Khanversations

Rukhsana’s thoughts on her journey of life, writing and sometimes—when she dares—a bit of politics.
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for perspective!

I think I mentioned how I feel like I’m going through a real learning phase!

Visited a school recently where I spoke to grade sixes about growing up in Dundas and afterward a lady came up to me. She asked which school I went to and I told her Dundana and she she said, “But it wasn’t a middle grade school.” I said that the school I’d attended only went up to grade six so I went to Dundana for grade seven and eight. And then she nodded and asked me the last names of the bullies I’d referred to.

I never mention their last names in the presentation, it’s really not necessary, but since this was a private conversation I told her.

Turns out she was at Dundana one year ahead of me!

And the strangest thing happened.

I got worried. I wondered if she’d contest my version of events and call me over sensitive or something, but no, quite the opposite! When I told her the bullies’ last names her eyes went wide and she said, “Oh yes. They really were awful!”

And then she told me about an incident she’d witnessed and I could breathe easier.

And I wondered why I’d suddenly panicked like that. I’ve been thinking of it since and the conclusion I’ve come to is that when a person has been victimized, they live in fear that people will tell them it’s all in their head. That things weren’t the way they remembered them. And it made me see interviews I’d seen on television where people had confronted the people who’d abused them and their perception had been completely dismissed.

It was a real moment of enlightenment for me. I saw things very clearly.

And then just yesterday I had a fascinating conversation with another artist about the literacy of today’s kids and he said something that suddenly clicked in my head.

Quite frankly I’ve been feeling like an old fogey recently. Like maybe I’m not in sinc with the times. It appalls me that kids don’t have very good vocabulary or grammar any more.

But this artist spoke of a professor he’d had a long time ago who’d said quite the opposite. He said that no, today’s generation has evolved language to include all kinds of short cuts and emojis, that they’re still expressing deep thoughts they just do it differently.

That seems to be the nature of English. That it’s always evolving! And it was literally like a light bulb went on for me.

It gave me a lot of hope.

It was a small adjustment on my part in terms of attitude, but a huge leap in terms of perspective.

And it makes sense now to me, why I can interact so easily with today’s youth verbally, but my writing needs a bit of a personal touch to engage them.

Once they’ve heard me, they want to read it, but my books might not be picked up on their own.

That’s something I still need to work on.

And so I’m taking some courses right now, honing my skills, and part of that means clarifying my vision of what exactly I want to accomplish with my work.

One of the assignments asked me, if I could sum up my vision in one sentence, what would it be?

This isn’t about each individual story or project. This is about what I would say to humanity through the sum of my endeavors.

At first I came up with something very lame. I even knew it was lame, so I discarded it and went deeper. And I think I know what that one statement would be.

It’s: “With eloquence and the right angle of approach, you can get people to believe almost anything.”

And then we were asked what single action we would want people to take after reading my book. This is what I wrote:

“Open your mind to different ways of thinking and always question  your assumptions.”

Just putting that into words like that has clarified a lot for me!

I highly recommend you do the same.

Dealing with Friction…

With any human interaction there is bound to be friction.

Meeting new people and dealing with them, not knowing exactly what their motivations are or where they’re coming from can be difficult.

And when they treat you with disdain, it’s very easy to over react.

And it’s so easy to attribute the harshest motivations to people.

The longer I’m in this business, the more people I have to deal with. For the most part it’s been a joy but once in a while you come across someone who rubs you the wrong way.

There is the inevitable clash.

And it’s so easy to over react.

You might think you’re justified.

You might point to the trespasses of the other person as proof they’re in the wrong forgetting that every time you point a finger, three others are pointing back at you.

And then you might try to fix things by asserting yourself a little too strongly.

I think it’s a blessing that when these kinds of things happen to me, I have people around me who help me to question my role in things.

And there’s a part of me, that niggles away, till I take a better look at whether or not I went too far.

It only happens when I’ve gone too far. If I’ve reacted to other people’s malice with proportion and justice, then I’m fine. But when I feel like I’ve gone too far, that’s when I get that niggling feeling.

I live in perpetual fear of going too far.

I’ve told my loved ones that I don’t mind if other people have wronged me. I can live with that. But I don’t want to die having owed anyone anything. Having done wrong to others. (Even though I suppose in some ways that’s inevitable because sometimes we wrong others without realizing it.)

But at least in so far as I can tell, I don’t want to have overstepped my bounds.

Growing up, it always felt like a curse.

I’d be going along, trying to improve myself, trying to be ‘good’ in every way possible, and then I’d do something I felt was right at the time, but in hindsight, felt like I’d overstepped my bounds. In hindsight it appeared rather petty.

And my self-esteem would crash!

I was petty!

Oh how it would crash! And I’d be humbled and it would feel absolutely horrible. But then I’d tell myself that it was an opportunity to correct myself.

And I reminded myself of how God had corrected the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the few times when he did something wrong, and I’d think to myself that maybe the crash was a good thing. It was a blessing. It was a way for God to check me, so that perhaps I don’t become arrogant.

There are so many ways that people can go astray and one of the worst and most insidious ways is through becoming ‘proud’ of your ‘goodness’. Blah! Self-righteousness.

I think that’s the worse!

The self-righteous person goes around doing what they believe is good, not examining themselves too closely, not checking their ego and pettiness, and expects to meet their Lord with a hefty account of good deeds only to realize they squandered them with their self-righteous attitude.

Intention is everything!

God preserve us from pride!

And so, I will swallow my pride. I will beg God’s forgiveness. I will admit that I should have acted in a better way, and I will chalk it up to experience.

There’s not much I can do to fix it, it’s not like it’s something that can be fixed. What’s done is done. It’s just a matter of self-adjustment. Reacting better next time.

Checks and balances! Checks and balances!

As long as in the end there is an upward motion to developing your character, there is always hope.

There is always hope.

 

 

NCTE 2016…

I just got back from Atlanta, Georgia having presented two sessions at the National Council of Teachers of English convention.

My goodness what an exciting trip it was!

But it took its toll, because I am sick, sick, sick!

I’d been through Atlanta’s airport on the way to other places, but this was the first time into the city proper.

The convention was held at the Georgia World Congress Center, right across from the headquarters of CNN. What a huge venue!

But at the same time, it’s like so many other convention centers, kind of interchangeable, like airports too.

After Trump got elected, I’ll confess that I was a bit nervous going down to Atlanta, but I had no problems whatsoever. In fact Trump’s election had such an effect on my fellow panelists, one of them was planning to cancel her participation just days before the convention!

The area is closely monitored with CC cameras. I ended up walking from my hotel to the congress center on the first day. Big mistake! It was supposed to be a fifteen minute walk, but it was up a lot of hills and it was exhausting. And hot! The weather was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, about 28 degrees Celsius! When I got to the congress I was already sweaty and tired and then you know how it is at convention centers, you end up walking all over the place!

Met for coffee with one of my publisher’s people. It was so nice to see her!!! The last time I’d seen her was in Washington D.C. at the NCTE 2014.

It was a HUGE convention! About ten thousand teachers from all over came!

My first session was scheduled for Saturday morning from 8:00 – 9:15 am, and I seriously wondered how many people would turn out.

I’d called the session Muslim Authors on the Hot Seat–How can I advocate for my Muslim students when I have questions myself?

There were fifty other sessions happening at the very same time! Who would come to ours???

And indeed there were many presenters who didn’t get any audience at all!

But alhamdu lillah, we had about forty people come to our session! One of the most interesting bits of conversation that arose in the session was from a lady from Idaho who’d had an influx of Saudi students. She told us that they’d come to study in her area and had become a sort of clique unto themselves.

I could completely understand why they’d do that. In a foreign land, overwhelmed with culture shock, of course you’d gravitate towards others from your own culture.

Apparently there had been numerous incidents. And they’d gotten so comfortable among themselves that they’d started leaving their doors unlocked in their residences and locals had figured that out and gone in and burglarized some of them.

Her particular question was how to encourage them to integrate with the other students. And I suggested some of the dramatic exercises, ‘ice breakers’ they call them in the drama scene, that help people get outside their comfort zones and meet new people.

The next day I did my session on Inclusive Muslim Literature for the Classroom. I had prepared a powerpoint presentation of some of my favorite titles from my Muslim booklist. And this time I got fifty participants! (That’s a good crowd! Especially considering so many people had gone home after Saturday!)

We had a grand time in the session!

I went through the powerpoint and I added my frank comments about how they could use each book in their classroom, and at times people in the audience interjected with their comments and advice and it was fantastic!

They were as passionate about the subject as I was!

One of the things I did was work the exhibit hall. I spoke to all the publishers there, told them about my Muslim Booklist and asked them to send me titles that I should consider adding. Right there and then a lady handed me a copy of The Arab of the Future a graphic novel by Riad Sattouf, a French artist who worked for Charlie Hebdo!!! When I read that, I couldn’t believe it! Such a racist magazine! And I really didn’t want to like it, but I couldn’t help it. When something is honest, it evokes admiration, and The Arab of the Future is definitely an honest look at Arab culture. In fact God help us but I think it’s an accurate representation of Muslim culture in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well. (Ugh! No wonder the Muslim world is so messed up!!!)

It’s not my culture! I found a lot of the stuff the boy encounters appalling! But I have come across that mindset, and I learned a lot from reading the book.

I read The Arab of the Future very quickly, on the journey home. It’s a graphic novel and yes, it’s very funny, and even enlightening. It has swearing in places and there are parts that make me cringe, but it’s so good I’m going to have to recommend it on my booklist.

To see the booklist go here: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/Muslimbooklist.pdf

It’s up to date for now!

I’m wondering if I didn’t get sick because I worked so hard on updating it!

I also received a copy of Jacqueline Woodson’s new book Another Brooklyn. It deals with a character whose father and brother join the Nation of Islam, and I really think we need more books about black Muslims in America, but the tangential nature of the story meant it didn’t belong on my booklist.

NCTE was an amazing experience.

Came home exhausted, and yeah, sick. But I made a LOT of connections!

And I even had a few very encouraging moments.

I was talking to one educator who raved about an often overlooked book of mine: Many Windows. This book got virtually no publicity!!!

No awards, no shortlists, nada, zip.

But it’s still one of my favorite books! It’s about community. And it’s so interesting because before I left for Atlanta, I visited a school where the educators there also raved about the same book!

They basically got what I was doing with the book!

It’s so nice when that happens!

But it was also quite an overwhelming experience. So many wonderful authors, so many wonderful books!

Mentor??? Moi???

I just received a very special book in the mail!

A year and a half ago, when I was conducting workshops at Fairview Public Library, a young girl came in my writing workshop and submitted her work in progress a novel called My Demon’s Name is ED. ED stands for ‘eating disorder’.

She had been an anorexic and the work in progress was a diary she’d written while working her way through the experience.

One night I sat down and read it, and I couldn’t put it down. I think I finished it at around 2 a.m. and thought to myself, this has got to get published!

I ended up contacting the first editor I ever worked with, who’s now situated at Second Story Press, and I told her she should take a look at it.

Long story short, the book came out this year!

It’s Danah Khalil’s first book!!! And it got some pretty good reviews. Kirkus called it “A young anorexic’s heart laid bare.”

Danah sent me a personal copy and wow! Guess who she dedicated the book to???

The Dedication reads:

To my inspiration and mentor, Rukhsana Khan; thank you for believing in me.

And then she wrote a personal bit: “Without you, this would have never been possible. I am forever grateful.”

I highly recommend it!

 

I was invited to be a panelist on TVO’s flagship current affairs program called The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

I was on a panel with Sadaf Ahsan a web editor with The National Post, Shaine Jackson, a native artist from B.C. and Andrew Cohen a professor of journalism at Carleton University and a fellow author named Diana Fitzgerald Brydon.

We were discussing Cultural Appropriation. It’s been in the news a lot lately, and it was a very interesting discussion.

Last night my husband and I watched and at the end he said something interesting. He said there was no consensus.

And I thought, of course not. It’s a discussion. And he said well what’s the point in that?

So what is the point in discussing something openly like this?

I told Steve at the end of the piece, that it was really great how balanced the show had been. I was referring to timing. He was fastidious about making sure each of us had a chance to express ourselves.

I’m often conscious of how discussions can become ‘free for all’s and the points go to the loudest and they’ll hog the time, but this was quite civil.

I think he misunderstood me though because he said that it was because they had such good producers who’d vetted the guests for balance. I left it at that.

But it got me thinking, and especially after my husband said that thing about consensus.

I’ve gotten used to open discussions. If you go to a lot of conferences with their keynote sessions they don’t even attempt to come to any sort of consensus. It’s enough to raise the issues and let people draw their own conclusions.

People come to these types of topics with their own entrenched positions and it’s very seldom that you’re going to actually change anyone’s mind.

And yet the more I thought about the topic afterwards, the more I realized that I was falling into more agreement with Andrew Cohen, the journalist professor from Carleton. He was talking about how you can’t stop artists from expressing themselves. And he’s quite right. I even said at one point that nobody’s telling artists what they can and can’t write or do.

This morning I woke up realizing that really cultural appropriation is inevitable.

It’s been going on for a long time.

And what ethnic artists have to do is rise above it and just be better.

Not easy.

And yet it does speak well of our society that the consciousness of offending minorities has risen to the point where it’s not politically correct to appropriate other cultures. We’re sensitive to such things these days, and that is commendable.

You can watch the piece and decide for yourself.

http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/the-trouble-with-cultural-appropriation

TVO The Agenda with Steve Paikin

When the computer crashes…

in the middle of a powerpoint presentation and you’ve got an audience of about a hundred and fifty antsy ten and eleven year olds…

What do you do???

This is not a hypothetical situation.

It happened today, about three hours ago as I write this.

October being Islamic Heritage month, I was invited to Barbara Frum library, a Toronto public library to do a presentation to commemorate it.

I chose my favorite: The Roses in My Carpets, about my Afghan refugee foster child.

I love doing the presentation! But it involves a powerpoint visual tour of the refugee camp I visited in Peshawar, Pakistan.

So I’m going ahead, full blast, right at the beginning of the presentation. I finished ‘reading’ them the book when disaster strikes! I trip over the plug and the power gets disconnected from the cart that I’ve plugged my laptop into. My laptop is connected to the projector.

Well I quickly plug it back in and the projector starts to boot up, but disaster, my laptop is not turning back on!

It’s dead.

I’m talking away, continuing the presentation, even as I keep desperately pressing the power button on my laptop to no avail.

Nothing! Nada! Zip!

What do you do when the technology fails you?

First of all, don’t let them see you panic.

Second of all, have redundancy!!!!

Not only did I also have the powerpoint on a USB flash drive, I also had a picture of Kareem, my foster child, in my presentation case, that I pulled out and showed the group as I continued the presentation.

I called the librarian, Alex, and asked for a new computer, while I continued the presentation as if nothing happened, knowing that at the beginning of the presentation, I dwell on Kareem’s handsome face for a good portion of time. Long enough that they might be able to set up a new laptop.

Sure enough, the technician brought a new laptop, I disconnected mine, while he connected his, and handed over my USB, and all while I’m continuing the presentation, talking nice and loud, as the powerpoint is coming up in time for the next slide.

I wonder if I could have done it if I hadn’t known the presentation, basically backwards and forwards. I’ve done it about five thousand times!

Alhamdu lillah.

Even though all I could think of was what a disaster the technology had been, people came up to me visibly moved!

They had loved the presentation! Masha Allah.

So always remember, it’s never as bad as you think it is.

I tend to be super hard on myself. Any little flub or mistake I make gets magnified umpteen times in my head.

But the audience is so much more forgiving. Especially since it was a technology problem!

I did think of just cancelling the powerpoint and doing another presentation, but I’m glad I didn’t. It had been advertised!

And people had come from all the way across town, dragging their kids on public transit and everything, just to see me and this particular presentation.

Alhamdu lillah, it was fine and the librarian said it was an excellent presentation.

So just a tip, always have a backup in case the technology fails.

Haven’t tried turning my computer on again. I probably should. I think it might just need recharging before it turns on.

Or maybe it’s just crashed.

We’ll see.

 

It’s been a day and a half since I returned from Malaysia, the other side of the world, yup twelve hour time zone difference and I’m powering through the jet lag.

Alhamdu lillah, it was a fabulous trip. My hosts were were so hospitable!!!

Almost too hospitable, need to shed some of the pounds I gained! And yet I was really careful!!!

I think Malaysian people are some of the nicest people in the world!

I remember last time I went to Kuala Lumpur I felt it, and this time the feeling was even stronger.

The lady in charge of COMEL, who put it all together is a lawyer who works for one of the largest firms in KL. Such a nice lady, she runs her own small publishing house as well.

She was in my session at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore back in 2012.

How she managed to pull it all together I have no idea! She spoke to people who ended up donating almost everything including the hotel rooms and the airfare.

It took two days to get there. I left on Monday September 19th, at around 10 pm and got into KL on Wednesday morning around 9 am exhausted!

She had arranged for a massage for me at the spa in the hotel #Impiana. My first massage! And it left the middle of my back a bit sore because the tiny Asian lady who was pummeling me did a thorough job. My friend told me that sometimes happens if you’re not used to massages.

The hotel was beautiful! We had a view of the Petronas twin towers, Malaysia’s most famous landmark, from my hotel window.

She had a bunch of volunteers helping run the festival and there was even a rehearsal the night before that I didn’t go to because I didn’t have any technical requirements.

I only had about half an hour and I’ve found it’s better to ditch the powerpoint and just speak from the heart. Most of the time powerpoints are not better than just good old fashioned storytelling!

There were about a hundred people gathered to hear us. Many of them apparently had committed themselves to either come for the morning or the afternoon, but many in the morning enjoyed themselves so much they stayed!

It’s always so nice to actually learn something when I go to such events! I’ve gotten to the point where I seldom learn anything new.

But this time I was listening to Javier Zabala, an amazing artist from Spain, and he did a powerpoint presentation on how artists ‘extract’ inspiration from the masters. He showed slides of modern artists and older masterpieces and showed how the modern artists had ‘metabolized’ the older pieces. How they’d been inspired by them but not plagiarized them.

It was really fascinating.

Have you ever met someone who is so competent and so sure of his competence?

To be perfectly honest I’d never heard of Mr. Zabala. I think coming from North America we tend to think that we know everything about art and culture!

Ha! Not at all! This trip reminded me of how much there is out there in the world!

http://www.javierzabala.com/

That’s his website! Check out his art!

Here’s his Don Quixote!!! My goodness! Look at the composition! He captures the ridiculousness and yet the vulnerability perfectly!

This is his Hamlet! It’s for an illustrated volume for adults! The movement! The violence! The power of it! Look at the way he’s actually built characters with just the suggestion of lines.

He’s really quite amazing!

One of the most interesting things he said during his talk was how he’d visited an art gallery where on display was work from an old master from the 15th century, and he was looking at the piece and thinking, My goodness, this guy’s been dead for five hundred years and yet look at how he’s controlling where I look, forcing me to look at a certain part of the picture! His composition led the eye to focus on what the artist wanted to focus on!

Fascinating!

And then he told us a bit about composition!

Well talking to Mr. Zabala, I just listened for the first bit. I didn’t say much, I just listened. (I know! I know! For me to keep quiet wasn’t exactly the easiest! LOL)

But I was trying to figure him out. I thought he must be very good if my host had invited him! And there was something about the way he carried himself!

It was so funny. He had quite an accent and often times it was hard to understand him when he spoke, but I couldn’t help being impressed with his English! No way could I have given a presentation in a second language as well as he did!!!

Well he was up there talking and by this time we’d spent a couple of days together, and I’d figured out when he was joking (and he joked often!). I’d even figured out how to tease him back and between him and James Foley (the other author/illustrator who’d been invited) we had a grand old time!

James Foley was quite the opposite of Javier. I told him he was one of the *nicest* guys I’d ever met. Affable is the right word to describe him!

So obliging, whereas Javier was so droll.

So there was Javier talking about inspiration and the metabolism of it in order to make art, and he mentioned how he’d been talking to some Dutch people about one of their classic artists. He said the name of the artist ‘Vermer’ and the Dutch people kept staring at him blankly, with no idea who he was talking about.

And here’s me in the first row thinking ‘Vermer’? ‘Vermer’? And I blurted out “Vermeer!!!” so loud that everyone heard.

Javier glared at me in mock disgust because I’d just ruined his punchline! And he mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m going to kill you later!”

Oh how we all laughed!

In the course of our conversation I learned that he’d actually been shortlisted for the Astrid Lindgren award! That’s a 500,000 Euro award given by Sweden to the best author or illustrator or arts organization!!!

He is that well recognized!

I don’t know how I got the nerve to talk to him about a story idea I’ve been working on. I ended up basically telling him the idea, thinking that maybe he’d be good for the story, and he actually liked the idea! Which gave me a big boost of confidence! And then he made an observation that seemed wrong at first. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was absolutely and brilliantly right. And I thought, “Wow!” He really does know what he’s talking about.

We were at lunch later on and he showed me his sketch book. All artists seem to carry them around. And then he asked me to draw in it, and you know what I did? I drew him.

I sketched him. I didn’t think it was very good but he said it was promising and that if I worked at it, I could be an artist. Wow.

I don’t think he was being charitable. I think he was being honest.

But he scolded me for the way I signed it. He said, “Why do you authors always write so big, and slanted up?”

And I replied, “I heard it was optimistic!”

He just gave me that look.

I could go on but suffice it to say I learned a lot!!!

James Foley is a multi-talented author and illustrator whose style is about as different from Javier’s as you could imagine.

Here’s his website: https://jamesfoley.com.au/

I fell in love with this book about a kid who’s pet rabbit comes back from the dead that he’d illustrated:

MDB_cover-1000px-shortlist

Love the shadow!!! Love the worm sticking out of the bunny’s head! Almost like he’s driving!

The sense of humor!

It really reflects him well!

Click for high-res version

Doesn’t he just look like the sweetest guy???

That’s because he is.

I have to confess that I was dreading this trip. It’s just so hard to travel to the other side of the world. But then I’ve always found when things like this happen, there is a reason for it. God has a plan, and there’s something special that I must learn over there, while out of my comfort zone, that I wouldn’t have learned sitting home.

Not to mention all the wonderful other people I met.

But I do know, that spending that week with Javier, and those few days with James (he had to hurry back home because he was getting ready for his upcoming nuptials) was a huge boost to my own creativity and I will not be the same when I tackle my own stories. I shall metabolize the inspiration I gleaned from everyone I met and thank God for the opportunity!

 

Getting ready for Malaysia!

I’m heading off to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow evening.

Very excited!

My second time going there, and I was sad to leave the last time.

I’m going to be doing a session at the Comel -The Magic of Picture Books conference.

Malaysia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world!

And so friendly!

Last time I went just before attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. From KL (Kuala Lumpur) you can take a bus down to Singapore, which I did.

On the bus ride I met an American who’d decided to retire in KL. Every few months though he had to make an immigration run, he had to leave Malaysia, and then re-enter, renewing his visa. The easiest way to do this was to run down to Singapore, and then come back on the same bus.

He told me how much he loved Malaysia and living in KL.

Very high praise indeed!

You don’t need a visa to enter Malaysia if you’re coming from a Western country.

But if you stay longer than five months I think (can’t remember what he said the limit was) you have to go out and come back and you’re good for another five months.

So excited to be going back!

Hope to have some nice pictures to post of the conference!

Last time I passed these amazing caves with these huge Buddha statues that people were climbing up to. Hope to see them this time around.

Peace out!

I remember hearing on Dr. Phil that when a person shows anger they’re actually at their weakest.

And that anger and sadness are often symptoms of a more basic emotion: fear.

I don’t know about all that, I just know that I often have to balance how much news of the world’s events I take in, in order to preserve my own composure.

Like many people, tragedy hits me pretty hard.

Especially children’s suffering. Guess it’s the maternal instinct in me. When I think of the situation in Syria, Myanmar, the refugees and migrants making their way to Europe and the brutal and hostile reception they’re receiving, I can’t help but think of my own children and my grandchildren, hold them closer, and thank God that we’re not in that situation.

And it makes me feel guilty that we have so much.

And when I see the callous indifference of major corporations to the effects they have on ordinary working people, like in the case of the pipeline they want to cross into North Dakota, it gets me pretty riled up.

Had lunch with a dear friend yesterday who always reads my blogposts and she said that my last blogpost came across as ‘angry’.

Immediately I thought, “Oh dear! I can’t afford to be angry!”

Angry and Muslim doesn’t go well in this day and age.

We Muslims have to be ‘admirable’. We have to be noble in the face of suffering.

We have to be patient.

And yet the Canadian in me wants to tell it like it is, unfiltered, which is what I did with my last post.

There are countless beautiful people (of all colors) who have reached out and spoken out against injustice of all kinds.

There is a hadith I love that goes: Speak the truth even if it is against yourself.

And that’s what I try to live my life by.

When I was talking to my friend and she said I sounded so angry, I thought to myself, No, not really angry. Sad.

Even writing this I have tears in my eyes. There is so much wickedness in the world!

And my heart bleeds for those who are oppressed.

I’ve always in particular been sympathetic to the plight of the Native community.

With the Dakota access pipeline struggle that’s happening right now, and the lack of major coverage on the news channels…it feels so overwhelming!

And when I was expressing that in my last post it must have come across as anger, but no, it’s not anger as much as frustration and sadness.

Such are the limitations of the written word that you cannot always tell the tone of my speech by what I’m writing and I’m way too lazy to use a lot of emojis to clarify, although that probably would be prudent.

I started reading a book by member of parliament Charlie Angus called Children of the Broken Treaty.

It is very well written and documents that we Canadians have nothing to feel smug about in terms of the treatment of our native community. We claim to be a tolerant and enlightened country, especially with regards to how America treated their natives, and yet the disenfranchisement continues, and despite all the calls for action, the native community in Canada continues to face blockades to development and the enjoyment of a standard of living that I, as an immigrant, take for granted. Something as simple as clean water!!!! And proper schools!!! Are things that native communities long for!

When I first began reading the book, some of the anecdotes of the suffering of native children on the residential schools were so horrible that I couldn’t stop crying.

I felt like curling up into a ball and just closing my eyes!

And then I spoke to a television producer lady that I’ve known for quite a while and she said that the book shouldn’t be considered as depressing. It’s a call to action. And then she said something that really changed the way I looked at it all. She said it’s not like the onus is on any one person to change things all on their own.

And it was like a light bulb went off.

Who do I think I am? Did I really think it’s up to me to fix the world’s problems???

Only me???

Who do I think I am?

And it was very reassuring.

Because if these issues make me feel so moved, then that means, other people will feel exactly the same way.

I am certainly not the only one who is sympathetic to the suffering of the native community! There are loads of other people working much harder for much longer than I on these issues!

So my role in this is simple. It’s to call others. To use whatever skills I’ve acquired as a writer, to spread the knowledge of what I’ve learned and motivate others to do something too.

It’s with the action of many that these things can change.

People are not always willfully cruel.

They are busy. And they don’t know, like I didn’t know.

If you want justice, you have to stand up and ask for it.

And keep asking for it. Like with the #NoDAPL movement.

Patience and perseverance.

One step in front of the other, keep going.

And it reminds me of another hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that God loves actions that even if they are small, they are done consistently.

I’m paraphrasing.

So it’s meant drying my tears, rolling up my sleeves, and getting to the task at hand without any grandiose expectations of what one single person can accomplish.

We’re all in this together.

 

Yesterday was Eid ul Adha, and I kept thinking to myself, I can’t wait to get back to work.

And I started asking myself if I’m a workaholic, and then I thought, nah! A workaholic would get more done.

I’m only partly kidding.

I’m at that stuck stage of a project.

I began working on this new novel idea and there were parts that I was quite happy with, and then all of a sudden, I stalled.

So I decided to approach the story from a different angle, and I was humming along and there were parts I was quite happy with and then again, I stalled.

I was trying to be disciplined, butt in chair kind of thing, but what do you do when it’s just not coming?

And then I asked myself the scary question: “Do I really want to write this story?”

It’s a tough one, because it’s a good story.

And I know I should write this story.

And I know it’s a really good idea.

But I feel like I’m just tired.

I’m pretty much exhausted.

And it doesn’t help to see all the stuff going on in the world.

I spent a lot of last week supporting the struggle of the native community against the Dakota Access pipeline that was threatening to snake across sacred burial grounds and under the Missouri river.

If it burst it could poison the water supply of eighteen million people who counted on that water for their daily survival.

Originally the pipeline was supposed to cross near Bismarck, North Dakota but the people said, “Not in my backyard.” So they decided to put it on native land.

And so native communities gathered like they’ve seldom gathered to fight this.

And I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘Why should that even be an issue?’

It’s violating their treaties, again.

When I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I kept getting appalled at the callousness of the people in the 1800’s. How could they treat the natives like this? And then when they’d decimated them, they wrote stories about the ‘noble’ savage, and sympathized with their plight and all that kind of baloney, while in fact, they were supporting politicians and policies that continued the carnage.

And when it’s pointed out to them, people nowadays complain about being held accountable for things that happened before they were born.

Yeah, but they’re happening now too, and what are you doing about it?

The apathy is astounding.

And people might wonder why me, a Pakistani Canadian would care what happens to the Native community, and the answer is simple, it’s because it’s about domination, and injustice. Once America was finished dominating the west, and the natives, they moved on to other countries. They put their military bases all over the world, made promises to help regimes maintain order, and basically have manipulated the entire world so that their own people would benefit. They have created so much anarchy and bloodshed, just to keep the people they can control in power. Back in the eighteen hundreds it was in the name of manifest destiny, now it’s in the name of democracy, but when people they don’t like win a democratic election, they quickly barge in and create chaos ie. Iran, Algeria, Palestine.

And it makes me realize that we’re really not much better than animals. Animals have to fight for their survival.

If they don’t they’ll get eaten. Simple as that.

Look at Tibet and the Dalai Lama. They were taken over by China and they’ve been peacefully protesting for years, he’s been in exile for years and nothing ever happens to rectify the injustice.

People complain when the oppressed fight back, but would they lie down and allow the oppressors to roll over them if they were in that situation?

If they’re being oppressed they are not expected to take it. They expect the world to care, and it does.

Oh dear, this is becoming such a depressing post.

I didn’t mean it to be.

Take a deep breath.

And carry on.

 

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