Charlottesville Is Merely a Symptom, the Root of Which Is Hate

Charlottesville response

The ideology of white supremacy is one that has reared its ugly head time and time again in human history and seems to be incessantly embedded in the American culture. Charlottesville is a small city, only two-hours from Washington, but has become the center of racist controversy. This spring, the local council voted to remove a statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, from a downtown park. In reaction to this, white nationalist, Richard Spencer of Virginia, who has a substantial online far-right following base, organized a torchlit rally at the statue.

On August 12, 2017, the world witnessed this hate filled group carry out a terror attack. The driver of a Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville resident. America is now further entrenched in escalating racial tensions and, potentially, has never stopped being in such predicaments since its establishment. The recent rise of the voice of white supremacists, who were largely a silent group for many years, has now galvanized vicious momentum.

The events that have unfolded in Charlottesville are merely a symptom, the root of which is hate and racism. The neo-Nazis, KKK, alt-right, and whatever else they call themselves (read: racists), have been provided with a platform and an updated agenda. Their cowardice, as shown by their harassment of liberty and blarring racist behavior, has empowered them, emboldened them, and taken them from the margins into the mainstream. Why?

The President of the United States has played the leading role in inspiring and supporting these hate groups. From President Trump’s hate filled language and bigoted undertones to most of his public talks, all of which are evidently more powerful than initially anticipated. When he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” he clearly declared his assumptions, prejudices, and willful ignorance. This was only one of the disparaging comments he has made throughout his campaign and after his election. Trump’s entrance to the White House has re-energized activists and groups in America that reject both left-wing ideology and mainstream conservatism.

Trump has never denounced the support he has received from white supremacist groups and leaders.America has a President who has not only overlooked this rising issue of white supremacy, but who has failed to demonstrate courage and leadership in its wake. This cannot and should not be ignored. His actions and inaction speak volumes. Withstanding recent incidents, what effects are Trump, his language, his opinions, and his supporters having on Americas as a country? Not a positive one!

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reported a rise in the number of hate groups operating in the United States. The SPLC’s newly published hate map comes at the same time as a sharp rise in “bias incidents” – instances of hate crimes or harassment and intimidation – following the election of far-right President Donald Trump. “We’ve also seen a steady accumulation of white nationalist flyering reports (at least 85), 78 percent of which occurred on college campuses,” the SPLC explains.

The most noticeable upsurge was among anti-Muslim groups which increased from 37 to 101 in just one year. In 2010, the SPLC knew of only five anti-Muslim groups. FBI statistics report hate crimes directed at Muslims increased by 67 percent between 2014 and 2015. Almost 1,372 “bias incidents” were recorded within three months of Trump being elected; 25 percent of which were motivated by anti-immigrant sentiments. Nearly 19 percent of those incidents targeted African Americans, while nearly 10 percent were anti-LGBT, and another nine percent targeted Muslims. These facts clearly speak for themselves, but they also speak for America on the international stage.

Confronting the racist roots and the move towards improving race relations needs to begin with acceptance that there is an issue – that there are still racists and white supremacists very actively preaching hate in a country that prides itself on being at the forefront of the civilized world. Ignoring such groups is essentially supporting such groups and this is precisely what Trump has proved through his actions.

On Twitter, Trump writes that it is “foolish” to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and ruminated that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues may be next to go. He further wrote, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” Such comments, at a time of such turmoil, demonstrates his affinity to the sensibilities of the white supremacists.

The fact is that these statues may represent many things to many people in America. They may not be perceived as racists symbols by many, nonetheless, taking them down is powerful because it makes a statement. It tells radical racists in no uncertain terms that their behavior and beliefs are not acceptable in this society.

In such times of adversity, the populace looks toward its leader to calm tensions and encourage people to come together against evil. When and if that person doesn’t take such measures, it speaks volumes. Trump has clearly chosen a side, regardless of his belated “politically correct” forced statements. He has yet again revealed his regressive views. America has a leader that is encouraging mentalities in society that need to be eliminated and giving rise to hate that the country has worked so hard to eradicate.

The President of the United States is considered to be the world’s most powerful political figure. As the leader of the only contemporary global superpower, Trump is not only letting down his country, but setting such precedence internationally.

L.S.Deen

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Why are we not Saving The Children?

refugee

Libya has the largest flow of modern migration tunnels through a single country and it is where most refugees and immigrants prepare to face the deadliest stretch off the Mediterranean Sea. This is why Libya has announced it is expanding its zone of control off their coast from 12 miles to now 97 miles and warned Charity rescue boats to stay away from the marked territory. As a result, many charities, including Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontieris, and the German charity Sea Eye pulled their ships back or have temporarily suspended rescue efforts.

Aid agencies are warning deaths in the Mediterranean will increase after they suspended migrant rescue missions in response to what they claimed were threats from the Libyan government, who are now attempting to curb the refugees. This “European refugee crisis” is thought to have begun in 2015 when increasing numbers of people arrived in the European Union (EU), traveling across the Mediterranean Sea and overland through Southeast Europe. Mainly are asylum seekers but there are fears of others, such as economic migrants, and militants masquerading as refugees or migrants. Perhaps it is also because many of these refugees are thought to come from Muslim majority countries of regions south and east of Europe – including Western Asia, South Asia and Africa, with the majority of entrants classified as Muslim.

Libya has the largest flow of modern migration tunnels through a single country…

Information from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees suggests;

• Majority of the people arriving in Europe in 2015 were refugees, fleeing war and persecution in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea.

• UNHCR data, 84% of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 came from the world’s top ten refugee producing countries.

• The UNHCR, also explains that the top three nationalities of entrants of the over one million Mediterranean Sea arrivals between January 2015 and March 2016 were Syrian (46.7%), Afghan (20.9%) and Iraqi (9.4%).

Ascertaining refugee’s motivations for risking their lives is a complex matter, however perhaps the aforementioned nationalities of migrants may provide some insight into their reasoning. Wars fuelling the crisis are the Syrian War (genocide) and the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Somalia, and the war in Darfur. These people are fleeing persecution, famine, war and its aftermath and their motivations do not need be spelled out they are self-explanatory.

Hein de Haas, the Dutch scholar who runs Oxford University’s International Migration Institute said, “The problem of migration deaths has been created entirely by policy attempts to outlaw migration.” Despite the best efforts of the EU and countries affected by these European Migrant crises, very little has changed. There are still people risking their lives and dying in the Mediterranean. Therefore, it is clear their strategy doesn’t work, by banning migration, or by cracking down on people smuggling, refusing to rescue drowning migrants has only resulted in migration further going underground. Thus, causing an increase in both the price and demand on illegal boats but also in the risks of an increase associated with making their arduous journey.

Europe’s governments are delivering these desperate people into their unmarked graves by turning what was legal into the illegal, and what should in fact be a life improving act into a death delivering risk. With the EU encouraging the Libyan coast guards to stem the flow on migrants in the Mediterranean the charities rescue boats are treated aggressively for being affront to sovereignty. The relationship between the Libyan coastguard and the charity rescue boats operating in and around the Libyan coast has always been contentious one and now it is outright hostile. With pointing weapons and open threats, charities are literally being driven away.

Charities like Save the Children are accused of being “part of the problem” and in fact aiding the refugees. Part of this claim includes assumptions that refugees only risk their lives because they know they have the safety net of charity boats. These ludicrous claims are unfounded and do little to help the humanitarian crisis at our doorstep.

Vilifying and deterring the work of the charity (humanitarians) boats aiding these refugees is a malevolent act of neglect. Especially as their work does not simply stop when refugees are plucked from the waters. They provide food, shelter, legal information, health services and protection from traffickers and much more. It needs to be understood that many migrants have had horrific experiences on the long journeys often facing starvation and abuse at the hands of gangs, long journeys on foot through the desert, rape and torture. With unaccompanied children being the most vulnerable group and it is these charity boats and subsequently these charity efforts that are helping the refugees. To hinder, deter and stop their efforts is barbaric.

The policies and processes in relation to migration will be argued for years to come, however this blatant lack of immediate concern for human life is truly disconcerting. Letting people die and preventing humanitarians from being human seems to be at the top of the agenda for all the governments involved. This conscious prevention of saving lives is cruel and negligent.

As the developed world, we pride ourselves on the ethical principles underpinning our societies and yet, when comes the time to practice these principles we are asked to stand back and watch humanity drown. We will look back at this point in history and at ourselves, only to remember that we closed our boarders and did not save the children.

L.S.Deen

Obesity is not Fabulous

fat

 

Let me be clear. There is a difference between the terms “fat” and “obese.”As a society, we need to stop making them interchangeable, because they aren’t.

I am touching on a contentious issue and one that I am prepared to take some criticism for, because I know my intentions are to support and not to shame or humiliate. The developed world is getting larger and lazier. It’s common knowledge, our bodies are not designed to consume the amount of sugar, salt and saturated fat that we do daily; and yet emphasis seems to be on quarreling the appearance of larger or slimmer women rather than the health implications of weight in general.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and some of the most beautiful women I know fall in the category of overweight (shout out to my mum). Unfortunately, health does not come in all weight categories and we need to accept this as a fact and begin to align our attitudes to this as a society. I have a vested interest in starting a conversation around health especially among ethnic minorities, and it’s not only because of my job.

Almost all my extended family members suffer from Type 2 diabetes, both my parents have Hypertension and three out of four of my grandparents had/have heart disease. All of their diagnosed aliments have been linked to them being overweight/obese.

My work in health research constantly bombards me with statistics and facts about weight health and my interests outside of that sphere harass me with unrealistic social constructs – combining both has helped me form my opinions. I don’t agree with using obese models and passing them off as plus size role models and/or plus size fashion models that reassure young people to be obscenely fat and stay that way.

Having said that, I also do not agree with unhealthily thin models with protruding bones; showing as a way to encourage youth to take up eating disorders rather than just healthy eating.

Health is not determined by eyeballing aesthetes and hazarding a guess at what is over and underweight. Health is the state of being free from illness or injury; increasingly the factors affecting our health the most are of our own doing.

The number of overweight and obese infants and young children (aged 0 to 5 years) increased from 32 million globally in 1990 to 42 million in 2013. The annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are a staggering $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States. Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14 billion in direct medical costs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) if current trends continue, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children globally will increase to 70 million by 2025. Without intervention, obese infants and young children will likely continue to be obese during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Health is the state of being free from illness or injury; increasingly the factors affecting our health the most are of our own doing.

Obesity in childhood is correlated to a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.

Diabetes caused by obesity is already an adult epidemic predominantly among ethnic minorities. It currently affects over 246 million people worldwide and over half of these people are women. Type 1diabetes develops if the body cannot produce insulin; while Type 2 diabetes develops when the body cannot produce enough insulin or when the insulin produced is not functional (insulin resistance). Type 1diabetes is the least common of the two main types and accounts for around 10% of all people with diabetes.

There is an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if the person is overweight. Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40. However, in Black and South Asian people, it often appears earlier (after the age of 25); research suggests the primary cause for this is diet.

Therefore, racial and ethnic minorities have a higher prevalence and greater burden of diabetes compared to their white counterparts. Age, ethnicity and waist circumference are key predictors for developing Type 2diabetes and South Asians are particularly at risk.

Diabetes is linked with a number of other long term conditions including heart, eye, foot, kidney and mental health problems. Other related health concerns are; heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, gallbladder disease and gallstones, osteoarthritis, etc.

Unfortunately, ethnic minorities are susceptible to developing long term complications 5 years sooner than people from the white population. This leaves them at a higher risk of morbidity and mortality than majority populations for a range of chronic diseases. Prevention of diabetes is key to a healthy lifestyle, particularly as people are now living longer. However, for those who have developed the condition it is important to manage it in order to maintain a good quality of life and reduce hospitalization.

The fact is we are leading to a public health disaster and medical advances can just about barely manage the current state of affair, thus keeping people alive on a very low quality of life. I can inundate you with many more facts and highlight other health conditions that are associated with obesity but the truth is – many of us are already aware of them. Often, it is the well informed and developed nations that are at the forefront of failing at healthy lifestyles.

Age, ethnicity and waist circumference are key predictors for developing Type 2 diabetes and South Asians are particularly at risk.

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.

We can point fingers at multi-million dollar corporations, food manufacturers, celebrities, fast food chains or anything for that matter and yes – they are all contributing to our health – but we also need to start taking some responsibility. We are all contributing to this “public health time bomb” and we need to wake up.

Stop Conflating "Fat" with "Obese" - Obesity is not Fabulous -

 

This needs to begin with telling ourselves, and our children that it is not acceptable to be excessively overweight or obese. We need to acknowledge the distinction between “fat” and “obese” and stop trying to pass of the latter as the former. Obese is not fabulous, waist size in relation to certain disease does matter and an excessively obese person is an unhealthy person. Stop congratulating and celebrating public figures that advocate obesity while encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle. Whether that is through obscene Mukbang endeavors, food challenges, binge eating and drinking or by promoting the “fat is fabulous” message.

We as a social construct (developed countries) are failing to pass on healthy messages to our children. We wouldn’t encourage our children to be drug addicts when they grow up and start sewing the seeds of drug addiction in their childhood and yet we embed detrimental behaviors towards food in them almost as soon as they can eat what we eat.

We teach them the food habits that they will likely employ for the rest of their lives, introduce them to foods that will lead to chronic diseases, that will reduce the quality of their life, and potentially lead to an early death.

In our efforts to be politically correct and inoffensive we are missing the boat on serious health risks for the future. Health risks that certain fractions of our society (ethnic minorities) are more susceptible to. We can’t ignore the growing risks and burdens much longer. The disconcerting repercussions of this overweight population on our health services is significant and yet we aren’t permitted to comment on it. Most people are petrified to even use the words obese and overweight, for fear of the fat shaming label.

Stop congratulating and celebrating public figures that advocate obesity while encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle.

Let’s be clear, it is certainly not ever acceptable to shame anyone for their appearance – thin or obese – nor is it conducive in improving their health. The bickering about size needs to stop. We need to lift the lid on such issues and have an open conversation not about beauty, size, shape, curves, lumps and bumps – but an informed, mature and honest conversation about health.

Health. Our most important asset.

 

Grenfell Tower Fire and the Issue of Social Class, Poverty and Power

grenfell

On the June 14th 2017 at Grenfell Tower a 24-story, 220-foot (67 m) high building in North Kensington, West London a fire broke out; claiming 79 fatalities and leaving over 70 injured.

The building itself is owned by a local council that’s legally obligated to provide housing for people who are homeless or to those who qualify for social housing. Despite the building housing low-income residents, many of whom are largely from North African population or immigrants to the UK from Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria; it is located in the famously Kensington area of London potentially inconveniently.

The desirable location of this building enabled approximately 20 percent of the units in Grenfell Tower to be rented at more expensive rates. As a result of more units being rented at a higher rate, Grenfell Tower’s not-for-profit manager (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization) were incentivized to attract wealthier tenants. This included major renovating to the existing property, and primarily incorporating cladding to the façade.

Investigators have not yet confirmed what kind of cladding was used on Grenfell Tower’s renovations, however the Guardian had reported that an inexpensive and flammable material was used. The face-lift took place in 2014, costing, approximately £8million ($12 million USD) and concentrated predominantly on aesthetics.

In an attempt to make it “appealing” and presumably less offensive of an eye sore to the its wealthy neighbors. The facts relating to the fire are still being confirmed and Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire.

Among the countless frantic uncovering of misdemeanors, are theories of social cleansing and suggestions that the fire was in fact, not an accident. Media coverage of this conspiracy theory has been limited; understandably so as the focus has been meeting the immediate needs of the displaced residents.

However, BBC News did manage to interview Peaky Saku, who witnessed the fire as he returned home, and didn’t mince his words when expressing his opinions. Among some of his claims was one of social cleansing.

Mr. Saku was filmed live by a BBC correspondent saying, “This thing they’re saying about it being a fridge that exploded, I don’t know about that but what I do know is that they did regeneration to that building, £10 million…..and put these shoddy plastic things on it, that set alight because they want more reasons to knock these blocks down.”

He went on to explain, “There’s two options, they can either regenerate the blocks or knock them down…so I’m not sure that was totally an accident.”

The dictionary definition of Social Cleansing is, “The large-scale removal from an area of members of a social category regarded as undesirable.” Presently, there is no evidence to support his acquisitions; however, are such claims truly far-fetched? Or are we being blindsided by “facts”? How convenient or profitable for its owners would it have been for this building to just disappear? Are there attempts to push the poor out of London’s best postcodes?

“The large-scale removal from an area of members of a social category regarded as undesirable.”

And even if these insinuated acquisitions are false, one thing we can ascertain is a point made by the rapper and poet Akala who claimed that poverty played a role in the fatalities. Speaking with Chanel 4 news he said, “The people who died and lost their homes – this happened to them because they are poor.”

He continued on with, “We are in one of the richest spaces not just London but in the world. Repeated requests were ignored. There is no way that rich people would be living in a building without adequate fire safety.” 

Despite deliberations of baleful motives, greed, human differences and hate, this tragedy has shown us – as have all the other tragedies in recent times – that humanity surfaces in the time of need.

We are all more similar than we are different; the fire exposed this reality (yet again) displaying the human spirit; with communities uniting in efforts to provide urgent support and relief to victims. We saw people in the immediate area and from across London rallying to assist. The response saw gatherings of all ages, ethnicities and social classes come together. From helping to finding missing residents, donating food, water and clothes, to simply lending a helping hand, people truly came together. Refreshingly, among much of the praise, Muslims were also acknowledged. The fire being in the month of Ramadan, Muslims who awoke for nightly prayers and suhoor (early pre-dawn breakfast), alerted their sleeping neighbors, and ultimately helped to save lives. Many Muslim charities working alongside other charities, helped provide night iftar for fasting residents, volunteers and helpers. The limited but ostensible media coverage of the Muslim relief efforts felt like medicine in a time where Muslims are all but reduced to terror suspects.

The Grenfell fire has left in its wake many unanswered questions not only in relation to how and why the fire took place but also questions about social class, poverty, privilege and the cost of lives. These questions won’t be answered by the public inquiry or the fire report; but they will forever be etched in the minds of everyone affected. The charcoaled shell still standing in the heart of London is a daily reminder of the class divide we live in despite claiming to be a “developed” and “civilized” society, and perhaps it’s also a signal to the sinister times we live in.

L.S.Deen 

My Road to Adventure Leading to Solace

 

My recent trip to Sri Lanka was not only tantalising to my adventurist core, but also food for my spirituality and personal growth. I found myself reaffirming my beliefs in the things I have valued all of my life and letting go of some very heavy baggage. There is something about scenic tranquility and isolation from the modern world that allows me/people in general to self reflect and connect with a higher energy.

The intensity of my ten day tour took a toll on my body physically and at times exhausted my mind. It did also feed my being, in ways I had never thought it could.

If you would like a full travel piece on the places I visited and the things I did please comment and I will be sure to oblige.

 

L.S.Deen

A Conversation With A Muslim Man About His Religious Beard

beard

Theoretically, I’m guessing beards have been around since the time of Adam and Eve; and have potentially existed in every single culture and land across the world in some form or another.

However, post 9/11, the beard; an innocuous personal choice, took on terrorist stereotypes that have been hard to shake off. During this time, we were bombarded with images of Osama Bin Laden; a man with a long beard and turban. He was recognized as the cause of all evil; and his outwardly appearance compartmentalized with radical Islam and stark images of exactly what the enemy of the western world looks like.

Therefore, as a direct result anyone who bears a resemblance will consciously or subconsciously be met with caution from others. Increasing this caused many Muslims to resent the notion, that a symbol of their personal religious choice, regarding their appearance be subjected to prejudice, hate and sometimes even violence.

The caricatured imageries of bearded, evil men and oppressed women in hijab/niqqab (vail) still live in the minds of many people today. This causes many to alter themselves, their appearance, and their words in order to “fit in”. They are often afraid to express themselves because they don’t want to look like the terrorist on TV. Fears such as “What will others think?”, and “No one will employ me because I have a beard”, or “People will think I’m ISIS” play through the minds of many Muslim men.

I spoke to a young Muslim man about his choice to keep a religious beard; despite current pressures to blend in; and listened to his reasons why. I learned that freedom of choice can’t be contained and religious expression will always win over the attempts to suppress it. I also learned it’s time to reclaim Muslim symbols…

Tell our readers a little about yourself.

I’m a 28-year-old Muslim man born in Britain. I studied at a prestigious University in Scotland and achieved a double degree including a LLB for my efforts. I’m currently a working professional and simultaneously developing an online start-up. More importantly I’m what is considered, by the author of this piece, “A Modern Muslim Man” with a beard who can share his experiences. I want the readers to know that I am not a religious authority or a political expert in the matter of religion or beards. My answers are my own and developed through the accumulation of knowledge gained through life experiences, academic studies and independent research.

What motivated you to keep the Sunnat* beard?

It’s not something that was planned or premeditated. It was more of a natural positive progression towards being more connected with who I am as a person and the comfortableness of my appearance. When I was younger I used to have stubble, which was my passport into an adult world. It allowed me to enter into clubs despite being under age. Now, the thought of even going near a club makes me cringe. I think that’s the thing. Just like a beard grows, you grow as a person. The longer the beard gets the more time that has passed by, you either become wiser or you become more foolish.

My beard now keeps me steadfast in my Deen (faith). A turning point has been my Itikaf (Mosque seclusion) experience this past Ramadan. For 10 days, I was secluded from the outside world, everything that we all take for granted on a daily basis and forget ourselves in, was given up. In that utter submission to my Creator, having ample time to worship God made me realize that true peace is attained through prayer and connecting with Him. The Quran states, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me,” – Quran; Surat Adh-Dhāriyāt, 51:56. Allah has also advised Muslims to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is great wisdom in everything the Prophet did. He was a man of absolute perfect character and part of his appearance was having a beard. As part of my commitment to being a better Muslim that continues to research and perfect my faith, I keep a beard. In addition to this, I like how it looks on me.

How does it make you feel?

My beard makes me feel more manly. I love the fact that you do not have to look at me twice to know that I am a male. I also feel protected, it’s a strange thing to explain and put into words but I feel protected in many different ways. I feel protected from people, bad energy and negativity and I feel I have a defense that cannot be penetrated. It might sound funny but it’s almost as if I have a shield between what I hold dear and close to my heart and all the negativities that the world tries to project onto me/people on a daily basis. We all do different things to try and maintain some form of stability, consistency and happiness. I like how my beard makes me feel and it’s not been an issue to anyone I’ve come across yet. I think there is a false stigma in certain people’s minds that if they keep anything more than a stubble then they will be perceived and received negatively by others. Yes, a beard is a religious act of obedience to Allah.

Is your beard a religious statement?

No, it’s not a religious statement. I am not out to make a religious statement in any way. I am practicing my religion, which is a personal journey that starts within. Statements are usually outward declarations for the benefit of others, that’s not what I am trying to do here. I’m not trying to prove a point that I am a religious man and overtly present myself in a showy expression of self-righteousness. I have a beard and it is part of me literally, physically and spiritually. I like how it looks, I like how it makes me feel, and I like that I’m following the Sunnah*. Again, it’s not a religious statement.

I have a beard and it is part of me literally, physically and spiritually.

Is your beard a political statement?

In some ways, yes, it is. I think some people live life in accordance with the expectations of external forces, institutions, sociological, political factors and fear of future outcomes that haven’t even been actualised yet. We cage ourselves in ‘what if’s’, worse case scenarios and fallacies which eventually lead to taking the stance of least resistance. In the time we live in, Muslims are politically persecuted in many ways as a diaspora across the wold. My beard is a form of defiance to the systems at be. Yes, having a beard is a reminder to me and those I come across that, I’m Muslim. Currently propagandic political discourse churned out in the media will have you think that a man with a beard could be a threat, because they have attached it to symbols of terror. I think this is complete nonsense, in that sense yes I want to be overtly identifiable as Muslim therefore my beard does become political. I am reclaiming the beard as a Muslim symbol and representing it as a liberal Muslim man.

Have you experienced any negativity as a result of keeping the beard while traveling?

I am very widely traveled and being a South Asian male I have been subjected to random searches, second searches, CID (Criminal Investigation Department) questioning, boarder control hold ups and much more; this is both before and after having a beard. Therefore, having a beard, I don’t feel is directly linked to the racial profiling Ethnic Minorities are subjected to at airports. I think the racial prejudices we face while travelling are more to do with skin color, ethnicity and unfortunately religion. Authorities won’t ever admit this but for them, it’s about targeting certain ethnicities that look Muslim or have Muslim names rather than beards per say. So yes, I have faced issues travelling because of my ethnicity and Muslim name rather than only because of my beard.

Would you classify the Sunnah Beard the male equivalent of the female Hijab?

In my humble opinion it’s a positive thing for a man to have a beard. Historically, in all culture,s men have had some form of noticeable facial hair. It’s often seen as a male rite of passage and a symbol of coming of age and maturity. The hijab has also existed in many forms, historically found in many cultures and religions for women. In their current practices, yes I feel they are comparable as male and female equivalents. There is a stereotypical conception that if a woman wears a hijab then by perceptive default she is religiously inclined and religiously more observant or an orthodox Muslim. Similarly, if a man wears/has a beard – the larger the beard the more religiously adherent he is by basic visual conclusion only. Therefore, yes a man with a beard and a woman wearing the hijab are comparable concepts, because they are outwardly representations and symbols of religion. However, I hesitate to comment too much on the hijab as I am not an expert nor am I female.

My beard is a form of defiance to the systems at be.

Is this a lifetime commitment now? As a girl/woman might commit a lifetime to wearing the Hijab?

Yes, I hope it is. I truly believe I’m a better person in appearance, emotional and physical health (there are scientifically proven health benefits to men having facial hair) and in religious peace than I’ve ever been. I enjoy having a beard. The fact others derive a visual pleasure from it brings me even more personal satisfaction and pleasure. It’s an inspirational reminder every day that as the beard grows, matures and changes, so does the individual who is attached to the beard. Maintenance is key and just like if you neglect maintaining your beard it will look unkept, coarse and unwelcoming/inhibiting. Such is life and personal development – if one chooses to neglect one’s own maintenance in working on goals nearest to them then similarly those goals will become inept, derelict and cast aside. I don’t think about my beard in terms of lifetime commitment because that makes it sound like I’m doing something extraordinary. The truth is I’m Muslim, I’m a man and I like having a beard because it makes me the best version of myself.

Any parting message for our readers?

Thank you for reading my answers to these amazing questions. I would say to anyone of any age who is considering growing a beard to absolutely go for it. I guarantee you that it will be one of the best decisions of your life. As the beard grows so will your confidence, and just like your confidence you will have good days and bad days but it’s about the journey and perseverance, not what others think you should look like in their world. Other than that, I pray that all the readers to achieve all their positive goals personally and for humanity at large.

Ameen. 


*Sunnah/t – traditional teachings of the Prophet (PBUH)

 

L.S.Deen

Pakistan and India: Two Halves That MakeMe Whole – Geographically split but together they form my identity

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Gurinder Chadha’s new movie, The Viceroy House, is about the India and Pakistan partition – I haven’t watched it, nor do I intend to.

Why? Frankly, I am not interested in another narrative about the “Partition.” What is  far more important and pressing are the repercussions of that history’s events that still affect people like me today. Repercussions of hate and hostilities between two countries that manage to transcend geographical boundaries and worm their way into the hearts of people.

My great grandparents and grandparents were born in India- prior to that we believe we have Persian ancestry and beyond that who even cares? My mother and father are the only people in our entire family lineage who were born in modern-day Pakistan, though both left as teenagers to come to the United Kingdom. I am Scottish born and bred and currently live in London;  yet I am asked to categorize myself solely as Pakistani.

Growing up, I was taught to hate India.

I’m ashamed to admit this not for my own sake but for the sake of those who were teaching a child hate in any form. This hate permeated from my family, both immediate and extended. They referred to the India and Pakistan partition as their main reasoning for this hate, glorifying the Pakistani leaders while vilifying the British and Indians.

Growing up, I was taught to hate India.

The very tiny voice of truth and reason was my mother’s, who was by no means pro-India and not even too far from the stance of disliking Indians. But she provided me with relativity and facts that the other hate-filled messages lacked in their narratives.

She informed me factually about the partition; she put no halos on anyone’s heads. She would read to me and my siblings about Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten, Gandhi, Alama Iqbal and so many more. She was the vessel through which I formed my own opinions about the partition at a very young age.

I would also talk to my grandmother who had lived through the partition about her life in India before it. She recalled a happy time where she lived alongside Hindus and Sikhs. I would ask her if she hated the people she lived together with and she would laugh and say, “Of course not, they were my friends!” I would follow up with, “But you hate India and Indians now, right?” Her reply, “Yes, I hate India and all Indians are bad. You need to stay away from Indians.”

My grandmother was 19 years old during the partition and lost an older brother to ithe was shot dead. I constantly pried for more information but to no avail. She wouldn’t talk about it and was never willing disclose any further details. So there I was, left with an image in my mind that my grandmother’s brother was shot dead and it was the Indians that had killed him. I still don’t know any more than this because unfortunately my grandmother now has dementia.

Despite being a devout and highly practicing Muslim, all my grandmother’s cultural beliefs were related to India and Indians. She was obsessed with Bollywood, watched all the Indian TV channels, and had a vast knowledge of the Hindu and Sikh religions. Bizarrely, she unfailingly recorded and watched Mahabharata, which was the televised stories, or Ram in the Ramayana every Sunday morning for several years.

This woman, the very same woman who was at the forefront of teaching me to hate India and Indians, in fact couldn’t be anymore Indian. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t separate India from her personality,  couldn’t erase it from the fiber of her being.

It’s common knowledge that Pakistan and India still don’t get along; this disdain is well-documented and has its roots in colonial British India and potentially even centuries before then.

This woman, the very same woman who was at the forefront of teaching me to hate India and Indians, in fact couldn’t be anymore Indian

The Muslim Mughals invaded a Hindu Bharat and ruled it for centuries. This perhaps never left the minds of the Hindus when they were back in power. Things might have progressed forward were it not for the British manipulation to reap benefit and power. The British Raj was resented by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike, yet instead of this being the glue that might have bonded them, it further divided the groups.

The partition displaced between 10 and 12 million people solely on the basis of religion and caused large-scale violence; estimates of death vary between several hundred thousand and millions. The circumstances of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility between India and Pakistan that still curses both countries today.

Every decade or so, India and Pakistan find some new reasons to hate each other a lot more. Their hatred  peaked during the partition and since then, they have both steadily maintained an unhealthy abhorrence. I’ve visited Pakistan countless times and I love it, yet I love India too, despite having never been there (due to visa issues).  I feel it’s part of me. I imagine it to be very similar to Pakistan; two parts of a previously whole piece.

I am Muslim, British, and South Asian, in that order. If anyone ever cares to ask, I know and sing the Indian national anthem just as vehemently as I do the Pakistani national anthem. Much to my brothers’ dismay, I support the Indian cricket team (often just to annoy them), which is blasphemy where I come from. The truth is, I identify as Indian and Pakistani equally; both of which are very peripheral identities and not at the forefront of who I feel I am but are part of me nonetheless.

India is part of me just as much, if not more, than Pakistan. I have far more historical ancestry in India. I relate to its culture and language, food, and religions just as much as I do with Pakistan. If I want to identify as both Indian and Pakistani, I have every right to. Why would I deny that part of me? Why should I hate any part of me? Why am I not allowed to love the Indian part of me just as much as the Pakistani or Scottish, or any other? Why do I have to choose a side?

If I draw a line down my face and ask one side not to talk to the other, it still still just be one whole face.

L.S.Deen

Let’s Not Makeup: The Dangers of the Beauty Industry

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Alicia Key recently announced she has stopped wearing makeup and she was quoted explaining her choice; “Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn’t put on makeup. What if someone wanted a picture? What if they posted it? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me.”

For most females and even some males, makeup is integral to their everyday life. I have a lot of females in my life. In the past four years their increased dependency on makeup has become indulgent to the extent that many of them have turned their talents to makeup as a career. Their choice to both wear and pursue makeup is actually understandable, you only have to take a superficial glance at any of your chosen social media platforms and you will be bombarded with an avalanche of aspiring or established Makeup Artists (MUA), Beauty Bloggers and “public figures”.

My daily social media investigations (awe filled ogling) reveals a generation of women who are obsessed with contouring, highlighting, baking and over lining their lips – while uploading these endeavors onto social media in the hope of becoming the next self-taught Huda Beauty. However, the mania of this new section within the beauty industry has created is fandom and superstar status given to makeup artists turned product developers, is a little lost on me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that makeup can now be a career which not only compares to “serious professions” but is able to surpass them. Huda Kattan is a shining example of this mega success especially for the Muslim Diasporas around the world. Many young girls have followed her footsteps branding themselves “public figures” and even have their very own “products”; which is basically repackaged eyelashes, made in China, for sale on their Instagram page. Huda Kattan’s mega success has given them something to aspire to which is not entirely a bad thing. My apprehension is in the dependency and insecurity this could be creating for women.

Dame Helen Mirren sparked controversy when she encouraged women to stop wearing make up and embrace the natural look. “I think it would be wonderful if it became a fashion,” Mirren said. She went on to clarify, “Things are always cyclical, so I suspect we might’ve reached saturation with the whole selfie thing and maybe we’re moving in another direction.”

When people come full circle, as Dame Helen suggests, and realize contouring is not life then what happens? Will we all wake up in a year or two and think, what was I thinking contouring my face like that? And if we do “wake up” most of us will just pretend it never happened and move on with our lives. What will the girls who’s only talent was to highlight and contour do? I know I’m being dramatic. More reasonable opinions have come from Alicia Keys who clarified that her choice to not wear makeup is not a judgement on those who do. She said, “It’s great to not wear makeup but it’s great to wear makeup too, if it makes you happy. If you like how you look with a full face, contour and some serious lashes, you do that, and slay. But if you like yourself bare-faced, go forth and slay like that too. You do you.”

Her opinion is potentially the best way to look at makeup. It’s about choice.

“…You do you.”

Unsurprisingly the MUA and product developers at the forefront of benefiting from the beauty industry, disagree vehemently. Famous makeup artist turned brand owner- Charlotte Tilbury talking about Dame Helen Mirren, said in an interview, “I totally disagree with Helen. She’s absolutely wrong — completely wrong,’ she was of the view “Why would anyone, in a world where everyone is judged by their looks, not wear make-up? I’m not saying do a full-on glamour look all the time. It can be very sophisticated and chic at the same time as being natural, like the Jennifer Aniston look.”

I think Charlotte Tilbury’s opinions are very one dimensional and judgmental. Instead of stopping to question why we live in a world that judges a women’s looks constantly, she blindly defends and caters to this judgement. We cannot be reinforcing ideas such as this to young girls, helping them believe that their natural beauty is not good enough and they will be “judged” for daring to bare their face.

I couldn’t agree with Dame Helen sentiments more. Makeup is a powerful tool which often enhances natural beauty, provides glamour or fantasy, but can’t be a permanent substitute for our actual face.

Social media sets the standards of beauty, life and lifestyle so high and wide that the masses can never meet it; creating trolling on social media. When envy, insecurity and dejection has nowhere to go it makes its way to the keyboard; attacking, offending and criticizing the object of its desire and jealousy.

We are all feeding the makeup and beauty industry’s consumerist agendas but at what expense? It’s a well-known fact that insecurities, depression, and anxiety are a direct result of social media use. Daily consumption of media depicting the beautiful faces and lives of others leaves us feeling empty and inadequate. I believe this MUA and Beauty Blogger bubble will eventually pop, like most in vogue phases. I hope that it doesn’t leave behind a plethora of disillusioned women. It’s reassuring that we have voices of reason in the form of Dame Helen Mirren and Alicia Keys offering women an alternative way to view makeup and the world.

Alicia Keys puts it perfectly, “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Boobs Need to be Taken Seriously

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Boobs. Knockers. Melons. Tits. Tatas. Jugs. Bubbies. Breasts. There are many adjectives to describe the fleshy lumps above our rib cage.

Breasts fascinate the world. They bring many of us pleasure, provide sustenance to a newborn baby, are utilized to entice or dishonor. In some instances they are safeguarded, covered, flaunted, admired, protected, restrained, or simply just ignored.

Women of every generation have potentially felt the sting of boob envy. Depending on the latest trend, our breasts are always expected to be in vogue. With advances in surgical procedures, breast vogue is now attainable, which enables sycophants to indulge their desires to emulate their celebrity idols.

I don’t have much in the boob department, which doesn’t worry me. In fact, I enjoy the autonomy of wearing clothes and not fretting about cleavage or “tempting men.”

A few years ago, my work in health research led me to a project working with a breast cancer charity. The charity aimed to expand their reach and increase knowledge of their services amongst minority women. This aspiration was based on previous research which suggested that awareness of breast cancer and its signs/symptoms is considerably lower in women from ethnic groups, especially in South Asians, as compared to other groups. Early diagnosis of breast cancer is vital in ensuring recovery and survival. Hence, the need for a project researching hindrances to seeking help in the local highly South Asian populated community was crucial.

As part of the project, I attended a two-day course to develop a better understanding of the charity’s work. I learned about caring for my breast. Preventatives such as healthy lifestyle, appropriately checking breasts (monthly self breast exams), signs, symptoms, and what felt like much more. I received a fancy certificate on the final day, which ascertained that I knew all I needed to know about boobs.

I completed my apportioned project shortly afterwards and that was that. I forgot all about the project, the course and, to be honest, I forgot all about breast cancer.

Two years later I found a lump in my left breast while showering.

My hot shower suddenly felt scolding as my body temperature increased every time I ran my fingers over the lump. This lump seemed to have appeared overnight. Why hadn’t I noticed this? I thought to myself. It’s a fairly substantial lump. How could I have missed it?

I searched my brain trying to recall my learning from that two-day course, two years ago.What were the signs and symptoms? How do I do a breast check? I am the right age and or demographic? I asked myself questions but could remember surprisingly little.

My anxiety didn’t subside. However, I managed to internalize it, as I do with most of my issues. I calmly finished my shower, dressed, and went to work. I spent the day reassuring myself that I was overreacting.

That evening, my anxiety reached new heights as I felt the lump over and over again. I finally asked my mother to check my breast. I needed a second opinion. She could feel a lump too which was smaller than the lump in her throat as she choked back tears. My mother overreacts to most things and especially health-related issues. Through her choked tears, she managed to lecture me, reminding me that my breasts needed to be producing milk at my age and not lumps. My lack of marriage and producing babies was the reason for my lump, apparently. Needless to say, her speech did little to relieve or reassure my anxiety.

I had to wait four painstaking days to have my breast examined by my friendly female physician. She was comforting but not dismissive of the lump. Part of me hoped she would be dismissive. She examined the lump again and again and with every stroke, my heart sank further into my stomach. Finally, she said, “Get dressed and meet me at my desk.”

“You will need to be referred to the oncology clinic at the local hospital and have further investigation done.” Her words pierced through me.

It’s a peculiar feeling having morbid thoughts which aren’t based on any facts. I started assuming the worst, visualization and making plans for circumstances that weren’t a reality. My mother’s words rang in my mind, I haven’t had a baby yet. What if I can’t now?

Everything melancholic and hopeless flooded my mind.

I came home and dreaded telling my mother. I acted my nonchalant best and declared it was just a routine check at the oncology clinic and everything should be OK. I even lied that the doctor had said there is nothing to worry about.

To my absolute surprise, my mother didn’t panic or start flapping as I have witnessed many a time before regarding various other issues I faced. She was utterly calm. She even got up from her armchair, walked towards me as I was sitting on my bed, then proceeded to nuzzle my face into her breast while kissing me hard on the top of my head. Breaking free from her grip, I looked up at my mom, her eyes looked straight into mine and she said, “Everything is going to be fine.“ I believed her.

My religion teaches me that a mother’s prayer is never overlooked or disregarded and I know my mother’s prayers for me have always protected me.

I spent four excruciating weeks waiting for my oncology clinic appointment. During this time, I didn’t touch my breast at all.  I didn’t feel the lump and I refrained from hugging anyone. My breast felt heavy and not part of my body. I struggled to put it out of my mind, but it was always there lingering in my darkest fears.

The night before my appointment – I didn’t sleep. I had only half-heartedly insisted for my mother not to accompany me. Secretly, I just wanted to curl up in her lap.

On arrival, I waited a quick 20 minutes before I was summoned into the senior consultants room. She asked me some routine questions about the lump for no more than 30 seconds. Then, gestured for me to go behind the curtains, instructing me to remove everything on top. She burst through the curtains before I laid on the examination table. Clearly, she was in a rush. After fondling my breast [unforgivingly] for 40 seconds, she announced that I needed a scan which may determine what that lump was. The frown on her forehead did little to console my apprehension.

I redressed and met the consultant at her desk where she handed me a slip, instructing me to make my way down stairs. I had barely opened my mouth at the receptionist downstairs when the slip was taken from my hand and I was asked to take a seat.

The five minutes I waited felt like five hours. In those short minutes, I prepared a speech in my head to rival all of Steve Jobs’ speeches. OK, maybe not, but I was truly presuming the worst at this point.

I was summoned by a nurse and asked to remove everything on top. As I laid there, helpless and in complete acceptance of my circumstances, prepared to hear the worst, the doctor walked in. Pleasingly, she was patient with me. She talked to me very calmly and asked me how my day had been. She inquired how I felt in general and about my lump, then confidently stated that she was going to help me. She fulfilled that promise.

After briefly feeling my lump, she placed the scanner on my chest and within seconds announced, “You have a cyst in your breast.” She continued, “It’s a big one, size of a golf ball I would say.”

“A cyst,” I said as a tear escaped my eye. “The size of a golf ball,” I repeated as I wiped the tear from my eye.

“How do you know?” I asked stupidly. She smirked and said, “Your lump is filled with liquid, it’s not solid.” I sighed deeply. “Ahh OK,” was my response pretending to understand. I hardly cared what she had said. All I knew was a cyst is not cancer and cancer is not a cyst. Therefore, I was fine.

“OK, we will sort this out, let me get a syringe”.

“Sort this out, like now?” I asked.

She didn’t respond, but proceeded to walk away from me to the other side of the room and reappeared before I could ask anything else.

“We will just drain it, OK?” she said, placing the scanner over my breast again while holding a syringe with her other hand. She was truly talented.

I nodded and she dug the long needle deep into my breast and began draining the cyst. It was painful but strangely satisfying, knowing that the reason for my emotional agony was leaving my body. I could see the syringe filling up with a dirty yellow liquid with bits of red in it – and with it my hopes for life and a child filled up too. A few more tears escaped my eyes while I lay there having my boob drained. Not because I felt sorry for myself, but because I felt relieved.

The whole process lasted no more than 10 minutes but felt like a few seconds. The doctor informed me I had been brave and to smile because my fears had been eliminated. I couldn’t thank her enough.

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked out of her office and found my mother in the waiting area with her head lowered and prayer beads in her hand. She was muttering Dhikr (remembrance) silently and intently. She looked up and smiled at me. Precisely as she had promised, I was fine.

I hope my inconsequential, but very personal story, can raise some awareness of an issue that is imperative. I write with the optimism that it can help women and men think about breasts more often and for the correct reasons. Breasts are wonderful! They need to be enjoyed, appreciated, and respected by all. But most importantly, they need to kept healthy and checked. Early diagnosis of breast cancer is fundamental to the recovery and survival of patients. You know your body better than anyone else, trust your instincts and trust your body. Below is a chart that explains the simplicity of self breast exams – these should be done once a month, after you’ve finished your monthly period. Please take the time to learn the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and how to check your breast correctly.

breast_cancer_care_signs_2016

L.S.Deen

I Blame Shahrukh Khan

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Yes, I blame Shahrukh Khan personally and Bollywood widely — for my expectations of romance, passion, and love. My idealistic anticipations of what it would feel like to fall in love, how a man would pursue, romance, and marry me, were all developed as a result of Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood.

I grew up on a huge diet of Bollywood movies. My grandmother was the biggest movie buff I have ever known. She had a collection of hundreds, if not thousands, of video tapes (VTRs). Yes, I am that old. She had chronicled all the best and some of the worst movies from the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s. With the introduction of DVDs, her addiction waned but never ceased.

All my earliest memories from childhood include Bollywood movies. They were unremittingly playing in the backdrop of every family function, domestic row, Eid, and Christmas – basically, they were permanently on.

Bollywood is wonderful; it is one of the main topics my siblings and I bond over. We often reminisce about the cheesy songs, bizarre comedy, and the evil villains in these movies, some of which have scared us for life! Yes, I am still very, very afraid of Reecha from Katilon Ke Kaatil (A Murderer’s Murderer).

Having said all that, it always was, and still is, the love in the movies that we admired.

Love is by far the principal theme of most of Bollywood’s movies; it is depicted in every way imaginable and omnipresent in some form or another in almost every single movie. As a child, I would endlessly watch my heroes and heroines Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Maduri Dixit, and many more. They would fall in and out of love and dance around trees entertaining me. I watched them distantly; they were a foreign concept, people who had issues and realities far removed from my own.

Then everything changed.

As I was coming of age (hitting puberty), my life and the lives of a whole generation and many generations to come completely changed. We were bestowed with the genius and the phenomenon that is Dilwale dulhania le jayenge (The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride).

Shahrukh Khan and Kajol mesmerized me and everyone I knew. They were performing our lives on screen and talking about our issues. Issues of cultural and religious restrictions, arranged marriages, familial constraints, women’s rights and so much more.

Depicting an accurate paradox; this movie talked directly to a generation of people who lived in western societies, yet were holding onto the traditional values of their motherland. It spoke to every young girl and boy hoping to travel, get into adventures, and most importantly fall in love. It spoke directly to me.

I experienced love for the first time while watching this movie. Yes, it was vicariously through fictitious characters, but it was love nonetheless. I was introduced to a world of possibilities, and more importantly, I was taught what love should feel like.

With the arrival of Dil to Pagal Hay (The Heart Is Crazy), my convictions were cemented in the power of Shahrukh Khan’s message of love. I watched this movie every single day after school for months. Shahrukh Khan would say and do exactly what every girl wanted to hear and feel. He conveyed a magical message while making it relatable.

I truly believed my Shahrukh Khan would bump into me unexpectedly, in a library, at a train station, at a party, or while I unassumingly sipped my coffee in a café. We would fall in love at first sight and he would sweep me off my feet. There was never a question in my mind that I wouldn’t find the love I have created in my mind.

It never happened.

What I got instead were awkward family introductions, bizarre romantic gestures, capricious behavior, stalkers, online weirdness, and too many other things to name.

I did eventually fall in love and all I can say is, I promise you, love is nothing it promises to be. When love is emotionally painful, it’s endurable; when it’s physically destructive, it’s dangerous.

Heartbreak helped me snap out of my imaginary world of meeting my very own Shahrukh Khan. I attempted to become “practical,” as life, culture, and especially my mother demanded it of me.

“Practicality” involves marrying a suitable doctor, lawyer, or accountant, who is the correct color, creed, race, religion, and geographically down the road from my mother. Needless to say, that won’t happen. Therefore, I am still in the pursuit of practicality, which may evade me forevermore.

The truth is I am just one of many who have somehow lost our way with love.

I no longer watch Bollywood movies. Yet, the messages of Shahrukh Khan in all the movies of my teenage-hood are etched in my psyche. They are a part of me no matter how hard I try and wash them away with the soap of my heartbreak.

I have left behind the vivacious, inexperienced notions of romance, passion, and love, yet, I am resentful of the magic they took with them. We live in a time in which many of us are actually incapable of romance in its traditional or historical form. We find it awkward, corny, and outdated.

We live in a culture that breeds hook-ups, where labeling a relationship too soon is blasphemy. With three-minute speed dating to swiping left or right, blind dates to insipid family introductions, a generation of people that are too pessimistic to believe in concepts of soul mates and infinite options for our every desire, why would we? We are truly spoiled with choice. The plethora of choice only adds to our confusion. One of the repercussions of this endless choice is infidelity; people don’t even have to leave their houses to cheat anymore. Many of us know what it takes to build relationships and how little it takes to break them, too.

In search of a little bit of everything: stability, practicality and affability, yet, we are still yearning for the magical. We are stuck in the peculiar place were Bollywood, Hollywood, and Disney are still our ideals, and yet, our realities produce mundane arrangements, familial or otherwise.

I ask myself often, do I even know what love is anymore, or perhaps I never did, or maybe I always did and it’s just manifested differently in this generation.

Romantic love is as old as time. It’s spoken, depicted, and written about from the beginning of time. It is described and declared everywhere and always.

Shahrukh Khan defined it for many men and women just like me. I feel it’s now time to redefine it.

To reclaim love and appreciate it in its current practices, inclusive of swiping left or right. We should proudly declare that we are a generation with more choice and aspirations for love, accept that we do care about intellectual compatibility and moral fiber, and we want an ambitious partner who we can goof around with. We do want it all; we want the magical with the practical and we won’t settle for anything less.

Yes, I blame Shahrukh Khan personally and Bollywood widely for setting my standards for love, for shaping my notions of love; it’s up to me to add to this: and live up to love.

L.S.Deen