The Run Down: Wills and Kate

Apr 25, 2014 by

Prelude: A couple of weeks ago, the phone rang (loudly).  The ringtone: Black and Yellow (very classy).  It was Governor General’s (GG) office.

“Yassmin, would you like to come to a reception to meet Prince Will and Kate at the GG’s residence?”

“Um…sure?!”, a little shocked.

I agreed, without thinking about the logistical details or how I was going to make it work. How could one say no? Not a word was to be breathed about the event beforehand though, so the countdown was on…

***

Today: 3am wake up, flight to Sydney from Perth and then down to Canberra.

Fortunately I had only packed the one outfit, because I could have spent hours deciding what to wear.  Why the outfit matters so much I am not sure, as one rarely remembers.  Irrationally though, that is almost always one of the first things on my mind when I get an invite to a fancy event, particularly – what scarf should I go with?

The night arrived sooner than planned, and here are the highlights:

1. Almost got there late. WOO! My ride got slightly lost and I made it to a 6pm event at 5.58…cutting it fine.

2. What that did mean though is that I was near the front of the pack, at the beginning of the room. That’s the only reason I could be at the right place for this shot…

Kate 3

(Terrible, terrible…but my mother was pleased I got the shot! :D )

3. Anyhow! So standing around in awe of everyone else in the room (few VC’s, few Aussies of the year, general debauchery), making small talk, a bell is rung.

4. “No personal photos!” we are told, and we’re given the impression that if you do whip out the iPhone for a selfie with the Duke, it may be the last thing you ever do… (in that room).  The rules are set.  ”The Duke and Duchess will circulate. Hold your positions”.  Instructions given, we awaited the Royal entrance.

5. I saunter over to meet the Sochi Olympians. Their medals are AWESOME! Very heavy; a large subway cookie-size piece. I was suitably impressed…

6. The Royals and the GG + Wife make the entrance. Speeches are made, and they begin to circulate…

7. The Winter Olympians and I spoke to the Duchess first off the bat! She gave her undivided attention to each person she spoke to, seemed genuinely interested in asking questions and quite lively, particularly given the fact that their trip has been insanely packed.  I spoke to her about Youth Without Borders and the work we do, she said she loved my gold flakes necklace (from Melbourne markets) and continued circulating.

Chatting with the athletes from Sochi

Chatting with the athletes from Sochi

8. The rest of the night was meeting the other folk in the room. I told Harry Kewell how much of a Liverpool/Scouse fan I was (and how excited I am about how close we are to the Championship!), finally met the lovely Jess Watson and was embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t know the dude from NXS who had a lovely suit.  I also laughed with a bunch of pilots and defence people who definitely thought I was insane. Caught up with a number of old friends and met the Governor General himself, who was also a lovely and very hospitable man.  ”We love making use of this house!” he said, and I thought that was rather great.  A lively house is full of life…

9. All in all, it was a lovely night. The caterers were also quite diligent – a lovely lady named Sarah always brought me the vegetarian options for the refreshments first.

10. What now?

Yes, these things are mostly ceremonial. However, they are also an opportunity to meet some amazing people and hopefully have the chance to work with others who share similar interests.  As I am very interested in equity of opportunity for young people, particularly for those from diverse backgrounds, I hope tonight will be the catalyst for a few of those conversations…

Who knows right?

Oh – and for my friends who are interested, this was the total outfit (white pants…too risky!):

PS: Would it be tacky to say I’ve had Lorde stuck in my head all day?

kate4

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“My Agenda”

Apr 19, 2014 by

Hey hey hey! How are we all this Easter long weekend? I am cooped up in bed with a throat tickle and cold, thinking this is my body’s way of forcing me to have some time off.  Fair enough, but that isn’t going to stop me from furiously following the F1 and my lads Liverpool this weekend!  An awesome week of emails, study and sport. #Goodtimes…

Onto more formal matters…

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How much is your mother worth?

Apr 17, 2014 by

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“How much is your mother worth? How much money would your brother, sister or aunties be worth?”

The words rung in my ear.

Yesterday, I had the fortune to sit in a presentation by the Larrakia Foundation, a group that advocates for the interests of the Larrakia, the Aboriginal people of Darwin.

The cultures of the traditional owners is remarkably fascinating, and it always surprises me how little I know whenever I learn something new.

Granted, there are hundreds of different Aboriginal nations in Australia, all with their own languages, customs and types of beliefs.  Some things though, like the kinship system are found in many different ‘nations’, and I was amazed to only be finding out about it yesterday!

The lady in the presentation talked about many a thing, but one line in particular has remained with me.

“How much is your mother worth?” She asked.

“People tend to think the apology is about compensation. Tell me, how much money would you want if your mother was taken away?”

I shook my head to make sense of it. Although I have always had compassion for those affected by the stolen generation, it is when messages like that are shared that it is really brought home.  

Yes, we are not personally responsible as individuals who are descendant from those who made the decisions to persecute and oppress others.

However, we are responsible for having compassion for one another. We are responsible for ensuring that as a society, we look out for each other and not let race be a determining factor in our interactions.

That brings us to where we are now as a nation. The repeal (technically the amendment but it’s so weak it is essentially a repeal) of 18C and 18D in the racial anti-discrimination act is something I have been fuming about for a while.  You can send in submissions, and I’d suggest that.

Fundamentally though, for those who aren’t across the changes, my issue is this:

If we are to give people the right and permission to ‘be bigots’ as adults, what on earth are we teaching our children?

We talk about fighting bullying, yet we let people bully each other, publicly, because, why? It is in the interests of a small minority of powerful men? We talk about a fair go, and yet want to judge insult by the standards of the perpetrator?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the litigious nature of things that we forget the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is this:

Multiculturalism and diversity do not happen by accident.

We aren’t a beautiful mixed nation of migrants because a bunch of random people just decided to visit a huge island.  The fabric of our society is delicate, and something to be worked on.  We have to proactively support multiculturalism and cultural diversity in order to keep Australia thriving, not tear it down bit by bit so that groups feel more and more marginalised…

One day I hope we will look back and think, “woah, wasn’t that crazy? We almost let that happen… Thank goodness we didn’t.”

In this day and age though, I am not so sure.

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The F1 Come Down

Apr 1, 2014 by

The starting lap

The starting lap

 

It is that feeling you get when something so amazing happens that you can’t believe it ever happened at all.

The weekend of the Malaysia Grand Prix was my first foray into the world of Formula One journalism. Writing for Richard’s F1, I spent four days in the media centre, walking the paddock, scratching out articles, attending press conferences, laughing (loudly and often) and generally being in awe: in awe of the calibre and influence of the journalists in the room, in awe of the experience, in awe of the history.

Honestly, being able to speak to and joke with people whose work I have read and respected for a long time was surreal; being able to discuss the very issues that were pertinent to the sport in real time was ridiculous!  How I have been so fortunate (Alhamdulilah) to stumble into this world, I can only wonder.  Alhamdulilah, and a big shout out to Richard Bailey whose has been a staunch supporter, mentor and sponsor in this space.

It’s the small things that create the strongest memories really.

The reporters from all around the world, writing and talking in different languages;

The nicknames given to the different drivers by the journos;

Learning about the various cliques – who hangs out with who, who do you ask for this, where to go for that;

Richard and I walking up and down the paddock with the aim of meeting people and scoring interviews (Richard loving the drivers and my interests lying with learning more from the technical directors, engineers and principals).  Walking up and down the paddock sounds fine, until you experience Malaysia stifling 90+ % humidity and mid-30 temperatures…

Sharing in the junk food (sugar always seems to help the writing process, no matter how seasoned a professional);

The rush after an announcement to figure out what this means and write it up;

The build of up excitement at the start of the race: I must say, probably the best group of people to watch and F1 race with because literally, everyone is glued to the screen and taking notes.  Once the race started and the *gasps* and murmurs died down (the starts are always great to watch), the room was as serious as it had ever been all week. Of course, this is the business end of the weekend. This is what we are all here for…

Terrible, terrible jokes;

Being the new kid on the block.  Everything is fun and exciting and there are hundreds of new people to meet! Making new friends :)

Learning amazing history about the sport from people that were actually there;

Making Niki Lauda smile (yay!);

Technical conversations with guys who actually write the regulation and design(ed) the cars;

Realising that these are the people who tell the world about Formula One, and they are just as cool and interesting as their writing is.

I still can’t believe it (have I said that before yet?).  What surprised me was that although it is a place where you have to earn your stripes like any other, by and large people were quite friendly.  If you showed your keen interest, people were willing to help.  I guess that’s like anywhere really: you only really get out as much as you put in.

It is a bit of a drug though; I am not sure how I would fare attending an F1 in the near future and sitting in the grandstands.

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The press conference

I’d want to know what the stewards are saying, what the word on the street is regarding the latest controversial topic, what new distraction Bernie has concocted, what new challenges the engineers are facing.  So who knows.

I’m but no means formally qualified, but if there is one thing I like doing, it is asking questions.  It would seem that some of the best people at this job are the ones who know the right question to ask…

(Oh, and being an engineer doesn’t go down too badly either. It’s an engineer’s playground!)

Hopefully, inshallah, I will get the opportunity to do this again in the future.

In the meantime, memories will have to do…

#Sepang #MalaysianGP2014

#MH370

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Ricciadro’s dodgy pit stop

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LEWIS

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Marcus Ericsson Interview – Richard’s F1

Mar 28, 2014 by

Hey all! Check out my first interview with a real Formula One driver, Marcus Ericsson. A rookie on the grid with Caterham, Richard and I had a chat to him yesterday to see how it’s all going…

Read the piece on the site here!

Screenshot 2014-03-28 14.23.41

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Made it to Sepang! Arriving at the #F1

Mar 27, 2014 by

So, the adventure begins!

To be honest, I will be doing my gushing here :) The official business is happening on RichardsF1.com so head over that way to check out the reports and actual journalism that I will be doing with Richard over the #Sepang #MalaysiaGP but here…well here is where I let it all hang out :P

Backtrack – so I am now at the Malaysia GP as an accredited reported for the Malaysia GP (single round pass).  I arrived last night and we picked up passes this morning…

It is a pretty interesting crowd. Definitely a ‘who you know’ world, but that is motorsport.  The fun part is, I don’t think they have too many African-looking hijabis wondering around the paddock (covered head to toe in the sweltering Malaysian heat #likeabaws) so it’s always fun to be the one to mix things up a little…

Check out some of the happenings thus far:

Screenshot 2014-03-27 13.18.16

With Val Bottas from Mercedes as he ducked into the garage

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The press conference with the drivers. Best answer was Kimi: “No.”
That man has a way with words…

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Some stalkerish pappering of the Sky News crew with Martin Brundle doing his paddock walk…

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Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso doing his Spanish TV thing

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We came early to grab a spot in the media room…next to the track…ZOMG!

2014-03-27 12.38.27

Yes, Tires. Check out the difference in size between front and rears! Crazy #stillanengineer

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Daily Life: World Hijab Day should only be the start

Mar 20, 2014 by

Check out this piece I wrote for the Daily Life a little while back!

hijab

***

World Hijab Day was celebrated by a reported 116 countries around the world on 1 February this year.  The initiative, started by New Yorker Nazma Khan, seeks to promote understanding and harmony by celebrating the hijab and encouraging non-Muslims to try it on and see what it ‘feels like to be a Muslim’.

It is fantastic that the world came together to celebrate the hijab.  If, however, the aim is to foster true connection and understanding of Muslim women, the focus has to be on more than simply focus on what they wear.

The campaign has its merits; there is no denying that there is a space for symbolism in the public realm. But the initiative can also be seen as exploiting the symbolic nature of the hijab by using the style of covering as a gateway for people to engage with the religion in an introductory fashion.

The fact is, for better or for worse, the visibility of the hijab (and the ease in which it can be policed) has made it a powerful symbol. It has evolved into a lightening rod around which debates and discussions about Islam’s role in the West are centered and goes some way towards explaining why the concept of a ‘World Hijab Day’ is popular.

However, if the conversation stops at symbolism, which it so often does, the effect becomes to trivialise rather than achieve any sort of deeper connection and understanding.  By focusing on an item or style of clothing, we again run the risk of reducing Muslim women to objects.

Ironically, this is the complete opposite of what the hijab is designed to achieve.  By intimating that donning the hijab will allow the wearer to ‘see what life is like as a Muslim woman’, it also subtly implies that the hijab is one of the only things that makes a woman Muslim.  This does have the unfortunate side effect of ostracizing Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab.

This is not to say that the concept of World Hijab Day is entirely flawed.  By demystifying it in some sense, progress is made.  However, it becomes concerning when time and time again, the only discourse about Muslim women is confined to the hijab.

To enrich and broaden the narrative, we should instead focus on the stories, lives and achievements of Muslim women across the board, regardless of their choice of clothing.  We should recognise Muslim women as active and engaged members of the community. These are women who are doctors, engineers, accountants as well as  mothers, politicians and scholars.

Women like Ayesha Farooq, a female fighter pilot in Pakistan, or Ibtihaj Muhammad, a female fencing Olympian.  Women like my very own mother, who tells stories of standing up to soldiers during the coup in Sudan when she was a student.  She was never defined by her clothes but always by her steely determination to make the most of life and provide the best opportunities for her children.

It has to be said though, that part of the impetus is also on us as Muslim women.  We cannot simply continue to be defined by, and allow the world to define us by, the clothing and modesty choices we uphold.  We cannot wait for others to tell our story.  Although it may be frustrating to have to do so, these are the times we live in and so we have to actively ensure that the narratives we tell about ourselves are more than just about our physicality.

When we reach the point where the hijab is no longer something ‘remarkable’ in the literal sense of the word, we have reached a true understanding. Let’s aim for that.

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