REFLECTIONS FROM THE CREATOR OF HILMY

Written by Rae Norridge
Originally posed on http://www.kubepublishing.com

Every year brings new challenges to us all, and every year we are that bit older. I ask myself, ‘Am I that bit wiser?’

I am in the fortunate position to travel and experience this beautiful world we live in. As an artist, my eyes are constantly seeking new colours, textures and subjects to paint. As an author, my mind searches for new tales to tell, drawing inspiration from the rich diversity nature has to offer. Sitting at a waterhole, with only the sound of the grass rustling in the wind and the constant chatter of the birds is an enriching experience for me. It gives me time to reflect on life.

Very often, in this busy world, we forget the simple rules and principles that make our lives, and the lives of our friends and families, more tolerant and peaceful.

I have written the Hilmy the Hippo series for young children, but I fervently hope that some adults can learn from Hilmy’s adventures too. For those who have not read the series, Hilmy is the central character in each book, and in each adventure that Hilmy undertakes, we learn a lesson in life. Although these stories are simply told, the message is deeply meaningful. I believe we all have a little bit of Hilmy in us. He reminds us of our own human frailties.

We live in a ‘quick fix’ world, the world of the remote control, the egotistical world of ‘this is me’ social network sites, the deceitful world of photo-shopping, the tragic world or cyber-bullying, and so the list goes on. We all need time to reflect on nature, to learn how to take time out from the pressures of the cyber world. Nature, in it’s simplicity, can give us the answers to the complexities of life.

A rhino is killed every nine-and-a-half hours in Africa. Elephants are poached for the greedy desire for ivory. Habitats are destroyed for logging, housing and industry. Should we continue this destruction of our beautiful planet?

We need, as parents and as adults, to take time to reflect on nature and to teach our children the importance of conserving the diminishing world of our natural environment.

In the Hilmy the Hippo series, I have tried to bring to life the characters and the habitat in which they live. I hope that these stories sew the seeds of caring for our environment, protecting and not exploiting endangered creatures like Hilmy and his friends.

Our children are growing up in a challenging world. We, as parents, need to guide them along the path to being caring and happy adults, and to share this beautiful planet with all Allah’s creatures.

Interview with Hijab Boutique author, Michelle Khan

The interview below was originally posted on http://woodturtle.wordpress.com/

Why did you want to write a book about hijab?

I think hijab is beautiful. The styles. The fabrics. The religious concept behind it. I personally am not a hijabi, but I know women who do adhere. This story idea blossomed when my Bangladeshi-Canadian family doctor decided to become a hijabi as an adult. I wanted to explain this process of change through the eyes of a child. I wanted to teach the values of Islam surrounding hijab. So I did my research, and learned.

I also used my main character, Farah, to point out the frustrations some kids face as a result of their mother’s devotion to hijab. For instance, Farah labels her mother “b-o-r-i-ng” in respect to how glamorous the other students’ mothers appear at Miss Peabody’s Academy. Soon enough, both Farah and readers learn how interesting Mrs. Khan actually is. Her life experiences speak for themselves.

Do you see yourself as a feminist/womanist? And if so, how do you describe your feminism/womanism?

I believe in the power of women. I believe in equal rights. I believe in freedom of choice. In other words, I am a FEMINIST!!! However, you won’t find me burning my bra under the false stereotypical image of what it (cough) means to be a feminist.

I think as a feminist it’s really, really important not to judge other women. We shouldn’t become enemies within ourselves. For instance, Farah Khan (the main character in my book) learns via her mother that some people are quick to judge hijabis by rationalizing that Muslim females are “oppressed” women. Farah now knows better than that. In actuality, many feminists believe hijabis are the ultimate feminists because they refuse to be seen as sex objects. Neat concept, huh?

On the flipside, I’ve learned a lot about European culture through my wonderful fiancée, Alan. In many of our conversations, he’s remarked how some women from his origins (Italy) feel the freedom and choice to reveal their bodies is a form of feminism. It’s ironic how two opposing sides of the same coin fit under one umbrella of “feminism.”

The bottom line is: We’re not here to judge. Rather, as women we should feel compassion for one another. Our world would be much better that way.

What is your religious background and do you consider yourself to be religious now?

I don’t think my religion should be a promotional tool. I don’t want people to purchase my book based on the fact that I am Muslim or not. I want people to take an interest in the “The Hijab Boutique” because they want to read a good story.

Yes, I do believe in a Higher Power. When I pray, I do it with passion. It comes from my heart. Insomuch, I’ve burst into tears with emotion at times. Read: The concept of religion fascinates me. Dearly. In fact, I took religion courses while studying at University of Toronto. Someone once asked: “Why do you want to study such a silly topic?” At the time, I was dumbfounded. My answer today: “I don’t regret it one bit.” I only believe this knowledge has added dimension to my character.

Do you have any children? If so, how have they influenced your writing?

No, I don’t have any little ones yet. I’m not sure if I ever will. I can’t seem to make up my mind! However, like religion, children fascinate me. I’m always curious to know how their thoughts operate. I love how they absorb the world around them. I admire their energy. I can’t get enough of their carefree attitude. Is it any surprise that I write for
kids? (Insert laugh.) You’ll often find me gabbing or playing with some special kiddos in my life. We interact like friends. I guess I have that luxury since I don’t have to enforce rules!

In any case, I’m often told that I’m a “big kid at heart.” Being in touch with youthful innocence helps me tune into writing children’s literature. While penning “The Hijab Boutique,” I made it a point to think like Farah all the time. In the same way, an actor does to make a screenplay come to life. This is just my way of nitpicking details out of my characters.

What made you decide to write an Islamic children’s book?

This story came to me very naturally. Scene after scene, played in my head like a machine. Islam is a very beautiful, rich religion. Why wouldn’t I want to write about it?

RE Today reviews Dr Hany El Banna book

Dear readers,

We are proud and pleased to be able to share a review by RE Today of Suma Din’s book Dr Hany El Banna: A Servant to the World’s Poorest People. We knew it was a little gem of a book that set out to do something new and important but it is always nice to know other people agree with us, especially those we hope will use it most: teachers.

  • This excellent well-written book gives a contemporary, positive example of Islam in action. [The book] can be read by students 12 upwards … in the RE, Geography or Citizenship curriculum.
  • The book supports several areas of study at examination level such as conflict resolution, war, poverty and marriage but is also useful for younger students’ study of beliefs in action, justice and Islam in general.
  • … an inspiring, interesting and engaging book which fills a gap, providing an example of a contemporary Muslim acting out his beliefs in the world today. It is excellent value for money and I expect to see this in school libraries and RE classrooms very soon.

Reprinted with the kind permission of RE Today. 

Free resources to help integrate this book into the national curriculum are also available https://thekubeblog.wordpress.com/free-resources/

Copies are available from most good online retailers, including the Kube website http://www.kubepublishing.com/shop/dr-hany-el-banna-a-servant-to-the-worlds-poorest-people-3/ 

Dr Hany El Banna book ‘born’ in Lincolnshire

Dear readers, Salaams and greetings,

Suma Din, the author of our latest book, ‘Dr Hany El Banna: A Servant to the World’s Poorest People‘, has given us an exclusive post on her recent book launch at Living Islam 2011, and her experience working with the humanitarian role model, Dr Hany El Banna. 

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