In an International Women’s Day special on the Breaking Silos Podcast, Huda Hamid from Fempreneur Secrets dropped some truth bombs about pursuing business as a minority.

While we celebrate the great strides that women are taking every single day, it’s equally vital to acknowledge the persistent challenges that exist; even down to the sort of language that we think is “normal” to be used.

Huda also shared the important work that she is doing with her Fempreneur Academy, and also her new e-book on “The Art of Firing Your Boss”. Do check them out!

Are you facing challenges in succeeding in business and life? I would love to hear from you and help where I can. Leave your details below, to be updated on future silo-breaking content and activities.

In a think piece “Ensuring Good Health During the Hajj in a Time of the H1N1 Pandemic”, I  – together with researchers at the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies – commented on the progress and prospects of H1N1 pandemic mitigation efforts in Saudi Arabia leading up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in 2009.

The piece noted that despite the complex circumstances surrounding pandemic preparedness during the Hajj, successful mitigation of a pandemic spread is possible with efficient multi-sectoral cooperation amongst Hajj officials and pilgrims. Such efforts must also be given greater emphasis in the media so as to ensure accurate and holistic reporting of events thereby reduce the likelihood of media hypes of a pandemic outbreak.

To read the article, click here.

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This art piece is brilliant and reflective of the reality of who we really owe the beauty of our clean and green concrete landscape to.

I have often said to overseas friends, who are very impressed with Singapore’s cleanliness, that there is a reason for that. We have people to pick up after us. Oftentimes either elderly Singaporeans or foreign labourers. Call it job creation, if you wish.

As rough as it may sound, it is probably the case that, had there not been road sweepers, Singapore would not be as clean and green as it is. Why should it be that way? Shouldn’t we, as Singaporeans, take pride and the responsibility of ensuring the cleanliness of our own home? To the extent of picking up litter when we see it?

As Muslims, cleanliness and hygiene are strongly encouraged in Islam. Aside from ensuring your own personal cleanliness and hygiene, there is also an abundance of reference to ensuring the cleanliness of surroundings. One such Hadith reads:-

“Removing any harm from the road is charity (that will be rewarded by Allah).” (Bukhari)

Clearly, there is so much that an individual can do, moreover what Singapore Muslims can do as part of their civic and religious duty. It is part of our faith to protect the environment, which is in itself a service to society.

Happy birthday and happy Ramadan, Singapore!

Me: “I’m having a Green Iftar on National Day, and you’re welcome to come. We’ll be breaking our fast with all things vegetarian.”

Cousin:”Huh?! Where’s the meat? No meat, sure pengsan (faint), lah!”

Well,  no we didn’t pengsan.

I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do a little green iftar with a few environmentalists on Singapore’s 47th Birthday. While it was just a small group of girls (the boys couldn’t make it!), it was perfect way of testing out a new initiative with some heart-to-heart conversations on various topics related to the environment, as well as our faiths and cultures.

But… Why a Green Iftar?

1) Less consumption, more health

Simply put: To walk the sustainability talk.

Similar to other efforts by Green Muslims worldwide, we incoporated sustainable practices in our iftar. In a bid to reduce waste and carbon footprint, no disposable utensils were used during the event, and guests were encouraged to bring spare tupperwares to take home any leftovers. We even opted for using the fans instead of the air-con!

To make our iftar more personal and meaningful, each person was to bring a vegetarian dish to share. It was wonderful to have home-made nutritious dishes (some of which took quite a bit of effort) and just gain a greater appreciation for vegetarian food.

From vegetarian bee hoon and pasta to baked tomatoes stuff with quinoa and capsicum, wonderful salads and dips (including home grown ingredients like mint and bluepea) topped off with pound cake, homebaked cookies, fruits, juices and lemongrass tea. It was all deeeeelish!!! 😀

Healthy vegetarian iftar FTW!

2) Green Chit-Chat

One of the main aims of the green iftar was also for environmentalists to have a chance to get together and share their thoughts and experiences on various issues related to the environment. Topics of discussion included challenges in engaging sections of society to be more environmentally conscious, encouraging environmental conscious behaviour via highlighting the significant benefits to one’s health, ways of improving the connections between various stakeholders, the humane treatment of animals as part of food choices, the importance of environmental issues in intercultural exchange, and various tools/methods to enhance the sharing of experiences.

3) Enhancing inter-faith dialogue

What I found to be the best aspect of the green iftar, was the ability to use an environmental initiative for the benefit of other social and cultural exchanges. While my initial thoughts of invitees were to be Muslims, I chose to extend the invitation to non-Muslims as well. No man is an island, and the environmental movement is clearly a reflection of that. In addition to non-Muslim guests gaining greater insight to Islam and the diversity amongst Muslims, the green chit-chat was certainly enhanced with a discussion on the cultural aspects and values associated with the environment based on our own ethnic backgrounds. Common threads such as food and water have played significant roles in bringing communities together as well as a means of understanding and appreciating how nature works.

It was agreed that such spaces for sharing such environmental as well as cultural values and practices would be a way of transcending differences and a means of facilitating greater collaboration. With events such as  Diwali, Eid al Adha and Navratri coming up in the next few month, it would be a chance to have yet another similar gathering. Yay! 😀

Resources on the environment, faith and communities.

OK… Then what?

While the Green Iftar was a lovely experience, there are perhaps two factors that make it difficult to translate environmental (or any other) activities into something bigger. One comment was that the energy and enthusiasm created in environmental events tends to die off after a while, for the fact that people are sucked back into their “normal” life. Another comment was because society prefers to remain passive and would only latch on to an initiative if there’s a “leader” spearheading it. While this may be to extent true, I’d like to have some hope that there are some people in society that care enough and are willing to experiment on their own.

Leading people is good, but empowering people to be leaders in their own right would be so much better. Moreover, for initiatives that encourage personal behavioural change, you are ultimately your own leader. Taking the effort to have a green iftar with one’s own family and friends outside environmental circles, for instance, will be a challenge but is ultimately the best chance of avoiding being ‘sucked’ back into the normality of careless consumption.

10-day Ramadan Challenge for fellow Muslim brothers and sisters:-

As we commit to more intensive spiritual reflection and rituals in commemoration of Lailatul Qadr in the last 10 days of Ramadan, let’s also make a conscious effort to reinforce one of the main reasons of why we are fasting. To put ourselves in the position of those who have so much less than us. To put ourselves in the position of those that can’t afford meat, let alone enjoy a decent meal.

Several Muslims have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt healthier and greener iftars, if we put our minds to it. Do try to take the effort to reduce your meat intake during this tail end of Ramadan, which just means making a conscious decision of what you want to eat. Encourage family members, such as mothers, to cook vegetarian recipes that are nutritious but also filling. For Muslims in Southeast Asia, think sayur asam rebus, sambal tempeh/telur, kacang pool, or even a banana shake! It would also be much easier to have vegetarian meals at this point, given the fact that many of us would already naturally have a smaller appetite after fasting for the past 20 days. If you must, then limit white meat intake to a couple of days a week.  More importantly, do share the experience and beauty of Ramadan to your non-Muslim friends.

Still can’t get over just having veggies for iftar and sahur? Well think about it, at least you know it’s been worth it while you’re busy stuffing yourself on Eid! 😉

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Yes, it is possible to take wudhu with such a slow water flow. There is no doubt that many of us are so used to letting the tap flow profusely without giving a second thought to how much water we are wasting.

“Do not waste water… Even if you are taking [ablution] from a big running river”
— Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Abu Dawood & Ibn Majah

Some people may still not be convinced that a small water flow will be enough. I say that’s just psychological and an over-reliance of having more than less. I personally found that cupping your hands together to collect the water before performing each wudhu action would create a water flow that is just as sufficient when cleansing each body part.

It may take a few seconds more than usual, but it’s so worth it because you’ll be saving bucket-loads before you know it.

NB: No water was wasted when taking this photograph.

It’s halfway through Ramadan already and many of us are wishing time didn’t pass so fast. This blessed month is indeed an opportune time for spiritual cleansing, charity and quality family time. That said, how many of us have actually used Ramadan as a time to reflect on our consumption patterns.  While we have controlled our appetites during daylight hours, how many of us have actively made healthier eating options come sunset? Ramadan is clearly the best time to make these changes slowly. Here are some thoughts:-

1) Get them tupperwares ready!

What is perhaps even harder than the actual fast itself, is avoiding a binge fest after breaking the fast. We’ve all had the “oh-I-want-this-and-oh-yummy-I-want-that” feeling in the last few hours before maghrib (Warning: Ramadan bazaaars!). The tendency of having more food than can actually be consumed still happens, especially during family and communal iftars. And that is, in some ways, understandable. Everyone brings something to share with everyone else, but sometimes, it just ends up being too much.  That said, we can avoid it and minimise wastage simply by (1) planning how much food is needed given the amount of people expected to turn up, and knowing who’s bringing what; and (2) taking home leftovers for sahur or the next day’s iftar.

Several folks have sought to encourage these practices. From the US ,where Green Muslims in DC have had their first “Leftar”, to greenies in Malaysia encouraging people to BYO bag and food containers to the various pasar Ramadans to reduce the use of diposables.   In Singapore, a bunch of Project ME-ers are also planning to have a little Green Iftar (test run!) very soon. Stay tuned for more news on that.

2) Making those vitamins and minerals count.

Various health experts have noted the benefits of eating your fruits before rather than after your meal, particularly for so that the vitamins and minerals from the fresh fruits are absorbed by our bodies at an optimal rate. Current sunnah (Prophetic practices) on breaking your fast can already facilitate this. In one of the many articles available on how to control our appetites in Ramadan, one of main tips has been to open the fast with something small (dates or water), take a little time-out to do maghrib prayers, and then back to the dinner table and go slow with the rest of the food.  Hence, adding some fruits to go with the dates and water when breaking your fast just makes sense.

So while its really tempting to grab a pakora at the sound of the azan, try a slice of papaya, pear, plum or pineapple instead.

3) Just do it!

People tend to disregard the significance of making baby steps in affecting change. Change starts with oneself, and the little steps will have a personal impact, granted we put in the effort to do so, InshaAllah. Here’s a little snippet of my recent sahur and iftar meals. Aside from the greens and fruits, I had a easy-peasy DIY date smoothie (you can opt for a naughtier option  with ice-cream or whole cream) and got some bubur masjid (a.k.a. porridge from one of the local mosques) from a colleague (Thanks Pak Karim!).

Glad to say, I’ve survived the day, and the breaking of fast with fruits was refreshing and detoxifying 🙂

Anti-Clockwise: Cherries, Dates and Kiwi for iftar, DIY Date shake for sahur, greens and porridge for both iftar and sahur. Yum!

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.”

— Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via Tirmidhi.

Enough said. Salam Ramadan!

Screenshot from MuzlimBuzz.sg

How awesome is that? I got interviewed by NTUMS’s Eleven and MuzlimBuzz.sg!

Thanks very much folks, for listening to my two cents worth on the need to increase environmental awareness and action amongst Muslims.

It is my hope that such messages will in time be shared further and ultimately reach a critical mass for a truly environmentally conscious Ummah, inshaAllah 🙂

If you haven’t checked out the interviews yet, click here for the Muzlimbuzz article  and here for the Eleven article.

For me, it was 20 minutes ago on Youtube. And that could possibly be the first time I have watched one. Most of the qurbans that I can recall done for my family during Eid Al Adha were through friends in Indonesia, so that they would give the meat to the less fortunate there.  We’d get photographs of our designated sacrificial goats a couple of weeks later.

While it is scientifically clear that the Islamic way of slaughtering animals is the most humane way, I’m still quite a wimp and feel a little queazy watching it happening in motion.

Nevertheless, it is a symbolic reminder of Prophet Ibrahim’s (a.s) act of sacrifice for his devotion to Allah.

In some ways, I think it’s also God’s way of reminding us where our meat comes from. Not from the supermarket, but from a 4 legged herbivore.

Eid Mubarak to all!

CAUTION: Not recommended for those allergic to blood or wimps like me!

Three things need to be shared worldwide: clean and green living, good soulful music and lots of love.

While much of the work on this blog has highlighted the former, Junoon – the U2 of Pakistan – has been one of my main inspirations for the latter two. This article has been written in commemoration of Junoon’s 20th Anniversary.

Thank you Salman Ahmad for asking me to contribute a piece to this wonderful milestone. Allah Hafiz!

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Selamat Hari Jadi ke-20, Junoon![1]

I can’t actually remember how I got to know about Junoon. It must have been the result of a random search on Youtube in the late 90s. But I’m thankful for that random Youtube search, as Junoon music videos demonstrate a combination of some of my favourite things – Sufism, Rock Music and awesome beats to be grooving to… (and ok yes, I’ll admit.. a pretty darn cute guitarist!!)

Students of political science and international relations, such as myself, are accustomed to the term ‘soft power’ as coined by Prof Joseph Nye of Harvard University. Soft power refers to factors such as values and cultures which are primary currencies in influencing world politics. This is opposed to notions of hard power, where the use of military force and coercion are paramount.

One of the best biographies I've ever read.

Junoon is by far one of the best examples of soft power. As the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Junoon’s songs have clearly crossed linguistic and territorial boundaries far beyond the Indian sub-continent. Junoon’s music has and continues to be a shining beacon of peace and love.

Junoon’s ability to transcend linguistic barriers is clearly reflected in my own circumstances – a Singaporean with pretty much a 90% non-Urdu speaking background. The use of Urdu in my family pretty much stopped with my paternal grandmother. She did not speak Urdu with her children as it was the “secret” language that she would use with her elders!

In 2002, my love for Junoon grew more than just as a fan on Youtube and downloaded music videos on Napster. JUNOON WAS COMING TO SINGAPORE! I still remember going to Kallang Theatre with my pal Vik and seated right smack in the middle. Although down with a flu, I was still determined to be there to see Junoon in the flesh. *Hi Salman!!*

It was a great night, with fans both young and old clapping and bobbing their heads to the hypnotic beats. There was no mosh pit, but half way through the concert, some youth made their own in front of the stage.

Junoon was also particularly significant in my undergraduate years in Perth, Australia, where I and a fellow Singaporean friend, Jeskiran, would be crooning away during meal times in our hostel’s dining hall and beating dining tables like tablas.  Top tracks were Yaar Bina Dil Mera and Sayonee. It was such good fun for us, though our other girlfriends would often cringe when we hit the high and long notes.

It’s been about 6 years since those dining hall duet days, but Jeskiran and I still take the opportunity to drum tables in restaurants when we girls have get-togethers. More importantly, 20 years on, the spirit of Junoon continues to drum up passion and love for one and all.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Junoon!


[1] translation of title: Happy 20th Anniversary, Junoon (in Malay).