As Muslim women in the UK we are diverse and come in all shapes, sizes, colours and ways of being in the world. There is no such thing as ‘The Muslim Woman’. Because of that, at Together We Thrive we don’t claim to represent everyone nor speak on behalf of all Muslim women.
But sometimes there are issues and causes that seem to unite us all and the most recent war on Gaza feels to us like one of those moments.
Everyone we speak to is saying how angry, how frustrated, how hurt, how upset they feel at the devastation and destruction they are seeing. Some people are expressing and channeling that through political campaigning, some through marching on the streets, some through fundraising, some through art, some through education and through various forms of activism. For many this is having a huge toll on them and affecting other areas of their lives. Everyone has their way of processing what is happening. But no doubt from what we are seeing, the impact is immense.
We feel let down by the politics in our country right now and we call on politicians from all parties to represent us better. We call on them to do what they can to get the hostages, captured on the 7th October, released. We call on them to use every power they have to stop the killing immediately. Can they hand on heart say they have done everything they can to make this a reality? We don’t think so. We need experienced peace-builders and negotiators who can work on solutions for now and for the longer term. Right now the politics in our country is too short term. So many of the conversations among politicians at the moment seem to be more focused on the election next year than on what matters to people now. That is unacceptable.
As a Board we have a varied skill-set including as life coaches, chaplains, specialists in tackling abuse, teachers, therapists, safeguarding experts. The listening we have done with Muslim women has shown us how much this war is affecting their mental health. We have run sessions on Zoom for Muslim women to come and be in a safe space to share, to talk, to cry, to get angry, to open up and find support among each other. During those sessions we have hosted 80 women and the feedback has shown us how much these spaces are needed.
Jerusalem at Night 2022 - Heba Zagout
Women are particularly identifying with the mothers in Gaza, wondering how they are coping, upset at what they are going through, angry that the world is looking on and not doing enough, amazed at their resilience, wanting to help and support them more. One of the lasting images for us will be the babies being taken out of their incubators because their hospital was attacked. None of those babies who were then moved to a safe place for treatment had a parent with them. Our hearts break for those mothers, many who are now killed. 180 babies on average are being born in Gaza every day at the moment. Children make up around 40% of all those killed since the 7th October. Children and babies are also among the hostages taken from Israel, some now inside Gaza without their parents. The whole picture is heartbreaking in every way.
We have discussed what we can usefully do to shine a light on what is happening but also to bring hope, learn from the resilience of Palestinian women and use that to benefit women here in the UK as we move forwards. To use our collective skills and those from our network to make change and to help those whose mental health is suffering.
On 13th October, this beautiful artist Heba Zagout was killed alongside her two children, Mahmoud and Adam. Her two other children and her husband survived.
In her memory, to honour her, to keep alive what she stood for and to make sure her art lives on, in 2024 we are going to start The Heba Project. Created and led by UK Muslim women, we plan to run classes, exhibitions, provide art therapy, mentor up and coming artists, to organise events and workshops. We will raise money for Heba’s family and we will support projects in Gaza using various therapies to support women and children back to better mental health.
Her art is symbolic and powerful and we want to make sure it lives on.
As UK women we can learn so much from Heba and so many Palestinian women like her.
Please join us in our mission.
Love and prayers from
Anita, Asma, Farah, Farzana, Hanifah, Julie, Sadia and Saleha
Together We Thrive, Executive Board