Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.


It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ambreen, a dear friend of mine.  

I got to know Ambreen through work, and during a 6 month-long Young Women‘s Leadership Program in 2010 (with 23 other women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds). It was an amazing experience, of which I am thankful that along with learning a lot, the program resulted in the development of many beautiful friendships, as well as the strengthening of the friendship I have with Ambreen. It has also paved the way for the start of this series titled ‘The Beauty Of Difference’. 

Heritage

I have a fairly multicultural background. I am about 3rd or 4th generation born Kenyan, and my ancestry can be traced to the Middle East, Asia and even all the way back to East Europe.

Coming from a mixed background, and also not entirely ‘belonging’ in one particular place, I have chosen to take the principles of my religion as my culture (although background / culture and religion are two different things). I choose to be known as a Muslim first, because this allows me to be a human being first, and then sub divided into different races, backgrounds, etc.

Coming to Australia

I was born and raised in Kenya, and moved to Australia in 2004 when I was 19, with my Mum, Dad and elder Brother. Before coming to Australia, I had never been to another country – not even for a visit. So Australia was the first overseas country I ever traveled to. I came in peak summer and it was really warm and everything was brand new. I struggled with this for a while.

Perth, Australia

What I liked about Australia was how laid-back things were. Things are so fast passé even in Africa, but coming to the city of Perth, well – there was a certain peace.

The most challenging part about the move was trying to learn everything from scratch. From getting used to the currency, the roads (I can’t tell you how many times we have gotten lost), to some heavy Australian accents.

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the importance the family unit plays. Our family members are always at the forefront of every decision, every occasion and every difficult moment in our lives. Children grow up knowing each other, and always have support they can rely on. Nowadays, where peer pressure, bullying, etc. are a challenge in society, I do believe that having a solid family support system allows children to grow up to become stronger adults.

Tradition

One of my favourite traditional events is a religious event, and that is the month of fasting. In Arabic, it is called Ramadan. It is a month where we give up food and drink during the day (day light hours only). This teaches us self-control, humility, empathy towards the less fortunate, along side being in the worship of God.

The reason it is my favourite event is not only because of the cleansing of the body (physically and spiritually – and subsequent fat loss), but because of the thought that every Muslim around the world is taking part in the global event at the same time, an event that brings us all together regardless of language, location, financial status, etc.

Cultural Misconceptions

As mentioned before, having taken my religion (Islam) as my culture, it is no surprise that the one thing that is a misconception is the idea that Islam is radical and that Islam preaches ideas of terror.

Fortunately, it is just that – a misconception. Islam actually teaches peace, and promotes intellect and reasoning. It also teaches the value of human beings, as is stated in the following verse in the holy book – the Quran:

“Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

The Beauty In Difference

I share with you quote from the Holy Quran to show why it is important to embrace difference:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.

Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I believe people should know is of the respect that Muslim men and women have for the opposite gender. It is because of this respect that we avoid physical contact with people outside the family. It is the case of being aware of ones personal space and it is for that reason that many do not shake hands with the opposite sex. It is not out of disrespect, but on the contrary – out of respect and humility

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

The picture I am sharing is one of the grand mosque in Mecca. The reason I choose this picture is that this shows the celebration of multiculturalism.

the grand mosque, mecca

I visited this mosque several years ago, and stood shoulder to shoulder with people from different races and backgrounds, some who I could communicate with in English, while others spoke a different language.  However there was still peace and understanding. The picture tries to capture the unity celebrated in this vicinity; the white and black specs are in fact people. At one time, there can be about 3 million people gathered.

Words of Wisdom

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.“

— Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners

This quote for me is just a reminder of the importance of being kind to one another, and is a reminder of kindness.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Dalai Lama XIV


Ochlerotatus notoscriptus, Tasmania, Australia

Image via Wikipedia

How this quote amuses me so.

I found this quote last weekend during a good old Google search. I was all inspired after hearing the Dalai Lama speak, live and in the flesh in Perth, and wanted to read more on his thoughts (I would have bought a book but the queues at the venue were incredible – a true test of patience of which I bowed out of due to the somewhat aggressive nature of the people in the queue…the irony). 

The Dalai Lama certainly does come out with some gems, and I love it even moreso when he follows what he says with his little chuckle. I can just imagine it now – being questioned by an audience about making a difference, and coming out with the one liner – “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito hehehehe” and the audience chuckling with him, whilst nodding in agreement at the same time.

And I tell you this now – my partner can profess to the difference a mosquito can make. They certainly know how to, especially at night when he is trying to go to sleep. It can be quite funny, until he gets the insect spray out that is.

 

Starting Out Blogging


#PBAU

A good blogging buddy (and partner in crime) – Hajra Khatoon – and I recently started a 3 month blogging challenge. The aim of our challenge was to gather together an intimate group of personal bloggers to help shine the focus on the awesome-ness of personal bloggers for we felt that they weren’t getting the attention they deserved. We decided to call the group ‘Personal Bloggers Are Us (#PBAU)’ after struggling to come up with a name for it (finding a Twitter hash tag that hasn’t been used is really hard!). Just 2 weeks into the challenge, our expectations have already been exceeded.

This week we posed a challenge to the 24 participants:

‘Share with the PBAU group your FIRST EVER blog post’. 

We thought it would be interesting for every one to see how they started out blogging and how everyone had ‘developed’ in their blogging life – be it a short or long one.

In light of that, here is the first ever blog post of mine on this blog – Beginnings, published on 26 September 2010.

And here is my first EVER blog post, of which I wrote for an online community called Emergen (of which I’m now the Blogging Coordinator for), published 9 June 2010:

Learning From Past Mistakes

We can all learn from the ‘leaders’ we happen to come across throughout our lives, be it in politics, our families, work, university, church, etc.

Whether it be from the good they do, or the mistakes they make, some valuable insights can be picked up by merely observing and taking note. These things we observe can then be used to help ourselves grow as future leaders, and succeed in being the best we can be.

I’ve pondered my own experiences lately, and here are some tips that I’ve picked up over the years which may be useful to you are:

  1. Listen…and acknowledge that you have heard. Clear up any misinterpretations right then and there. It also makes people take note that you understood (you were listening!);
  2. Lack of communication can destroy a team and derail a project. It’s not brain science. Communication is key – and it needs to be clear! Less room for those pesky rumours and conspiracy theories then, or the good old ‘he said, she said’ scenario. In a day an age with phones, email, and all the gadgets, there really is no excuse (although face to face is best!);
  3. Pushing people till they break can get the best out of people, but take heed – it can also run people into the ground, and lead to stress, burn out, sick leave and resignations. When I started out in the workforce I didn’t know what I had in me until I was pushed, and when I discovered what I could do I was amazed! But I’ve also seen the other side of the scenario with too many colleagues, myself included, suffering from exhaustion. A sense of balance is good…
  4. A little bit of praise goes a long way. Even if it’s for a small accomplishment – everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes a kind word and boost to the confidence is all someone needs;
  5. Don’t reallocate tasks without first communicating to the relevant parties about ‘why’. Did you know that taking work off of someone and giving it to someone else with no explanation can be considered as bullying – situation specific of course. If you ever need to re-delegate, just take a second and think ‘How would I feel if I was in X persons shoes.’ Sometimes there are time constraints, but there is email, there are phones…how you manage this situation could save a whole lot of heartache, gossip and dissatisfaction in the long run;
  6. Pitting people against each other does not work. Seen it time and time again, and in the end it always ends badly;
  7. Stay true to yourself…(now that’s not a quote from Marcia from Australian Idol ok!). We all encounter this at some stage in our lives – faced with being told to do something that just doesn’t feel right. Go with your gut. If you don’t agree with something, challenge it! Don’t just go with the pack. In the end you need to live with yourself. Sometimes you might feel that it backfires…but any good friend, colleague or organisation should be open to suggestions. If they aren’t, then you really need to consider whether their values match your own – and whether you belong in that situation;
  8. Don’t always provide the answers…a bit of guidance and encouragement to think outside the box and come up with a solution goes a long way;
  9. You aren’t always right. There’s nothing wrong with that – no one is infallible;
  10. Delegation is important. Don’t do everything yourself, even though at times you think you are the only one who can do it. How often I have been in this place!. Others need to learn what you do, and you need learn to let go. It also helps as a backup plan (leaders need to take time out and go on leave every now and then too!);
  11. Say thankyou.

And remember –

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.

 Jim Rohn

Note: To check out the amazing posts from the Personal Bloggers Are Us crew, search #PBAU on Twitter, and enjoy : )

Monday Photo-day: The River


The river that flows through the city of Perth, where I live, was named Swarte Swaene-Revier (Swan River) by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh in 1697. It was named so after the famous black swans of the area.

As the river is the centre of the city, and many of the surrounding suburbs, so the river is the centre of many of the locals lives, including my own. As a child, I have memories of swimming in the Swan, knees sinking down into the black muck, reaching into the murky waters to grab a fist-full of mud and fling it at my brother. My Mum had swimming lessons in the Swan when she was at school, and always shares the tale of when she was a teenager, swimming in the river, and feeling something bump her leg…the river has been known to have many inhabitants…along with the prawns and crabs we used to fish for were dolphins and sharks.

These days I work in a building directly across from the Swan. Here are some photos of the historic Swan River that I took during a lunchtime last week:

The River: Lens: Buckhorst H1 Film: Kodot XGrizzled Flash: Off

Swan River via Retro Camera Connector for iPhone

Stalking bird

Bird at lunchtime