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brasscrescent_backHello everyone. I’m honoured to announce that my Unmosqued Roundtable series has been nominated for a Brass Crescent Award!!

So if you’re feeling particularly inspired by my piece in the “Best Post or Series” category, then please head on over http://www.brasscrescent.org/ and vote.

The Brass Crescent awards honour the best writers and thinkers in the Muslim blogosphere — and I’m absolutely thrilled and humbled to be among a brilliant group of writers who received nominations. Thank you everyone for your continued support. My series would be nothing without the thought-provoking conversations we have together.

Thank you again!

There are many excellent writers deserving of your vote — don’t forget to take a moment to show them some love as well.

I’m sneaking a moment to type this. We’ve been on the go so much with weekend city trips and the girls’ busy schedule to make sure they participate in every free kids event that Reading has to offer that I’m finding myself squeezing every second to find time.

Ivy is sleeping on me right now, recovering from a day out in the fresh British air, and I can hear Eryn watching some of Cbeebies‘ fantastic programming and rustling a bag. She must be hungry and has either gotten into the cookies or a bag of chips.

That’s a parenting win right there.

Me flying the tenth Doctor's TARDIS. *haramswoon*

Me flying the tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. *haramswoon*

So it was my birthday last week and we celebrated by going to the Doctor Who Experience — a fabulous exhibition for any Whovian to enjoy. I was too excited, pouring over all of the props, costumes and monsters, and cheekily touched David Tennant’s clothes.

The “experience” bit of the Experience is to pretend that you’re taking part in an actual Doctor Who episode by helping the Doctor escape from a few classic baddies. There’s lots of smoke and lights, monsters, 3D effects and spinney, shiney things to play with. I coached Eryn for days just in case she got scared, since I knew there would be a real life element where we would come face-to-face with a monster robotic. She kept asking if it was “pretend or real” so we focused on the pretend and she was just fine. To my surprise, Ivy completely freaked out when we were attacked by giant Daleks — so I pulled a Gwen Cooper and breastfed while saving the universe.

spin

Spinning in the most amazing park. Ever.

I’m constantly in awe at all the children friendly activities and general family-oriented attitude we’ve come across in this little part of the UK. Every museum is free and has weekly “tots” drop-in sessions for story time or crafting. The local park is HUGE with literally everything a child could dream of — and a cafe with everything an exhausted caregiver could need. Never would I expect to relax with a cappuccino while my baby played with a pile of toys and a facilitator helped my toddler cook an omelette in the “little chef’s club.” Certainly not during a simple trip to the park.

We just don’t DO this in my neck of the woods, and I can’t imagine why.

Sure, local art galleries have kids’ events (for a fee and local means an hour of transit) and there are free drop-in play centres (but no coffee and you have to mind your child). And maybe I’ve been seduced by small city, vacation living — but here everyone brings their children to the posh eateries and strangers happily engage in conversation with cranky babies. Something that I rarely experience in Toronto. Score one for Reading.

gargoyles in oxford

Gargoyles looming overhead at Oxford.

Another thing that really blows my mind is the ease of travel. It’s become second nature for us to jump on a train and just explore. The girls are loving it of course, even though we keep going to a bunch of old churches and castles.

jummah with free babysitting

Just a little baby thieving at Jummah.

So after being thoroughly disappointed at our last Jummah in the city, we’ve since started going to the musallah on the Reading University campus. It’s a really wonderful community mashallah — with a large number of active women, a lovely prayer facility and that optimistic energy usually found among students. Everyone is super friendly, helpful and are just gushing over having the girls to play with.

Baby therapy and exam stress go hand in hand.

Mr Darcy

Starting Ivy on some fine literature.

Suffice it to say, we’re having a truly fantastic time here.

And Eryn got into the cookies. Which are now in a million pieces all over the floor.

I know some pretty amazing Muslims. People who are committed to social justice, peace work, community activism, improving access to health care, social work, violence against women, promoting accessibility, interfaith dialogue — people who spend every waking moment working for society and people who put their efforts into raising righteous citizens and people who overall, make efforts to improve themselves, their families, and their neighbourhoods for “the good.”

So it pains me to hear that many are holding their breath in a kind of 9/11-tragedy-deja-vu — just waiting for the backlash to come full force against Muslims in light of the recent and horrific events in Boston. Despite the fact Muslim organizations have already condemned these actions, some may have to divert their energies away from their current civil engagements and work toward further emphasizing that these terrible actions have no grounding in the Islamic tradition. And even though we are still no closer to knowing the motivation — be it religious, alienation, political or otherwise — Muslim communities, who in vast (VAST) numbers oppose terrorism, will probably have to answer for it by dealing with increased profiling, xenophobia and hate crimes, and prove to others what it means to be a loyal Muslim and a loyal citizen.

There is so much being written on the tragedy, the sorrowful and hopeful aftermath of the survivors, the pain of the families who endured loss, the social media fallout, and what may lie ahead. So much, that it’s difficult to keep up with everything as it’s coming out on the evening Twitter (read Omid Safi’s excellent and succinct breakdown of the events thus far). I’ve tried to maintain some distance, praying for justice and keeping the victims in my prayers, but not wanting to get bogged down with all the media, conspiracy theories and current negative responses. But today I couldn’t help think that perhaps some communities might be able to escape potential derailment.

It was a seriously discombobulated, Twilight-zoney moment. Eryn and I were riding the carousel at Cardiff Bay in Wales, enjoying the bright sun, the gorgeous water and the warbley carnival tunes when a mob of shouting Muslims took over the waterfront. My thoughts immediately turned to “protest.” But I couldn’t imagine what for.

That’s when I heard, “WE LOVE CARDIFF” and saw the chickens.

cardiffaction

Under the banner of Citizens UK, a grassroots organization supporting positive civil engagement to transform and benefit communities across the UK, a large group of Muslims pulled together a peaceful call to action to raise awareness and ask a restaurant in Cardiff to go halal.

Nando’s Chicken is halal in almost every English city (and in Ontario!) but not in Cardiff. Muslim customers who opt for a halal food lifestyle are told to travel 12 miles to the nearest halal Nando’s (in an area with no mosques and a Muslim population 23% smaller than Cardiff). So part of the call to action was to gather signatures for a petition while a group of volunteers in chicken outfits ran the 12 miles. A campaign flyer explained that this is an issue of inclusivity, and not just about a religious requirement — and that organizers are willing to work with Nando’s to make this happen.

From what I overheard, the crowd’s reception was positive and according to organizers, they were able to garner much support for their petition. Now, I am in no way comparing the gravity of condemning the Boston bombing with a gastronomical plea. What caught my attention was the proactive emphasis on community. The slogans weren’t a series of religious demands, selfish calls for food or a reaction to anti-Muslim sentiments.

They chanted over and over again, “WE LOVE CARDIFF.” Which to me said, “We want to stay here. We want to enjoy all that Cardiff has to offer. We want to help enrich this society with our presence.”

Ok, this is just an excuse for some more lazy photoblogging, and I know it’s Tuesday — but we’re back in Canada, alhamdulillah, and just a little bit jet lagged. Having the girls fall asleep at 6pm and waking up at 4am isn’t that bad. I’m doing a lot of ignoring while they play in the dark. It’s the headaches that come with shifting my own internal clock that are really doing me in.

A sand playground of course.

I’m sure Eryn will love playing in snow as much as she loves playing in sand.

We miss Kuwait already. While it’s delightful to wake up to a baby waving at herself in the mirror, it’s also peaceful, and heart-stirring to wake up to my favourite reciter giving the morning adhaan and hearing his words echoed by others in the rolling distance. My tinny, little adhaan clock is no match for the real deal.

The first thing that struck me after landing in Washington was the absolute lack of identifiable Muslims. Granted, an international airport isn’t necessarily the best place to make a comparison, with such a diverse influx of travellers wandering the halls — but it’s quite shocking to go from seeing a sea of black abayas, hijabs, and minarets to just one hijabed family and an airline steward giving salaams and showing us where to pray.

I'll take an order of Power

I’ll take an order of Power and the grilled Problem please.

We’ll also miss the food terribly! Or at least miss having the ease of ordering anything on the menu without worrying if its halal or about cross-contamination. And the bread! I really need to learn how to bake fresh khubz. I could eat that forever. In Kuwait the government heavily subsidizes freshly baked bread and you can buy at least four huge flatbreads for less than a dollar. Amazing.

A somewhat quiet moment of prayer. Nice photobomb Ivy.

A somewhat quiet moment of prayer. Nice photobomb Ivy.

Our flight home was delayed by a few hours so we entertained ourselves by hanging out at a pretty fantastic interfaith prayer room. Eryn got to watch a video on Compassion from the Adventures from the Book of Virtues television series while Ivy crawled around and practised standing up! A very kind student from Korea, who was obviously on Mission, also took a moment to invite us to accept Jesus.

He was really sweet and told us that our children were our salvation. We couldn’t agree more since the dua’ that children make for their parents is an important and powerful one. He gave us all free bibles and was so excited when Ivy took one from his hand. Really excited. I think he took it as a sign that she innately feels a connection to God. Which I’m sure she does. Before leaving he told us to read the Bible with an open mind and to not talk to others about Christianity — just read it and if it speaks to us, it will. Keep an open mind. I smiled and couldn’t help thinking this is precisely what happened when I read the Qur’an. We wished him well.

So the Hubby read from the Book of John and I sang the corresponding songs from Jesus Christ Superstar. The kids loved it, and we’ll treasure his gift.

sdf

Of course a Kuwaiti turtle is blinged out. Wait until you see the new hijab styles.

I have some real posts coming soon: a fantastic khutbah, maternity care in Kuwait, a book giveaway, and more!

*drum roll* Please…

The winners of the “ILoveModesty” hijab giveaway are:

*confetti*

Congratulations!

The winners were chosen based on their comment number and were drawn by random.org.

I’ve contacted them via email and they will be receiving their new hijab shortly.

Thanks to everyone who played along.

Where’d my cranberry go?

I can barely keep food in my mouth, find time to eat, shower, sleep, do laundry, or cook dinner — let alone write the posts I’ve been dying to write (and I mean dying. If only I could just empty my brain into the computer).

But I do have snippets of time where I want to talk for 5 minutes about hair pulling, Eryn smothering Ivy with kisses, articles randomly juxtaposing beards and alcohol with hijab as a “complicated issue,” and Toronto being the only place where two Muslim mothers will chat while their Japanese-Egyptian-Turkish-German children (hers) play with Arab-Indian-German-Irish children (mine).

But that would mean setting up an actual tumblr — and I don’t think I have the time for that either.

So, one more attempt to write a real, real blog post coming soon.

I swear.

Q: What has two hearts and dreams of soaring through time and space?

A: Time Lords

…and me

(more…)

This email “joke” has made the rounds for a very long time. It popped up in my inbox this afternoon and I just had to share:

A Christian man asked a Muslim: “Why do your girls cover up their body and hair?”

The Muslim guy smiled and got two sweets, he opened the first one and kept the other one closed. He threw them both on the dusty floor and asked the Christian: “If I asked you to take one of the sweets which one will you choose?”

The Christian replied: The covered one.

The Muslim said: that’s how we treat and see our women.

My first Islamic conference had a huge impact on my life.

It was the May long weekend, and I had come home from university just to attend this amazing, earth shattering, faith building, networking event held by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Thousands of people descended upon the Toronto Convention Centre to glean pearls of wisdom from such awe-inspiring community leaders as Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Siraj Wahaj, Dr. Jeffery Lang, Dr. Bilal Phillips, and Imam Mokhtar Maghraoui.

With my new convert, rose coloured, lemon gumdrop and rainbow world view, I was in heaven — literally floating on a wave of soaring faith. Finally, I was able to see all of the theoretical Islamic practices that I devoured from books and the Internet put into practice.

The air was electric with excitement and with the great potential that the Muslim ummah could achieve in Canada. People greeted each other with messages of “peace.” Neighbouring food outlets offered limited supplies of halal food. The entrance fee was expensive, but absolutely worth the investment. There was a bazaar selling mountains of hijabs and jilbabs and row after row of books providing “sound Islamic knowledge.” Men and women sat segregated during the speaking sessions, and men graciously made way for me as I passed. The adhaan rang through the entire convention hall. We prayed in a congregation of a thousand. People showed off a diverse array of Islamic-inspired clothing without fear of judgement. It was a mass of Muslims just being religious without a care.

Lecture topics ranged from “Online halal interactions between the sexes” and “Purification of the Heart” to “Making the most from your interest-free investments” and “Surviving the Secular: Raising Children according to the Sunnah in Canada.” I even got to have a few embarrassed fan-girl words with Dawud Wharnsby. Too shy to speak to him without support, I rushed the stage with a good friend in tow – aiming to use our combined muslimah presence to push past the male fan-boy throng.

After beating back the boys, I lowered my gaze and blushingly told him how his music was instrumental in my conversion. He muttered some kind of thanks, “masha’Allah” and “Alhamdulillah” and off I went, nearly passing out from experiencing Muslim stardom.

(more…)

This is how I feel by 7pm.

And then I have another two hours to go before I can get some rest.

I want to thank all of my wonderful readers for having patience over the past seven weeks as I returned to work and saw the Hubby off to Kuwait. Part of my balancing strategy keeping this blog together is to nap from 9pm until midnight, and then write until 3am. It hasn’t been pretty, and I feel like my writing has suffered, as has the attention that I can give to this blog.

I assure you that I read and reflect on every comment and every e-mail sent – though, I don’t always have the time to respond. And lately I’ve been battling a never ending flu.

Now that the Hubby is returning tonight insha’Allah, we’re going to go through another transition – one that will hopefully see a return to more regular postings here at WoodTurtle.

So, just a couple of more weeks before we’re all back to the regular schedule.

Thanks everyone.

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