Mindful Muslim

Mindful Muslim

Dr Zuhra Ahmad and Ayesha Aslam’s pilot research on Mental Health awareness in school aged children using mindfulness was chosen and published.  We were asked to deliver a presentation in Birmingham and we won best oral presentation.

Published in: Archives of DISEASE IN CHILDHOOD, May 2019, Volume 104 Supplement 2

Mindful Muslim


The prevalence of mental ill health in primary school-aged children is increasing and occurs in up to 1 in 10 children. Mental Health problems cause distress and greatly impact educational attainment, physical health and building social relationships. There is little data on mental health issues in primary school-aged children amongst ethnic minorities. Mental health issues are often unrecognised and not addressed in this population. Mindfulness techniques have been found to improve mental health and well being in children.


To increase mental health awareness and teach mindfulness skills to primary school-aged children from ethnic minority groups and break down the stigma associated in using mindfulness within Muslim communities.


A prospective, pilot health promotion programme was conducted to assess recruitment rates, prior knowledge and prevalence of mental ill health, and usefulness of mindfulness on primary school-aged children from ethnic minority backgrounds. Children, accompanied by a parent, attended once weekly mindfulness sessions for six weeks over the summer vacation. Self advised questionnaires were completed by parents at the start and end of the health promotion.


Twenty three primary school-aged children (6.5+-2.1 yr) participated in the pilot health promotion programmer. Children were from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds. Parents felt 30+- 22% of primary school-aged children are affected by mental health issues. Seventy nine percent of parents ‘strongly agreed’ that promotion of mental health was important for their child. Importantly, 36% of parents felt their child was currently encountering stress and anxiety or encountered stress and anxiety. Major stressors for children as perceived by their parents included school studies, new situations, parental stress, and relationship with friends and health issues including eczema. The sessions were received well and parents rated the mindfulness sessions as ‘fun’, ‘useful’, ’crucial and a ‘vital skill’.


Perception of mental health problems in families of ethnic backgrounds varies greatly. Importantly, parents reported that some children have continued engaging with mindfulness skills taught in the health promotion sessions. Further sessions have been requested. More research and mental health promotion is needed in ethnic minority communities. 

Easy, Breezy, Burkini!

Easy, Breezy, Burkini!


Amidst all the cacophony against racism, sexism, bigotry and what not, you’d think people would stop writing about them to deduce the controversy; but we all know that doing so is a lost cause. So, if you are thinking, given the title, that this would be some fashion article, then I must ask you to look elsewhere. However, if you wanted a little enlightenment on what a burkini is and the issues concerning this ensemble, then this might just suit your fancy. Gear up!

A ‘Burkini’ is a not-so-subtle name for swimwear that is industriously engineered by a Lebanese-born Australian, Aheda Zanetti. Zanetti is now a trendsetting fashion designer, working specifically to cater to Muslim women’s taste. She transfigured this ensemble upon witnessing her niece having trouble getting into the netball team because she was wearing a hijab.

“She looked like a tomato she was so red and hot!” says Zanetti.

Talk about sweating it out! She then fished out some leftover garment, set the gears running, and voila! The Burkini was birthed, a wetsuit complete with an elastic hood that resembles the hijab in functionality and use, as well as bottoms made of lycra and polyester which makes it light enough to enable wading through water with ease. Genius!

Despite the good intentions behind the creation of burkini, some people are still finding it hard to respect others’ decision of wearing a burkini or even hijab in public.

I was 15 when I first started to put on the headscarf, and it was my family at first that questioned my decision. I always responded with the intention of being closer to God and besides, it’s my free will, right? If nuns can wear it, so can I! I have never looked back, and I can’t imagine my life without it. There was also the question about the beach situation where once I got stuck coming down the water tunnel slide whilst wearing my abaya and joggers but as the Burkini came out, my worries wafted away, and brilliance took over. When I took my children to Dubai, they loved seeing me swim with them or should I say not getting stuck on the water slide. What could go wrong, right? Well, this is exactly where I am wrong.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the debate concerning this beloved swimsuit.

Now let me tell you first that I love the UK as the people here allow me to practice my religion freely. I’m probably more British than not, and I feel at home here more than any other country. I have many friends from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, and they have never questioned why I choose to wear the headscarf. In fact, I get a lot more respect for wearing it and for believing in what I do. In France apparently, more than half of the country’s population voted to ban the wearing of the burkini as it is considered a sign of regression, oppression and backward thinking as if it supported the enslavement of women. Who are the oppressors, the people that choose to tell women what they should and shouldn’t wear?

But you see, some people believe that Muslim women are being forced into religious roles and behaviour rather than seeing these women as independent beings who give their consent where it is due. Contrary to popular belief, the burkini was made with the purpose to ease women’s plight where it did not compromise their faith. Muslim women are given freedom and are not slain to prejudice when they choose otherwise. I, myself, find the hijab very freeing and empowering as it liberates me from society’s expectation and I am not expected to conform to the latest fashion trends. If I chose to bathe in the sea sporting this hijab, it would be because I chose to do so and not because I would be the butt of scrutiny by my ethnic society if I didn’t.

With that being said, I would deeply appreciate it if Muslim women in France would be free to wear what they want to to the beach. Female scrutiny is getting old, guys! Let’s just move on, shall we? It’s all just letting people be free to do what they want to do. Not everything has to have a Shakesperian row! You do you, and I do me (respectfully, of course).