Friday, 10 January 2014

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The National Citizen Service

During the summer holiday break, No1 son took part the in the National Citizen Service project, which is an opportunity for 16-17yr olds to experience a "once-in-a-lifetime" part-residential programme that helps develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Participants are placed in teams of 12-15 of youngsters (usually from a wide variety of ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds) and work together to define, develop and put into practice a community service project in their own locality.

In the case of No1 son, the programme went something like this:

3-day residential in the Peak District, staying at a Youth Hostel:
Day 1 - Activities and games to bond the group together
Day 2 - Activities to build confidence (abseiling from a bridge and bouldering)
Day 3 - Pack up and come back home!

The community activity designated for the group was to undertake a 30hr fundraising "bag-pack" at a local retailer (in this case B&M). The team decided how to organise themselves to achieve the 30hr target (deciding to bag-pack on a series of Saturdays and Sundays).

Hearteningly, all the team members fulfilled their requirements, turning up on time for their allotted bag-packing sessions!

Together, they managed to raise a brilliant £530 for Framework.

Well done young people!

The graduation ceremony was held at one of Experian's offices in Nottingham and included a number of short presentations by project organisers and former participants.

There were a number of positive comments about the programme, such as :

"I just can't seem to get out just how much it benefits you....I didn't want to leave... It opened up life opportunities..[It was good to] meet youngsters from different cultural backgrounds...[I learnt that] if I have the right people behind me, who believe in me, I can do anything I put my mind to...Young people are often critized but in the programme we can see how young people can contribute to society"
Perhaps most tellingly, one of the organisers commented that:

"When we went out to the residential everyone was sat on the bus as far from each other as they could be, but when we came back they were all sat together at the back of the bus talking away"
Adam Pagett, from Framework commented on how the money raised would help people at the margins of society, commenting that:

"Life is like treading water, and then someone throws you an anvil....solving [peoples] drug problems needs a solid foundation - a place to live"
After the ceremony, there was a chance for
the graduates to chat and have a bite to eat!

Note : Comparison to PVE/Prevent projects
No1 son have been involved in mosque based projects related to the "PVE / Prevent" agenda. His comments are that the NCS programms is far superior because, rather than sitting in a classroom, you are actually out there doing practical activiites with people from different backgrounds.

BFTF certainly feels that this is an important point, if politicans want to break down barriers between communities, and remove negative perceptions of the "other", there is no better way than to actually have people from diverse backgrounds working together towards a common goal - especially if that goal benefits society as a whole.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Talk : Women, Leadership and Islam

Fascinating talk back in November 2013 entitled "Women, Leadership and Islam" at the Jubilee Campus, UoN.

Organised by social action group Himmah, the event featured presentations by Dr Laura Zahra McDonald (lecturer on Islam and gender issues) and Farzana Shan (management expert and social action volunteer)

Dr Laura Zahra McDonald discussed a number of examples of how Muslim women had been portrayed in recent history, including the remarkable photographs of Marc Garanger who, whilst in the French army during the Algerian war, was told to photograph women in an internment camp without their veils, and the defiant faces of the women as they are photographed are very haunting.

Dr Macdonald also discussed a number of famous strong female Muslims, such as Zainab bint Ali, Queen Amina of Zaria and Umm Amara.

In addition, Dr MacDonald talked about some aspects of the current status of women in Islamic discourse, including examples of women who, controversially, lead prayers and also commenting on how womens theological courses were often much less rigorous and less broad than those of their male co-students, which made it harder for women to take their place at the scholarly table, as it were.

Dr MacDonald

Sr Ferzana talked about her experience with Himmah working at a soup kitchen to feed 50 completely destitute people in Nottingham (including parents and children).

She commented on how disturbing it was to see this situation in Nottingham and pointed out that change can only happen through leadership and through working with other organisations.

Although there were some great example of proactive mosques in Nottingham (with Sr Ferzana being an alumni of the Karimia womens football and netball teams for exmple), there was still a need for further development

Sr Ferzana, working with Himmah, wanted to develop female leaders for Nottinghams Muslim community - by training 25 women at some of Nottinghams mosques so that they become capable of running social programmes.

During the Q&A a number of interesting comments came from the audience, including one person who pointed out the huge difference in acceptance of women speakers between the West (where it was not an issue) and the East (where it was a very big issue)

Chairman Dr Ahmed Meliebary commented on how Islamic Societies at Universitites were driven and funded primarily by women, but that, in some cases, it was men who got all the positions of responsibility in the organisation.

He commmented that this had caused problems in the past and that, as well as gender bias, ISOCs had sometimes also been guilty of ageism, with young people finding it hard to be elelcted no matter how hard or how effectively they worked for the organisation