Unexpected: Chicago’s Anti-Teen Pregnancy Campaign

S Hasan

Chicago is targeting young males through a controversial ad campaign in an effort to raise awareness against teen pregnancy. The ads show pregnant teenage boys, with provocative tag-lines such as ‘unexpected? most teen pregnancies are’, to get people thinking and spark some serious dialogue. While Chicago’s teen birth rate has decreased 33% from 1999 to 2009, it still remains 1.5 times higher than the national average. Interestingly, similar ad campaigns run previously in Milwaukee and New York City have shown significant decreases in teen pregnancy.

The ads direct viewers to visit Be You Be Healthy, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Public Health’ Office of Adolescent and School Health (OASH), to raise awareness about adolescent health issues and provide easy-to-read resources. I find the layout of the website surprisingly much more appealing than the typical grant-funded/government-sponsored online repository, and the content too seems informative. It is not bogged down with extraneous details and seems relative to the comprehension level of the 21st century learner.

There are of course some concerns about the sensitivity of the ads towards transgendered individuals, which ads to the controversy and forces one to dig deeper. The purpose of the campaign is to relay the message that teen pregnancies effect the entire community, and I think this concern ads a layer to the conversation that perhaps was not considered before.

I encourage you to visit the website, and think about how you and I can contribute to the conversation.

Brainstorming for Sexual Assault Awareness in our communities

S Hasan

The other day I was looking up local Sexual Assault Awareness Month events and thinking about ways to get people from our (‘our’ in this case = Muslim) communities to come out and participate. I started to imagine people who came to my mind first and their responses if I were to make a suggestion, instigate involvement. The aunties and/or their daughters and the looks I projected on their faces in my mind were discouraging images.

As I continued to indulge my faulty expectations regarding an imagined conversation with community members, a parallel (and far more positive) train of thought began to brew: I wondered how we could spread awareness in our communities that were specifically tailored to Muslims? Surely we could at least hold an event such as handing out ribbons, spark dialogue. What could we come up with on our own? I mean, in the (hopefully not so distant) future I would think it would be cool to have one of these tailored towards our own community, but there is a long way to go before that comes into fruition. I was curious to see what kind of resources were easily/google accessible to me now- as a Muslim woman, if I were searching for help, answers, counseling, anything.

While I found some interesting links, some directing me to neat organizations such as a Directory of Programs serving Muslims, I also inevitably encountered a lot of misinformation. What piqued my interest was a campaign run by Canadian Muslims called Muslims for White Ribbon. This was a neat although short campaign that ran this past winter; their motto: "Never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls". It made me really happy to see this initiative pop up in my google search even though this was specifically about women and girls, and it is important to keep in mind that when we talk about Sexual Assault Awareness we shouldn’t just refer to assault against women; 1 in 33 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape – that’s 3% of the men in this country that have been able to report it. I wonder then if there are similar initiatives American Muslims have taken or are working on. And if we haven’t yet started, when do we plan on getting something together? Would this be a difficult initiative to take? What are your thoughts?

Rape is OK When

a. You dress provocatively?

b. You get him excited sexually?

c. You are in a relationship?

d. You are either stoned or drunk?

The correct answer: none of the above, rape is never OK. Most of you are probably thinking, “Duh, what an obvious answer!” Yes, the answer to this question should be a clear cut, common sense answer for everyone. We all should know rape can never be justified. Shockingly, however, not everyone will agree. Some people will actually choose from the options given above. There are many adolescents, and even adults, today who believe that forced sexual activity can be acceptable, depending on the circumstances.

I was going through my news feed on Facebook one day and I came across a survey that was taken at a public high school. The survey asked students when it was acceptable for a boy to hold a girl down and force her to have sex. A variety of possible scenarios were given including: if the boy is intoxicated, the girl dresses in sexually exciting clothing, they are in a relationship, or if the girl has led the guy on. On average, 43.7% of the male students, and 25.33% of the female students, answered, that in any of these situations rape is acceptable. These ideas that “the girl was asking for it” or “she deserved it” (or- “he deserved it”) have become such common justifications for something as atrocious as rape. We may think that everyone knows forced sexual activity is unacceptable no matter what, but the fact is many kids either do not know or do not want to accept that rape will NEVER be acceptable.

There are many articles and surveys indicating that people think rape are acceptable. The need for awareness, advocacy, and education about sexual violence should be apparent. We need to teach children, and everyone for that matter, that it is NEVER ok to be raped or coerced into any form of sexual activity. They need to be informed that they have the right to be respected and loved, not humiliated or abused. They also need to know that no matter what the situation, a forced sexual act will never be accepted or tolerated.

Today’s generation needs better role models, more education and awareness, and a stronger/safer system to ensure that nobody ever feels that they deserve to be mistreated/disrespected, or that they have the right to violate another person in any way. And these factors: positive role models, proper education, and a strong system start in our homes and schools. Creating awareness about sexual violence, advocating for the rights and respect of people, and instilling these positive morals in our children (the future leaders and building blocks of our society) are just some ways to ensure that we do our part to protect and educate our future generation.

Written By- Sabaahath Latifi

April is SAAM

S Hasan

Now that all the bunnies have been reverse anthropomorphized and the eggs have been found, what better way to kick April off than by shining a light on it!

My all time FAVORITE awareness month became officially official in 2009 per a very scholarly source. While April 2nd (today) was the intended Day of Action, the best part about this month is that you can make each day your Day of Action: start for now by wearing your teal ribbon proud and loud, taking an oath to speak up whenever and wherever you should, and taking a few minutes each day to making yourself more informed while you try to inform others.

On that last note we’ll try our best to contribute by posting resources we find helpful, definitions you should be aware of, curious current events (honestly, I’m stuck on how brilliant the recently coined Rape Ross is…opinions to follow soon) and the like.

For now though I will leave you with my favorite myth from RVA’s list of Myths & Facts:

MYTH: All women secretly want to be raped.
Women, like all human beings, want a life of dignity and safety. Sexual assault robs a person of dignity and a sense of personal safety. No one wants the physical and emotional pain caused by sexual assault.

Why I run (and why you should too)

Why I run (and why you should too)

Hello HEART blog readers!

My name is Alia Azmat and I am hoping to contribute to the site frequently this year. I get excited about all things related to food, fitness and the female body. I hope my writing hits a note with someone in this giant Internet abyss. I can’t wait to connect with you all!

Last month I read HEART co-founder, Ayesha Akhtar’s piece on the important of self-worth in healthy relationship. I was inspired by this Valentine’s post to reflect on what gives my life meaning and what I do in my free time to feel good. Eating and watching 30 Rock episodes in my pajamas makes me feel great! But I don’t think that is what Ayesha was talking about. When I want to relax I like doing my nails (Muslim chicas check out “halal” H2O nail polish) and when I want to reconnect with myself I run. So that weekend I decided I should pick up an old passion, long distance running.

I started running long distance in high school as a means to stay in shape. I used to be horrified when we had to “run the mile” in gym class until I realized the more you run, the better you get at it! I finally mustered up enough courage to join my high school cross country team my senior year and was pleasantly surprised to learn running is not only a solo activity but can also be a team effort! The team I was on was so incredibly supportive and kind, even when I was the last one to finish.

During this time I found running to be an entirely mental battle. I remember breathlessly panting to a friend during an early run, “let’s…just…get…to the stop sign”. Soon, the stop sign became a tree farther down the road and soon that tree became the one-mile mark. It wasn’t long before I could run without stopping for a few miles. My mind seemed to know more about how capable my body was in times of distress. Reaching those goals early on was an incredible reminder of how powerful my mind is in persevering through times of misery and how resilient our bodies have been built! So my first reason for running is a reminder of the command I have over my mind, body, and spirit. When I run on my own I am invigorated by the power I carry with a determined mind and functioning legs. When I run with others, I nourish myself emotionally. If I am training for a race, it is an opportunity to challenge myself physically.

Reason number two is intertwined with the mental challenge running poses. As a young adult sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the appearance-based and competitive culture around us. Who has the hottest outfits, the newest makeup, the “best” body, the most well paying job. Running replaces that small voice of insecurity in me that says I am not good enough by allowing me to define my goals and standards outside of anyone else. I am amazing, not because of what I look like or how I dress but because of what I can do. I am strong (my brother might disagree with me on this one) and I am proud of every single part of my body that carries me through the miles I run each week.

Maybe you think your stomach isn’t flat enough. Maybe someone made a comment on your “childbearing hips” that you can’t seem to brush off. Maybe you have a few blemishes or maybe you are worried you are too tall/short/light/dark to be selected as a mate. Guess what! Everything I mentioned has nothing to do with your quality of being, your essence, and more importantly, your ability to give to the world. They are physical features, features that will change (for better or worse) with age, and features we have limited control over. The level of sophistication with which you write and speak, your critical thinking skills, your interpersonal skills, and your activity levels are talents you can cultivate. So run! Or walk. Or get your Zumba on in the basement. But get active. Because you are not only helping your self-esteem, your physical, and emotional well being, but also hopefully setting a precedent for your young siblings, cousins, and someday daughters. In my case, when I recognize how strong and resilient I am during my runs, I remind myself to be just as hard working and giving in other aspects of my life.

I hope you find an activity that empowers and engages your body and is as fun as challenging as running is to me. Remember that exercise is important for your body and mind. Use it as a means to be grateful not discontent. Comment below if you have any questions or concerns.

If you are in the Chicago-land area and are not ready for outdoor workouts, check out HEART’s Bootcamp & Nutrition Extravaganza March 23 from 9:00am-2:30pm and bring a friend to kick start your fitness routine.

Until next time,


“Why I Don’t Use the ‘F’ Word” – saniasufi.wordpress.com

Just wanted to share this….it has some interesting insights on Western Feminism and its implications for women of color and Muslims across the world.

Check it out: http://saniasufi.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/why-i-dont-use-the-f-word/

Why are Western values the yardstick to which other society’s morals and principles are to be judged by?

"We can definitely see the discourse of “Feminism” as a tool of modern day imperialism through examining the ongoing “War on Terror”. While the US and its allies use military warfare against those who resist their authoritarian and unconscionable rule, another tactic is cultural warfare, or to alter the “hearts and minds” of its subjects through Imperialist motivated cultural and political centers (Human Rights organizations, Financial Institutions such as the IMF & World Bank, Charity/Educational Organizations such as USAID, etc.). Thus, most of these Western institutions and ideas currently act as an “ideological wing” of the War on Terror. By using “Feminism” to critique the Muslim world, the underlying perception is that the Muslim World is an underdeveloped and uneducated region, consisting of medieval concepts exemplified through treatment of women, and thus are in dire need of a Western and lofty (both adjectives are synonymous) “civilizing mission” in the form of laws, education, religion, culture, and just about everything else."

Homosexuality: scientific studies and therapy. by Sehar Sufi

In an effort to broaden the discussion on homosexuality on this blog, I tried to look for resources that expounded on homosexuality through a purely scientific lens, with no religious or opinionated bias. By no means have I researched it extensively, but I wanted to share what I found that so far I thought was a significant source for educational information and scientific studies on the subject.

http://narth.com/ is a website full of educational information on homosexuality and they also offer therapy for people who are trying to fight their urges…people who may be of the belief that it is not natural to have homosexual urges. This excerpt is from the "about" portion of the website:


Other members simply feel a scientific and ethical responsibility to present what science can and cannot say about homosexuality as well as to foster psychological care consistent with the best outcomes for those who seek it. Such care should be extended to all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. In the spirit of diversity and anchored to the ethical principles of client self-determination and client autonomy, NARTH members are committed to providing scientifically grounded psychological care rendered in the context of compassion. While NARTH may disagree with a more popular worldview, and assert that homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people, disagreement is not discrimination. Such attempts to label NARTH’s position as "bigoted" or "hateful" are straw man attacks and are unsound.

Browse through the website’s articles and feel free to let us know what you think. Could something like this be used in Muslim communities for those who seek this kind of therapy? What would our therapy comprise of?

Also, check out what one well-known and knowledgeable American scholar says about the view of homosexuals in the Muslim community: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HisIwWhyU34

"We don’t classify people by tendencies, we classify people by actions."

“I Am Not Haraam” – A New Blog Celebrating The Diverse Lives Of LGBTQ Muslims And Their Families

S Hasan

I heard about this new platform for LGBTQ Muslims, Allies and supportive families to blog on the simple theme "I am not Haraam" on the AWID website. A safe space for individuals to break down barriers and impact positive social change. So naturally, I feel the need to share it with you! They write:

"We are not kafirs, we are not deviant, our existence is not a sin. This is our space to say: WE ARE NOT HARAAM."

And a personal disclaimer, if I may be so audacious and inadvertently offend anyone: No matter what your stance is with regards to LGBTQ issues in our communities, please remember to approach with a broad mind, respect peoples’ freedom of speech and set any wild expectations (or fantasies!) aside.

Ready?? If ya think so, check out the blog at http://iamnotharaam.tumblr.com/


S Hasan

The often quoted, often misunderstood verse of An-Nisa [4:34]:

Men are the support of women as God gives some more means than others and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them). So women who are virtuous are obedient to God and guard the hidden as God has guarded it. As for women you feel are averse, talk to them suasively; then leave them alone in bed (without molesting them) and go to bed with them (when they are willing). If they open out to you, do not seek an excuse for blaming them. Surely God is sublime and great.

An inner, esoteric translation. Matter of perspective?

A Moment to Rant on Support…

S Hasan

After a relatively happy Monday home from work, my mother sweet-talked me into watching a prerecorded episode of a ‘really great drama; you’ll love it, just watch’.
<SPOILER ALERT> It was about a lady and a gentleman who were best friends and fell in love. Then they got married. Yes, I sat through 3 episodes, but after the fourth I was hooked. So the gentleman is a passionate talk-show host, dedicated to exposing land mafias and the rampant corruption of his homeland, making ardent speeches in hopes of impacting positive social change, while the lady just stays home, makes tea for her parents, giggles, looks pretty and voices her opinions only when triggered- the perfect description of a good desi daughter. Anywho, so the two finally get married after several futile attempts of convincing her father, and so fourth episode rolls around and BAM! their wedding night they were ready to get it on, but gentleman’s crime-reporter-coworker-friend gets murdered, so they rush to the hospital only to be stopped by land mafia hooligans who kidnap them, beat them up, threaten the gentleman and rape his bride in front of him. …it was too much for me to handle. Now I can’t sleep. And so I thought HELLO, it is still April- not only the loveliest month in the year but also Sexual Assault Awareness Month so why not blog about it?

As I watched 2 more episodes (I just…I couldn’t stop, as upset as I was that they hadn’t decided to seek counseling of any sort), I learned that Lady Giggles had more to her than just her pretty demeanor; honestly, made me respect her more. She started talking. Breaking the Silence- you know, something we should ALL be doing. Because remember, there is no shame, no guilt in being a survivor of sexual violence. And if you aren’t a survivor, being an advocate for a family member, a friend, and yes even an acquaintance who has survived sexual violence, sexual assault, rape, incest, sexual abuse. It’s what survivors need most in order to cope with Rape Trauma Syndrome– support.

Here are some brief tips on how to be positive source of support:

  • Let the survivor know you believe him/her without doubt
  • Be non judgmental and sincere
  • Acknowledge their confused feelings, don’t tell them how they should/shouldn’t feel
  • Listen actively without giving advice or talking about yourself
  • Don’t make victim-blaming statements (here’s a moving collection of those!)
  • Encourage them to seek help or call a Domestic Violence hotline anonymously to see what resources are available for them
  • Don’t ever place conditions on the support you are providing
  • Allow them to make their own decisions, and respect those decisions even if you do not agree with them
  • Call the police if you witness physical violence
  • LASTLY: make sure to take care of yourself! Get support if you need it

I’d like to wrap this rant up on an action-inspiring note, so click here and feel inspired.

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