Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Favorite Way of Learning About Islam

When I first moved to Turkey from the Czech Republic, I noticed the different vibe immediately. America's dominant vibe is commerce and making money. The Czech Republic's dominant vibe is skepticism and lack of belief in religion, politicians, and ideologies. Turkey's dominant vibe is faith. Even though the dominant faith isn't my faith, I do enjoy the cocoon feeling of being surrounded by faith.

Before I came to Turkey, everything I knew about Islam was taught to me by the American media. There was a heavy emphasis on how Islam holds back women's rights and doesn't promote critical thinking.

People must be getting something out of it as a religion though, otherwise why would it have become so popular so quickly in this region of the world and remained so. I wanted to learn more about it from people, rather than media sources.

I needed someone who knew my culture to guide me because I wanted someone who knew where I was coming from and my culture's standards of critical thinking and equality.

Luckily, I came across a blog written by a woman of Egyptian heritage who grew up in the Vancouver, Canada area. She too, had, North American standards. Daliah is a financial and economics reporter for a Western corporation, but she is also on a journey to explore her own faith of Islam and to submit to it deeper.

Learning about Islam makes me a better friend and expat. It also allows me to get more out of my time here. With each year here, I understand the festive feeling of Ramazan better and participate more. When I take the time to learn more about the dominant belief system in this country, I am treating my friends and hosts with respect. Most importantly, I find Islam and Islamic people way less threatening than I used to before I lived in an Islamic country. They are not a monolith.

Here's a sampling of blog posts from Daliah's blogs that I enjoyed.

This is single best description I have ever read on how to honor your father and mother:

The three-letter word that taught me how to respect my parents

Daliah explaining the act of fasting:

Fasting to feed the soul

Daliah explaining how hard it can be to pray five times a day:

Becoming spiritually punctual

This post helped me understand the spirit of Ramazan (Turkish name):

10 Ways to Maintain Ramadan's Spiritual Momentum

Friday, April 13, 2012

Breaking the Silence on Street Harassment in Istanbul

Sessizliği Sen Boz,
Break the Silence
about Street Harassment

Street harassment is a human rights issue. It's also a business issue because street harassment costs businesses big money. I haven't felt harassed on the streets of Istanbul. I know, however, that I am not the target demographic as most young people harassed are ages 16-24. I have young friends who have experienced both rude, disgusting comments and groping.

If you think about it, street harassment is probably the number one reason women would not contemplate becoming an "Empty Nest Expat." It's an informal ghettoization of women that keeps them home: whether it be in their actual dwelling, their city, or their country because exploring their world looks too scary.

While fear of harassment has not kept me from exploring my world, street harassment still effects my spending decisions, which is why I emphasize the business consequences of street harassment in this post.

In 2011, I wanted to go to a New Year's Eve party at a friend's flat in the central Taksim area of Istanbul. When my Turkish male friends heard this, they resoundingly said, "you absolutely must not go." Why?

They said, "on New Year's Eve all the village yokels come into Istanbul. They've never seen a foreigner, they are drinking, they assume all sorts of things, and our news the next morning is filled with foreigners who were treated inappropriately on New Year's Eve because of this. Your smiling foreign face would be misunderstood by villagers."

So two hours before I was to leave, I made the decision to stay home and miss my friend's party. Between taxis and hostess gifts of wine and such, the amount I would have spent that night had I gone adds up to about $100. I am just one woman. Think of that decision multiplied by thousands of women. It becomes very easy to see what street harassment costs an economy.

In many ways, Istanbul is benefitting because street harassment is so much worse in other places. One of my friends recently moved here to Istanbul from Cairo. My friend, a highly educated and successful Arab author, said after living in Cairo for two years that it feels completely lawless. She would never move about Cairo proper using a regular taxi. It had to be her regularly-used taxi service, because a woman couldn't even trust licensed cabs in Cairo to keep her safe.

Another story of Cairo street harassment that stunned me comes from one of my favorite blog writers on Islamic spirituality. What are the business implications for a country like Egypt with so little control of its own streets?

For starters, a lot less tourists. At one time, Turkish and Egyptian populations and economies were roughly equal. But now, Turkey receives more than double the tourists Egypt does even though Egypt has the sphyinx and the pyramids and the Nile to offer.

There's a website called Hollaback! that works to document street harassment all over the world so that women know places to avoid within a city. It is also localized to document cases within Istanbul itself so people can see where most harassment occurs.

Avoiding places is a 20th century solution. Women won't settle for that anymore. Women deserve, demand, and will work for safe streets all around the world. We are half of the world's population. We aren't going to remain silent anymore.

Tourist and retail business people should appreciate and fund activists like the Istanbul Hollaback! team because they are working to create an environment safe for people and frankly, local businesses, to thrive.

Click on my title to check out the Istanbul Hollaback! website. You can share your story, check the map of harassment locations, and learn Turkish to help defend yourself. You can also learn how you can be a badass bystander who helps diffuse situations!

It's exciting to see tools like this develop to help women go out and explore their world. We didn't have something like this when I was in my twenties. A worldwide network of Hollaback websites helps give women courage. Set sail, explore, see parts unknown! Don't let street harassment keep you from exploring beyond your street, your city, or your country just like anybody else.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

World Press Freedom Day: Lara Logan Breaks Her Silence

Today, May 3rd, has been designated as World Press Freedom Day by UNESCO.  Blogging has made me acutely aware of the toll bloggers and journalists all over the world have paid for bringing stories to their communities.  Here's the toll from just one country, Bahrain: one publisher & one blogger killed, 68 journalists and bloggers arrested or fired, and 20 investigated.

Do you know a journalist you can thank today for bringing you the story? If it was a dangerous story, please thank them for the risks they took.  If it was a meeting that went on for three hours at night and they're attending it rather than tucking their kids in at night, a little appreciation would go along way.  Journalists provide the sunshine on democracy and human endeavor.

This World Press Freedom Day I am in awe of the courage shown by one South African journalist reporting on behalf of the #1 TV news magazine in America.  Her name is Lara Logan.  The name of her show is 60  minutes.  She agreed to do one interview only about what she experienced trying to bring Americans the story of the Egyptian Revolution. The courage this woman displayed in breaking the code of silence on sexual assault is a gift to women everywhere. May the rest of her life be truly blessed. Click on my title to see her interview and remember, hug a journalist today. Tell them they make a difference.
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