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EP 042 – Muslim Schools, RSE Legislation And Resisting Peer Pressure
Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
File Size: 22.64MB
Someera & Son Hudhayfah
Episode Transcript ©
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Okay Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala rasulillah dear brothers and sisters are salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato. And welcome to the latest and feed podcast episode where we meet inspiring Muslims from our community, who we can benefit from, and my guest today fits squarely into that category. My guest today is sister Samira, but she's the head teacher of Eleanor primary school, one of the best schools in the UK Mashallah where she has served since 2003.
She is also a long standing board member of the Association of Muslim schools UK.
She was a science teacher and graduated from Imperial College in physics, where she also compete completed a master's in theoretical physics. Sameera has delivered circles and been involved in that in the community for a long time Mashallah. She's also the mother of four children and a grandmother to three granddaughters. Mashallah, so I'm really concerned Mira, La Casa Loma de la, you
know, when you when you mentioned that, to me, it was like, Oh, my God, I just, I just hadn't realized that. So much time had gone.
It goes by so quickly. Yeah, because I think we met, didn't we?
At school, we met at school at Samia when I was an slightly older Sixth Form student. I had taken two years out after GCSEs and come back. And you were a science teacher. Science Teaching in sixth form lead at the time. Yeah. Yeah. And it feels like yesterday to me, you have phases or stages in your life and that was a few epochs. And I just remember you feeding to little kids after school, you know, you had that you had a Nisa and your son and you'd just be feeding them a snack after school and and Mashallah with you is who they thought your son who you were had teacher of right? Yeah, the prime Mashallah years at the primary school, and he's studying law at the moment,
Mashallah. And he was also a mentor at your school, I hear Yes, he's done some some volunteering at the school actually a number of times now. And that's wonderful. Because we'd like to bring back in our x people's didn't inspire the next generation, obviously, I'm getting a bit advanced in my years, and children feel inspired by by youngsters. And it's lovely to have X pupils come back and speak to pupils or mentor them, give them an example, and become role models for them. Of course, we all are a staff, but it's extra special when you get youngsters back in to do that. So it's an honor for me to bring him back in then, obviously make good use of him at the school.
I remember vapa as head boy,
head of what was it all head count was head of head of the school councils do right.
But the way he spoke and the way you you conducted yourself, I actually put you ahead
of my son's school, so Mashallah, you know, you've been a really great role model. I'm always telling my son's, you know, about former students at the school and saying, you know, remember, so and so you've got to be like them. And so does that sound for coming as well.
Somebody, I just, while we were praying out there, I actually started feeling quite emotional, because
like, we stood very close together, feet, two feet, shoulder to shoulder. And I remember that that's what we used to do in the 90s. And since then, I guess I've been in different circles of Muslims and, and who don't necessarily do that practice.
And it kind of took me back to the 90s. And it just reminded me of that,
of some of the more positive aspects of that time, which were sisterhood, that desire to follow the sun. Now that real kind of fervor, I think, you know, and just that closeness we used to feel when we used to pray together. Cuz Now sometimes, you know, when you try to get close to your sister in law, they sometimes pull away, right? So you can see that the culture has changed, but it's also about knowledge as well, and about intention.
And what we witnessed today was the promise of online the prayer and the Sunnah. And clearly whatever the profits are long, some didn't instructed us was of benefit to us. And certainly in the realm of a Bader if we allow it to seep into us if we allow it to affect us if we try to stand in horschel if we have sincerity that we are praying in a particular way, because just in an endeavor to follow the Prophet sallallahu wasallam because we love a lot. We want a lot of love us, then we will reap the benefits will start to taste some of the sweetness of that and that's the mercy of Allah knows he
He created us. And he alcoholic, made us in a certain form in a certain way. And he knows what will affect our hearts, one of the things that stand close together when engaged in worship, Mashallah, yeah, it just really took me back to that time. And I mean, I was, I started to think, you know, I've never really met a sister for I haven't met sister for a long time, who was active in Bauer during the 90s. And, you know, beyond who I could ever sort of share notes with, I guess, and kind of reflect on what were the positives of that time. Because sometimes, like we hear about the negatives of that time, you know, there was a lot of division in some ways, and there was a lot of
toxic type, you know, name calling and pointing fingers and all that kind of thing some ways it was localu. Yeah. And it was an immaturity of
us used the word our very generally very loosely but of our Eman as a community and our knowledge. But I think there was also that freshness, that sincerity, that desire to worship Allah, that desire to do the right thing. Unfortunate, in some cases, it seemed to translate into to do the right thing to be seen of other people to know you're on the salon, you're you know, it, you know, and that that's the struggle each of us are constantly going through, why do we do what we do? Why do we say what we say? Why do we hold ourselves in the way we hold ourselves and behave in the way we do? Is it to impress people? Is it so that people will say of us? Well, or save us, you will not criticize
us? Are we scared to the people? Or do we care about what they think about always about a lot, of course, in in life, there's a balance to be struck isn't there, there is a little bit of caring about what the people say, there's a little bit but that's, but we don't let that supersede the ultimate intention for everything, which should be seeking the face of a mob seeking His pleasure. And so there was there was all of that in that immaturity, there was a lot, but then who am I to judge anybody else and what they I can't see inside their hearts, we can't see what was going each person's intention for why they behave the way they did or made the mistake they did or became, you
know, a little bit hollow. I'm going to use that word rather than than another.
has better notations. I think for those who understand the word, you know why those things happened. But at the end of the day, there was the positivity when people turned to one law, when they want to know what does a lot of a handle what Allah says in the Quran, what does the prophets are lacking? Some say, what do you do? And those things were positive? There was a ruinous. I think I recently a PhD student interviewed me for her, like a PhD thesis. And she said, she was asking me about that time, like, what is it about the generation that grew up in the UK? So the children of the immigrants? I'm assuming you're one of those right?
Same as me. What was it about us that instead of becoming more diluted as a community, right, and leave losing our Eman and basically assimilating? Or, you know, what was it about us that actually, it was the opposite, that we actually saw? In many cases?
The parents were not the religious ones were not particularly knowledgeable. And then the children of those immigrants ended up having so much more fervor so much more kind of visible adoption of Islam. So what are your thoughts on that? quite complicated. I'm not theologist evil scientist, but
just your reflection, not a lot of those if you think about what people are going through what children going through in my generation before me, and you know, you don't quite belong, do you. And you know, the messages that the feedback that you get from society constantly about who you are, you know, you're told, on the one hand, you're fooling the publisher citizen, but on the other hand, your lived experience sort of tells you back, no, actually, you need to be different.
Here hear and you need to behave differently there, you're not going to be accepted there.
And as you leave school, that becomes more and more of a reality. And I think children go through that experience, and that affects the way they see the world. For some children, it will allow them if they have their world, if they have each foot in a different cultural and religious wealth, different cultural heritage, that will allow them to be able to take the bigger picture view of that. Not everybody, but a number did and a number of them did stand back and have a look at that picture and try to find their own sense of identity and purpose within that. And perhaps at some of it that some of you know, at the end of the day, of course, there was some fantastic things in
traditional parenting traditional families, and things that constantly as we move further and further away from previous generations, we tend to start we tend to see increasingly, perhaps that's about living in more of more of a consumerist sort of model of society. And the more that we become, you know, grow up and emerge into this sort of conditions.
humourist vision for the family,
the more that we become materialistic, the more that we lose our connection with our lung lose our ability to be able to see His signs around us a connection to the divine. And as that happens, then, you know, the world takes over. And the, the concerns of the world takeover. And I think in previous generations where people knew how to knit, so you, you know, grow food in the land. And so, you know, our parents had those skills and, and we thought, Well remember thinking is really boring. But learning to read, learning to plant things, learning to grow, even though not very much came back. Learning to knit even though I never made anything very much. I think I may have knitted a jumper
once. But all of those skills that I learned from my mother, and my passing them on now to my children, and grandmothers, you know, is my daughter passing them on to Herschel? And you see this dilution of people being able to live independently from the supermarket? No, no, absolutely. I mean, you know, you've given us a lot to think about. So it made me wonder what you your experience of growing up was like, were you a Londoner? Yeah, I grew up in London, which area of London Layton. Layton? essendon?
Yeah. What was that? Like? What was that like? Well, back then. And this is some time ago.
It was still,
you know, grew up through the 70s. And I was sort of aware of things through the 80s. And that's when I was going to school etc. And 80s was a time of multiculturalism. But preceding that alongside with that there's a lot of open racism actually on the streets before I became an eagle. So as a child in the 70s, I remember my mother being spat out by a group of individuals who will come behind us. Actually, I think this is a story I heard back from my sisters who've gone with my mother to the park. And I think they actually witnessed it. But I was horrified when I got home. And they told me that they were calling them of course, the usual terms of reference at that time for anybody who was
brown anybody else that they could get away with saying it too? And,
and spat actually at my mother. And those things were not uncommon. And I think a lot of people at that time 70s and 80s, my mother was very risk averse. She was kept us in, she was very risk averse. And I think a lot of people were a lot of people from, you know, different communities, Muslim communities that were settling down and living here. were quite risk averse. They were sort of Pakistani background is that? Yeah, my own family, my mother and father. Yeah, yeah, I was thinking about was, if you did live in another country, as in the country from maybe we're
going fed up family tree, they decided from Pakistan, or wherever
Do you think your mother would have been so risk of us living there, given given the cultural differences between those places and where we live now, I think she would have been less, but she is a bit risky. As a person, she's quite risky.
missing the point you made earlier about how it didn't lead to a dilution of our beliefs. I think that whether it's subconsciously or they did it explicitly, expressly, and you know, intending to do it, it kind of created sub communities or communities within communities where people already felt left out and different, given their cultural differences from wherever they migrated from here, and for the more inquisitive of the individuals not say that there aren't people who aren't inquisitive. And that led those individuals to wonder, what, what gives rise to these cultural differences and what gives rise to a certain way of living here, compared to a certain way of living there. You
know, once again, there were others as well, we wanted so much to fit in, yeah.
The drivers were all about fitting in, or even eating of the fruit, you know, of society and being getting to the top there and do whatever it takes probably, that ultimately leads to a question of what grounds the way the people there do live, and what grounds the way the people here live. And obviously, you referenced it previously, that what grounds the way we live here in the West, whether that's here, or America, or any, you know, Western European country, it's
the whole notion of capitalism, and consumerism, you know, to live in the now, no purchase. Now, enjoy your time now, because you don't know what might come in the future. And it's best to just, you know, enjoy yourself in that sort of, it's not just capitalism and consumerism. But the concepts. Yeah, I think, I don't know what you think about this. Let me know what you think. But my reflection on it is that
growing up in the UK, we were faced with the question, Who am I? You know, and anytime a person is forced to ask themselves that question, they look around for the answer. And, and for us, I think we we would have thought about you know, our heritage, but then also the big questions of life, you know, how am I going to view this? Am I going to view having a girlfriend Am I going to view you know, all the different things that as a young person you face, you, ask yourself
And then you go home, and then you either talk to your parents about it, and they give you an answer, or you start researching. And I think one of the great things about growing up in Britain was this emphasis on reading this emphasis on critical thinking, questioning. And I think so, so much of what our generation learned was through books, not necessarily through our parents, we did a lot of reading our parents taught us another aspect, which was very important. Like, not everybody's a reader, not everybody's a reader.
Or sometimes it was other people at school. Right? Well, I think for me, it was,
you know, all of that was part of the journey. But for me, mine was, and you know, all praises for a lot. And obviously, the Prophet sallallahu wasallam is our inspiration example and commands often, and we just offer whatever little stories we do, but
for me, it was the lap of my mother. My mother taught us
a man on her lap, and she told us about Allah subhanaw taala she told us about heaven and hell. And I took that to heart as a very, very young child by the mercy by the mercy of Allah subhanaw taala he wanted my mother's do all etc. And I can never thank my mother enough, because that was such a deeply rooted Eman from such a young age I used to make, do our eyes ask her about Okay, so how long do you have to be in hell? If we're bad, and we go to hell? And, well, if we were in hell, and imagine, I'd imagine all of these things I'd start to say, Well, you know, if I really asked Allah subhanaw taala I'm really sorry. Now, would we be able to leave so had all of these conversations
with with my mother, and it's funny, you know, I just sort of remember back how even as a child, you'd always think it's, it's so easy to get to hell.
At that, because it creeps in strange, that strange, but
but hamdulillah by the mercy of Allah, my mother, you know, by the mercy of other human, you know, who gives Hidayat to whoever he wills, you know, this, this sort of led to a deep connection with Allah subhanaw taala. from from from a young age and a desire to, to make sure everything I did was in line with what does Allah say about this, what did the, you know, within whatever I could find out about it as a child, in my immediate source of knowledge was my mother, I talked a lot about my mother, and my father died when I was very young. My father was sick for a very long time, and then eventually died. He was sick with cancer for a very long time. And he eventually died of pneumonia.
And I was just turned eight at the time. The youngest one, there were four of us, then my sister was five, my brother was nine year old just before he turned nine, actually, he was only 10 or 11 months between us, my mother, you know, had quite close together. And there was my my third, my second system, the third sibling who was probably about seven then.
So we had no relatives at all. So that actually that was I only reflect on this about a year or two ago how profound it was, as an influential experience, how much it determined a lot of the way I was and the way I thought, because of course, death is the biggest teachers not just a killer of joys, but it is the biggest teacher about what is life death teaches you what life is and what living is, of course, there's that huge difference. The you know, opposites always explain each other don't mean but also the pain of losing your father then understanding when you're when your parents when your mother explains to you that Allah loves him, Alma Mater, we all belong to a lot. And we go back
to a lot and that was such a profound lesson that very tender age, and so very influential in me, but I found that I didn't have to, you know, it was enough to know if our last panel Donna has said this, the prophets Allah has sent me that of course, my journey, I started to read the Quran, I started reading with English at quite young age, actually, even before I could fully understand all of the English words, but I was always a very good reader right from the beginning. So that wasn't really a problem for me. So I was reading. And one of the sutras my mom would teach me to read a lot at yacine she had the habit of reading sweet yacine after fudger so I would read it after fudger and
I would read the English eventually, quite regularly. And of course it is very deep concepts of aqeedah embedded throughout the Quran, which the more you read, and this is one of the benefits of
for the kitten in the curtain, meaning that the reminder benefits the believer and why we are told to recite again and again and again. Because you will never This is the word of Allah you will never understand it on one reading you will never grasp everything. And there's always something fresh, something new, something more. And as human beings with this sort of mind that flicks doesn't it flits. We grasp something different by the mercy of Allah every time we read it something more and something we didn't realize from before. So, you know, I would I would read through it. He has seen him
And grasp the sort of basic points of theater.
And, you know, that's sort of where I started from. So it wasn't for me, there was never a debate, there was not really a pool. So, so you grew up in Layton, when when did you? I don't know about you, but like, cuz I'm thinking we've got kind of similar. Of course one, I'm just thinking about your mom. Because I know my mom found it hard. Bringing up kids here, not knowing the language with a husband, right? You know, I just can't imagine, you know how it was for your mom.
But I'm just thinking now, okay, so when did you So you knew Islam? You know, Allah from the beginning? You know, it seems and you aware of that? When did that will come into your life? Like, was it Primary School is reading the Quran? I lost penalties in the Quran that there arise from your band that will encourage what is right and prohibit what is wrong. These are injunctions, their instructions, and even in the English are very, very clear. Of course, it was the English for me for many years.
And so it was the Quran primarily. And yes, I would try to read a hadith and
my mother tried to teach us.
I mean, there were so many different things she was teaching us. When we started secondary school.
We had one of those Blended Schools actually, even though it was a terrible school, a bad school, but kind of schools that girls school, it was a girl school at that time, you had these middle schools, Key Stage three schools where they weren't called Key Stage Three, just and just I think a year after I left, they they shut those down. And then they created these walkthroughs from 11 to 16. But at that time, you have this sort of 11 to 14 year 789. They've now call the school a one two and three, then I went to one of these. I was absolutely Till's because you know, they've really had a behavior problem. It was really bad. And he was watching this
a long time ago now. But I have the big blessing for us is that we had these Islamic Studies, morning classes, you came in half an hour an hour early to school, one day a week and they would be it was the Muslim educational trust. May Allah bless our earliest generations who set these things up for us. to reward them they strove for the sake of Allah and they gave us messages and planted seeds that you know is that we are sacajawea for them to sow Subhana Allah, they would send a teacher now she was Mashallah wonderful woman, Mr. Shake, which is called to shake well known in the Muslim community down in East London, probably further afield should come every week and her passion
for the deen was really evident, really evident. And she would encourage anybody who had a liking for the deen. And, you know, I was very outspoken from a very young age, it's one of those words had a hand up in class, as outspoken in that class as well. I'd never be chosen every year at the end of your speech at the annual event that they'd hold at this Muslim educational trust function. they'd call it every year. And I was giving little speech, my speech skills from and I'd always get Well, normally I'd get taught walks me interviewing for Islamic Studies. So is this like a Saturday? No, it was during the weekdays? Alhamdulillah? Yeah, one day, a week before school started. We do this
What kind of things were somebody said they had a book, The Muslim educational trust published a book I vaguely remember. Education Trust logo. Yeah, yeah, I love
what they did that, you know, such an inspired idea to send out these teachers. So it was by when we went there voluntarily, if you wanted, if you didn't want even many girls, it didn't go. There was a number who didn't obviously there were more year seven, and then it dropped off as time go by. But I always went to these. And in fact, when I joined my secondary school, I started a class here which very few children came very few girls came to my second sorry, secondary meaning the one after the secondary at 14.
But male love reward and bless her. You know, she did a lot she went to a lot of schools and she always had a passion for the deen and she was always encouraging, giving advice, and May Allah bless her reward her. She worked well with that school. And then obviously at home, my mother tried to teach me or to try to teach all of us and I really tried to learn or do.
She taken us to Pakistan in the first time in my sort of
years of awareness of what was going on. I was about 10 years 10 going on 11 I think we went at the end it might year six what they now call year six, last year of primary. And of course, we didn't couldn't speak a word out there and then picked up bits of Punjab because the family predominant spoke Punjabi when they were you know, and then others spoke Urdu. And so you know, this mishmash that we everybody would keep pointing out to us that we learnt and then came back with essentially appointed for she tried it herself and then she pointed to somebody to come home and teach us. And so I sort of tried to learn all through. And then my mother had some interesting books on one I
really remember is Monday.
about yoga, what happens after death, I wanted to read that book. So pick this book up and try to read this book. So that's another way that I learned and improved my order to do it to understand this book, and I would read it to my mom. And, you know, and it was quite good book, it had been authentic ahaadeeth about how this whole journey after death and so on. And that was really fascinating at that age, and obviously, by that time, I think that was some five years now how many years?
I was probably 1212 1211.
So, you know, that fills in the blanks about the souls journey and so on. And for me, it was fundamental, everybody should know this, why isn't everybody wanting to to you? So there were lots of ways through which and then at my next school I went to I met a wonderful girl called Sabra
and if you're listening sovereign
I'll be really well sorry for losing touch. She's a really wonderful very different personality to me, I was the loud extrovert outspoken one, she was the quiet, calm, reserved sensible one, Mashallah. And we went through secondary together, and her father was involved and in and her family whole family in Daraa work and Mashallah, you know, sort of had a connection there as well. And there was another organization that I got involved with through them, and went to some circles, delivered some circles, started some circles, used to get local girls to come every week to my to my house, my mom's house, primarily, we do call out of Syria, to be honest with you to be to read the
Quran from sorting through sort of the background, talk about the meanings and so on. And I would say every week trying to get people to come to this this circle on Sunday morning for us to do.
What was the reason behind that was that was at the stage where this kind of divine injunction of promote the good and forbid the evil is that when it started to manifest itself in you during No, that was from a younger age. Oh, my goodness, you know, the age that is remember how terrible I was in primary school. You know, people get that stage where they've tried to
push the religion down their family members mouth, really, in an aggressive, horrible way that really pushes everyone away from the 10 year old, I was doing that as a young child. Yeah, within my whatever power I had, whatever they were, well, at school, it was like the two of the girls in my class who said they were Muslim. So it was sort of trying to push it on them. Muslims must do this. And I'm sure we've all met people like that your children like that in primary at that. And then in secondary. In secondary, it was actually I didn't know that he jab. Jab was fun. So for example, and I was how old was I? I watched a program one day it was about Muslim women in Egypt, putting the
hijab back on. And that's what told me that once upon a time, women in Muslim countries used to wear niqab and workers and what have you, and then they took them off through this period of, at the time didn't realize the colonization and what have you and colonizing the Muslim mind with Muslim spirit and whatever.
And, and then in the, how old was this probably early 80s is probably I was 12 or 13 1313, when I watched this, and so
they were, you know, they were interviewing these these women who put the niqab and put the hijab back on. And that was what taught me a lot about the world, but also that he'd have his fourth. So I finished watching the program, I shouted upstairs when Mum, mum, I'm going to start wearing the hijab, I think at the time I called it a scarf or butter or something. I'm gonna start wearing that from now on, okay.
Okay. And from that day forward, I there was this purple tomato, I remember, that was the only thing I had, I remember I wrapped around my head and I would go to school every day when I had another battle at school having to explain this, I didn't go and explain it to you. And it wasn't part of the uniform, this purple, the bottom top of a Navy uniform, I had to go in and explain why and how I should be allowed to do it and so on. I went first the deputy, and then went to the head. And I remember, I think the head asked me, Why did you come to me first, I should go to the deputy first.
And that was an interesting thing that carried on in the school I went to beyond because I had to have that we had to write a letter to the Board of Governors to be allowed to be able to get a job as a part of a uniform in school.
And I remember feeling that we'd been double crossed and hoodwinked because it never went to the head teacher ended up making a deal before the Board of Governors meeting and allowed us to wear and it was cyber immediacy to bring cyber alongside her and me. We went there. And so she said, Yes. Okay, you can use you can wear it, but we didn't. We thought that would be a blanket rule for everyone in the school. But I remember thinking at the time, you should have gone to the Board of Governors, they should have made them my youngest sister had a problem with the school later on when I'd left. It's so important that somebody does take that first step, don't you think? Because
When I was in secondary school, I was the only girl wearing a job. The beginning anyway. And then obviously people see you and they think, Oh, I could do that, you know? Yeah.
Step by step things change. And it was it was locality wide. It was the galaxy wide because I started that and perhaps it was, you know, think about when you buy a car, you start to notice them on the road. Yeah.
It could be that, but I felt Oh, everybody started.
Because of me.
I remember walking into a secondary school in Barnet, in Bonn, it was like, forget about a job. They will hardly anyone, any non white people, you know, it's like very, like you could know you noticed when they were black people in the class, for example, right?
But just 10 or 20 years later, going into secondary school. I remember like for my son's looking for secondary schools, I saw like, walked in. And in one of the schools in Barnet, there was a massive image of a girl in her job doing science. And I started tearing up because I remember what a big deal it was that we like sought permission and you know what he job and then you would questioned about it, you were made fun about it and all that kind of stuff that we went through, you know, I went through all of that stuff.
Although my area was different from the area you grew up in, but I was still the stranger amongst everybody. And I was not not apologetic and I wasn't shy. And I was outspoken and I didn't care what anybody was going to say or think of course things hurt. But I nothing no lasting memories. I can't really remember actually anything. And I was quite extroverted. Thank God I wore his job because God knows what I would have done.
Library when I was 14 pretending I was French so this is you know, school girl wearing a uniform and a job with her other friends way behind his speaking French accent.
cradling in the mood for it. Now because I do the same thing at home all the time I do with Arabic I do it with French I deal with Russian I do everything. To me. He always says why don't you just learn the language so now I can use the same audio and remember you when you went to the library speaking French that just like an indication of my personality just did that change over time? Yeah, percentages do change over time and thank Allah what is it that saying about Mohammed that