Shireen Ahmed

I am a hard playing, Pakistani Canadian football (soccer) playing & coaching, energetic wife, Mama and ardent cat lover plus coffee drinker living in fabulous Toronto, Canada.

Shireen Ahmed

Who are you?

I am a hard playing, Pakistani Canadian football (soccer) playing & coaching, energetic wife, Mama and ardent cat lover plus coffee drinker living in fabulous Toronto, Canada.

I am a multilingual frontline worker in Social Services specializing in Settlement, VAW advocacy and mentorship.

I like to think my calling in life is to smash assumptions. I am very active and enjoy a good sweat- as most athletes so.

I love to tell stories.

I contribute to different news sites, sports sites and organizations with issues relating to women and girls empowerment and access (as a ‘Global Correspondant for Sports & Women’ ) through sport including  Safe World For Women and Muslim Women in Sports

Am so proud to be a regular contributor for Muslimah Media Watch– a pioneering site on Muslims women and yes, the media.

I tweet a lot.

Mostly about issues relating to Muslim women & Women of Colour, politics and sport. I can’t decide to focus on one particular issue so I don’t.

I like to make people laugh.

I have a blog on which I vent and share ideas, opinions and thoughts on soccer, political justice and human rights. It has been recognized as one of the sole voices of a Muslim woman writing and critiquing about misogyny, sexism and Islamophobia in sport in North America and Europe.

I like to believe I am an optimist. I want to write a book and need to be optimistic about that. (See what I did there?)

I am the proud Mama to three fantastic boys and an intrepid daughter who are everything from Mathletes to athletes to lovers of art and Qu’ran.

I have a husband who I am blessed to actually like, in addition to be married to.

I love citrus things, figs, good sushi and random encounters with amazing people everyday. I am also a deep believer in photography -although I am a terrible photog- but am a top notch car dancer.

I have been accused of being funny from time to time.

 

What are your favourite quotes?

1) “It is better to die on your feet than to crawl on your knees” – Delores Ibarruri

I am the daughter of parents who fostered reading, thinking and awareness. They encouraged activism and empathy. Sitting up, standing up and speaking up for your principles and fighting against oppression is a part of our duty. Not to speak for others but to provide support and solidarity with those who need it. And yes, to push and fight for it. It is challenging but no person ever accomplished great things by sitting on their kaboose doing nothing.

2) “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain” -Khalil Gibran

Life is full of hardships yet full of so much opportunity to experience happiness. I love this quote because it reminds me to be thankful to God Almighty. Rerminds me that I must be patient and that more chances to be a better person and to appreciate life and its’ magnificence are waiting for me. I cried more when I read this part of ‘The Prophet’ than I did when my kids were born. I was incredibly moved. (I hope said kids aren’t reading this. Gets awkward…)

3) “give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”- Warsan Shire

This resonates with me so much. It reminds us to respect ourselves and recognize our heritage and identity. To love our given or chosen names. That we are more than worth it.
I spent a lifetime having my name mispronounced as teachers and (un)well-intentioned adults tried to rename me “Shirleen” “Sherry” or “Sharon”. My name means sweet in Farsi. Muck it up or disregard it, and I get sour.

 

The “Ten”:

1. What is your favourite book?
I should reply Al-Qu’ran but I can’t compare the Word of God with anything on a mainstream book list, can I? It’s unfair to the mortal authors.

I adore lot of books but one particular publication of Classic Islamic knowledge grounds me and I turn to it for constant centering and relearning.
I won’t spoil it but the title is pretty clear: ‘Patience and Gratitude’ by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah.

At the moment, I am devouring Lila Abu Lughod’s “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” Should be mandatory reading in every class, everywhere in the world. No bias.

2. What is the best lesson your mother/mother figure taught you?
My Mom is awesome, Alhumdullilah. She taught me to be resilient. To try to stay resilient. To do the best with what I have and keep striving to learn in order to be better: athlete, daughter, partner, Mom, human.

She also tried to teach me not to hate shoes. Still working on that one.

3. Who inspires you?
People inspire me. All kinds of people: people I love, people I have meet briefly, people I may not have met. Stories of people’s lives touch me. Their contribution, survival, resilience, support, love, pain, effort, sacrifice, recovery, death. Add cello music and it gives me grand ideas.

4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
Trust your gut more. After that, trust those who love you fiercely.

Also, those leg warmers will come back in style so don’t burn them.

5. What are your hopes for your daughter(s) and/or son(s)?
I think my kids are pretty amazing masha’Allah. They have taught me so much. I want them to learn to accept their missteps and take those journeys as lessons. I want them to be unapologetic and proud of their histories.

I want them to understand what they can do to fight injustice; how a lack of understanding breeds contempt, bigotry, misogyny and many other forms of discriminations. Reading, engaging and listening are important skills.

The most important thing that I want them to learn is to value their elders. Our family has a bounty of exceptional women and men with tremendous experience, insight and wisdom. My children are very, very blessed to have such incredible role models to love and look to.

My biggest hope for them is that they are healthy and happy, insha’Allah and that they continue to enjoy shovelling the snow off my driveway.

6. What is the biggest trial you went through in your life and how has that changed you?
Every obstacle and challenge also offers a lesson. I consider them learning experiences. I am very lucky to have been blessed with health and a supportive family. Like everyone else on the planet, I have had personal challenges. I lost my beloved Grandfather 4 months after I was married and that was heartbreaking. Later that year, I had my first child, a 6 week premature beautiful baby boy. He was in the hospital for 2 weeks. That was terrifying. As a new parent, you feel so helpless. This is *your* child and you beg God Almighty to help him grow stronger. One of the nurses told me gently that he was the “healthiest baby in the nursery”. It gave me a lot of perspective. The lady staing beside me had a nine pound baby and had also endured FGM as a child in Sudan. Her delivery was terribly painful and resulted in complications for her and the baby. I tried to remain thankful. My son was so tiny and drank so little. I used to pump milk and my husband would “finger-feed” him with tubes. He was too little and too weak to nurse.
One day my son finished 4 oz of cholostrum and the NICU cheered for us. I cried with joy. Now masha’Allah he is a teenager and consumes more food than all his siblings put together. ALHUMDULLILAH. He was so small and fragile. But he persevered. We went to breatsfeeding clinics everyday for 6 weeks. We were a team. He nursed for 17 months masha’Allah. I was humbled by him and his resilience. But that entire process was tough. Very tough.
God is great.

7. Any regrets? What’s something that you wish you’d thought about more before you did it?
Truthfully, I don’t regret anything in my life. Life unfolds the way it is supposed to. But I do feel badly for fighting with my Mom on the eve of my wedding- before the mehndie. I was exhausted and stressed, so was she. We made up quickly but I have always felt terribly for that. {*Mom, sorry (again!!) for being such a jerk. My shaadi was phenomenal and exactly what I wanted because of you!*}
My mother is dignified and amazing, masha’Allah. She is constantly teaching me how to be strong and sensible.

8. How do you stay grounded in your work and/or spiritually grounded?
Frequently giving charity is such an easy way to feel good about yourself and about the change in the world. It can be anything from a smile, to a few dollars in a donation box to a “pay it forward” for coffee in the Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru. I live in the suburbs of Toronto and Tim Horton’s is practically Fard for Canadian Muslims. .
I like hearing Qu’ran on my iPod. Have it to calm me down and regroup. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ajmy is my favourite. I once tried to load up my iPod with music before I ran a 10K. It failed and instead of my playlist all I had was 3 songs from the “Jab We Met” movie and my Qu’ran. I finished the race striding along to Surat-ul Duha. Subsequently my best time ever.

9. How do you bring about real change?
Working with other women in the community is important. I am blessed to have a lot of allies locally and internationally (YAY SOCIAL MEDIA!) I feel strongly that starting out with a vision and being open-minded is the best way to make a difference. Instead of re-creating, it’s always wise to look and see where you might be able to fit in and work. Grassroots movements may not be popular as larger organizations/ campaigns or get great press. But from my experiences in frontline social work, they change lives. We are all sheroes. Just have to find a way to help it manifest.

10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
I really hope that people think back to me and smile, laugh and feel like I encouraged them. Whether it was to shoot the ball accurately or that I made them feel recognized. I want people to feel like I listened and heard their voice. Every person deserves respect, kindness and positive energy. I want them to remember how we laughed loudly and shared joy. How I helped them learn something or supported them. A feeling and gesture that they can pass on. For those I have coached or played with, I hope they remember that I never gave up during a match..or in life. One of the nicest things a friend has said to me was “if Athens had you around in 433 BCE they might’ve won the Peloponnesian War.” I have no idea what the Peloponnesian war was but I appreciated it tremendously.

 

Video message from Shireen:

 

More about Shireen:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_shireenahmed_

Tumblr: http://footybedsheets.tumblr.com/

Articles: http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/about/correspondents/3842-shireen-ahmed.html

Website: www.shireenahmed.com (under construction)