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British Asian Women On Mental Health And Marriage

Last month, Shaima*, a 32 year-old accountant from Leeds, attended her cousin’s wedding. It was a standard Asian affair: a rented community hall filled with women in brightly coloured Kameezes and mounds of gold plated jewellery, while men donned tight fitting suits, faded haircuts and neatly trimmed beards. Circling the hall with plastic plates filled with Indian sweets, Shaima’s elderly relatives happily embraced the new couple, telling her cousin that the groom, a handsome, tall doctor, was “the catch of a lifetime”. Shaima stood in the corner watching on – just a few months ago, she could have been the one marrying him.

In fact, it had almost been arranged – they had been on a few dates, regularly spoke online and their families had even met. But, a few weeks before the wedding venue was due to be booked, Shaima had to tell her parents it was over. The break-up happened just days after she had told her prospective husband about her ongoing experience with manic depression, which required regular doctor’s appointments and medication. They immediately lost contact – until she received the wedding invitation.

For the past three years, Shaima has tried to get married. Over the phone, she told me she’s gone through every route imaginable for a British Pakistani Muslim – traditional routes like being set up by her mum and her grandma, to more modern approaches like using Muslim-specific marriage websites, helping observant Muslims find spouses in a religiously compliant manner. She’s put down the attributes she thinks are her strongest – her degree education, sense of humour and of course, her religious belief. However, Shaima worries that talking about her mental health condition to prospective partners will make marrying within her community next to impossible.

Although awareness of mental health conditions has increased in many south Asian communities, thanks to the work of local charities and activists, a stigma still lingers. According to a report conducted by the charity Time to Change in 2010, despite Black and Minority Ethnic people making up more than 10% of Britain’s total population, “knowledge, attitudes behaviour [toward mental health]” by many BME communities had “failed to improve at the same rate as other sections of the [UK] population”. Furthermore, it found that many suffering found themselves having to make an uncomfortable decision – either be open about their illness and face the risk of social segregation, or brush it under the carpet, and risk making the condition worse.“The Imams who run marriage workshops, the first thing they say men should look for is a belief in God as a priority,” Shaima tells me. “But I don’t think that’s true. The men I have seen all know I am a devout, practicing Muslim – it’s when I tell them about my issue that they become hesitant; you can see it immediately. They try to be polite about it, but I can see from how they look at me after I tell them that they’ve been scared. I remember one guy I met, that, as soon as I told him, made up an excuse to leave and never contacted me again”.

Shaima isn’t alone in this struggle. Although there is no publicly accessible data on the number of British South Asians with mental health illnesses, information from the National Health Service does suggest that Black and Minority Ethnic communities are both the most at risk, and benefit the least from existing mental health services, especially if they’re women. Furthermore, because of the continued stigma around mental health conditions, treatment itself is particularly difficult for women of south Asian descent – a continued problem acknowledged by charities Including Mind and the British Asian Trust.

Sharing a mental health condition with your partner or family can present a daunting task for anyone, but for women like Shaima, having a mental health condition, especially one that could pose restrictions on getting married and having children, can also be seen as a hit on her family’s reputation, a term known as “Izzat”. She tells me, “If I can’t get married, I’m not the one who’s blamed, it’ll be my parents, particularly my mum. Because of [the stigma] on mental health and the fact it’s so misunderstood, it’s more likely that family members and the community will believe my parents were cursed by God for bad deeds ”.

For others, mental health issues can be seen as a sign of spiritual possession, black magic, or other types of “incurable” diseases, all things that make marriage – possibly the most important tenant of South Asian family culture – an extremely difficult prospect.

“As long as there’s stigma and superstition about mental health [in Asian communities], women are always going to be disadvantaged,” says Hiba Masuma, a Leeds-based social worker who helps South Asian women requiring mental health support. Masuma tells me she’s dealt with “around 30 or so” cases involving women who have faced obstacles when trying to get married. “There are probably many more – but it’s likely that many women don’t know who to seek help from, and in most cases, women have been told not to speak about their illness in case they’re deemed undesirable… for a lot of families, the idea of getting their daughters married off tends to be more important than their health – and that’s damaging for everyone involved.”

Khaled says that while mental health outreach in Asian communities is “getting better” it will still take a considerable amount of time to overcome cultural taboos. “Because so many young Asians have grown up in communities where they haven’t openly discussed mental health – guys in particular – it’s not part of the conversation when it comes to marriage. That ultimately means they’re ill equipped to support their future wives.”

If anyone knows that, it’s Humaira*, a 36 year-old masters student from Huddersfield, in the north of England. Until last year, Humaira was married, but during her three year marriage, she kept her Schizoaffective disorder a secret from her husband. She didn’t want to talk about the details of her illness, but she told me her husband “came from a highly regarded, conservative family in India.”

“I was already in my 30s when I got married, which is considered old in our community, so I was basically told by my family not to say anything about the treatment I was receiving…Keeping it a secret wasn’t difficult, because he didn’t know anything about mental health, but it was only later in our marriage, especially when we were having conversations about having children, that I had to say everything.”

Humaira says her marriage “fell apart” when she said she was concerned about having a child, partially out of fear that her illness, or something more severe, could be passed on; “I had expressed my concerns a few times after telling him about my illness, and I thought we could look into other options like adoption… but in the end it wasn’t something his family would accept – the rift eventually broke our relationship.”

Though Humaira wants to get married again, she isn’t optimistic. “The worst position you can be in is a divorcee with an illness no one understands or recognises… There will be many families who’ll think that I’m not worthy for their children because of my illness, and others who’ll simply see me as too old to be a mother – basically it’s a lose/lose situation”.

Can this growing problem be resolved? “The only way there will be a more pragmatic approach is if there’s more outreach and awareness of mental health issues in [Asian communities], especially those in non-metropolitan areas,” expressed Tareeq Khan, a therapist and former consultant at the South Asian Network UK.

“There needs to be a more sensible conversation about what mental health is, and more importantly, for it to be seen in the same way as physical ailments.” Khan says that there are already initiatives in the UK’s more prominent places of worship, such as the ‘faith in health’workshops hosted by the East London mosque, but in other areas of the country “where there are communities that are held together by much tighter family, and even with caste bonds, there is little support from outside organisations to make mental health more prominent”.

“The UK generally lacks knowledge about [mental illness], so this isn’t a problem just limited to Asian communities… many of our communities know this is a problem, and that it is hurting the future of our younger generations,” he says. Khan tells me that in the past few years, a number of mosques and temples across the UK have held mental health workshops and urged members of the community to be more open about the issue. “Gradually it will change because of younger generations” he says. “I just hope the change happens sooner, rather than later”.

Source article: http://www.refinery29.uk/mental-health-asian-women – written by HUSSEIN KESVANI

2 months ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

Modesty in Modern Muslim Beauty

By Jennifer Dawson

Preparing for a date can end up being a stress inducing activity most of the time. Fixing up hair and makeup alone takes up nearly forty minutes of a woman's time on an average day. As new trends in fashion continue to pop up, it can seem overwhelming trying to maintain a consistent style and routine, while still being current with today’s fashion. Here are a few ways to enhance your beauty for contemporary styles, while remaining true to the fashion that makes Muslim culture one of the most beautiful.

Hijab and Fashion

Dating can be intimidating, and our own insecurities can creep up, preventing us from putting ourselves out there to meet someone special. But those fears can be overcome. We should take pride in the modesty of our culture and commitment to Allah, especially with how we wear our hijabs. It’s fine to cut loose and outfit your hijab in a way that expresses both your beauty and inner devotion. Muslim fashion continues to develop side by side with contemporary fashion, letting diverse appearance flourish within modern fashion.

Styles such as the “casual chic”, which involve letting both sides of your hijab hang loose over both shoulders, are great for pulling off an effortless look that emphasizes your natural elegance and modesty. As long as you stay true to the core principles of modesty found in the Quran, then the elegance of your fashion sense will also shine through.

Beauty in Makeup

Make-up is the most powerful way for a Muslim woman to express her beauty while staying true to her faith. Whether with or without a hijab, cosmetics offer the chance for women to emphasis the facial qualities that make them beautiful. Women like Asha Hussein are excellent examples of how beauty conventions of both contemporary culture and Muslim tradition can fuse to create a captivating and popular look. Taking the time to learn eye makeup application and trends, such as having bold colors or strong brows, can be completely complimentary to your visual appearance and upstand the Muslim code of Modesty.

Embrace Muslim Modernity

Modern culture is more than prepared for accommodating the belief that supports the styles that support and validate Muslim cultural practices. The fashion world is embracing the empowering virtue to be found in Muslim modesty. Whether through makeup or clothing, the diversity and energy put into your wardrobe should be expressed with pride and confidence. The principles found in our faith are wonderful and should be recognized as such. Claim your style as your own and embrace the beautiful principles that enchant your dress and appearance.

The world around us continues to diversify in ways that are supportive towards the beliefs and attire of our faith. There’s no need to place unnecessary restraint on your wardrobe, as long as you adhere to the principles of modesty which already come so naturally us Muslim women. Trust in your faith and your own uncompromising beauty.

2 days ago

Inspiration for Muslims Aged 50 And Above

Finding Love After Divorce

By Jennifer Dawson

‘Grey divorce’  has come to be a catchphrase of the millennium, largely because in contrast to general divorce rates (which are declining), the divorce rate among people over 50 is on the rise. Longer life expectancies mean that those who are in their 50s or even 60s can look forward to many decades ahead of a healthy and happy life and for many, this is a quest they would not like to undertake in their current situation.

As noted in a study by Z. Mohamed, Muslim divorce rates, particularly in Western countries, have been on the rise in recent years, with a dramatic increase in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

Divorce can be liberating but also bring fear and anxiety. If you have been through a divorce and you are fearful about what the future holds, find inspiration in the Quran and consider online dating as a way to ensure those you date have the same life values as you. When you are ready, know that you can find love once again online and begin a new path in life.

Divorce Involves Going through Many Changes

Divorce is one of the highest entries on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. In a way, it involves saying goodbye to many things – including (in some cases) one’s home, extended family and social circle. The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model on the different stages of loss are also applicable to divorce. You may have to go through many stages – including sadness, anger, and regret, before you are ready to move on.

Cuando quieras ponerte triste,sonrie,aunque sea con lágrimas en los ojos.
Photo by Luis Galvez / Unsplash

You will probably know you are ready when you feel that you need to be out and socialize. Positive ideas may pop in your head, such as the thought that you are young and have retired or have free time on your hands, you would love to try out a new hobby or sport, or you feel like dressing up in your finest garb and feeling appreciated as a man or woman once again. Check out what other singles are up to on muzmatch; what starts out as a friendship could develop into something very special.

Why the Internet?

Online dating has been a big boom for singles who may not have a huge social circle. Muslim men and women who do work and have a good professional network may not necessarily have a wide social one. This is especially true if most of your friends are couples that you only saw when you went out with your ex. As noted by the BBC, online dating is big, especially among Western Muslims.

In Islam, marriage is considered equal to half your religion. It holds great importance, so it is important to make the right decision. Online dating allows you to ‘test the waters’ beforehand, so to speak. For instance, if you are a Muslim woman with a firm believe in feminism, you can ensure the people you date think along the same lines. Because devout Muslims of a mature age may be reticent to go to bars and other establishments were others enjoy meeting,

online dating gives them the safety, choice, and discretion that is unique in the dating sphere.

Inspiration from Scripture

You are indeed never too old to love or be loved. Muslim scripture espouses the importance of love and marriage in many passages.

“We not see for those who love one another anything like marriage,”

says Sunan Ibn Majah 1847, while Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 1322 notes: “When you love someone, you become infatuated like a child.” These and other words may inspire you to experience the beauty of love and marriage once again.

If you are a Muslim who is aged 50+ and who has just been divorced, you certainly are not alone. So-called ‘gray divorce’ is rising in numbers the world over, but that does not mean you need to be lonely.

Internet dating is booming for Muslims, especially those who don’t want to have to seek love in clubs and other establishments that can seem more about casual encounters than long-lasting ones. If you’ve never been online, sign up on muzmatch and go into it with a view to simply meet others. In time, friendships can unexpectedly bloom and you may find the love of your life.

21 days ago

muzmatch x My Big Fat Halal Blog

Hey everyone, it’s Ayesha from My Big Fat Halal Blog (MBFHB)! MBFHB is one of the UK’s biggest halal food platforms where I share halal restaurant reviews, recipes and travel guides! You can find out more about what I do on my website or Instagram.

Today, I’m collaborating with muzmatch to share some of my top Ramadan recipes. We hope you try them out and we would love to see any of your recreations.

DATE SUHOOR SMOOTHIE BOWL:

Here’s a simple recipe for this delicious, filling smoothie bowl packed with nutritious dates… the only dates you should be having this Ramadan! ;)

Suhoor Smoothie Bowl

INGREDIENTS

1 banana, plus extra slices to garnish

5 pitted medjool dates, plus extra, chopped, to garnish

250ml semi-skimmed milk

2 tsp cocoa powder

1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp ground nuts, to decorate

METHOD

Simply put all the ingredients in a blender, and whizz until smooth. Pour into a bowl, over ice, if you like, then arrange the nuts, extra banana and dates over the top to serve.

POTATO CUTLETS:

Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Ramadan without fried treats! Below is a recipe for my spicy, moreish potato cutlets.  They’re always a hit with everyone!

Potato Cutlets

INGREDIENTS

750g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

11⁄2 tbsp garam masala

2 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp ground coriander

Handful of coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp plain flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

60g breadcrumbs

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Chutney/spicy salsa, to serve

METHOD

1.Put the potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then cook for 18-20 mins, until tender. Drain and set aside for 15-20 mins, until cool enough to handle.

2. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, ground coriander and fresh coriander to the potatoes. Season, then mash until smooth.

3. Wet your hands, then shape the mixture into 10 round patties, about 1cm thick.

4. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs onto separate plates, then dip each patty first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs to coat.

5. Heat the oil to medium-high, then fry the patties in batches for 2-3 mins on each side, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with a chutney/ spicy salsa for dipping.

UM ALI:

A feast would not be complete without dessert! Try out this delicious Egyptian bread pudding known as Um Ali. It’s made with croissants, nuts and condensed milk and it’s absolutely delicious!

Um Ali

INGREDIENTS

850ml semi-skimmed milk

1⁄2 x 397g can condensed milk

1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom

1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve

1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml double cream

1 tsp unsalted butter

4 all butter croissants, roughly torn

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

2 tbsp flaked almonds

2 tbsp unsalted pistachios, chopped

2 tbsp seedless raisins

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.

2. Stir the milk, condensed milk, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla extract together in a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2mins, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and carefully bring back to the boil, then remove from the heat.

3. Using the butter, grease a round baking dish, roughly 22cm in diameter and 5cm deep, and cover the base with half the croissant pieces.

4. Sprinkle over half each of the coconut, almonds, pistachios and raisins, then pour over the milk mixture.

5. Top with the remaining croissants, nuts and raisins, plus an extra pinch of cinnamon.

6. Bake in the oven for 20-25mins until golden and bubbling, then leave to stand for 10 mins before serving.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and will try them out! You can find more of my recipes at mybigfathalalblog.com.

29 days ago