Saturday, February 20, 2016

Little Grill is a little star

There is nothing like Vietnamese food, especially on a hot day during the Perth Summer.

My friend and I had just attended a couple of sessions at the Perth Writers’ Festival and we came out starving. So I suggested that we head to Vic Park for a bite to eat. I’d been meaning to try Little Grill for a while so we popped in for some Vietnamese goodness.

We quickly settled for some Bun Bo Nuong Vi Cha Gio which came out pretty fast. It was fresh, tasty and exactly what we wanted.

What I like about Little Grill is that is that it is a funky and vibrant place to enjoy a good meal that isn’t going to cost the earth. I’m really glad that it is not far from home because I’ll be visiting it more often.

Little Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Melbourne junket was not all meet & greet

Last year I was lucky enough to be elected to the Board of Physical Disabilities Australia and recently I got to attend their first meeting of 2016.

Luckily for me, it was in Melbourne and while the meet and greet was the primary focus, there was enough time to enjoy this great city before flying back to Perth.

With the meeting over by 12.30, I got changed and went on the hunt for lunch. With so much variety it took ages to pick where to eat but after I had enjoyed something and drunck as much coffee that I could handle, I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria for their Warhol/Ai Wai Wai exhibition.

The NGV is one of my favorite galleries. They always have incredible visiting exhibitions and their permanent ones are amazing and are a joy to see.

Next I got to see the Immigration Museum and as immigrant myself I could relate to this. It was interesting to see how migration has changed over the years but the challenges always seem to stay the same. It was impressive to read about the stories of migrants and to see their drive to make it in this new strange land.  

There is so much to love about Melbourne! I love the vibe, architecture as well as the food, coffee and nightlife. Coming from Perth I love how the CBD isn’t deserted after 7 and that the place is bustling with lots of people enjoying what Melbourne has to offer.   

A packed Melbourne tram at 9pm on a Thursday night which would be unheard of in Perth

Soon it was time to catch a flight home which was a little sad as I could have stayed longer but Perth Writers’ Festival is on this weekend and that will be something to look forward to.   

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book review - Heretic: why Islam needs a reformation

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is well known for her blunt and almost provocative way of describing her view of the world which is why she has made many enemies and is called a Heretic.

Straight away, she calls it how she sees it. Her premise is that Islam is not a religion of peace and violence comes from not the social, political and economic aspects of the religion but what she describes as ‘the foundational texts of Islam itself’.  

Can you see what I mean about being provocative?

She splits the followers of Islam into three broad groups. She describes the Medina Muslims those who make women wear burqas, kills those who do not convert to Islam and preach Jihad.

On the other hand, she describes the majority of Muslims as being the Mecca Muslims. She writes, ‘like devote Christians or Jews who attend religious services every day and abide and abide by religious rules in and wear, Mecca Muslims focus on religious observance’. While being more moderate, they are conflicted in reconciling their religion with modernity.

When she refers to modernity she means the economic, political and social values that gave rise to the modern western world and which was developed after the reformation of the 16 century. Secularism, individualism and the split between the church and state, (including challenging religious dogma and authority over what people did and thought) are all values that allowed science and social enquiry to flourish.

She argues ‘the rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentality corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status.  in Muslim-majority countries, the power of modernity to transform economic, social and (ultimately) power relationships can be limited.     

Her final category is the Modifying Muslims which describes those who are deeply interested in Islam while not being practicing believers of the faith. She places herself in this group. When writing about this group she gives the impression that any attempt to engage critical debate by this group isn’t tolerated, hence the need for a reformation.   

In arguing that Islam needs a reformation, she states that ‘Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims, not by the tens or hundreds but by the tens of millions and eventually hundreds of millions, need to make a conscious decision to confront, debate and ultimately reject the violent elements within their religion’.

The thing is, with all this debate about the Muslim religion being inherently violent comes into conflict with those Muslims who I know and respect. Many of those are good quiet people who would in no way force others to convert to their religion. They would argue that those who do subscribe to what is commonly known as ‘radical Islam’ are not real Muslims.

Her answer to this is that the ’fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts’.   

But what do I know? I don’t know enough about Islam to critique her argument, I can only go by what I know and the impressions left by the Muslims I’ve met.          

She does have a message to all the Western liberals who are reading her book that we need to ‘hold Islam accountable’ as well as ‘stand up for our own principles as liberals. Specifically, we need to say to offended Muslims (and their liberal supporters) that it is not we who must accommodate their beliefs and sensitivities. Rather, it is they who must learn to live with our commitment to free speech.’

Finishing this book has left me wanting to learn more and to understand the complexity of Islam. By no means do I think she has spoken the final word in my quest to learn about the religion but it is just the beginning.   

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book review - Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution

This book opens with a chapter that’s called “Why they hate us” and Eltahawy straight away argues that ‘We Arab women live in a culture that is fundamentally hostile to us, enforced by men’s contempt’. She proceeds to describe the sexual abuse that she has experienced during her Hajj pilgrimage as well as during the political unrest in Egypt.
Mona Elthahwy was born in Egypt to parents with PhDs in medicine and grew up in Saudi Arabia after spending time in the UK. Her experience in these countries shaped her outlook. Her time in Britain must have given her a critical eye to which to analyse the Saudi culture and attitude towards women.

She states ‘when I encountered this country aged fifteen, I was traumatized into feminism – there is no other way to describe it - because to be a female in Saudi Arabia is to be the walking embodiment of sin…The obsession with controlling women and our bodies often stem from the suspicion that, without restraints, women are a few degrees short of sexual instability.’ Women seem to be at the root of all problems. Women get raped or groped it is because ‘we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong thing’.

In many ways, this book is about the Arab Spring from a woman’s perspective. She writes about life as a woman in the Middle East during this period and, from a western perspective, it seems incredibly unfair. Women treated badly then accused of having asking for it.

She blames ‘a toxic mix of culture and religion. Whether our politics are tinged with religion or military rule, the common denominator is the oppression of women’.  While she is critical of this nexus between religion and culture, she does discuss the conundrum that she faced in speaking about this subject. It is hard to separate the culture and the religion which makes discussions around this subject difficult and especially sensitive.

What next?

She argues that this era of political turmoil would provide an ideal opportunity to create a shift in how women are treated and hand control back to women, not only in regards to their own lives and bodies but also allow them greater participation in society.

But this would be hard and it could take decades. As she says ‘men also struggled against a sexual guilt and a socialization that produced a warped and unhealthy attitude against women’. Such deep and ingrained attitudes  could not change overnight.  

This book is an interesting look at the body, religion and how culture influences how we view who we are in society. It’s powerful reading of the contemporary challenges in the middle east where women are no longer happy to be objects of sin by the cultural norms of their region or objects of pity by those in the west. 
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