The Damage Done – Updated 26/02/28

Last month, Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger, two extremely talented actors, each died from a drug overdose.

Today Steven Wright was convicted of the murders of Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls. All of the women were killed while working as prostitutes. Like 95% of prostitutes in the U.K, they worked as prostitutes in order to fund their drug addiction.*

The pernacious nature of substance abuse is such that it affects all sectors of society. Most people know at least one person who is/was an addict. I can look at my high school year photograph and point to several people who became heroin addicts (crack had yet to reach my home town then.).

The tragedy of drug addiction is that it obliterates you. Your personality, integrity family relationships, friends, work, study. It takes over your existence and then it takes your life.

I grew up with the “Just Say No” and “Heroin Screws You Up” messages. Since then, drugs have become even cheaper and more readily available then ever before. When I was a teenager, cocaine was for the rich, now everyone can afford it every weekend.

Not everyone who experiments with drugs becomes addicted, in all honesty, many are unscathed.

However, for those who are not so fortunate, they enter the murky world of criminality and various treatment programmes of varying effectiveness and accessibility.

How can we stop people becoming addicts and if that fails, how can we treat drug addiction?

I don’t know what the solution is, just that we seem as far from it as ever.

*2004 ‘Paying the Price’ Home Office Consultation paper.

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Women working as prostitutes are frequently the victims of violence. Wright was not the first serial killer to prey on sex workers.

The media coverage throughout the case has been laudable in humanising the victims, for indeed their lives and descent into drug addiction was as tragic as their deaths.

For many people street prostitiutes fall even below the scope of pity. Sadly this means they frequently exist outside of any available help or support too.

From their tragic deaths, a dialogue has opened about why people are driven to sell their bodies and how they can be helped to leave the streets. It is to be hoped that this dialogue continues and organisations are given the funding and support they deserve.

I used to live near a red light district. At any time of the day there would be women stood waiting for customers. In good weather they wore short skirts and knee high boots, leggings or tight jeans when it was cold. Their faces spoke of what they needed the money for. Crack, heroin and unhappiness are anti beauty treatments.

I understood why these women were there, what puzzled me was who was paying for their services and why. What appeal could possible lie with these women? How could you derive pleasure from having sex with someone who is so obviously unwell? Street prostitution exists because there is a market for it. Until we understand the minds of the ‘customers’, this is unlikely to change.

There have been two further cases of the brutal murders of women this week. Both the men had prior histories of sexual violence and assault.

For an excellent analysis of these murders and the flaws in a criminal justice system, which is lamentably failing to protect women, click here: 

Memes by request and inclination

Firstly, I know things have been rather sluggish around here of late. Insha Allah I will be trying to produce more posts soon.

Naeem came up with a meme derived from some odd American snack food. It’s basically things to do before you are 18. Since no one actually tagged me to do this, I feel free to tweak the memo and make it more advice orientated.

In doing this, I thought back to myself when I was 18. I wasn’t Muslim, nor was I ready to be, so this advice doesn’t contain much about Islamic practice… or does it?

1)Don’t be caged by comparisons. Too many people spend their lives comparing themselves to other people and feeling bad in comparison. Try to avoid this. Find out what makes you happy and what you are satisfied with and remember, everyone is different and that is a good thing.

2)Now puberty is over, this is the body and face that you are going to live with. Accept this and start appreciating and looking after them now. A lot of people never learn to love their bodies as they are and it just results in lots of unhappiness and rich plastic surgeons.

3) Respect yourself and act accordingly. I’m going to make a big generalisation now, but I see far too many women being treated badly because they do not feel they deserve better. You do. Believe that and makes sure everyone close to you does too.

4)Don’t be cruel. When I was a child my parents used to play a lot of Roy Orbison. The big O sang a lot of sad songs, one in particular was about being left alone on the ferris wheel while his date talks to another man*. I can remember my Mum explaining to me what the song was about and telling me to never be cruel and to think of people’s feelings. Some people are nasty, others just thoughtless. Always try, no matter what the situation, to keep in mind what the other person is feeling. Don’t be insincere, play games, or make promises you can’t keep. Accept that sometimes doing the right thing may be difficult, but it is far better then the alternative.

Converts are generally meant to feel crippled with guilt about the salacious actions of their pre-conversion lives**, but what I feel most guilty about isn’t so much my actions, but some of my actions towards other people. You do not want to be in the situation, however many years down the line, where you realise how awful you were to another person and you know that there is no way you can apologise to them now.

5)Be thankful. The world does not exist for your benefit. You are an adult now, so you have to leave all that entitled “I didn’t ask to be born” stuff behind. When people are good to you, thank them. Even if they are family and especially if they are your parents.

6)You don’t know all the answers and you will fall flat on your face, at least once. Nothing worthwhile is instant and that includes maturity. You don’t need to have your whole life mapped out now. Concentrate on getting the step ahead of you right and take it from there.

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Book meme. Tagged by Dave.

The Rules.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).

2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the 5th Sentence.

4. Post the next 3 sentences.

5. Tag 5 people.

So over to the bookcase. Mr Outlines is a lover of books and a hogger of the bookcase, so it takes some rifling before I find a book that is 1)In English 2) Mine.

Reel Bad Arabs by Jack G. Shaheen
“When the Egyptian returns, the clever captain provokes Easterling, saying “You (and the Egyptian) are partners, I presume.” Protests Easterling, “Partners , me eye. He works for me.”

Arabs in Hollywood. Poorly portrayed since *checks book* 1906. Although most Arab roles aren’t actually played by Arabs and what few Arab actors there are often play white or hispanic/latino characters***.

I tag LuckyFatima, Ali, Alina, ForeverLoyal and Lou Lou.
*I had to look this up. It’s called The Comedians and was actually written by the genius that is Elvis Costello. For the lyrics, click here.

**I’m being a bit sarcastic here. It pains me that there is this expectation that you can’t talk about anything in your ‘past life’ without saying “Astagfurallah” and looking suitably repentant. Insha Allah, I will write more about this soon.

*** Monk (starring the Lebanese-American Tony Shalhoub) is cool though. It’s also my Mum’s favourite tv programme, just to continue’s this post’s theme of my Mum’s entertainment preferences.

Divorce Sharia Style

Divorce CakeThe above is the title of a Channel 4 documentary screened on the 3rd February. The focus of the documentary was the Sharia board in London and how they provided counselling and fatwas to the local community.

The documentary was quick to point out that many Muslims in Britain are caught between their culture and their religion and the contradictions between the two.

It also made clear what a fatwa was and that they are not binding upon a Muslim, one can chose to follow the fatwa or discard it.

As the above issues are frequently misinterpreted by the media, it was good to see such clarifications.

The programme featured the cases of three couples (for more details click here) and the thoughts of one of the sheikh concerning sharia law in the U.K.

However, as the documentary sadly showed, too many Muslims are ignorant of Sharia. If we Muslims do not know the sharia, nor know how to live by it, then what use is having it as law?

Sharia is just not words on a page, or worrying about what people watch on TV, it’s how you live your life.

People see the Sharia as something in a glass case, to be used in case of fire or other diabolical event, but living by the Sharia can prevent such fires ever occurring.

We focus on the halal/haram. “If it’s not haram, I can do it”. Where is common sense, where is respect for others, for our responsibilities, for the consequences?

I don’t blame the shayukh. You ask them for the ruling; they will give it to you. Whether it’s wise to follow that ruling is for the individual to decide. Just like you can phone the speaking clock for the time and it will state it, but it won’t tell you that you should get up now or you will be late for work.

Until we change our ways, having legal sharia law is as much use as putting window boxes on a house with a leaky roof.