this part of the program I began to understand the various views of the housemates. Some were ignorant and extremely racist. Some were naive and just got on with things in their own little bubble. By the end of the program the viewer could establish the different characters within the household and who was more likely to adapt to a change of culture rather than disregard it completely.

During the second episode the housemates began to experience a forced integration with one another. This was an extremely eye opening experience as one young British man, ( who at the start of the program came across to me as borderline racist) began to yearn for the same community as his fellow housemate as they visited a mosque. After this experience this young man had clearly had his views changed slightly as he opened up about his previous prejudice towards this specific Islamic culture. He had been educated into understanding that not all people supporting Islam were dangerous and suspicious – a common misconception in our society today. They were in fact going about their business in a very calm and respectful way. He even found  a common ground with his fellow housemate and began to find similarities in his grandparents’ British culture to the Islamic culture. Due to these two men from the household integrating with each other, they were able to understand some of these misconceptions and challenge them.

I am a very opinionated person and on a monthly basis I come face to face with comments that challenge my beliefs. I definitely believe in freedom of speech, however when this becomes highly offensive to other people my view can slightly alternate. Being brought up in an extremely tolerant family I feel blessed to have the outlook on life I have. I don’t feel blessed at all times though. When I am faced with people who are fed up with the ‘state’ of our country it angers me with the way that they project this message. There is so much focus on negativity bringing no light at the end of it. I understand that I can come across in a negative way I guess but this is only to defend people I feel do not deserve to be victimised purely by the way they look or the god they believe in. It does not matter about the colour of you skin or your ethic origin, you can be British. British isn’t a race to me it’s a culture. We contribute towards this culture with different varieties of  traditions and beliefs. It isn’t simply about ‘fish and chips’ and ‘going down the pub to get rat-assed’, it’s about building communities and educating people into promoting positive messages. By doing this we may be able to encourage cultural integration and this may help people to understand that anyone can be British. I found that this program was incredibly apt as it revealed that by encouraging integration between cultures, it can break down barriers that were built up due to fear and defense.

I know many people that will find my views offensive in itself and this is why I question is it just me that feels excluded? Am I not British because I encourage multiculturalism or because I am part African? Do other people resent their own neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances because of the hatred that comes from their mouths? Or am I over sensitised to a situation I can do nothing about. I feel that if everyone had this opinion of ‘ it will never change’ or ‘Broken Britain’, than it will become a self fulfilling prophecy where indeed nothing will change.

I need to find a way of infecting people with positivity and understanding for others without pissing them off even more!