Activism Middle East and North Africa Politics The World Inequality

Celebrities are not activists, but they play a role in the public perception of Palestine

Over the last 2 weeks, Palestine has been constantly bombed by Israel, stemming from the forced expulsion of Palestinian residents from their neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, that spread to protests at Al Aqsa, and other parts of Gaza, and the West Bank. Over 200 Palestinians have died, hundreds are injured and crucial infrastructure has been damaged or totally destroyed.

Across social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, Palestinians both residing in Palestine and those in the diaspora have been sharing videos of the attacks, and their aftermath. These have been shared by activists and concerned users alike, and retweets, and reposts have been viewed thousands of times. Marches and protests have been organized and attended by thousands around the world, to put pressure on local governments to condemn the attacks against civilians, though only a few acknowledged the effect being had on Palestinians.

With the outright refusal of some influential Western governments like the US, UK, Canada, to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing happening in Palestine, social media has been instrumental in spreading awareness of the situation. Palestinians have been sharing videos on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter of first hand experiences, some even covering live bombings, such as the bombing of an international press tower in Gaza. Others share the pictures and videos of the aftermath of their homes being destroyed, as they search through the rubble for their belongings or loved ones. These tweets, posts and videos centers the Palestinian narrative as told by Palestinians themselves, rather than Western media outlets who have biased reporting of events. However, some Palestinian activists, civilians, and journalists, who are putting the spotlight on these events  on social media platforms have had their posts removed for violating community guidelines, making it more challenging to share the events as they happen.

This is where social media influencers and celebrities, who amass hundreds of thousands and millions of followers can platform what’s occurring. When media outlets have been describing what’s been happening as a conflict, or real estate dispute instead of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and war crimes, social media is the medium through which people can see for themselves what’s happening on the ground, from those who afflict and those who have been inflected by rockets and bombs. 

Over the past few days, some celebrities and influencers have posted differing standpoints on what’s been happening. Some, like Bella Hadid, and Mark Ruffalo (well, kind of, but that can be addressed later), have been clear on their stance in support of Palestine, through tweets or pics of them attending marches. Celebrities has also expressed Zionist views, notably Gal Gadot – who’s served in the Israeli Defense Force – who posted on Instagram about the recent escalation, without even mentioning or acknowledging Palestine as a country of its own.

Others, like Rihanna – as though inspired by Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad –  have made statements in an effort to impartiality, which have been bland, flat, and have left a sour taste in followers’ mouths. The attempt at a neutral take, are out of touch with reality and insensitive, as activist Marc Lamont Hill pointed out in a recent video. “Sometimes sincere efforts can be sincerely wrong. This is essentially an All Lives Matter post.” Marc Lamont Hill said in response to Rihanna’s post, a simple text post expressing her concerns about innocent Israeli and Palestinian children’s lives being lost due to violence.


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While, as Marc stated in his response video below, her post may have come from a place of genuine concern, what the post did lack, was nuance. The framing of the post, left out crucial information about the situation and the current attacks on Palestinians. Like when she wrote “violence… displayed between…” when this is an occupier, Israel, attacking Palestinians, there’s a power dynamic at play. She ended her statement with “government and extremists,” further framing this matter as one where perpetrators actions may be justified, when it’s people who are defending themselves and property.   

For celebs and influencers who’ve posted enthusiastically about their support for BLM, the silence on Palestine is disheartening. The parallels between police brutality, surveillance, biased trials, sentencing and jail time that both Black Americans and Palestinians experience are clear, and their support for each other has been vocal on both sides. 

There are decades worth of historical events that’s led to the present day scenario. But a lack of knowledge is not an excuse for not wanting to repost something in support of Palestinians – go learn from people who can inform you, and share from people who know or are experiencing for themselves. A concern over the repercussions publicly supporting Palestine may have on celebrities careers, or influencers’ brand deals, or overall brand image, are present and real. But, this begs the question, What matters more – profits or principles? Especially when they’ve taken a public stance on BLM, why not Palestine?

Let’s talk about Mark Ruffalo, who seems to be backtracking from his support of Palestine, or at least some of it. In his most recent tweet he wrote that his previous tweets might have been misconstrued as anti-Semitic, stepping back from his language that suggested Israel is committing genocide. Earlier he’d retweeted Bernie Sanders’ speech listing the damaging effects violence against Palestinians has had on children and infrastructure alike.


Bella Hadid, who has Palestinian heritage, has faced backlash from Israeli social media accounts for her support for Palestine, claiming her statements to be anti -Semitic. With threats against her family, some of her posts about Palestine were removed from her social media accounts. 

With celebrities and influencers relying on brand deals, they potentially risk their careers with their blatant political opinions, especially when they live in countries where their local government’s stance is the contrary. Going against that can be polarizing for themselves and their careers. But this is also an indicator of numbers and influence. Celebrities and influencers can capture millions of followers attention and cause them to reflect on their personal views on a human rights issue, and with social media, everyone has access to information, and can create content. Social media can connect us like we’ve never been connected before, but, we can’t stay connected to everything all the time, which is where the role of celebrities and influencers come into play. Earning their followers’ trust leads to their ability to persuade, influence, and also frame things in a specific way.

This creates an imbalanced relationship between the influencer and follower. If an influencer posts about something, it must be good, because we’ve handed that power of persuasion over to them. And if they don’t talk about something, it probably isn’t important, or not worth a follower’s time. Celebrities’ and influencers’ support or lack of support doesn’t necessarily legitimize what’s happening in Palestine. Are celebrities and influencers actively sharing posts about what’s happening, and participating in protests, knowing that they can experience backlash and still do it because it’s the right thing to do? That’s great, because the more people who are informed, can lead to more pressure on governments to do something. Have popular celebrities and influencers gone radio silent about Palestine, and picked neutral or fluffy statements? Should we expect a round 2 of the insensitive rendition of Imagine? (I hope not). It doesn’t take away from the urgency and reality of the situation. They’re free to do as they want or don’t want, it doesn’t diminish the importance of raising awareness to bring about change.

Palestine is a human rights issue. War crimes are being committed. Western support for Palestinians is crucial, because those governments can put enough pressure on Israel to stop their attacks. Celebrities and influencers posts and tweets are not activism; but they still bring attention to current events, and focus and refocus the importance and bias of these issues. And it’s about time we put that into context of the broader picture; this is a means of bringing about urgent change for Palestine. 


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This pandemic offers Muslim women the opportunity to reclaim agency over their religious practice

For many Muslims, Ramadan is a month met with much anticipation. For some, it’s an opportunity to rekindle connection – with nightly iftars, congregational prayers, and other mosque activities, it’s a time where community spirit thrives.  For others it can be a challenging time; both physical and cultural barriers result in some, such as women, or mothers, having an unmosqued Ramadan. This is due to the fact that in some countries or communities, women are barred from attending the mosque, or the infrastructure and space allotted to them suggest women’s space in a mosque as an afterthought rather than an integral or central part of the Muslim community.

For the entire month, the Imam leads the congregation in Taraweeh prayer, which happens only during Ramadan. Ramadan 2020 is taking place in the midst of a pandemic, and most people are observing social distancing in some form. As such, mosques will be mostly empty except for the Imam and possibly a handful of congregants.

Understandably, many people fear they will miss out and have a less meaningful Ramadan this year. Without the mosque, there is a lack of that sense of community that so many people look forward to and rely on. The concept of going virtual is somewhat difficult to grasp being far from what people define as a community.

The absence of Taraweeh prayers and the mosque community bring to light a pertinent question: why are men the gatekeepers of religion?

Men are finding themselves in a strange predicament – this year they are on the receiving end of being unmosqued; it’s the first time they’re faced with closed doors, being unwelcomed, and not having a space for worship. Women, on the other hand, know these experiences all too well.

For too long women in Muslim communities have been on the receiving end of the false narrative that their spiritual growth and development are tethered to a man or the men in their communities. For a woman, it’s taken in stride that her presence is not always welcomed or encouraged in the mosque environment, with it being cited that it is better for women to pray at home instead of at the mosque. Women have learned to adapt to these cultural mindsets and advocate for reform within the constraints of a mosque board,  though it is not always received well – change is hard to come by.

A spiritual path for women has been purported to be through men, whether an imam or their relatives. Accessibility to God, through religious practices, is taught to be fixed method, that men lead in worship, women follow, and it’s extrapolated that without men leading, women are therefore cut off from particular modes of worship, and their spiritual journey is curtailed. 

Social distancing and a pandemic may be putting a damper on regular Ramadan activities, but I’d like to put forward the idea that it’s a time where women can flourish spiritually, and it should be embraced. This Ramadan is an opportunity to flip the script and reclaim what is ours. Now is the optimal time, as women, to recognize and reclaim Ramadan as a spiritual experience that we can set the tone for and experience in our own ways. 

It’s scary and unnerving for some women who’ve been conditioned or brought up to think that their spiritual well-being relies on being led by a man when the opposite is actually the reality. In early Muslim communities, women led other women in prayers; they were in charge and invested in their own spiritual growth. Countless women memorized and recited Qur’an, a topic that can be contentious nowadays; though in some countries it is accepted (and encouraged)  for women to recite in public, there are still places where the overarching cultural perception is that a woman should refrain from projecting her voice in public spaces. 

This Ramadan is surely going to be different from what we’re used to, but there is a silver lining in all this COVID-induced chaos. The absence of congregations this Ramadan actually levels the gender-biased playing field. It gives women the space to unearth what they require to nurture a spiritual relationship for themselves – one which men are not privy to.  

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

“Love from A to Z” by S.K. Ali is your summer must read

S.K. Ali’s second book, Love from A to Z, follows the story of two Muslim teens, one American of South Asian descent, Zayneb, and the other Adam, a Canadian in Doha of mixed heritage – Finnish and Chinese.

Zayneb’s gone to visit her aunt in Doha, after she’s been suspended from school because she talked back to her teacher after his Islamophobic tirade. Adam’s has to deal with his multiple sclerosis diagnosis, that he still has to tell his family about. Zayneb is known for her outspoken nature by her family, friends and in school, whereas Adam is quieter, more zen in his approach to life’s hurdles.

The book follows these two journal entries, both Adam and Zayneb having a Marvel and Oddities journal, recording their daily marvels and oddities. For Nicola Yoon fans out there, it’s reminiscent of the flow of The Sun is Also a Star novel, in which the reader’s given a first person point of view to events as they unfolded. 

We’re warned early on that it’s a love story. But it’s so much more than that.

Here are in no specific order, and with as few spoilers as possible, reasons to love this book, and make it your Summer read. 

The staging of their story, with the scene being set on one side of the world and unfolding on the other side of it.

The protagonists meet in the airports of not one, but two continents, and serendipitously cross paths again where Adam lives in Doha.

Knowing beforehand that a love story will unfold doesn’t make you less invested in their love story, it actually keeps you eager to know when they’d meet next, and what will happen, who will make the first move, what their first argument will be about, and how they’ll eventually reconcile. Most importantly, how will they confess their love to each other? All answers you can look forward to. 

There’s something even more charming when the love story has that unique serendipitous feel to it; it makes you feel the magic of everyday life. 

Now to their backstories: Adam deals with his medical diagnosis and what that means for him and his family; Zayneb faces with different aspects of Islamophobia in her daily life. They’re both young and figuring out how to navigate their current circumstances, in a way that makes you invested in each of their individual stories, and not just their romance. 

For both Adam and Zayneb, their families mean a lot to them, which I’ve found to be a common thread in books written by minority writers – or the ones I chose to read, they weave family ties into their characters stories, moreso the value of keeping those relationships harmonious. 

Forget Aladdin, Adam will show you the world… well Doha, at least.

Not having read books with Doha as the setting before, it’s something I enjoyed as it added another element to the diversity of the story itself, with two persons from very different backgrounds, meeting by chance and having that developed in a multicultural city such as Doha. 

Love from A to Z is unapologetically Muslim. And that’s a very big thing. When there’s a constant expectation to validate yourself, your Muslimness and why you belong in your community, it’s comforting to open the pages of a book like this and immerse yourself in things that are familiar, without explanation, especially if your label is modern Muslim woman, or Muslim woman in the West, a label that alludes to the reconciliation of two identities.

Injustice and harassment, and being on edge because of your identity, particularly a Muslim one, are the main themes of this book; a struggle for Zayneb, as injustice ruffles her feathers. Throughout this story, Zayneb’s on the journey to sort herself out, to be more palatable to those around her, especially after causing distress to her friends because she wasn’t able to control her anger, despite her anger being totally justified. That’s the type of story we can all relate to, I think. When you try to put yourself in boxes to be accepted or tamed, the box is gonna collapse sooner or later. Or better yet, you realize it needs to be thrown out altogether.

When it comes to the everyday lives for many Muslims who consistently need to justify their place, Islamophobia is a very real, jarring fact of life, that is as unpredictable as it is unavoidable. Ali’s inclusion of writing about this is a reminder of the everyday realities of Muslim life in some communities. Geopolitical conflicts are brought home in this book, as an acute reminder of the lasting effects political tactics and decisions have on everyday people. This provides a steep learning curve for Zayneb, as she’s on her journey of renewal. 

Here’s a spoiler: Adam is Muslim too, and it would be totally remiss of me to not mention that Zayneb has Trini roots, and as someone who doesn’t get to say that a lot in Muslim YA books, that’s 10 points to S.K. Ali from me. 

This book is one of those books that I knew from the get-go I had to read in one sitting, and you should definitely do the same. 

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Get “Love from A to Z” here for $8.70.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

World News Culture Gender & Identity Life

The “Muslims Of The World” giveaway was horrific, but it’s just the tip of a toxic iceberg

The Muslim online activism world has once again been hit with a scandal, but not by an Islamophobe. It was one of our own. 

 The Instagram account, @muslimsoftheworld1, decided to offer a giveaway for a trip to New Zealand to meet the families of the recent terror attack at Christchurch.

Describing itself as “a platform designed to give a voice to Muslims around the world,” according to the account’s Facebook page, the giveaway was meant to celebrate the Instagram account reaching 300,000 followers. As part of the giveaway, the account asked followers to tag three people in the comments and follow the account’s founder, Sajjad Shah, author Khaled Beydoun, and scholar and Imam Suhaib Webb, who would all accompany the winner on the trip.

First off, unless you’re a mental health professional who is offering your services to grieving families, this makes no sense whatsoever. Families in grief are not a tourist attraction even if they share the same religion. Furthermore, if this grief tourism is the beginning of a thing, there are many other places across the world in which Muslim communities are hurting from tragedy. Aren’t they deserving of a spot too? 

In a subsequent post, Muslims Of The World (MOTW) issued an apology, and the giveaway trip was axed.

This incident may have been bandaged with a cancellation and apology, but it does point out a wider issue. MOTW prides itself as being a platform for Muslim voices worldwide. Looking through the feed, it’s a compilation of posts from everyday interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims, incidents of Islamophobia, media bias and fundraisers. Individually and collectively, these are essential topics to cover, but the issue lies behind the scenes in that such a heinous giveaway idea was even allowed to move forward.  

MOTW has other issues as well. Though their image purports charitable work and positive vibes, Instagrammers have reported that their interactions with MOTW were uncouth and not reflective of the portrayal of Muslims that MOTW claims to aim for.

These allegations come from Muslim women who are well-known on Instagram and other platforms. They say MOTW  insulted them

In recent years, the online Muslim community has experienced reports of misconduct like that of MOTW. More and more stories of men who occupy positions of authority and power and misuse it for personal gain. As long as they’re publicly active, whether in their local communities or online and have gained a following of some kind, they then become immune to any criticism. It’s happened already.

Even when there are known reports against these well-known activists, their followers still support them and choose to side with abusers. The complete lack of acknowledgment of these incidents as even a possibility creates a cult-like atmosphere whereby these men are somehow made out to be saints and untouchable. 

They are treated like celebrities and put on such a high pedestal that anyone who speaks out about negative interactions with them is quickly hushed, ignored and become targeted by their loyal followers. This culture is growing so virulently that it seems as though the people behind these accounts can do no wrong because of the size of their following or the blue check next to their name.

Putting blinders on and focusing on the good things these men do is hugely problematic. It enables abusers and sets a dangerous precedent as there is no recourse for their actions.

They can continue what they’re doing or do worse things.

With the community not shunning them, they’re given leeway and license to continue.

This is a real danger. As Muslim celebrity account grow, more people hold onto every word they say and take it as gospel and the more the community is willing to protect them, at the expense of women. When women speak about what has been done to them, they’re either liars or exaggerating; they are always the ones at fault.

#MosqueMeToo, started by Mona Eltahawy, stemmed from her experience of sexual harassment when she went on Hajj, the annual pilgrimage. With #metoo opening up a safe space for women to speak of their experiences of harassment/assault, there needed to be a space within that spectrum for not just Muslim women but all women of faith as well.

This religious abuse is not uncommon.

The common denominator? These men are very well-guarded and protected by their communities. #MosqueMeToo gave women the confidence to speak of things they hadn’t ever been allowed to before, and that opened up an avenue for acknowledgment, acceptance, community, and healing. Pulling back the veil on harassment, it felt like the community finally recognized that burying one’s neck in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away.

Given the constant influx of Islamophobic incidents today, the community’s reluctance around bringing issues to light – and bringing unfavorable publicity to our mosques – is understandable. Sure, it’s one thing to expose the Islamophobia happening outside of the community, but inside? So much worse. 

Perhaps that is one reason so many refuse to acknowledge spiritual abuse and abuse of power.

The truth, though, is pretty straightforward. Today’s tradition of ignoring any abuse of power is a far cry from our own faith’s history, during which cultural reform was a known occurrence. Archaic oppressive traditions that abused women were stopped in their tracks.

It’s time to make that change for our community today.

For too many generations, women have been told to bear the abuse because, “that’s just how he is, so try to not anger him.” But we’re finally seeing significant shifts in perspectives where women are quickly standing up for one another, asking what she needs and not blaming her for what happened to her. It’s high time that women have access to safe religious spaces.

Opening up these spaces of communication, both online and in communities needs to happen. Not enough is being done to heal all the hurt that Muslim women have experienced. HEART Women & Girls and MuslimARC are two organizations that work on the ground to provide that much-needed support to women and communities. Not only do they work to heal the trauma, but they are also proactive so that individuals recognize the signs of abuse and prejudice, and equip them with the knowledge to navigate that, helping themselves and others. 

Accountability, however, is not that easy to come across when discreditable behavior like the giveaway occurs.

For how much longer are we, as a community, willing to accept transgressions such as these?

This is not a criticism of the giveaway – that’s just the tip of the iceberg; it’s symptomatic of manipulative behavior to maintain, reinforce and increase power roles. It’s the rose-colored glasses so many choose to wear- those who are higher-ups in the community, and their following; the celebrity shayks and influencers who, when stories like these come to the surface, ripple through communities, shaking the belief people who look to them for sources of religious guidance and inspiration.

These leaders are not infallible, they are not saints, they’re just like any other man out there, and that’s something people forget. Incidents like these serve as reminders of their humanness.

I, for one, am no longer willing or comfortable to continue apologizing for the actions of men in Muslim communities, especially as a woman who wears a hijab. After years of being told that hijab-wearing women are our religion’s flag-bearers, I’m tired of swallowing my words when our community decides to ignore our requests during the worst moments of our lives.

It’s past time to change that. 

Travel Gender & Identity Life

I faced my fear of traveling solo as a woman – here’s how I did it

I’ve always wanted to travel.

I’ve always thought there was something exciting about going to the airport- that an adventure awaited on the other side of a plane ride. Being a millennial is fraught with financial challenges, we all scrape by just to survive and while the idea of financial independence from our parents is enticing, it’s too far from reality for many of us.

Scrolling through my social media feed one day, I came across a trip that sounded amazing in one European city that sounded really appealing to me; I checked it out, and if I saved enough (and with some family contributions) I’d be able to make it happen.

I was ecstatic, planning all the details of the trip, which despite some initial freakouts, came together seamlessly.

There was, however, one nagging thought in the back of my mind, would I be safe enough to travel by myself?

So far, I’ve never had to deal with any sort of Islamophobic rhetoric firsthand, no calls to go back to my home country, but would I be this lucky if I traveled outside of my comfort zone?

I am from a small island in the Caribbean, so I’ve never experienced religious discrimination, and leaving that to go to a place where I know Muslim women deal with taunts on a regular basis was unnerving.

I was a bit nervous about that. How would I handle it, and what would I do if something like that happened to me? Then there was also me traveling by myself, which is something I’d not done before. The idea seemed daunting, and being an introvert, the thought of having to interact with people filled me with dread.

Thoughts about backing out seeped in, but I thought more about how amazing it would be to go somewhere new and meet a bunch of new people in a big city. It was too much to let fear get the better of me, so I decided that I was going no matter what and would deal with situations when and if they arrived.

As I’d hoped, the trip exceeded my expectations.

I got to do so many things I’d have otherwise said no to, but since I was so far from home, and the trip cost me so much, I forced myself out of my bubble for a bit. I wasn’t going to say no to anything, even if I thought I would look ridiculous doing it.

From horseback riding to exploring museums to making new friends on my trip: instead of having fixed expectations of what I wanted to get out of it, I just embraced everything that came my way, which made it all the more memorable.

With the help of people I knew, I got the hang of public transport, which could be confusing if you didn’t know how to use it. Then came the time for me to use it for myself. I had it mapped out, where I’d go, and what route I’d take to get back to where I was staying in the city.

Then plans changed and I needed to use another route. I talked myself into remaining calm, that I was going to get back to where I needed to be, and that people there were able to help me, all I need to do was muster up the courage to ask.

That’s one of the things that traveling helps you with: asking for help when you need it. It’s not hard for locals to recognize that you’re not from there and that you need to ask questions to get around to where you need to be, and it’s totally ok.

It took me longer than expected, but I got back safely, feeling accomplished that I’d gotten on well.

Having to navigate through an airport where I’d not been before was also something I reassured myself that I’d be fine with, and I was. As I went through it, I realized how much of a fuss I was making about something that really wasn’t worth the stress at all.

I can do it, and I did do it, all by myself.

Another big thing traveling solo helps you with, that you can extrapolate for life, is that you have to rely on yourself to take care of you. If you need to get somewhere, the only person who can make that happen is you.

You need to have the determination and courage to be there for you because no one else will.

Thankfully, whenever I did need help from locals, they were willing and open to answering any questions I had. It ended up being a reminder for myself that just because some people are hostile, most people aren’t. As much as Muslim hijab-wearing women are stereotyped, I’d be doing the same if I presumed everyone was a bigot.

Even with unexpected challenges that come with traveling, going solo is a liberating experience.

I can’t wait to save up and go on my next solo trip!

TV Shows Pop Culture

8 TV shows to watch when you need to escape your family during the holidays

Fellow human beings, we at The Tempest know that the holidays can be merry and bright, but they can also be a major pain in the ass. I love you, Aunt Karen, but if you ask me what I am doing with my life one more time I will pull my hair out. To save you readers from your versions of Aunt Karens, we have compiled a list of all the shows available from streaming to help you escape your family for a few minutes (or an hour…or for the whole holiday season). You do you.

1. American Vandal


What’s better for escaping your family than to become engrossed in a mockumentary about a student who drew dicks on cars at a California high school?

2. Gilmore Girls

gilmore girls shot of cynicism GIF

When I just want to escape, Stars Hollow never fails to grant me comfort. The small town with its too-many celebrations, incredible amounts of coffee,and witty conversations feels like home to me. I know this show is extremely problematic but it reminds me of my teenage days where all I wanted was to be Rory and have my very own Jess. Because he was undoubtedly the best of her love interests and I will fight you on this.

3. Downton Abbey

cutthroat downton abbey GIF

Even though it’s a period drama about the lives of a rich upper-class English family,  it’s also escapism at its finest. There are so many things about the series that are captivating. From the fancy tea parties to the costumes to dealing with life’s disappointments (aka Edith’s whole life). It also managed to stay oddly relatable. Family drama and most families have a grandmother who is never afraid to speak her mind. The seasons are short but the episodes are long and so binge-worthy. I’m saving the final season for when everything in the world is falling apart, so…a binge-session might be real soon.

4. Friends

jennifer aniston drinking GIF

It’s super cliche to like this show but it such an easy watch. Just watch any episode from any season – and you’re set for the next few hours. I could watch it over and over again. I love all the characters. Ross goes from an insecure little poop to being a three-time divorced insecure little poop. Phoebe goes from being flakey and aloof to staying true to herself and marrying a guy who loves all her weirdness. Monica going from pining for a husband and kids to marrying her best friend and adopting babies to fulfill her dream. Chandler goes from being a guy who’s cannot commit to one girl to having a long-term relationship and marrying his best friend. Rachel goes from being a spoilt brat to being an independently successful fashionista and a mother. And Joey…stays Joey. I could watch this show tons of times from beginning to the end.

5. This Is Us

Over It Nbc GIF by This Is Us

This is the perfect show to curl up with your family and watch on a snowy winter Saturday. It’s got everything from drama, romance, and mystery to keep you hooked. The show follows the everyday lives of three siblings who find it hard to cope with their father’s untimely death. It teaches us how normal it is to mourn the loss of a loved one even after 10 years of their passing. The show also addresses important issues like diversity, sexuality and obesity. Be prepared with tissues before you launch into a binge, as this is quite the tear-jerker!

6. The O.C. 


Ryan Atwood leaves his abusive household in Chino and moves in with pro-bono lawyer (and super dad extraordinaire) Sandy Cohen and his family in Newport Beach, California. This show is kind of like a modern-day fairy-tale and the pilot episode alone is pure gold. I’ve watched this series a million times, let’s be honest, I’ll probably watch it a million more times in the near future.

7. Happy Endings 


Whenever someone mentions this show, alarm bells go off and the words “CANCELLED TOO SOON” blares across the loudspeaker in my head. And while that sounds a bit dramatic, I stand by the sentiment. Happy Endings started as a show about a group of friends who must deal with awkward that comes as a result of one them (Alex) leaving another (Dave) at the altar. What it becomes it SO. MUCH. MORE. The comedic timing is period. The jokes are witty and understated. And the banter is everything I didn’t know I needed in a show…Basically, this show is the best and you should already be watching it.

8. Veronica Mars


This was one of the first shows I can remember getting really obsessed with. Unlike a lot of people, I actually watched it when it was still on the air. I remember coming home from school and racing through my homework so I wouldn’t have to miss an episode. Veronica Mars was a bad ass who took no shit (even in the first season when her entire high school and entire town hated her). As an awkward and shy high schooler, I totally envied that quality and I think that’s why I latched on so strongly. An entire decade later and this show still holds up. If you like a high school drama mixed with a heavy dose of mystery and small-town secrets, then this show is for you.

And with that, there you have it! 8 options for when you want to pull your hair out or drown your grumpiness in a bottle of wine. We believe in you. You will get through the holidays.

Gender Inequality Interviews

The Salafi Feminist gets real about her thoughts on feminism, faith, and polygamy

Her online nome de plume sparks plenty of controversies around the internet, but it’s for good reason. According to her blog, she considers herself an “orthodox Muslimah with vaguely left-leaning tendencies,” and she’s been writing about Islam since 2005 – when she was just 14.

The Tempest had a chat with The Salafi Feminist, whose real name is Zainab bint Younus, about her personal thoughts around feminism, activism, and polygamy.

The Tempest: Through your social media posts and articles in different publications online, you don’t shy away from talking about taboo topics. Why is that?

Zainab bint Younus: I didn’t go out of my way to write about these topics specifically. They just happened to be what drew my attention, what interested me, what was relevant to me – and which very few, if any, other Muslim teachers or writers were discussing at all, information on the subjects were restrictive, ignored entire aspects of each topic, and did not reflect a holistic Islamic understanding of how these issues relate to our real lives.

What advice would you give to other young Muslim women wanting to get into activism/ advocacy work in Muslim communities?

Don’t go into it because it’s trendy. Don’t think you’re going to make much of a difference, either. It sounds contradictory, but people who think that they’ll be able to change the world overnight will experience burnout even faster. Seek the Mentorship of female religious scholars and don’t compromise the principles of the religion to fit into social activist circles.

When I first started as a writer, ten years ago, I was aware of many of our community’s issues but was still quite hopeful and idealistic. Life experience drove home the reality of misogyny and how it affects Muslim women on a daily basis.

What’s your most important piece of advice you’d give to those thinking about entering a polygamous marriage?

I very, very, very strongly advise most people from getting into poly because, without a great deal of research and emotional preparation, it will inevitably go down in flames.

Poly is not for the faint of heart: it requires a great deal of emotional intelligence, emotional maturity, and the ability and willingness to accept change and a very unconventional way of living. You will discover things about yourself and your partners that you will be shocked by, and often shaken. How you handle the inevitable conflicts and deeply sensitive situations will make you or break you.

Healthy, happy polygamy can only take place when all parties are aware and consenting – and even then, there will be numerous challenges for you to overcome.If the first wife is kept in the dark, and you as a potential second wife are aware of this, and still decide to go ahead with it – know that you are not getting yourself into a healthy and happy situation.

All that being said – I remain a huge proponent of #positivepoly!

What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Stop feeling guilty and ashamed of being your own person, and stand up for yourself. Stop relying on others to make you feel better or to get you out of a bad situation. Just make du’a and kick some butt.

What’s your favorite or most used come-back to the haters who say you can’t be Muslim and feminist?

I used to bother giving thoughtful explanations, but now I am a crabby hermit who says things like, “Fluff off, I have important things to do.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Tips & Tricks Culture Family Humor Life

16 tried-and-true techniques to drive away the rishtas

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a desi girl who has surpassed the age of 20 must get married, or the world shall perish.

Because, alas, women can only have one life goal – to find and marry the perfect man, if he happens to be a doctor or lawyer, well then you’ve hit the jackpot. If it’s not your parents constantly stressing you out, then it will be the random aunt or uncle who so graciously offers to take on the role of match-maker.

For those of you who, however, wish to avoid such encounters, we have some tips for you.

1. Sarcasm

A white, brunette couple is standing next to each other. The man says, "And sarcasm is like a second language to me."
[Image description: A white, brunette couple is standing next to each other. The man says, “And sarcasm is like a second language to me.”] Via GIPHY
Sarcasm is one of the world’s best weapons if used correctly.

It’s one of the things I use pretty much every day, but when a dear Aunty is over to inquire about me, it goes into overdrive. You see, sarcasm will ensure you with one of two results, either they will catch onto the sarcasm and think you are extremely rude, or they will think you are being serious and are insane. Both work pretty well. As one of The Tempest women likes to say, “Sorry, I’m busy looking up ways to murder husbands” in order to wade out of the waters.

2. Dark lipstick

A brown woman is applying a shade of dark blue lipstick to her lips.
[Image description: A brown woman is applying a shade of dark blue lipstick to her lips.] Via GIPHY
Dark lipstick scares Desis, I don’t know why but it is science. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it ruins the facade of the “ideal, docile wife,” but it seems to do the trick. I really enjoy wearing dark lipstick, staring emotionlessly at people and making them think I’m a low-key Jinn.

3. Inability to make chai

A brown, Indian woman looks displeased after she sips a cup of tea (chai).
[Image description: A brown, Indian woman looks displeased after she sips a cup of tea (chai).] Via GIPHY
Chai is basically life as any certified Desi should know, the better the tea, the higher your rank in the household. I mean I guess it gets kind of annoying because once your talent is discovered, people will never stop asking you to make chai. So, what could be more off-putting than a woman who can’t make chai? One who makes bad chai!

You will no longer be daughter-in-law material, sorry.

4. Be opinionated

A blonde, white woman angrily yells, “That’s my opinion!”
[Image description: A blonde, white woman angrily yells, “That’s my opinion!”] Via GIPHY
For most of us, this isn’t a hard task, I am known to randomly break into passionate speeches about the current state of the world. But maybe, just maybe, if we make it seem like we are too much work, we will be left alone. I’d go for sensitive areas that are taboo because it is always fun to see an Aunty in shock after you discuss sexuality openly, I mean where is my sharam?!

5. Chop off those locks

A cartoon Chinese woman is kneeling on the ground. With a sword, she slices off a chunk of her black hair.]
[Image description: A cartoon Chinese woman is kneeling on the ground. With a sword, she slices off a chunk of her black hair.] Via GIPHY
Ok, I’ll admit this one is pretty drastic, so maybe use it as a last resort. I love letting my hair grow super long and then chopping it all off, best of both worlds, right? My parents, however, hate it. I make myself look too masculine, too “modern,” and if you want to go a step further – dye it a gorgeous color.


Yes, I went there.

6. Do something bizarre

A black-haired, Indian woman comically yells “nahi! (no!)” while covering her ears and shaking her head frivolously.
[Image description: A black-haired, Indian woman comically yells “nahi! (no!)” while covering her ears and shaking her head frivolously.] Via GIPHY
This is definitely the most fun: put on your serious face and do something incredibly crazy to scare the hell out of everyone around you. If you’re stuck on ideas, here are some.

  • Start talking to an imaginary friend.
  • Start laughing every time someone says something and immediately stop when they stop.
  • Begin passionately rapping, ideally to a crude song.
  • Grab an inanimate object, wrap it in a blanket and start stroking and singing to it.

7. Talk money.

A black woman in a yellow dress is in conversation. Animatedly, she says, “Black women are not out for men’s money. We are are out to support ourselves, and to build wealth and financial independence within a system that never supported us in the first place.”
[Image description: A black woman in a yellow dress is in conversation. Animatedly, she says, “Black women are not out for men’s money. We are are out to support ourselves, and to build wealth and financial independence within a system that never supported us in the first place.”] Via GIPHY
Well, every Desi mother loves to show off their son right? So take them up on it.

Ask about their profession and advancement opportunities. Then start asking about pay and hypothetically discuss how much you would get if a divorce would occur. Create a financial plan right in front of them.

8. You don’t want children

A blonde, white woman in a black dress grimaces as she seems something unpleasant.
[Image description: A blonde, white woman in a black dress grimaces as she seems something unpleasant.] Via GIPHY
The ultimate Desi parents dream underpinning their pushiness towards marriage and nearly all of their melodramatic interactions with their children of marriageable age is giving them grandchildren. Nothing gives a greater sense of accomplishment and self-worth to a Desi parent than parading their grandchildren in front of their extended families and friends. So, all you need to do is confidently state that you don’t see children fitting into your life plan.

9. Dress “inappropriately”

The legs of a girl are shown as she twirls around in a short, floral skirt.
[Image description: The legs of a girl are shown as she twirls around in a short, floral skirt.] Via GIPHY
Most Desi families hold an ideal image of their daughter-in-law to be. When they arrive you are expected to visually reflect the perfect, respectable daughter in law they always wanted- the “pyaari bahu” fantasy. Put away your best suit or your best East-meets-West combo. Instead, give them the biggest shock of their life. Shatter their cultural notions.

Put on something they would never imagine you wearing!

10.  Your rotis aren’t round

A round piece of bread (roti) is being cooked poorly on a flat plan on the stove.
[Image description: A round piece of bread (roti) is being cooked poorly on a flat plan on the stove.] Via GIPHY
Equally as disgraceful as not being able to make a decent cup of chai is the inability to make a round roti, or any shape of roti for that matter. As a good Desi daughter, your favorite place must be the kitchen, because who doesn’t like to spend hours in the kitchen cooking when all the men are watching cricket or sleeping. Best to say you can’t cook when asked, and to ask if he can cook.

Spoiler: it’s a no.

11. Talk about your life plans

Two Indian women are talking, one older, one younger. The older one says, "What are you saying?" to the younger one.
[Image description: Two Indian women are talking, one older, one younger. The older one says, “What are you saying?” to the younger one.] Via GIPHY
Whether it’s going back to school, traveling, opening a business, volunteering or whatever it is you want to do for yourself, tell them that takes precedence over finding a husband and having kids, which is sure to be met with a scowl. You’re likely to be told it’s not as important as keeping a man but maintain that a man is not more important than doing what you want to do.

12. Your checklist

"What does he think of himself?" says an Indian woman in a red halter top as she descends down the stairs with a group of other women behind her.
[Image description: “What does he think of himself?” says an Indian woman in a red halter top as she descends down the stairs with a group of other women behind her.] Via GIPHY
Everyone has their checklist of what they want in their spouse, which, unfortunately, the rishta aunties don’t care to consider when they’re trying to set you up with someone who’s always “a nice boy.” So whenever they bring up a potential suitor, pull out your list too, and make it as ridiculous as you want it to be – if he’s a doctor, say you want to marry an engineer, or he has to be rich and only wear blue socks.

13. Get a really weird pet

A white, brown-haired girl lovingly moves a tarantula from one hand to another as it crawls about.
[Image description: A white, brown-haired girl lovingly moves a tarantula from one hand to another as it crawls about.] Via GIPHY
Perch a monitor lizard and/or tarantula on our shoulder while talking to in-laws and tell them you refuse to part with your beast (bonus points if you lovingly stroke it while laughing maniacally).

14. Let ’em know you’re not a housewife

A blue-eyed brunette with facial piercings stares intently ahead as she says, “Don’t order me around.”
[Image description: A blue-eyed brunette with facial piercings stares intently ahead as she says, “Don’t order me around.”] Via GIPHY
A lot of groom’s families come into this looking for someone who will continue to baby their sons. Just kindly refuse, but still, offer to help them look for daycares instead.

15. Stay in school for like… ever

A black-haired brown woman walks around with a highlighter pressed between her lips as she intensely studies from the pages in her hand.
[Image description: A black-haired brown woman walks around with a highlighter pressed between her lips as she intensely studies from the pages in her hand.] Via GIPHY
There’s only one thing that some desi parents will hold higher than a suitable partner in marriage, and that’s education. Besides, your parents would rather brag about your Ph.D. in-progress than of what diameter the ladoos will be at the reception.

16. Speak your native tongue horrendously

"Look what you made me do," says a blonde, white woman dressed in cheetah print. She's holding an award in one hand.
[Image description: “Look what you made me do,” says a blonde, white woman dressed in cheetah print. She’s holding an award in one hand.] Via GIPHY
No, I don’t mean pretend you don’t know it, or not speak it at all. I mean go all out in butchering the pronunciation, give yourself an American dialect, and make it so that your potential rishta would rather listen to bad harmonium covers of Taylor Swift songs.

Cherish this survival guide and let us know if you have any more ideas on the topic, we need them.

Science Now + Beyond

Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean, and it’s gonna take years to fix

Hurricane Irma made landfall across several islands in the Caribbean including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and others before heading to Florida. It was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, a category 5, with winds of 185 mph. Caribbean islands were, and still are, largely unprepared for storms of these intensities. Weeks after, supplies are still being sent to affected islands, as their governments provide much-needed aid to their citizens.

If this hurricane and others like it, weren’t going to make landfall to US mainland, would media have cared to cover it? I doubt it very much.

Once Hurricane Irma had made landfall over Caribbean islands, and its path was now Florida, most media outlets shifted attention to tracking the storm, despite it being days away from making landfall. Islands where it had wreaked havoc, updates were only a few minutes long, despite their dire situation. Many were left without shelter, and needed supplies urgently.

Within the space of weeks, the Caribbean had been struck by three hurricanes: Irma, Jose and Maria, with Irma and Maria being the most destructive, both measuring category 5. Maria had upgraded to a category 5 from a category 1 within 1 day.

Missing from initial discussions about these hurricanes, was Climate Change, despite it being a contributing factor. With increasing ocean temperatures, the warm air mixing with upper-level winds results in tropical depressions which later become storms or hurricanes. Whether people are still in denial about the anthropogenic effects on the environment, the fact still remains, that oceans are getting warmer each year. In September there were five hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico within the space of two weeks. Some islands which were unaffected by hurricanes in decades were hit by two, leaving them uninhabitable.

Small islands such as Barbuda and Dominica have had most of their infrastructure destroyed, with supplies such as food, water, medicine, and building materials being shipped in from neighboring islands. Other islands making up the BVI and USVI, as well as Puerto Rico, can rely on the British and federal governments for assistance, despite their being delays receiving it.

For small, independent island states natural disasters such as these can ruin their economies. They’d need to provide their own funds or seek it through international organizations in order to rebuild, which can be a lengthy process. It will take months, even years to rebuild and rebuild stronger at that.

The main source of revenue for many Caribbean islands is tourism; turquoise waters, sun, and sand, a piece of paradise. But, when that paradise is destroyed, what’s the fate of local economies? With a lack of other natural resources, what becomes of them when their tourism product is in ruins? What other options do they have?

The Caribbean is vulnerable to climate change, despite not being a major contributor to climate change. Added to that the region isn’t considered a major stakeholder in Climate Change discussions, with conversations centering around larger stakeholders and Climate Change drivers.

This hurricane season is one for the record books for the Caribbean and unquestionably brings the region to the center of discussions about natural disaster readiness because of Climate Change.



Gender Inequality

#MeToo might be just a hashtag to some people. For us, it brings up haunting memories.

This week, the words “Me, Too” took over social media. The idea behind the social media phenomenon was that if every woman who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted put the words “Me Too” in their status or used the hashtag #metoo, the world would see the prevalence sexual abuse.

Soon, all of our social media pages were filled with the words “Me Too.” Women began to add their own commentary to the status, mostly along the lines of “Me too, who hasn’t?” The question made the powerful point that almost every woman has dealt with some kind of sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime. Unfortunately, most women have encountered sexual harassment and abuse multiple times.

While many men expressed their shock that so many women they knew had been harassed or assaulted, many women said they weren’t surprised at all. They talked about how sexual abuse is part of their everyday reality.

Though it’s really sad that we need a social media campaign to highlight the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, brave women coming forward to share their experiences has started a conversation that needs to be had. Women are learning that they aren’t survivors alone. Men are learning that this issue is way more prevalent than they thought and that things need to change. And we’re all learning the power of women’s voices to change the world.

At The Tempest, we’ve always been about providing a platform for women to share their stories, so a few of us decided to be brave, get vulnerable, and tell our own #metoo stories.

Maybe it was the alcohol that emboldened him, or maybe it’s an excuse. I don’t know I’d never seen him before or since.

Maybe my hijab was enticing, “What you have hidden under there?” when everyone else was in swimsuits, I was totally covered in my hijab and long swimsuit, with music blaring loudly on a boat in the middle of the sea.

He repeatedly called my name even though I refused to acknowledge him. Whenever the boat would stop, I made sure to stay close to my friends, hoping that he wouldn’t try to come over to our side of the boat, but he eventually did, sitting right in front of me. I pulled my hand away from the railing but not before he grazed it with his own, and I walked away from him, digging through my bag for a wipe, or hand sanitizer something to scrub away his repulsive touch.

For the rest of the trip, I stayed even closer to my group, keeping my eyes open to see if he would venture over again. I felt uneasy and disgusted by what happened. I let people in my group stand around me keeping guard, as I did too. Afterwards his friends were apologetic for his behavior but never said that to me. I didn’t care.

Many people think hijab protects you from harassment or assault; how amazing would it be if cloth could protect you from leers and unwanted interaction? Hijab has, and will never be about men. That incident has stayed with me, that despite me thinking I should be safe, in reality I was a magnet. Just me being there, as I am made me a target; #metoo.”

– Saffiyya, Sr. Community Editor

I was 14 when I first got catcalled, but I don’t even know if it was a catcall. I stood there at the bus stop, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket, ears listening to hallelujah, not listening to anything when a truck rolled by, usual for the hour, two men in the front seats, windows down.

I thought, “Aren’t they cold?”

They yell as they pass by a loud sound with no words to it, looking in my general direction as they did. I was the only one outside, butt half-frozen from waiting too long. I wore jeans I think, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket. The usual.

It couldn’t have been me they were yelling at, right? I was only 14. I was inside the clear plexiglas bus stop. They were men, a little rowdy, but boys being boys. Why would they care?
Did I get catcalled? I’ve been taught to dismiss it so much I don’t even know.

– Tempest Staffer

I really hate dancing with people. I have my own rhythm. White girl rhythm, for sure, but it’s all my own. The dance floor is my sanctuary, my temple. Disrupt my groove at your own risk.

And some dumb ass drunk boy always chooses to take that risk.

Suddenly I feel hands on my hips, on my waist, on my ass. Or perhaps he doesn’t even start with his hands. Sometimes it’s hips pressed directly against me. A boner in my lower back.

I always resist the urge to throw a punch, or an elbow. I’ve been taught that it’s too dangerous to confront the men who decide that my body is theirs to grope, without my permission. I try to spin away, but they always grab me and hold me close to their body, telling me without words that my permission means nothing to them. When they prevent my exit, I try turning around, pretending I’ll dance, only to say loudly and firmly, “No thanks.” I’m still polite, even after they’ve violated me.

Then the smooth talk begins. “Come on baby, just one dance.”

I become more insistent. Now it’s simply, “No.”

That’s when the name calling begins. “God, you don’t have to be such a bitch.” After being violated, I’m the one who’s villainized.

Best case scenario, it ends there. He walks away and gropes someone else. The worst case scenario that I’ve experienced is that he follows me, through the club, for the entire night. He finds a seat where he can watch me dance and treats it like a private show, violating me over and over with his gaze. Or he tries to touch me over and over, at various times throughout the night, never listening when I say no, never taking the hint when I run away.

Sometimes he’ll stop if I show my wedding ring, or if another man intervenes. If he perceives I’m someone else’s property he may back off, but never just because I don’t want him to touch me. If he wants to touch me, he’ll touch me. He’s made that clear.

And just so we’re clear, this hasn’t happened once, or twice. It happens every time I go dancing. And these are only the milder stories that I could tell when I say #metoo.

– Robin, Love Editor

I’m sitting alone on a grassy spot in the park, wearing my favorite new lipstick and scribbling poems in my journal. It’s the first warm day of spring, and I feel beautiful and tender and creative.

When a stranger asks to sit next to me, I say “sure.” In the sunlight, I forget to be afraid.

I avoid eye contact, but the more I try to avoid his gaze and focus on my writing, the more he questions me. What am I writing? Can he read my poetry? I give one-word answers. I hope he’ll see I’m not interested without me having to say it.

Some women are good at this, I think. Some women have trained themselves since puberty to respond to the emergency of male bodies in public.

I’m not one of them. When confronted with fear, I use my docility as a defence mechanism. I smile. Wouldn’t want to offend him. Maybe he’s nice deep down. After all, he must think I’m pretty. I’m supposed to be flattered. I am also supposed to be a self-aware feminist and not be flattered.

I finally get up. I hear him running up behind me. Where I am going? he wants to know. Can he see me again? Can he come join me and my “friend” (who I made up to make him believe I wouldn’t be alone)? He meets every made-up excuse with another question. Can he come hang out with me and my friend? Can he go to the Poetry Slam I’m going to later?

“Can I come?”

“I think it would be weird…”

“Where is it going to be?”

“I’m just going with my friends…”

He asks so many questions that I can’t keep up, and I let slip the location of the event where I’ll actually be later. I finally, definitively, tell him no and think he’ll leave me alone.

Then he shows up to the event hours later. Two male acquaintances have to kick him out, because I am straight-up terrified.

I spend days thinking about what might have happened. How I could have responded differently. If I’d been more aggressive. A better liar. If I’d said I was meeting a made-up boyfriend instead of a made-up friend. 

Women are asked to choose between being polite or fighting back in the face of male aggression. We should not have to make this choice. We should be able to exist quietly in a park without having to prepare to be stalked.

Months later, I see the same guy at a bus stop. He waves at me and says, “Hey, what’s up?” My blood turns to ice, but he keeps walking, completely oblivious as to how unsafe he made me feel. 

-Hannah, Staff Writer

The first time I had sexual attention forced on me, I was seven years old. Both of my parents worked constantly and my older siblings were away at college. So my aunt would frequently have me over at her house to watch me.

My cousins and I would play and my aunt would cook us Hamburger Helper. One day, things became incredibly uncomfortable for me. My older cousins decided that flashing me was a funny game because I would freak out. As a kid, I didn’t understand female and male genitalia but I knew that I did not want to see that.

Thinking back, it was an awful experience for anyone to have. Hesitantly, I still went over to my aunt’s house because my parents didn’t trust me to be completely alone just yet.

The next time I stayed over, it was my uncle pulling me away into his room, to flash me.  As a child, I was so afraid of conflict that I would just freeze. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know why it was so awful at the time, but I knew it wasn’t right.

I tried to get away and he grabbed my hand saying, “I thought we were friends, don’t you want to be my friend?”

I ignored him, ran out in the room, and was forced to sit in silence for the rest of the day, and for the rest of my life.

What bothers me the most is that men try to frame sexual harassment as friendliness. It’s messed up that grown men and young boys take advantage of growing girls, convincing them that friendship is that twisted. They prey on our vulnerability and mask it as kindness. Dealing with catcalling men, unsolicited gropes in tight spaces, and losing your trust in adult figures are things that girls have to face every day. It needs to stop. We can’t keep looking the other way.

-Tempest Staffer

It was my freshman year in college. I was in my dorm hallway, talking to a guy who also lived in my hall. He was drunk, and in the middle of a conversation reached out and grabbed my breast, and then let go and walked away. I was more stunned than anything else. I couldn’t even react because it was such a random occurrence. The shock silenced me.

Men should not be able to get away with inappropriate touching ever, and nor should women. The problem lies in the fact that women are the ones conditioned to accept this behavior and men are taught to implement it. Every human being is a human being. Respect your fellow human being. That’s all we need to do.

-Meagan, Life Jr. Editor

He was my driving instructor. 64, pale and lonely. He coaxed me into taking a 2 hour driving class with him. As I drove at 120 km/h on the highway, his hand slid slowly up my thigh, knowing fully well that I couldn’t take mine off the wheel. It took me a few seconds to react, and when I did, I pulled over and took a taxi home. I had half a mind to report him to the authorities, but I didn’t, for fear of sabotaging his career. I regret not doing that to this day. #metoo

-Dyuthi, Staff Writer

Some of us didn’t feel safe sharing our stories. Some of us weren’t comfortable telling the stories that were even more awful than these. Even as strong women, with powerful voices, sexual harassment and abuse are part of our everyday lives.

We live with the scars men have given us, literally and figuratively, every single day, and we endure more injury every time we are catcalled, groped, or exploited.

Maybe, just maybe, people will get off their asses and do something to address sexual abuse.

Music Pop Culture Interviews

Mona Haydar speaks out on her newest hit “Dog,” smashing the patriarchy, and hip-hop

Three months after the release of her song, “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab),” Mona Haydar is back at it with the release of her new song, “Dog.” The opening line says it all:

“If you think this song is about you / I don’t know what to tell you.”

Mona starts with her signature direct style, calling out the male abuse of power in Muslim communities. Unabashedly going where few have gone before, Mona speaks out about issues often pushed out of sight. With 1 in 3 women in the world dealing with abuse, Mona refuses to stay silent on the matter.

Rather than worrying about what people will think, Mona’s take is, “What will people think that we continued to allow our sisters, daughters, friends to be violated because we didn’t stand up against the structures within our cultures that made it possible?”

Mona was raised in Flint, Michigan, a community where she often didn’t see herself represented. She found part of her Muslim American identity through artists like Mos Def, who begins his albums with the Muslim blessing, “Bismillah.” Growing up, she didn’t fit in with the mainstream, which meant she sought mentorship and support from a plethora of spaces. Particularly, Mona is grateful for her mentors, most of whom are Black, who helped her cultivate her voice.

Following her work as a poet, she’s now stepped out of her comfort zone, beginning her journey into the rap world – inevitably ruffling some people’s feathers. However, Mona continues to push forward, using her platform to lift up other artists, such as Al Tawam, who was featured in “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab).”

The Tempest: So, what inspired the story and lyrics in “Dog?”

Mona Haydar: Violence against women is something important to me as a woman, and the statistics that I feature are staggering.  I feel that, as an artist, if I’m not pushing myself to do things for the betterment of the world, then I shouldn’t do anything. I’m interested in using my art to explore the intersections of art, activism, music, and identity. I think to myself, “How can I use my voice for the greatest good?” …It’s not trash music, but I am interested in making music that people can enjoy – while shedding light on important issues.

Throughout the song, you give examples of abuse that women have experienced. That’s not something people usually explicitly acknowledge. People –  mostly women – have been tweeting and quoting lines from the song. Especially the ending “ohmygGodyouneedGod.” Of course, there’s been pushback, particularly from men. What’s it been like to see that sort of reaction?

I expected pushback and people being upset. I’m bringing up something which is taboo. Misogyny and patriarchy are global problems, but we like to pretend, especially as people of color, that they’re not really going on or they aren’t real issues. That culture of silence is so damaging because it allows those cycles of abuse to continue and we have to break them. People are starting to talk about it, and “Dog” has people space to have those conversations, whether people like the song or not, I just hope people start talking about sexual violence and predators in our communities.

I don’t care if people like the song. My end goal has been achieved, which is to get people talking about it. Ultimately, I’m happy.

There’s also been criticism that your entry into rap music and your inclusion of Al Tawam, two black women in your videos is evidence of you appropriating Black culture. What do you have to say about that?

I think appropriation is important to be talking about, especially as a non-black PoC. Now is a prime time to have these conversations, and I’m happy to talk about it. I grew up in Flint, Michigan and the idea that hip-hop is only a product of blackness doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s a product of the culture of oppression, and in the Bronx, when it was born, it was a direct response to that culture of oppression.

Similar to how a diamond needs pressure for creation, a culture of oppression creates beauty despite trauma. I used the lyrics “teleporting through trauma” in “Hijabi.”

Sometimes, it’s trauma that allows us to be great. Hip-hop can be used as a global tool for liberation and the refinement of our selves and egos. I believe that’s the truth of hip-hop. I wasn’t taught that hip-hop is only for black people. Those who are oppressed could and should use the language of hip-hop to that end. I was taught poetry by people who cultivated my abilities as a young person who loved poetry.

Hearing Mos Def say “Bismillah” at the beginning of every album was the first time I felt seen and heard as a young Muslim. Intersectionality is part of the story of rap and hip-hop.

As a young person who doesn’t fit in with the dominant culture, I feel grateful for the people in my life, the majority of whom are Black, who helped cultivate this voice. They told me that my voice is necessary: As a woman, as a person of color, as a young person in this world. I was taught to use these tools to express myself in beautiful and healthy ways.

There can be damage when young people don’t have outlets to express themselves.

You see that phenomenon in Black Muslim communities, and you see it in non-Black Muslim communities, as well. Hip-hop came from the intersection of Black and Puerto Rican communities in the Bronx. Hip-hop is about unity, bringing people together who live under the systematic oppression of white supremacy. It’s a tool to take that supremacy down. It’s a unifying force in the world, especially for people of color.

This article was edited for length and clarity. 

Book Reviews Books Pop Culture Interviews

How “Sofia Khan is Not Obliged” author Ayisha Malik created the Muslim version of Bridget Jones

Being British, Muslim, dating in your thirties, wearing hijab, that pressure to marry, culture and men… these are just some of the topics up for discussion, and if you’re any of those things, meet Ayisha Malik, the author of the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones’ book, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, and its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness.

Even if you don’t particularly like romance or “chick lit,” these books are a refreshing take on navigating all of the above, with a healthy dose of humor in between.

Muslim women who are also Third Culture Kids often have to balance multiple identities while trying to fit in and find their place in their society, and Sofia Khan is no different. Being visibly Muslim, brown and British, and living up to all three identities is no easy task when you’re trying to move onto the next stage in life.

In a recent interview with The Tempest, Ayisha Malik spoke about the protagonist’s journey to finding love in a messy and complicated world.

The Tempest: What’s your background like, and why did you choose to pursue writing, to begin with?

Ayisha Malik: “I remember always wanting to be a writer – nothing else appealed to me. It was a pipe dream that I realized I could make a reality if I worked hard enough and made the right decisions. That for me was doing a Creative Writing MA and then working in publishing to learn about tricks of the trade to make contacts so that anything I submitted wouldn’t go to the slush-pile.”

Do you have a writing routine?

“I never used to, but now that I’m writing full time I have to structure my days and weeks, allowing myself time off, and often head to a new location. The great thing about writing for a living is you’re able to do it anywhere.”

How do you keep yourself motivated as a writer?

“Caffeine and box-sets. There are always lulls and quiet periods where I can’t manage to get myself into the right space, but my remedy for that is usually a break where I binge-watch programs. Reading keeps me motivated; whenever I feel a bit inspirationally empty, I pick up a favorite book of mine or something I’ve wanted to read for a while.

Good writing inspires you to be better at yours.”

What was your inspiration behind Sofia Khan, and what do you want her to represent?

“I was bored with reading about South Asian/Muslim characters in issue-laden books. I wanted to portray the normal side of living as a Muslim in a place like London; what it’s like to be an observant Muslim but also modern, because to me, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t think I wanted her to represent something per se, but I wanted to create a character who was true to the experiences I’ve had, and those that people around me have had. Plus, the Muslim dating scene is often so bonkers that I felt it should be accessible to everyone – we all need a bit of comedy in life.

In the words of Jane Austen: Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

How would you describe Sofia, and what’s changed for her from book 1 to book 2? 

“I feel she’s an everyday kind of girl, and yet there’s no one quite like her either. She’s feisty, funny, flawed, but also caring and a deep thinker. The trajectory of her decisions really lies in her penchant for making impulsive decisions.

Really, her story is a bit of a cautionary tale for people who feel more than they think. And those who believe that love is all that matters.”

Ayisha Malik’s The Other Half of Happiness

What advice do you have for writers looking for an editor and literary agent?

“First, write the best book you can before even thinking of approaching an agent. Second, make sure you get a professional’s opinion on your work. Third, once your MS is in the best shape you think it can be, handpick a few agents who you feel would represent you and your book well, research their lists, what they’re looking for and make sure your letter to them is targeted and, most of all, sincere.

Plus, it helps if you have a good hook.

Why should they choose your book over any other one? You should have the answer to this question and tell them in your letter.”

What’s a piece of advice someone gave you when you were looking for a publisher that you want to share with others?

“My agent once told me: have the courage of your conviction. I’ve never forgotten it.

It’s not smooth sailing, and even once you’re published to maintain a career and see it progress is a bumpy road. You might have talent, but you also need tenacity; don’t worry if your career is a slow burner, they’re the ones that last.”

What’s your advice to young women of color looking to get into this field?

“I don’t think it’s any different to the advice I’d give any writer – don’t write what you think other people want you to write. Write what you’re passionate about.

It’s a good idea to know what the market is like but you can’t let that decide your story. Just because you’re brown/BAME, doesn’t mean you have to write about that.”

What other writing projects are you working on? Can we get a Sofia Khan 3? 

“I’m currently working on Nadiya’s second book, it’s really interesting to take someone else’s ideas and bring them forth in a book while putting your own imagination to one side.

After that, I’ll begin my third novel which is different to Sofia Khan, but still a comedy, I hope. It’ll be about a Muslim family living in a village. The protagonist is asked by his mother to build a mosque there. The story will follow his struggle to get the village on board and all the obstacles he comes up against, both internal and external. I don’t have any plans to write a third Sofia Khan, but if the book sales warrant another one, then I may very well have another story for her hidden up my sleeve.”

Interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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