Clay & What is a Muslim artist ? revisited


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" Two red phases " A3 - collaged drawings , gold ink .

” Two red phases ” A3 – collaged drawings , gold ink .

I felt I just had to get back to clay , my 1st love . My pretext for going to a class instead of sharing/renting a studio ( scary/lonely ! ) was that I cannot throw a pot on the wheel and will never be able to teach ceramics , work as a ceramic technician or even reasonably call myself a potter until I have this basic skill . For many that is simply what ceramics or pottery is . As soon as I decided I started to dream about it !

So last night I went to my 1st class at Leeds College of Art , an educational institution in Leeds I had not previously sampled . Founded in 1846  it can claim both Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth as former students – quite something ! The ceramic facilities are not as extensive as at Harrogate College or the Swarthmore Centre ( also Leeds ) but fine . I was a bit worried that there were only 2 wheels but in the event it was OK . The tutor had 3 of us taking turns at centreing ( one time when the US spelling would be better ! ) . She had a particular method which we had to practise ; each time we got the clay centred we had to knock it askew and re-centre until we got the feel of the difference and could do it immediately every time . Because one of the 3 of us started a handbuilt piece I ended up centreing for nearly an hour , getting a bit grazed ! She showed me the next stage and I had time to have a go before clearing up & washing down . I should now be able to practise that next week – depending on the numbers queueing up for the wheels .

While rushing up and down the corridors trying to find Workshop G52 in time I passed student noticeboards including the one for photography/graphics . It had ‘je suis Charlie’ written across in red felt tip . My immediate reaction was fear – and I nearly apologised for that too . Here follows , I hope , some sort of explanation :

I am currently on Facebook , LinkedIn and Google+ . Before that I had emails and followed blogs , I can’t remember offhand when I started this one . Being a feminist , a Muslim & mixed race might be seen as asking for trouble on or offline and if you believe in luck I’ve been lucky . Here I am still alive & with my citizenship intact and no criminal record . I should be grateful . However all 3 statuses have caused me increasing insecurity over the last 3 or 4 decades accelerating just lately . I posted on Facebook that I might give up looking at it because of the anti-Muslim hatred which I find so difficult to deal with . I don’t want to insult anyone , certainly not my friends so perhaps I can give a list of incidents .

1  A few years ago was an anniversary of some of the worst massacres of Bosnian Muslims . I posted reminders with photos . I was surprised that not a single Fb friend responded , particularly since , at the time of the original incidents , journalists reported that most were not practising Muslims . I presumed this meant that they were ‘innocent’ and thus mourn-able .

2  I was invited to join a Facebook group by a friend and accepted . Very shortly after that I was invited to be an admin . Due to Facebook’s vagaries I was notified of an admin conversation which I could read on Messages without being able to participate which was fine until they were discussing whether Muslims could be admitted . I was able to confess to being this to one of them afterwards and was reassured that no one would think I was there under false pretences ! However I don’t think another would get the chance , at least 2 people with Muslim names have been rejected . On the other hand one of the members has Timeline posts about how Muslims really worship Satan although we don’t realise it – and this can be proved from the Bible .

3  One Facebook friend posted a photo apparently of MacDonald’s fish fillets in cartons marked ‘halal’ . Initially I found this amusing . ( I should explain that ‘halal’ means permitted and ‘haram’ forbidden . ) All from the sea “is game for you” says the Qur’an – so all fish is halal and there is no need of any label . Then I saw what the friend had written . She was angry with MacDonald’s for providing halal food and had checked her local butcher to make sure he was NOT stocking halal meat . She did not want to eat halal food inadvertently and advised all her friends to check likewise . I did not find this funny at all . The impression I got was that halal food was some kind of spiritual poison for her . Poor woman she eats halal food all the time without knowing it ; fruit , vegetables , milk , eggs …..all permitted ! I didn’t try to joke about it then , I simply blocked the site she had got the photo from…. and worried .

4  Another Facebook friend shared a post from an anti-Muslim blog ( I mean they were collecting money for the war against Islam ) where the article was written by a Christian with the handle ‘halalporkbutcher’ . I reacted badly to this and got into an argument . I felt vaguely guilty but 2 real ( not virtual ) friends have been deeply shocked by the handle . One is an Evangelical Protestant teacher married to a pastor – both were previously missionaries – and the other is a secular Jew . Neither could understand why I continued the contact . At the time I sought advice from a largely Pagan open spiritual group on Facebook and received nothing but kindness & concern . The good advice – to protect myself – I didn’t take . I was then furiously messaged by this person who denied that the blog was Muslim hating , apparently it was merely truthful . I thought we had some useful debate then and I tried to explain various things . However the offensive , ignorant posts from nasty  blogs continued howevermuch I answered with reason and information – which was largely ignored  . I remember asking why I had been friended at all if all Muslims were so hated and was told not to take it personally , that I appeared to be a nice person and that the claim was about some Muslims , not all . The claims , incidentally , were always about ‘Muslims’ – unqualified in any way . Yes I did unfollow , eventually .

5  Britain First’s Facebook Page has been reported to the police when they advocated violence against a named woman giving out her address . And – I shouldn’t have to say this – she was white and non-Muslim . ( Apparently she shouted “Racist !” at Nigel Farage on TV . ) For Muslims they advocate forcible abortion , strangling at birth , sterilization and castration , and killing generally . If this sounds familiar – yes , they think Hitler had the right idea , he just picked the wrong religion . None of this is apparently enough to get the Page shut down for hate speech . Because free speech is sacred according to Zuckerburg , except perhaps for Another Angry Voice whose non-violent left wing Page has been warned . And Tom never threatened anybody . ( Update : apparently Tom was targeted by scammers wanting to take over his Page and the thousands of ‘likes’ . )

6  I’ve posted quite a few articles about the Paris killings since last week .  My family and 2 of my friends have responded . So 4 out of 117 contacts have read anything . Am I so scary evil  or is it just my co-religionists who can’t be trusted to write anything worthwhile ?

This was supposed to lead up to thoughts on how to be a Muslim artist . At the moment it is pretty hard just to be – so many quite literally wish us all dead .However I can see that my hopes as shown on my ‘About me” page display the most astonishing naivety . Anyway Kathy , my friend this was the reply promised !



About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
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9 Responses to Clay & What is a Muslim artist ? revisited

  1. kathy bergen says:

    Wow. You have been treading in strange and difficult waters. I did not know that all this had been going on with you. So….do these “Muslim Haters” (and they surely are) think that Muslims are born and hate them for that essential…or do they think they (Muslims) are formed by their beliefs? Well, we are all formed by our beliefs…though many of us….maybe even most…stick their heads in the sand and do not let their lives be formed by their beliefs…they are hypocrites. They are people who hopefully will get their little/big hinnies kicked sticking out of the sand. You need to dis-associate yourself from all such groups and peoples…you do not deserve their poison and it seems to have done no good trying to talk with them. You are a fighter. A warrior. You will usually be the last person holding the banner when all else have fled or given up. You may change your mind…but you will never give up the battle. Rukshana…I apologize for not responding to a lot of your posts about the Middle East wars…and France…etc. I have been very ill psycologically and every day is a great battle for me…I have spent most of my life trying to save the world…people and animals…now I need to rescue myself. What the world does…they have always done and will do…until this world takes it’s spiritual form and the old is done away. Satan is doing all he can in these latter days to destroy the souls and families of humaninty. People choose. And people are ignorant….and either don’t know how to educate themselves or don’t want to…or they are having personal battles that are great. The U.S. has many groups of people who take a tiny sliver of truth and try to turn it into a mountain of belief…and many ignorant people believe them…there is much propaganda going on all over the world. Distance yourself. You are not of them. Be an example…not a target. But continue to stand strong in your beliefs…and to express yourself through your art (congrats on taking clay classes!!!!) and through your great intellect and knowledge…you do not judge in ignorance. You are not of them. Stand back, my dear.

    • rukshanaafia says:

      Thank you Kathy ! And as often you home in on one of the essential issues . Are we Muslims a race or a religion ? If we are ‘born that way’ antiracist legislation could help us and liberal or leftwing atheists would be on our side , if not we are just stubborn .
      Don’t take to heart my criticism at the end – I was overtired by then & forgot my manners . Also I had been upset that however reasonable and even sympathetic the articles I shared were the comments always contained fairly virulent stuff – perhaps I hoped for antidotes . I know you always get trolls but the phenomenon of people obviously thinking they were not at the same time as saying eg “But there IS something wrong with Muslims and the Koran” reminded me of when I used to look at feminist articles online , or antiracist articles . I stopped that ages ago .
      I am interested that friends who are Christian , Muslim , Jewish , Pagan , Theist , atheist & agnostic have advised me to leave it alone . This is also what the Qur’an says . You see I was naive , I believed in free speech and thought others had goodwill .

      • kathy bergen says:

        I believe in free speech as well…but sometimes it is not worth it. Some people will not lay down their swords and will take offense at every turn…and will have anger for something that they don’t fully or even half way understand. Unless you can educate them…you should distance yourself in everyway…for, as I have said: You are not of them.

        I have had a lot of hatred towards me, also, due to my religion, and have had to defriend some of Dan’s family because of it and other people. I don’t argue with those who will not listen because they don’t care to understand. I should have kept quiet with John K. on your facebook timeline concerning faith and non-faith, etc. Sorry about that. I don’t need people to believe as I do…but I do desire that they listen and at least try to understand, as I do with them.

  2. ashantininja says:

    I have had similar issues with non muslim virtual friends on Facebook. It affected me in such a negative way i have really stepped back from fb and avoid getting into discussions or spending tine to read posts where religion is concerned although i do still share things. I had to block an American christian woman whi at first was so overly nice to me, liking my art and showing a loy of encouragement. Till eventually we got talking and she was basically trying to convince me that islam is an evil religion which oppresses women. Once i showed her proof to clarify certain issues explaining to her that its culture that hinders women and not the religion itself and that i definitely was not oppressed she began attacking me and calling me an extremist. She told me i was full of the devil. I had to block her because it was very upsetting and negative to be labelled like that. Another lady whom i had personally met unfriended me on fb because she got upset over the meaning of the first pillar if islamic belief that tyere is no God worthy of worshio except Allah. I did explain that as muslims we believe in the same God as Christianity and Judaism but she accused me of encouraging hate towards other religions! I told her that this is nit the point of the meaning and people have thw right ti choose what they believe but as i could not fulfill her desire to give a different meaning of the testimony of faith she chose to unfriend me.

    These things are very upsetting but just remember you proud of who you are as a Muslim and stand up for yiur beliefs even if no one else believes in it because that is your right. Being a Muslim now is increasingly hard because even in our own community trying to practice your religion can mean thay you are labelled as extreme. There is so much fear mongering going on which has blinded many people into believing that all Muslims have some kind of agenda against everyone who isnt a Muslim. Sometimes nothing yiu say will be good enough to.convince them you are just a human too.

    • rukshanaafia says:

      My dear I am sorry this has been happening to you too . Maybe it is going on all over . Thank you for your support and understanding – I had begun to wonder if I was just a paranoid wimp ! Indeed being associated with the Devil is upsetting , to put it very mildly . I would not accuse another person of such a thing .
      I can see myself going the same way as you as far as Fb is concerned , maybe that is all we can do . Allah knows best !

  3. dapherbs says:

    I think it’s good you got all this “out there” – when you read the list it reinforces how relentless it has been/is being.
    A very good example of reason, restraint and honesty!

  4. rukshanaafia says:

    Thank you !

  5. I love ceramics and pottery! When I was studying, there was a ceramics faculty and I bought quite a few things. I still have most of them now some 30 years on! Your course sounds wonderful and I wish you all the best.
    The times we now live in is very scary. I don’t think there is necessarily more hate of anything but due to the social media/technology phenomenon, so many more of us are seeing it more of the time. Conversely all good should also spread as quickly and that is the hope I cling to. I think you have done your best under the circumstances. I feel fortunate to have friends and family of different faiths. I feel strongly about educating and exposing my children to different faiths and cultures and to be respectful to all. It is a wish I have that all parents should protect and educate their children in the best way they can to safeguard the future for all of us together.

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