Be unapologetically YOU!

Muslim feminist
Photo via Deviantart.com by Tuffix.

I’m a proud Irish-Scottish-Vietnamese-Canadian Muslim, a hijabi, a feminist, a humanist, and unafraid to say so! No part contradicts the other, but rather enriches the other facets of my identity.

Life can be so challenging, especially when you stand out and don’t fit the convenient narrative that is built for us by others. But there is so much beauty and strength in going against that narrative. Shattering all of those misconceptions of “what we are or should be.”

Each of us are beautifully unique, and we should proudly celebrate it.

We must be strong in the face of adversity, social injustices, and keep barging forward for our own personal truths. Prophet Mohammed (saw) said, “Speak the truth even if it’s bitter.”

We don’t have to be sorry, for what we are, what we believe in or what we chose to wear, or not wear. I’m proud of my modesty and believe my modesty is a form of expression to the world. My personality and my beliefs exude itself in my style. How we dress is a visual expression of ourselves.

The modest movement has not been limited to a specific faith or isolated to a specific region, but rather has become a global movement. My hopes are that from this movement emerges empowered modest women who will be the role models for the next generations to come, with brands that are more inclusive, and represent the modest woman, in all its forms, for who she truly is. There is no one size fits all for modesty, or the modest woman.

With so many modest women in business, as professionals, in areas where we are traditionally not seen, as content creators on Instagram and YouTube, we have shattered the first glass ceiling of the stereotype that we are somehow oppressed or limited by our modesty. It’s really just the beginning, and I cannot wait to see what is next to come.

What do you want to see next?

Representation Matters!

Representation MattersWhether its in positions of leadership, politics, schools, business, and yes, fashion, representation matters.

Representation is showing that you belong in the greater social narrative.

Hate crimes of minorities, in particular Muslims have increased substantially, which I believe is due to misrepresentation in the media, and the scapegoating Muslims for a political agenda.

With that in mind, we can change all that. If we have proper representation in all parts of society, imagine the difference it could make.

Little Mosque on the Prairie, was a Canadian sitcom that demystified Muslims to anyone who had never really known a Muslim or how they live there lives. Here’s a hint, it’s not that different than anyone else. That exposure “normalized” the Islamic lifestyle and helped to change perceptions.

Look at what Mo Salah did, his excellence in sports with his exceptional humble character changed the view of Islam and Muslims for so many.

We can take charge of our narrative which has been said on our behalf, and instead tell our own story. We must rise to this challenge and pursue areas that we are not normally seen (other than being doctors, engineers and lawyers).

There are amazing Muslim women out there representing and tearing down those stereotypes. Here are just a few you should be keeping your eye on, and expect much more amazing things to come from them.

Sheema Khan
Sheema Khan via Regina Leader Post.

Sheema Khan, mashAllah an amazing Muslim woman who we all can look up to. Sheema holds a Chemistry degree from McGill University, then went on to Harvard for her Masters in Physics and Phd. in Chemical Physics. She is the author of, “Hockey and Hijab,” a TedX speaker, a board member of United Nations Canada, and a monthly columnist for The Globe & Mail (click link for one of her articles on feeling like a second class citizen.

Rusul Alrubail
Profile of Rusul Alrubail via LinkedIn.

Rusul Alrubail, has an amazing story to tell mashAllah, and passionately helps the under represented reach their goals. She recently launched Parkdale Centre for Innovation, and is the executive director for the non-profit organization, as well as a TedX speaker (this talk made me cry). The goal of Parkdale Centre, is to engage in the community, to create an incubator that is inclusive and an environment that fosters growth for entrepreneurs, skill building, and workshops to take your ideas and career to the next level. She was recently featured in The Globe & Mail.

Melanie Elturk
Melanie Elturk via Houstonia

Melanie Elturk, is another trailblazing woman mashAllah. She is the Co-founder and CEO of Haute Hijab. The leading US hijab brand and on the path to become a leading global hijab brand. Haute Hijab is all about the empowerment and representation of Muslim women. This year they launched their luxury collection (featured in Elle Magazine) and recently the mid-luxury collection, “Dream in Silk.”



Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Health

Everyone judges, you have to admit it! Even if you try your hardest not to, at some point you will. Imagine going to see your doctor to talk about you feeling anxiety or depression, and they tell you not to sweat the small stuff and that you’re overreacting. How would you feel? Would you go to another doctor for advice? How would you feel being judged based upon a diagnosis?

Many people who have a mental health illness suffer from stigma and discrimination, from family, media, society and even from those who are there to help them, their doctors, nurses, and social workers.

Mass media shapes public opinion, whether for the good or bad. Unfortunately media, in all it’s forms has made mental illness synonymous to violence, and something to be feared, through negative images, headlines and movies.

Here are some real life stories, taken from CAMH Cross Currents, Journal of Addiction and Mental Health:


  • “It is difficult to describe the nature of the stigmatization and discrimination because it often works in subtle ways. In my experiences, the feeling of being silenced has always been indicative of a form of oppression. There were many psychiatrists who inquired about my diagnosis, before they even asked for my name or age. A number of psychiatrists even refused to take me on as a patient based on my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. This diagnosis was eventually changed to borderline traits, which seemed to produce less hostility and fear by health care workers. These encounters perpetuate stigmatization and further perpetuate the cycle of self-stigmatization.” – Toronto, Ontario


  • “After a long battle of trying to find appropriate medication for severe depression, I finally “gave up” and “gave in” to the suicidal ideation I had been experiencing and seriously overdosed.When I was admitted to the intensive care unit, the first words of the ICU nurse who eventually came to see me were, “You may wonder why it took me so long to come and see you. We spend all our time helping people who are dying and want to live; we really don’t have much time for people who want to die.” All she did was confirm my belief that I was so worthless that the whole world would be better off without me.After surviving the most gruelling night of my life, I was feeling so full of shame, but I knew I would never attempt again. A different ICU nurse came in and asked me what had happened. I sighed, and told her that I had had two post-partum depressions and wanted to have a third child and “get it right,” but I miscarried at 17 weeks. The nurse responded, “That must have broken your heart.” I said, “Yes, my heart is truly broken.” It meant so much to me that she actually understood.She then said, “You’re going home today. Would you like me to wash your hair for you?” That simple offer of help as I went to “face the world” after what I had done suggested that maybe I did have some dignity and worth after all. It did so much to lessen the stigma and shame I felt. That was more than 10 years ago. I don’t know her name to thank her, but I will never forget her kindness.” – Ottawa, Ontario


You can also check out:

Mental Health Myths?!

Opening Minds Project



Bullying is a disease that affects people worldwide. This video is amazing and I hope you watch and share it. It is truly inspiring and honest.

How many kids go to school with a smile returning home with frowns, tears, or marks from being hit at school? No kid deserves this! Parents need to be aware of what is happening at their childrens school. Keeping communication open with your children is the only way to know what is going on at school.

So what do you think about this video? How is bullying at your school? Or, for your kids?

Remember bullying is NEVER OKAY, whether at school, at work, or at home!

You can also check out:

Canadian Bullying Video Goes Viral

EP Article: My Child is Being Bullied.


Event: Saudi Aramco Cultural Program 2012

Saudi Aramco Cultural Program 2012.
Want something fun to do this summer? Then get ready to mark your calenders. You must check out the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program in Dhahran, Riyadh, or Jeddah.

What you can expect:

  • 1001 Inventions (Has been showcased in London, New York, Los Angelas, and Abu Dhabi. Revealing 1000 years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim Scientists and Inventors.)
  • Tinkering Village (Where science, art, and technology come together to create a fun learning environment.)
  • iSpark (Hands on and interactive science workshops.)
  • Live Entertainment (Barney & Friends / Fareej Show)
  • Valencia Football Academy of Spain (Offering intensive soccer training and fun for kids.)
  • Imagination Playground (Where kids can play, learn and have lots of fun.)
  • Heritage Village (Where you can learn more about Saudi Arabia and enjoy some traditional food.)
  • And so much more…


Where & When?

Dhahran: June 16th – July 18th / 5 -11 PM Daily / Opposite to the Industrial Training Center

Riyadh: June 19th – July 13th / 6 – 11 PM Daily / Riyadh Exhibition Center, Morooj Area

Jeddah: June 16th – July 18th / 6 – 12 PM Daily / Saudi Aramco Club in Rehab Mall.

You can also check out:

The Official Website for the Event


Before I get to the post, I want to apologise for not posting regularly lately. I have been quite busy, with a little bundle of joy on the way and having a gazillion things to do, okay that one is exaggerated a bit 🙂 So without further ramblings, lets get to todays post on what makes a great teacher.


Do you have that one teacher from high school who left a life long impression on you? That one person who inspired you, or who kicked your butt because they knew you had more in you. Although many teacher’s do the job for the money, there are some who do it because they have a passion for it and want to help and inspire the future generations. It is those select few who make a huge difference in the lives of their students, it is those who will never be forgotten.

For me that teacher was Mr. John Patsildes, he taught history, philosophy and politics in Toronto, a great man who everyone could not help but love. A man who until this day I thank God that I met. He taught us to be open to the world, to fight against ignorance, to break down stereotypes, to read the newspaper everyday, to think outside the box, and to push ourselves outside of our own limits. He encouraged us to think for ourselves rather than follow the herd. He made every morning great and truly educational. He pushed us all to dream bigger and brighter for ourselves. He was a real teacher!

Teacher’s are not just teaching kids math, science and languages, they are teaching kids the skills of life, well at least they should be. Growing up I had quite a few teacher’s who everyone loved because there was never much work being done in class, instead we’d all just chit chat and get to watch movies, sometimes not even related to the course. But looking back I realize what a disservice they had done to me and all of my other classmates. Although at the time they were the cool teacher’s, but looking back I cannot help but look back and think what the hell?

So for all the teacher’s out there: inspire, motivate and encourage your students not only with regards to the course material, but in life. Open their eye’s to the world and encourage them to reach for the stars and venture into uncharted territories. Teacher’s make a difference in their students lives, they can either chose to inspire or to stifle their students potential.

Did you ever have a teacher who left an impression on you for the better. If so what did they do?

Knowing How to Speak

Okay we all have those occasional moments when we blurt things out without thinking, but sometimes the consequences of that action can have dire results. It is certainly easier said than done, but we need to know how to speak, whether at work, at home or in any type of social environment.

I’ve encountered many times people who open their mouths and just let whatever come out, sometimes not realizing how rude and obnoxious they actually sound. This can apply to emails just as similarly to conversations. Knowing how to speak and deal with people is the key to success. Life is all about dealing with people.

Everyone has different personalities, ways of thinking and cultural norms, so learning how to navigate through all of that can sometimes be difficult, but with practice and time it becomes natural.

So here’s a few tips to remember:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Be polite.
  • Listen to the other person before you speak.
  • Do not answer your phone unless you excuse yourself first.
  • Do not ask inappropriate, personal or intrusive questions to someone you’ve just met or barely know.

In every culture there are those “no-no questions,” most often it centre’s on:

  • Money/Income
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Weight/Size

Of course the “no-no questions,” depend on your relationship with the person. The more closer you are to a person the more likely things will be more open to discussion.

What are some of the crazy, rude or just really strange questions people have asked you? What are some questions or behaviours that are considered rude in your culture?

You can also check out:

More on Social Etiquette

Office Etiquette Tips


Desert Camping

The cool weather is here in Saudi Arabia and many people love to head in to the desert on the weekends, whether for a day trip or even overnight. If you’ve never been, give it a try, personally I think it’s great and a lot of fun. You can roast marshmallows over the fire, drive around on 4 wheelers, search for desert roses and fossils or just lounge around.

When I tell people that I love to head out to the desert, there are two responses, either they are just as interested as I am, or they think I’m nuts. I am the outdoorsy type and camping in a tent, trailer or cottage was something that my family has always done since I was a kid. So my interest in desert camping was something that came naturally to me I guess.

I believe to truly enjoy your life here or anywhere, you have to embrace it, be willing to try new things and be willing to see things differently sometimes.

Anyone who is thinking of heading day or overnight camping in the desert, I say go for it, but be prepared. Don’t go venturing into the Empty Quarter or doing anything crazy unless you are with people who know what they’re doing! There are many places  just off the highway that you can try out. When driving off the main road look for tire tracks and follow them until you find your ideal camp site. For first timers and those who are not in a group, don’t go too far from the road. The key to making the experience fun is to plan ahead and make sure to bring an adequate supply of water, food and snacks with you, especially if you plan to venture further from the main roads. Make sure your vehicle can handle the desert terrain, 4×4 suv’s or trucks, and bring along your cell phone.

Desert camping is a great way to experience Saudi Arabia. So to the expats out there who have not ventured yet in to the desert, go for it. The weather is right and you really do not have to go far to have a picnic, full day or overnight stay in the desert. You really don’t know if you would like it unless you try.

Have fun, I know I will!

You can also check out:

Overnight in the Saudi Desert

Blue Abaya Post: Desert Camping



Suicide & Depression

Are you feeling down or suffering from depression? Have you ever thought about suicide? Experts say 1 in 6 people think of suicide. Do you know that suicide is now the 8th leading cause of death in the US? Someone commits suicide every 15 minutes in the US.

I believe almost everyone can relate to this in some way or another. I’m sure most of us have known someone who has suffered from depression, commited suicide or has thought about or attempted it.

Suicide and depression is an increasing trend worlwide. Dr. Samia Ahmed, of Qatar, states that the global rate of depression is between 11 – 20%. Kuwait stands at 37.5%, Saudi Arabia at 29.9% and Qatar at 27%.

People turn to suicide, as a solution to end the pain that they are feeling. To them it feels like the only way to make it stop. But suicide is a final and permanent solution to a problem that is most often temporary. Depression if left untreated is a huge risk factor of suicide. Over 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from depression or another type of mental health disorder. The most frightening part is that the majority of suicidal people do not get the help they need. Their warnings go unnoticed or they simply fall through the cracks of the hospitals and institutions.

How can you tell if someone you care about is thinking of suicide? It can be hard to tell, but often times the person shows some of the following sings:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • No longer interested in their usual activities
  • Suffering from depression
  • Listening to songs about suicide and death
  • Putting their affairs in order, such as a will
  • Visiting or calling to say their goodbyes
  • Suicide notes

If someone you know tells you they are thinking of suicide, take it seriously. Just because they are talking about it does not mean they will not do it. Seek medical help for them and do whatever you can to help. Be there to listen, not judge or lecture.

I think the saddest thing about this is that most suicides are preventable. We need to spread awareness and help remove the social stigma of suicide and mental health disorders. We can make a difference if we try!

A great tool used to help people who are thinking of suicide is a distress hot-line. There should be national hot-lines in Saudi Arabia and widely publicised, where people who are depressed, having suicidal thoughts, or suffering from abuse, can speak to someone, with confidentiality. It saves lives! There is no face-to-face interaction, no one would know their name, its just a place to express themselves and the pain that they feel.

If you think someone you know can benefit from this please share it with them. Also, if you have any ideas or solutions to this global problem, its your chance to help, so speak up.

You can also check out:

Are You Having Suicidal Thoughts? Read This.

Suicide in Saudi Arabia.

Rising Suicide Rates in Saudi.


Steve Jobs: Life Lessons


Steve Jobs needs no introduction. He was a visionary leader who changed the world and our everyday lives through technology.

When I read that he had passed away, I felt genuinely sad, just as I believe most people had felt. We had lost a legend and the world had lost someone truly remarkable.

In his Stanford University speech, I believe he truly summed up all of  life’s lessons in 15 minutes. Now how many people can do that?

He touched base upon the flaws in the education system, coupled with the general attitude towards University and what most people define as success and happiness. Society has this popular idea that most parents shove down their kids throats, that you get good grades in High-school so that you can get into University and get a job to make a good salary, and you’ll be happy.

But how many people have degree’s and go to work everyday saying to themselves, “I hate this.” Or they may have this great business idea, but pursuing it is “crazy and taking way too big of a risk.” His point is to do what you love and follow your gut feeling. Don’t go in to medicine, engineering or law, simply because it brings in the money and is considered prestigious. If you love it go for it by all means, but find what you love to do, and that will bring you happiness.

He had great passion and truly believed in his work at Apple. He makes me look at my Blackberry Torch and want to replace it with an iPhone. If you want to know his impact on the world just look in your homes. How many of you have or want an iPhone, iPod, iPad or a MacBook? How many of you have seen a movie produced by Pixar? Movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Car’s.

Job’s said, its impossible to connect the dots looking forward, only looking back can you connect it. Follow your  heart and believe that it will all connect together in the end. Find what you love to do and never settle! And always remember through falling down can we truly learn to grow. And most importantly never drown out your inner voice.

He finishes the speech by saying, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

To me that means, have a hunger for knowledge and never be satisfied and to be willing to take risks. What does it mean to you?

You can also check out:

 Steve Jobs & Apple