Monday, September 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Thing Around Your Neck

They say sorrow looks good on me,
Her silvery pearls accentuating my neck,
They say she dangles sweetly from my lobes,
Like diamonds found deep within African soils.

I am acquainted with sadness,
Like long lost lovers.
She and i fit perfectly like pieces of a puzzle.

She nests her heavy head on my ample chest,
And i generously pat her icy back,
Singing her songs of a once upon a time.

They say sorrow looks beautiful on me
The way her selfish fingers clutch my throat.

Note: Title is adopted from Chimamanda Adichie's novel titled, The Thing Around Your Neck
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

A June Poem

This is the poem of a night in June
When the song that sung
Was a saddened ode
A prayer on the tongue
For a fire that burned
From darkness to daylight
Under the watchful eyes of God.

Love is a wicked friend
Who grips a heart
With hands made of roses and thorns.
"Mourn your loss"
The old friend begs
Only the lover understands
The pain that is felt.

You with the vizer over your eyes
Refuse to see them
The sons and daughters
Lovers and friends
All with the smell
Of death on their feet.

Do you not see how a night in June
Has stormed their worlds
A thief in the night
Now gone with the wind.
Let us leave this darkness
And find the light
Maybe, one morning in July.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Do You Say Gender Based Violence and Consent In Nigerian?

There has been a lot of conversation regarding gender roles, sexual assault and gender based violence in Nigeria of recent. This is in no way because these issues are new problems that are riddling and corrupting our society, this is because a problem that has pervaded our society for ions, is finally being acknowledged.

The Emir of Kano State, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi plans to enact a policy that prevents men whom cannot afford to keep multiple wives at home from getting married to more than one wife. This in itself makes sense, Emir SLS has seen the effect of polygamy in our communities when it is not done right, how women are most of the time, unwillingly pushed into living very difficult lives due to the fact that their men keep marrying more wives and having more children. As the Emir, SLS stepped up to protect his people. He also plans to enact a law that protects women in situations involving domestic violence by making domestic violence a punishable offence which directly contradicts this belief: “There is a deep cultural belief in Nigeria that it is socially acceptable to hit a woman to discipline a spouse ”(Wikipedia). He has acknowledged the fact that domestic violence is a big problem in Nigeria. However, this has not been sitting well with a lot of Northern Nigerian clerics. Too many of them have come out to vehemently oppose the law. Emir SLS has of course, not been deterred. The plan still stands.

As many of the clerics who have come out to oppose The Emir’s law said, this new policy will allegedly change the law of the Qur’an. One cleric whose name I refuse to mention said in an article (paraphrased), that men must take the law of their homes into their hands and it is up to God to judge them (in reference to domestic violence). In all of the articles I have read, what these clerics claim is that God will judge a man if he does not do right by his wife but a woman will be judged here, on this earth, by the hands of man. You understand how hypocritical, misogynistic and just plain wicked that is?

Nigeria is a heavily misogynistic society, whether we like to admit it or not. By admitting that sentence, I am in no way implying that other countries are any less misogynistic, the world is a pretty misogynistic place but the focus of this write-up is Nigeria, where laws and policies affect me and the people I love directly. Too many Nigerian men have cried out that the law banning men from marrying multiple women (if they cannot afford to) is against the sunnah of Muhammad S.A.W whilst ignoring the fact that each one of Muhammad’s wives was well taken care of. The common trait with if not all but most clerics, is to dissect the sunnah of Muhammad S.A.W and then pick and choose whatever fits into their lifestyles. That which does not fit is ignored and it is backed up by “religion cannot be interpreted in the same way as it was in the time of Muhammad S.A.W”.

Another instance that has my mind all mangled up is the issue of consent that does not seem to be a conversation in Nigeria. The show Big Brother Nigeria has been back on television for a few months now. Regardless of our morality clause that judges the show, we have to admit that the show is a show watched by millions of Africans. Even if we ourselves do not partake in increasing viewership for the show, the show does find it’s way into many households and remember, the TV/internet is this generations main source of information. I digress. A few weeks ago, a participant of the show was disqualified (thumbs up to the show for that) because he directly or indirectly assaulted a housemate while she was asleep. Believe me, the responses I got from both men and women regarding this issue still freezes my blood. I will add a few conversations that had me the most shook up.

“ Me: It does not matter if the world knows he likes her or not, as long as she did not give him permission to get into her bed and do whatever he did, it is a violation of her right to privacy at her most vulnerable state (sleep).

Colleague: If she did not like what he did, she could have woken up to stop him(ignoring the fact that some people are actually deep sleepers). I’m sure she enjoyed it. ”

“ Colleague: But he likes her, everyone knows that. It is not like it was a stranger that got into her bed. He should not have been disqualified. (Ignoring the fact that she has made it explicitly clear that she did not like the accused)

Me: It does not matter. He did not have her permission; he should not have gotten into her bed and touched her. That is sexual assault.

Colleague: *laughs and calls me an “activist” * ”

“Colleague (female): I feel bad for the man, he had such potential.

Me: You are literally sympathizing with a possible rapist.

Colleague: *laughs nervously* ”

What I took from these conversations is this, the topic of consent is not discussed in Nigeria which is directly related to the misogyny I mentioned earlier. A woman’s body is free for the taking as long as it is “right there”. There is a difference between a Yes, a No and a No Response. A lack of response is not a Yes, it is not consent, it does not give any man, any right to a woman’s body. I am now more terrified of Nigerian men than ever. The heavy sympathy the accused man received all over the Internet left my jaw hanging.

We have begun discussions about gender-based violence; soon…we should have this conversation on a national scale meaning, the National Assembly (even though we all know the amount of testosterone in that dome makes doing the job the Assembly was created for i.e. enacting laws that affect the general populace, actually impossible).
Unless more women study and discuss Islamic jurisprudence and work with the way our laws affect women in today’s society, men would continually make us victims of their interpretation of Islam as it is been done today.
We must talk about consent; we must educate people about consent. We must protect our women from the wickedness of ignorance. After the scene aired, the show was quick and swift in their response to disqualify the accused, which was highly admirable considering the kind of society we live in. Even other housemates were quick to isolate the lady who was the victim here.

We live in a society where a victim receives no emotional support but an accused receives heaps of it. This must change. This is not the society our ancestors sacrificed for.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

twentySixteen: reeCap

I think we can all collectively agree that this has been a very hard year. I can only speak for myself of course without having to force you to agree with me but with world events that I cannot list here because well, not the purpose of this, I think it is safe to assume a lot of us have had it exceptionally hard. Amidst all of the chaos that enveloped us (me) this year, I have come to understand myself more. I realized that I underestimate my strength and resilience. More than anything, I learned that I am a survivor and even if I am dropped in the middle of the jungle alone and afraid, I would survive if I choose to.

I found myself in situations I never imagined I would ever find myself in and get this…I did not die. This year only went further to reinforce my belief in the non-permanence of our situations. “This will pass” became my daily mantra. I had constant bursts of light within me. I would wake up one morning and nothing would go right the whole day but then I would go to bed at night thinking “Well look at that. The day has ended and I am still here.” Few weeks before moving back to Nigeria, I met with one of my dear friends and while discussing my move, I explained to him how terrified I was about moving back, how I worked hard to become this person that I am proud of and how I did not want to change. That was when he said to me “Only dead men don’t change, Asma” at that moment, I stopped fighting this battle to hold on to who I was. I became open to change and learning and boy did I learn.

2016 has redefined the word “deliberate” for me. I created a system of control for myself called “Deliberate reaction”. This means that I get to decide how I react to every single occurrence in my life. I taught myself how to utilize my circumstance to enhance my reaction and it has been nothing but light in my life. Situations where I would naturally get angry, I deliberately choose forgiveness. I know what you are thinking, that I am naïve and what if I get trudged on by not reacting, well, so be it. In the case of that happening, I would deliberately choose how I react to said situation. No one is born with hatred, anger and all negative emotions. I found out that my system kept my spirit elevated and I did not carry toxic energy with me through my day hence, enhancing my interactions with people.

One other important philosophy that I have coined for myself using an existing word is to assert my truth without fear of judgment or persecution and I refer to it as “Assertion”. I know who I am, I know my values and beliefs and wherever I go, whomever I stand before, I can confidently and proudly assert my beliefs. Life is a series of reactions fueled by actions. If my actions are guided by my beliefs, which are backed by my spirituality, then the series of events in my life would be for me positively. I am not afraid to be kind and soft. Someone told me that I am too sentimental and you know what, I am very sentimental, unapologetically in fact, if that is a flaw then so be it.
I cannot begin to list here how 2016 has influenced my life, I cannot begin to list the experiences and interactions that will inevitably shape the course of my future but all I can say is “We will be fine”.

If there is anything we know to be truth in this life, it is that This too shall pass.


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A List Of Great Books I Have Read: 2016

Here we are again. As I did last year, this year too I am listing a number of books that have kept me company while on a new journey. Unfortunately, I did not get to read (or write as you can see from my sporadic posts here) as much as I did last year but I did come across a number of wonderful books that kept me sane and enlightened. If you can find the time (since I cannot seem to get to find a healthy balance between my work, personal life and laziness), I would urge you to find and read some of these books. I am sure there are some of you that will go, yeah I read that and you know what…send me a message, lets talk. It is almost impossible for me lately to find people who are interested in the same books and music as me.
As usual, the list would comprise of Philosophy, Poetry, Fiction, Science, History, Fantasy etc.

1. The Audacity Of Hope- Barack Obama
2. The Museum Of Innocence- Orhan Pamuk
3. Islam And Democracy: Fear Of A Modern World- Fatima Mernissi
4. The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women’s Rights In Islam- Fatima Mernissi
5. City Of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and The Search For Truth In Tehran- Ramita Navai
6. The Madman: His Parables and Poems- Khalil Gibran
7. Headscarves And Hymens: Why The Middle east Needs A Sexual Revolution- Mona Eltahawy
8. The Song Of Ice And Fire: A Game Of Thrones- George RR Martin
9. The Song Of Ice And Fire: A Clash Of Kings- George RR Martin
10. A Brief History Of Time- Stephen Hawking
11. Memoires Of A Porcupine- Alain Mabanckou
12. Precious: A Memoir- Precious Williams
13. Afghanistan: Where God Only Comes To Weep- Siba Shakib
14. Hear The Wind Sing- Haruki Murakami
15. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them- JK Rowling
16. Quidditch Through The Ages- JK Rowling
17. Tales Of Beetle The Bard- JK Rowling
18. Burned Alive- Souad
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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Boobs And Brains

This is one article that has been on my mind since the beginning of this year and I am glad it took this long to write. I will explain.
I have always been conflicted when it came to how I presented myself to the world. I always believed and still do that what I put on my body says a lot about how I feel about myself. I cannot wear a hijab because I do not feel like a hijab wearing girl in my heart and I cannot walk around in a bikini because I do not feel like a walking-around-in-bikini girl.
So as a female entering into an almost exclusively male dominated world of technology (I am a software developer for those that don’t know), I was conflicted when it came down to how I presented myself to the world.

Image Source:
“Not too much lipstick, I do not want them to think I am shallow”, “No heels, so I do not look like all I know how to do is dress up”. I found myself equating how I looked with my intelligence. I wanted to be taken seriously as the only female engineer at my office. I pride myself on my ability to evolve and unlearn the misogynistic ideologies that I have been indoctrinated in. It took me a whole year to pause and realize that I did not have to choose between looking/feeling beautiful for myself and being intelligent/good at my job. With or without my attire, I am beautiful and intelligent and that should be enough. I remember Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk where she talked about how she was conflicted about her attire on her first day teaching. I have watched this particular TED talk at least 10 times and it never occurred to me that I too was doing exactly what Adichie did on her first day lecturing.

It is naturally assumed that beautiful women are not intelligent. Women in the modelling industry are assumed to be shallow and dumb, which often times reminds me of Tyra Banks and her show America's Next Top Model and whey she had a college edition. It was to break this stereotype that beautiful women are not intelligent women. 

This year, America almost had it’s first female president and amidst all of that debacle, I was noticing how Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe was carefully chosen. Her team always chose attires that people would consider “serious” and there was not much in the way of accessorizing. Do you see the pedestal they put women up on? I bet none of the other male candidates had to worry about how they looked, heck, Trump did not even have to sensor what he said but alas, the people chose. It took me until the end of the year to understand that I still had more unlearning to do.

Growing up, I remember I myself, looking at other women who loved to dress up as inferior to me intellectually. Most of the time, they were not. I was conditioned to think that due to the way society judged women. Today I have little sisters who are growing up to be very confident, smart and daring women. One of them told me how she would be a kick-ass humanitarian lawyer and look “as bom as Amal Clooney” while doing it and you know what, that is just fantastic. Smart and stylish women run the company I work at, I am learning that intelligence quotient and beauty/style are not mutually exclusive. Women do not have to choose between looking good/feeling confident (I believe these go hand in hand) and having a high intelligence quotient. I know very beautiful women who deliberately dumb themselves down so as to seem more appealing to men. 
We must begin to unlearn this the moment we awaken to the realization that we are living by misogynistic ideals. 
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